Political Science | Modern Political Thought
Y382 | 3975 | Fumurescu


The main themes of this course – the novelty of modern political
thought, varieties of “social contract”, political representation,
and liberalism vs. democracy – will provide the lenses though which
we will read key texts in modern political thought. In so doing, we
shall attempt to answer the following questions: What are the
similarities and the differences between ancient, medieval, and
modern political thought? What is “modern” in the modern political
thought? How and where did the social contract originate? Can we
talk about an “evolution” of the social contract or do we have to
deal with parallel lines of development of this concept? Is the
social contract a useful myth, a theoretical assumption or an
extrapolation of real contracts? How and where did the concept of
political representation emerge? How many types of political
representation characterized this period? What are the tensions
between liberalism and democracy and how they have been dealt with
by different authors? What are the legacies of modern political
thought that we have to address nowadays?

The class covers a select numbers of fundamental authors and texts
in modern political thought. The required readings include
Machiavelli,’s The Prince, Hobbes’ Leviathan, Locke’s Second
Treatise on Government, The Federalist Papers, as well as selections
from Rousseau, Burke, and Mill. The course aims at creating an
intellectually stimulating environment in which the diversity of
opinions and lively exchanges of viewpoints will be encouraged. I
expect all students to express their views with courtesy and respect
for others’ views. The goal of the course is to offer a broad
framework for discussing topics that are central to politics and
public life: political power, constitutionalism, the role of laws,
civic virtue, religion and politics, democracy, justice, freedom,
and equality. Special attention will be paid to exploring the
context in which our authors wrote their works, the main concepts
they used, and the implications of their ideas for contemporary
debates.

I shall ascertain the quality of students’ reading through their
performance in talking and writing. We test speaking abilities, the
accuracy of arguments, logical consistency, the ability to raise
interesting and important questions, to identify, examine, and
compare or synthesize pertinent aspects of the issues under
consideration. Students should be able to summarize the major ideas
of the reading and criticize or evaluate critically the work in
terms of logic and consistency, importance, relevance, supporting
evidence, possible contradictions. Upon completing this course,
students should have a broad understanding of the main concepts in
political theory as well as an awareness of their implications for
contemporary political issues.