You are here

POL S 447 B: Advanced Seminar in Comparative Politics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SMI 115
Prof. Anthony Gill
Anthony Gill

Syllabus Description:

Topic: Anarchy, Anarchism, and Self-Governance.

The draft version of the course syllabus is forthcoming. Check the syllabus page regularly for changes.

PLEASE NOTE: Prof. Gill maintains very strict standards for course participation and meeting all deadlines for assignments. If you are unable to participate in class discussion on a regular basis, or if you have difficulty in meeting deadlines, this course may not be for you.

Anarchy?! Why would students in a political science department that focuses on government want to study “not government?” By golly, that’s a good question. The answer may be that human beings have more ways of coordinating their behavior than relying upon organizational entities that write legal codes and enforce those rules with coercive violence or the threat thereof. As such, understanding how people engage in governance without government may help us understand the origins, scope, and limits of “the state.” And while “anarchy” (i.e., governance sans government) may be seen as an alternative substitute to “the state,” it may also be the case that anarchic governance of communities coexists with states. And if you are a scholar who is interested in how governments work (or don’t), why various public policies seem to go astray, or why social conflict may erupt (or not), it would be wise to keep an eye on how subjects of a government actually govern their daily lives – it may not be because of government!

Please note: This is not a class about violent action or revolutionary movements. Rather, it is a class about how people have (and might be able to) govern themselves peacefully without resort to a coercive, centralized state. I repeat, this is not a class about violent action or revolutionary movements. 

This class will explore several topics and questions related to anarchy, anarchism, and self-governance, including:

  • What is governance versus government?
  • Under what conditions is anarchy (self-governance) possible?
  • Can (and does) anarchic self-governance exist side-by-side government? If so, how does that impact our understanding of what government can or cannot do effectively?
  • What cultural conditions are necessary to make self-governance effective?

We will examine these questions through both a theoretical lens and with empirical case studies, along with throwing in some self-reflection on how we run our own lives as individuals and within groups. Finally, it should be admitted that this course is pulled together because it is currently a topic interest of the professor. My longstanding interest in religion, along with a newfound interest in the political economy of culture, has led me to this point of inquiry because it seems interesting and fun. And shouldn’t that be what scholarship is about?

Although not required, it is strongly recommended that you have taken at least one course with Prof. Gill in the past, preferably POL S 270 (Intro to Pol Econ) or his class on religion and world politics.

Graded assignments are yet to be determined but are likely to include two 3,000 word essays, class participation, and weekly reading reflections.

The reading load will be heavy and dense. Books likely to be included are: 

Kropotkin, P. (Date unclear.) Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution

Leeson, P. 2014. Anarchy Unbound: Why Self-Governance Works Better than You Think. Cambridge U Press.

Taylor, M. 1982 Community, Anarchy, & Liberty. Cambridge University Press.

Stringham, P. 2015. Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life. Oxford University Press.

Scott, J. 2012. Two Cheers for Anarchism. Princeton University Press.

There will also be several articles assigned. 


Catalog Description: 
Selected comparative political problems, political institutions, processes, and issues in comparative perspective. Strongly
Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
GE Requirements: 
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated: 
July 18, 2024 - 9:59pm