Political Science | Contemporary Political Theory
Y396 | 3475 | Isaac
On September 11 our country was attacked by terrorists. Most
Americans were shocked and outraged by this attack. Our government
declared that we were at war with terrorism, and proceeded to
prepare, and then to begin, a war against the Bin Laden terror
network and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that has harbored this
network. These events have, with good reason, become the focal point
of public attention in the United States and in much of the world.
The purpose of this seminar is to explore some of the ethical
and political issues presented by the war on terrorism in which our
country is engaged. The issues in question center on the role of
violence in political life. How central is violence to political
life? What are the possible justifications for the use of violence?
Does the use of violent means serve legitimate political goals, or do
these very means endanger politics by threatening to overwhelm it
with destructiveness and killing?
It is the purpose of this seminar to discuss questions such
as these. The seminar will not develop a single theory of violence.
It will touch on themes of war and of terrorism, but it is not about
war or terrorism per se. It is about violence and its role in
politics. The seminar will involve reading and talking about a number
of interesting essays that focus on violence in politics. It will
consist of a dialogue among these texts and their authors. The
authors to be discussed are: Niccolo Machiavelli, Simone Weil, Leo
Tolstoy, Reinhold Neibuhr, George Sorel, Frantz Fanon, Albert Camus,
Dwight Macdonald, Hannah Arendt, Max Weber, and Michael Walzer. As we
discuss these authors, we will continually bring in current events
and seek to shed light on these events. The goal of the class is to
help students to develop a more nuanced and informed vocabulary for
discussing the questions of violence, war, and terror that are now so
important in our country and the world.