Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Social Sciences
Choate Rosemary Hall
FOUNDATIONS OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICS
Summer 2009 term
Hypertext Course Syllabus
Goals of the Course
Texts and Course Materials
Program and Workload
Schedule of Meetings and Assignments
Memorial House #114, 697-2340
Johnson Athletic Center #105, 697-2417
Mr. Andrew Smith
you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where
they should be.
Now put the foundations under them."
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Goals of History 42
This course is conceived as a study in three distinct disciplines: political philosophy, economics, and history. As such, it explores the ideologies of various political and economic systems in the contemporary world from both theoretical and historical perspectives. In other words, we will consider the ideas underlying the dominant political systems of the modern world and examine how those ideas have been put into practice historically.
Our studies will focus on the four primary types of political ideology prevalent in this century: liberal democracy, socialist democracy, fascism, and communism. We will attempt to reach a critical understanding of each system on its own merits rather than attempting to prove the inherent "superiority" of any one system.
In addition, we hope to develop the general intellectual skills of:
The course is designed with these aims in mind to be a coöperative learning experience in appreciating and understanding the rich tapestry of Western political philosophy. Needless to say, no such understanding can be taught by someone else; it can only be learned for oneself.
Texts and Course Materials
This text for the course--available at the school bookstore--should be purchased by all students immediately:
This will be supplemented by readings excerpted from primary sources and posted on the course website.
A Modus Operandi
The following general questions should help you in your efforts to understand the arguments expressed by proponents of different ideologies and in sorting out the often subtle differences of philosophy between these writers. You should be able to answer these questions based on each night's readings.
According to the particular political philosophy being articulated:
This course will be orthodox in its presentation: in general, you'll read something before each class meeting, and in class we'll discuss what you've read--what I call "Socratic discussion." You'll be expected to write two short yet demanding papers, take midterm and final examinations, and participate regularly in class.
Schedule of Meetings and Assignments
What follows is what we'll try to cover during the term. It may be adjusted from time to time for any number of reasons. The homework for the next class is always the next assignment unless you are told differently. You'll find each entry on the schedule below contains some instructive questions and ideas you should consider in preparing for class; get into the habit reading the syllabus carefully each night as you begin your homework.
1. "Stand And Unfold Yourself."
No assignment. In class, we'll meet each other, discuss the expectations of the course, distribute materials you'll need, and begin discussion of some of the central issues before us.
2. Defining Our Terms.
Read Baradat, pp. 44-57. Try to develop a working understanding of the terms ideology and nationalism as used by Baradat. Think of a few historical examples of ideological movements and nationalistic movements. How is a nation different from a state, according to Baradat?
3. Attitudes, Values, and the Political Spectrum.
Read Baradat, pp. 13-40. This is one of the longer assignments you'll tackle this summer, so don't put this off! (If you need help in approaching your reading assignments, there is some available online here.) Be sure you have an understanding of the classifications Baradat outlines and the sources of those classifications. Based on your recollection of American history, how do these classifications relate to American political parties historically? Where would you place yourself on the political spectrum outlined by Baradat? Do you agree with the circular model of the spectrum? Ask about the matrix chart in class.
4. Socrates, Hobbes, and the Social Contract.
Read Plato (Socrates), "Crito." Read also Baradat, pp. 64-70, and skim excerpt from Leviathan. Again, this assignment is a bit long, so get started early. Pay careful attention to the Greek philosopher's conception of the individual's relationship to the state. Why doesn't Socrates follow Crito's plan? In what sense does Socrates describe a social contract? Don't forget to apply the six generic questions listed above on this syllabus. Pay particular attention to the Hobbesian idea of a social contract. How does Thomas Hobbes qualify as a "democratic" theorist? What historical circumstances influenced his thinking? In your notebook, create a matrix chart that briefly answers the six generic questions for Socrates and Hobbes.
