POL S 201 A: Introduction To Political Theory

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:00am - 11:20am
Location: 
* *
SLN: 
18861
Instructor:
Prof. Noga Rotem
Noga Rotem

Syllabus Description:

Introduction to Political Theory:

Insiders, Outsiders and the Perspective of Political Criticism

Spring 2021

Tu, Th 10:00-11:20

Zoom link for lectures:  https://washington.zoom.us/j/95063913882

 

Professor: Noga Rotem

nrotem@uw.edu

Office hours: Thursday 1-3 pm, or by appointment

https://washington.zoom.us/j/2307576389

 

Teaching assistant: Mathieu Dubeau

mdubeau@uw.edu

Office Hours: Wednesday 10:00 am-12:00 pm, or by appointment

 

Who is best situated to theorize about and criticize a society? an insider or an outsider? Can a foreigner or a newcomer be a good lawgiver in a society that she or he is not intimately familiar with? Does being an exile rob one of a perspective? Or does distance illuminate flaws in society that one would not have noticed otherwise? This selective survey of major texts in the history of western political thought, will explore these questions and others, focusing on the role of the political theorist as a spectator and as a critic of society. How do different thinkers establish their impartiality? Does it require abandoning one’s standpoint? Is it identical to being a “voice from nowhere”?

 

Most of the thinkers that we will read negotiated at least two identities, two loyalties, or two places, with one foot in and one foot outside of the political context about which they wrote. To give a few examples: Aristotle was a foreigner in Athens, Machiavelli an exile who was banned from political office in Florence, Arendt was a stateless exile who fled Nazi Germany and wrote most of her political works after migrating to the US. Fanon and Beauvoir were both foreigners in their own societies—both describe in their writings the immense pain and psychological damage that result from their striving to be included—to be insiders—in societies that nevertheless forcefully and violently rejected and excluded them because of their race or gender.

How did the doubling of place and identity of all these thinkers affect their perspective and their political insight? And what do they have to say about the conditions that enable political critique? In sum: what are the worldly (i.e., cultural, institutional, economic, political) conditions of political theory?

 

This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students are responsible for all of the assigned reading as well as active participation in quizzes and three written papers.

 

Schedule:

*=on canvas

 

The schedule is subject to change, based on the pace of the class.

 

Week

Date

Theme

Reading assignment

pages

Week 1

Tue, March 30th

Introduction: what is political theory? How do we form a critical perspective?

 

Thu, April 1st

 

 

Sonali Chakravarty, "Derek Chauvin and the Myth of the Impartial Juror," Boston Review, March 17th 2021

 

Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”*

 

14

Week 2

Tue, April 6th

What is justice;

The analogy of the city and the soul

 

 

Plato, Republic, Books 1 & 2

Read: pp. 1-15; 36-56

(327a-339b; 357a-376d2)

36

Thu, April 8th

The poets and their expulsion;

The just order in the city and in the soul

 

Plato, Republic, Books 3 & 4

Read: 56-61; 70-73; 79; 96-105; 112-122; 126-135

(376d3-379b2; 389d8-392c5; 397e10-398b5; 411e3-422a3; 427e6- 435c2; 439a9- 445e3)

37

 

                       April 8th: first assignment circulated

 

Week 3

Tue, April 13th

The philosopher-king;

The world as it appears inside and outside of the cave

 

Plato, Republic, Books 5, 6 & 7

Read: 164-169; 181-195; 198-204; 208-214; 236-7

(471b6-476b7; 487e3-501a6; 504a4-508c2; 514a-520e; 540c9-541b4)

 38

 

Thu, April 15th

 

Moral virtue;

Practical knowledge;

Critique of Plato

 

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics*

Read: books I & II

 34

 

                    Sunday, April 18th: first assignment due

 

Week 4

Tue, April 20th

Good man vs. good citizen;

What does it take to make a good ruler

 

Aristotle, Politics*

Read:  book III (chapters 1-13, 15-18), book IV (chapter 1)

 33

Thu, April 22nd

A science of politics I:

The best perspective of an adviser to the prince;

Machiavelli’s realism;

Virtue and morality;

 

Machiavelli, The Prince: Dedicatory letter, chapters 1-10 (pp. 3-39)

36

Week 5

 

Tue, April 27th

 

Appearance vs. Reality; 

Fortune and its role in politics

 

Machiavelli, The Prince: chapters 12-25 (pp. 42-87)

 

45

                      April 27th: Midterm assignment circulated

 

 

Thu, April 29th

 

A science of politics II:

Hobbes as a ‘textual bureaucrat’

Hobbes’s theory of the passions

 

 

 

 

Hobbes, biographical poem*, Leviathan, vol I

Read: introduction, chapters 1,2, 4, 6, 10 (only pp. 150-152)

 

38

Week 6

 

Tue, May 4th

 

The state of nature;

Hobbes’s theory of representation

 

Leviathan, vol II Read: 160-170, 183-210, 216-222

 

 34

 

Thu, May 6th

 

Hobbesian sovereignty

 

Leviathan, frontispiece, volume II

Read: 223-238; 260-266; 271

 23

Week 7

 

Tue, May 11th

 

General will; sovereignty; the lawgiver

 

Rousseau, The Social Contract*

Read: Books I & II, pp. 156-191

 35

                         May 11th: midterm assignment is due

 

 

Thu, May 13th

 

Historical materialism; theory and action

 

Marx, Communist Manifesto*

 

 15

Week 8

Tue, May 18th

 

 

Marx, On the Jewish Question*

 

 26

 

Thu, May 20th

 

Outsiders in their own world:

Gender

 

Beauvoir, The Second Sex*

Read: 3-17; 46-48; 148-152; 208-209; 279; 283; 294-295; 311-312

32

Week 9

 

Tue, May 25th

 

Outsiders in their own world:

Race

 

Fanon, Black Skin White Masks,* intro, chapter 5

 

 38

Thu, May 27th

 

 

Fanon, continued

 

 

Week 10

Tue, June 1st

The banality of evil and the failure to put oneself in the other person's shoes

 

Arendt Eichmann in Jerusalem* (selections)

 

 TBD

                          June 1st: take-home exam circulated

 

Thu, June 3rd

 

The worldly conditions of political theory; plurality

 

Arendt, The Human Condition*

Selections from the “Work” section

 TBD

 

                      Tues, June 8th: take-home exam is due

 

 

 

Catalog Description: 
Philosophical bases of politics and political activity. Provides an introduction to the study of politics by the reading of books in political philosophy. Organized around several key political concepts, such as liberty, equality, justice, authority, rights, and citizenship. Offered: AWSpS.
Department Requirements: 
Introductory Courses
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Credits: 
5.0
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
January 20, 2021 - 10:17am