Political Science | Political Philosophy: Liberalisms
Y675 | 10213 | --


Topic:  Liberalisms

Liberalism is a family of political philosophies that resemble each
other in certain respects, and differ quite widely in others. In
this seminar we will examine different branches of this family, as
represented by German, French, and Anglo-American philosophers (the
latter category including representatives of British, Canadian, and
American liberalism).  We will also consider the development of
liberalism over time in different cultures, noting points of
convergence and divergence on the tenets of liberalism. We will
briefly survey some of the practical expressions of liberalism, and
assess its suitability for multicultural and deeply divided
societies, too. The result will be a fuller understanding of the
rich genealogy of liberalism, and perhaps a better appreciation of
how this family came to dominate political philosophy in our time,
as well as the limitations of liberalism in practice. Finally, and
at a more abstract level, the seminar will serve as an introduction
to the emerging field of comparative political theory, although the
field of comparison is limited to the Western horizon.

Among the philosophers we will read are: Kant, Tocqueville, Mill,
Nozick, Rawls, Taylor and Kymlicka. All are frequently, though not
universally, described as liberals; that in itself should alert us
to the protean character of liberalism. We will also attend to some
communitarians, e.g. Sandel, and some anti-liberals, to use Stephen
Holmes phrase, by way of marking the limits of liberalismís genetic
span.

Each student in the seminar will assist the instructor in leading
the discussion of a particular thinker, and each student will write
a research paper on a thinker not included on the list of required
readings. The point of the paper will be to show how, or in what
sense, this thinker is a liberal. Alternatively, the paper may argue
that a thinker who is included on the list does not belong on the
list, i.e. is not really a liberal. This paper will be written and
presented in convention format, with appointed discussants and
audience participation.