5. Locke and Rousseau.
Read Baradat, pp. 70-81, and skim excerpt from Locke's On Government and excerpts from Rousseau's The Social Contract. John Locke was arguably the most significant thinker in the development of classic democratic theory. What historical circumstances influenced Locke's thinking? How? What is Locke's conception of natural law? Compare and contrast the ideas presented by Hobbes and Locke. In what sense does Locke's argument build on Hobbes' vision of society? Where do the two differ most drastically? Rousseau is difficult to understand the first time around. Grappling with the generic questions should help you to understand his argument; in particular, think about his view of human nature. Can you envision Rousseau's concepts of the organic society and the general will in today's world?
6. Capitalism and Conservativism.
Read Baradat, pp. 83-93. Pay close attention to Baradat's summary of Adam Smith and classical liberal economic thought. Do you subscribe to Smith's "hidden hand of the market" notion? Would you describe Edmund Burke as a democrat? What are his basic assumptions (remember the generic questions!)? Whose interests does he seem to have in mind? In what sense is Burke a conservative? [Review Baradat's description of conservatism (pp. 22-28) if necessary.]
7. The American Experiment.
Read Baradat, pp. 93-101 and Federalist #10 (which should be a review). Messrs. Jefferson and Madison were the premier democratic theorists directly involved in the creation of this Republic. How did the writings of Hobbes, Locke, and others influence them? What fundamental assumptions (generic questions time!) did the Founding Fathers buy into in designing this government? The idea of democracy occupies a central position in the landscape of American myth; to what extent is this country really a democracy? Consider the historical conditions preceding and surrounding the creation of the American Republic. What problem were the framers of the Constitution most worried about?
8. Two 19th-Century American Thinkers.
Read Henry David Thoreau, "On Civil Disobedience," and excerpt from John C. Calhoun. Think back to the "Crito" reading; compare and contrast Thoreau's notion of the citizen/state relationship with that articulated by Socrates. Look for the metaphor of the fountainhead toward the end of the reading; what does this tell you about Thoreau's values vis-a-vis those of his fellow citizens? In many ways, Calhoun was one of America's most original political thinkers. What were his basic assumptions? What did he see as democracy's greatest weakness? How did he propose to remedy it? In what tradition did Calhoun write (think of his predecessors)? Can you draw any parallels between the thinking of Thoreau and the thinking of Calhoun? Paper due in class #11; exam in class #13.
9. Modern Liberal Thought.
Read Baradat, pp. 101-107. John Stuart Mill's ideas on liberty as a fundamental societal value are vital to modern liberal democratic theory in the Western world. Study Mill's argument very carefully and be sure to consider the generic questions. Do you agree with Mill's basic position? What potential problems can you find in Mill's theory? When reading Green and Dewey, consider the changing notions of the obligations of the state in liberal thought. How would you describe the transition from the Lockean ideals embraced by the Founding Fathers to the adoption of the New Deal and the ethic of the welfare state in the twentieth century? Paper due in class #11.
10. Research and Writing.
CLASS MEETING IN THE MELLON LIBRARY. You will have the class time available to work on your paper. Conferences with teachers may be scheduled as needed. Useful advice on paper preparation may be found here and here.
11. Ideology and Human Psychology.
Paper #1 due in class. We'll have a screening of the film Faces of the Enemy in class. Discussion to follow.
12. The Democratic Process.
Read Baradat, pp. 110-132. This reading should serve as an effective summary of our discussions about liberalism and democratic theory to date. Think about the different historical applications of democratic systems of government; how does the structure of the United States government reflect values distinct from those suggested by European parliamentary models? Note the upcoming exam in class #12.
13. Midterm Examination.
A comprehensive exam covering all material since the beginning of the course. Think about the generic questions; be able to talk about specific thinkers and their ideas, as well as comparatively through time. There is advice about test-taking online here.
14. Anarchism; Early Socialist Thought.
Read Baradat, pp. 134-150 and 155-165. Note the different starting points from which various anarchists arrive at the same fundamental position. Do you think Thoreau was a true anarchist? How did the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution influence early socialist thought? What is utopianism and how is it linked to socialism? Why was this variant of socialist thought closely connected to the French? How do the basic assumptions underlying socialism differ from those behind liberal thought?
