POL S 201: Introduction to Political Theory
Instructor: Emily Christensen
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:30-3:30pm & Thursdays 12:00-1:00pm; Gowen 44
Mathieu Dubeau; firstname.lastname@example.org
Micah Stanovsky; email@example.com
Dennis Young; firstname.lastname@example.org
This course examines three key themes in political theory: freedom, justice and power. In order to gain a deeper understanding of these concepts, we will critically engage with foundational texts in Western political thought, put them in conversation with contemporary works, and think about their implications for politics and government today—especially relating to issues of racial, gender and economic inequality.
The first part of the course will focus on social contract theory: we will examine the nature of political community and the origins of the social contract, the relationship between freedom and government, and the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship. We will seek to understand and analyze the following questions: What is justice? How is this ideal best realized through government? What does it mean to act politically?
Next, we will turn our attention to freedom and the individual: in this section we will examine competing accounts of what it means to exercise freedom and discuss the social and political implications of depriving particular groups of freedom. We will ask: What rights should be afforded to the individual? What are the causes and implications of various forms of social and political domination?
Finally, we will explore the concept of power and discuss potential avenues for resistance. In other words: How can we define and conceptualize power? What are the ways in which we can exercise resistance to power?
Paper Project—The paper project will consist of two components, with revisions.
Part One: Argument Reconstruction—students will reconstruct the logical steps of one of the theorist’s arguments [1-2 pages]. After receiving TA feedback, students will make revisions and submit with their final paper.
Part Two: Argument Development & Application—students will make revisions to their argument reconstruction based on TA feedback and develop their own analysis/critique. They will apply their analysis to a contemporary social or political issue [5 pages total].
Exams—The midterm and final exams will consist of two sections: course concepts and short essays. In the first section, students will be required to define key course concepts and explain their importance in 2-3 complete sentences. In the second section, students will answer short essay questions that will require an understanding of author’s arguments as well as a demonstration of their own critical analysis.
Quizzes—Quizzes will be given at random during class and will mimic the course concept questions on exams. The purpose of these quizzes is to assess students’ learning and reading comprehension, as well as provide them practice and a greater understanding of expectations on exams.
Participation—This course will consist of a combination of lecture and discussion. Students are expected to complete the assigned readings prior to the day they are listed on the syllabus. Thoughtful and sustained class participation is required. Effective participation means not only speaking, but also listening and asking questions. TA assessment of your participation will include the following criterion: demonstration of careful reading, quality of contributions and critical questions, thoughtful and respectful engagement during discussion.
Paper Project: 30%,
Argument Reconstruction 10%
Final (w/revisions) 20%
Midterm Exam: 20%
Final Exam: 25%
Participation & Quizzes: 25%
Tuesday, January 8: Introduction to the Course; What is Political Theory?
No reading assigned.
Part 1: The Political Contract & (In)Justice
Thursday, January 10
Reading: Plato, Apology & Crito
Tuesday, January 15
Reading: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Part I: Chapters 13-16); 32pp
Thursday, January 17
Reading: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Part II: Chapters 17, 18, 20, 21); 39pp
*Argument Reconstruction assignment distributed
Tuesday, January 22
Reading: John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (Chapters 1-5); 23pp
Thursday, January 24
Reading: John Locke, Second Treatise on Government (Chapters 7-9, 19); 43pp
Tuesday, January 29
Reading: Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Chapters 1 & 3); 54pp
Thursday, January 31
Reading: Charles Mills, The Racial Contract (Introduction, Chapter 1—p. 9-19, Chapter 2—p. 41-62); 39pp
*Argument Reconstruction due Friday 2/1—extension to Saturday, 2/2
Part 2: Freedom & the Individual
Tuesday, February 5
SNOW DAY!!! CLASS CANCELLED
Thursday, February 7
Reading: Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet”; 20pp
Tuesday, February 12
Thursday, February 14—MIDTERM EXAM [re-scheduled due to snow day]
Part 3: Power & Resistance
Tuesday, February 19
Reading: Reading: Karl Marx, Capital (The Secret of Primitive Accumulation), & The Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts (Alienated Labor);
Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
*Final Paper prompt distributed
Thursday, February 21
Readings: John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Chapters 1 & 3); 34pp
Tuesday, February 26
Reading: Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (Volume 1: Introduction, Volume 2: Introduction & Chapter 10)
Thursday, February 28
Reading: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Chapters 1, 2, 4, 8); 45pp
Tuesday, March 5
No reading assigned
*Final Paper due Wednesday 3/6
Thursday, March 7:
Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (Preface & First Essay); 31pp
Tuesday, March 12
Reading: Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish (Part 1: 1. “The Body of the Condemned” & Part 3: 2. “Corrective Training”)
Thursday, March 14
Reading: Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (Chapter 1)
Wrap Up & Final Exam Review
FINAL EXAM: Friday, March 22; 2:30-4:20pm
Email & Office Hours
Your learning and engagement with this course are important to me and I am always happy to field your questions, concerns, or comments in person or over email. I will try my best to answer your emails in a timely manner, however, it is my policy that I will not respond to emails 24-hours prior to an exam or paper due date so please make sure to plan ahead. Substantive questions about the course material are always better suited for in-person discussion. Thus, I hope you take advantage of my office hours or schedule alternative meeting times if necessary.
All assignments will be grade on a 100 point scale and converted to a 4.0 scale at the end of the quarter using the grading conversion rubric that is uploaded to Canvas under course files.
Any material that you quote, paraphrase, summarize or draw ideas from requires proper citation. Cases of suspected cheating and plagiarism will be referred to the Arts and Sciences Committee on Academic Conduct and may result in a grade of 0.0 for the assignment in question. All papers will be turned in via Canvas and checked with Vericite, a plagiarism detection software. University policies and guidelines regarding cheating and plagiarism can be found at: https://depts.washington.edu/grading/pdf/AcademicResponsibility.pdf.
For the benefit of our discussion and out of respect for others, please put phones away during class. Laptops are to be used solely for the purpose of note-taking and accessing the readings. If technology related distractions become a problem in class, I will ban laptops and students will be required to print out readings and take notes by hand.
Papers submitted after the deadline will incur a penalty of 5% per day. Missed exams cannot be made up without verification of a personal/family emergency or medical condition.
The diversity of student backgrounds and perspectives in this course is an enormous benefit. Many discussion topics in this class may be controversial and elicit competing viewpoints and spirited debate is strongly encouraged in discussion. Disagreement can foster a deeper intellectual understanding as long as students maintain respect for perspectives that differ from their own.
If you wish to observe a religious holiday that is not recognized by the University calendar, please let me know in advance, so that I can accommodate your absence from class.
Your experience in class is important to me, and it is my goals to create an accessible and inclusive learning environment for all students. If you experience barriers due to a disability and need academic accommodations, please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz Hall, V: (206) 543-8924, TTY: (206) 543-8925, email@example.com. If you have a letter from Disability Resources for Students documenting the need for academic accommodations, please present this letter to me and your TA at the beginning of the quarter so that accommodations can be discussed and arranged.