POL S 201 A: Introduction to Political Theory

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 12:00pm - 2:10pm
* *
Gregg Miller

Syllabus Description:

According to Plato, Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” What does it mean to live a good life? What does it mean to be burdened by this question? And, ought our politics to assist us in our definition and pursuit of the good life, and if so, how? Should politics enable us to flourish in our private lives, or is politics the proper site of human flourishing? How does reflection on the conditions of our social, political, and economic life affect our conception of the good, and our ability to pursue it?

In this course, we will attempt to engage with these questions, and many others which arise in our studies and discussions, including but not limited to the nature of power and politics, democracy, the relation between morality and politics, political economy,  political legitimacy and political resistance, violence and nonviolence. We’ll conclude the course by considering how the problem of our current climate catastrophe forces us to rethink the proper aims of political and economic life.

In our studies, we will patiently read primary sources including works by Sophocles, Plato, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, Judith Butler, and Nancy Fraser. We will consider each text on its own terms, and we will attempt to differentiate them in an effort to construct a conversation of interested but conflicting views on the nature, promises and risks inherent in political life.

In addition to our thematic and normative concerns, we will attend to the practice of political theory and political thinking. This means, among other things, that we will attend to the rhetorical strategies of our authors. How do our authors go about the art of persuading us that the themes they care about and their positions with respect to those themes ought to be taken seriously? And, this becomes a self-reflective strategy: how do we persuade others in our speaking and writing to critically accept and adopt our themes and views? What is the relation between our techniques of persuasion and our political aims?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the course will be conducted online. There will be 2 fixed meeting times per week when all class members should attempt to be “present” virtually. Meetings will be recorded for those unable to attend.  The professor may also prepare certain lectures which may be listened to asynchronously in lieu of planned meeting times.

Required Texts

*Sophocles, Antigone.  Hackett Publishing. ISBN 9780941051255
*Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates. Hacket Publishing. ISBN 9780872205543
*Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Edited by Curley). Hackett Publishing. ISBN 9780872201774
*John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government. Hackett Publishing. ISBN 9780915144860
*Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "The Discourse on Political Economy." (on Canvas)
*Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations. (Excerpts provided on Canvas.)
*Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto. Verso Press. ISBN 9781844678761
*Max Weber,  Selections from Economy & Society.  (Excerpts provided on Canvas)
*Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth. (Trans. Philcox). Grove, 2005. ISBN 9780802141323
*Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence. Verso Press. ISBN 9781788732765
*Nancy Fraser, “Behind Marx’s Hidden Abode,” and “Climates of Capital” (on Canvas).

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)
Last updated: 
October 2, 2021 - 12:27am