15. Karl Marx as Socialist.
Read Baradat, pp. 165-176 and "Communist Manifesto." What is the relationship between early socialism and the birth of Marxist theory? How does Marx's vision differ from that expressed in utopian socialism? Consider the role of history in Marx's work. Read the "Communist Manifesto" carefully. Remember, it is one of the most profoundly influential documents in human history. What are the circumstances under which it was written? What is the dialectic Marx and Engels talk about?
16. The Economics and Politics of Marxism.
Read Baradat, pp. 176-187. Bring to class your questions; students in this course always find Marxist thought fascinating and challenging; you should have lots of questions to ask. Many observers at the turn of the century would argue that communism has run its course. Do you agree? If so, why did that happen?
17. The Soviet Experiment.
Read Baradat, pp. 187-197. The notion of the party as a vehicle for socialist change is Lenin's central contribution to Marxist thought. Consider his role in creating a revolutionary party in Russia. Pay particular attention to the adjustments made by Lenin to fit Marxist theory to the circumstances of Czarist Russia. How does Leninism differ from "pure" Marxism? Also, think about Lenin's views of imperialism. Note especially the conflict between the ideas of Trotsky ("international revolution") and those of Stalin ("revolution in one country"). How faithfully were the ideas of Marx and Lenin implemented in the early history of the Soviet Union? Why did communism fail in the USSR and Eastern Europe?
18. The Great Helmsman.
Read Baradat, pp. 197-209; in class, we'll read a handout on the history of World War II as seen through the perspectives of competing Chinese Marxist ideologies. How was Marxism-Leninism adapted to China's unique situation? Why didn't "pure" Marxist theory apply to China in the early twentieth century? What did Mao Zedong consider his power base? In the handout, history is used as a metaphor in describing two different philosophical positions. Try to remember when these interpretations were written and what else was going on in Asia at the time. We will examine the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and its aftermath as a critical period in the history of Chinese Marxism.
19-22. SPECIAL PROJECTS.
Participants in the Kennedy Institute will be in Washington, D.C. this week. Non-Institute students in the course will have something constructive with which to occupy their time. Stay tuned!
23. The Rise of Fascism.
Read Baradat, pp. 223-228 and 241-246. Consider the contributions of Hegel and Rocco to this very distinct ideological school. Rocco's comparisons of fascism to other ideologies are worthy of special attention. How did historical conditions give rise to fascist thought? Pay particular attention to the organization of the Italian fascist state. How did it attempt to handle the forces released by the Industrial Revolution? How does the corporate state illustrate fascist social theory?
24. Hitler and Nazism.
Read Baradat, pp. 228-241. This assignment is intentionally short to give you time to work on Paper #2. Compare and contrast Germany's National Socialism with fascism in Italy. In what ways were they most similar? Most different? Note especially the role of mythology (e.g., themes in Wagner's operas) in pre-Nazi Germany. How does this relate to Faces of the Enemy? What was the Italian equivalent of this mythology?
Class will meet in the Andrew Mellon Library so that you may work on Paper #2. The assignment is to choose two countries, each of them representing a different ideology (e.g., liberal democracy, fascism, socialism, communism) at some point in the twentieth century, and compare/contrast the role of government in any one of the following aspects: education, elections, health care, legal process, propaganda, or tax policy. Be sure to indicate the time period you are analyzing, as some countries have made dramatic changes in the past century.
26. The Developing World.
Read Baradat, pp. 259-282. Consider how questions of distribution of global resources will impact the politics of the twenty-first century. Is the current framework of nation-states well suited to grapple with emerging problems of an ever-expanding world population in an increasingly fragile environment? Is there a better model out there?
27. Final Examination.
'Nuff said. Final revision for Paper #2 due at the beginning of class.
28. Wrap Up.
You will complete end-of-term evaluations in class, so think about any ideas you want to convey to your teachers about the class, the quality of instruction, and your own performance this summer. Final exams will be returned and reviewed. We'll say our goodbyes. Sadness will begin.
The course is ended; go in peace.
Syllabus copyright © 1988-2009 Ned Gallagher. All rights reserved.
Last revised: July 1, 2009