West European Studies | History of Political Theory II (3CR)
W405 | 4821 | Goldman


This course will investigate some major texts and topics in the
history of modern Western political thought.  Students will be
encouraged to participate in the “conversation” between modern
political theorists, from Hobbes to Marx, over problems of
modernity.  Our discussion will concentrate on how these writers
think about problems of emancipation by employing notions such as
natural law and rights, reason, history, and science.  Is there a
natural law that governs how people should act?  Do people
have “inalienable” rights?  Why do individuals enter society and why
is there a need for government?  How should we think about the
relationship between rights and duties?  How can scientific method
and the study of history help us to understand relations between
political, social and economic forces?  Students will also be
invited to evaluate the influence of these writers who have come to
make up the “canon” of modern political thought.  How have their
answers to the above questions shaped our political landscape?  What
are the limits of the modern canon and is the modern canon racist or
sexist? The readings for this course are challenging and will demand
a greater than average amount of time and effort, however the
rewards of this work may be invaluable both in theory and in
practice.  By the end of the course, students should be able to
demonstrate reasonable command of concepts and arguments that are
central to the study of political theory.  Students will also be
encouraged to develop their own standards as a basis for evaluating
political and social phenomena.  Thus, the course is designed to
give students the opportunity to develop an understanding of
political theorizing as an intellectual enterprise that has
practical significance.