Department of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Social Sciences
Choate Rosemary Hall
Political Science 430AD
Winter 2011-2012 term
Goals of the Course
Texts and Course Materials
Program and Workload
Schedule of Meetings and Assignments
"If 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 Political Science 430
This course is conceived as a study in two distinct disciplines: political philosophy and history. As such, it explores the ideologies of various political systems in the contemporary world from both theoretical and practical 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. You also will find the discipline of economics provides a useful--indeed a vital--framework for many of our discussions.
Our studies will focus on the four primary types of political ideology prevalent in the twentiethcentury: 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.
The course proceeds under the following assumptions:
1. Academic success is rooted in getting work done. Nightly reading assignments should be completed. Papers should be submitted on time. It's a pretty simple strategy.
2. Attainment of excellence comes from extra effort. Perfunctory completion of assingments is rarely impressive. Good essays, for example, are the product of multiple revisions, not first drafts.
3. High school students need to cultivate an appreciation for close reading of texts.
4. Good classroom discussion requires an atmosphere of civil discourse. Respect for others and for diverse points of view is essential in facilitating a meaningful educational experience.
Texts and Course Materials
This text for the course--available at the school bookstore--should be purchased by all students immediately:
This book will be supplemented extensively with primary sources presented in electronic format.
A boarding school education offers opportunities for students to get to know their teachers outside of the classroom. In that context, then, I hope that you--or a group of you--will screw up your courage and endure the taunts of your friends in asking your teacher to share a meal in the dining hall at some point this term.
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 period tests, and participate regularly in class.
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:
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.
"Here let us breathe and haply institute
A course of learning and ingenious studies."
- William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
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--if there's time--begin discussion of some of the central issues before us.
2. Defining Our Terms.
Skim Baradat, pp. 1-12 and read carefully Baradat,pp. 47-60. If you need help in approaching your reading assignments, there is some available online here. 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. The Gadfly Of The Marketplace I.
Read Plato (Socrates), "Apology." What was Socrates accused of by the authorities in Athens? Does he think he is guilty of those charges? How does Socrates view his role within the polis (city-state)? What does he ask of the Athenian jury at the end of the dialogue? Ask about the matrix chart in class.
4. The Gadfly Of The Marketplace II.
Read Plato (Socrates), "Crito." 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? Look for the personification of the city of Athens. In what sense does Socrates describe a social contract? In your notebook, create a matrix chart that briefly answers the six generic questions for Socrates.
5. Power And Politics.
At this point we examine the ideas of the Florentine political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli and his major work, The Prince. Watch this brief (5-minute) video introduction to Machiavelli and then read the online excerpts. What is Machiavelli's advice for rulers? What does he consider the ideal form of government? How do his ideas suggest a shift from medieval to Renaissance values? Why is Machiavelli credited as as founder of the modern concept of the state? Matrix chart, please.
6. Social Contract Theory.
Read Baradat, pp. 68-74, and online excerpt. 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? Is he Machiavellian? What were the historical elements at play when he wrote? Don't forget to apply the six generic questions listed above on this syllabus.
7. Property and Limited Government.
Read Baradat, pp. 74-82, and online excerpt. 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?
8. Reading Day.
NG away at a conference in Indianapolis, so class will not meet. But this gives you a chance to read the first half of the next assignment--pp.14-31--more carefully. Consider the labels and how they match up with your own understanding of the terms. What do your consider yourself?
9. Attitudes, Values, and the Political Spectrum.
Read Baradat, pp. 14-45 (completing the chapter you started the night before). 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?
10. Period Test #1.
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.
11. Happy New Year!
Class resumes on Tuesday, January 3. No assignment.
12. The French Radical.
Read Baradat, pp. 82-85, and online excerpt. 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? Note the upcoming exam in class #11.
13. Classical Liberalism and The Free Market.
Read Baradat, pp. 87-96. 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?
14. Roots of Modern Conservatism.
Read Baradat, pp. 96-99, and Russell Kirk, "Ten Conservative Principles." 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? Why is property inevitably a prerequisite for political freedom for Russell Kirk? In what sense are Burke and Kirk conservatives? [Review Baradat's description of conservatism in Chapter 2 if necessary.] In what sense is Kirk an intellectual heir of Adam Smith?
15. The American Experiment I: James Madison.
Read Baradat, pp. 99-104, andand Federalist #10. 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?
16. The American Experiment II: Thomas Jefferson.
Read Baradat, pp. 104-106. 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?
17. The Sage of Walden Pond.
Read Henry David Thoreau, "On Civil Disobedience." 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?
18. Southern Man.
Read excerpt from John C. Calhoun. In many ways, John C. 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?
Read Baradat, pp. 104-108. 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? Paper due in class #22.
20. Modern Liberal Thought
Read Baradat, pp. 108-111. 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?
21. Research and Writing.
You will be released from class so you will have suitable time to work on your paper. Conferences with teachers may be scheduled as needed. Useful advice on paper preparation may be found here and here. The assignment is as follows:
22. 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.
23. The Democratic Process.
Read Baradat, pp. 115-139. 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?
Read Baradat, pp. 141-159. Note the different starting points from which various anarchists arrive at the same fundamental position. Do you think Thoreau was a true anarchist?
25. Early Socialist Thought.
Read Baradat, pp. 152-160. 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?
26. Karl Marx as Socialist.
Read Baradat, pp. 160-170. 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. What is the dialectic Marx and Engels talk about?
27. The Economics and Politics of Marxism I.
Read Baradat, pp. 170-182. Bring to class your questions; students in this course always find Marxist thought fascinating and challenging; you should have lots of questions to ask. In class, we'll try to unpack the theory behind Marx's view of history.
28. The Economics and Politics of Marxism II.
No class today (NG in Washington, DC on with EPC classes--including some of you!). Read Baradat, 182-193. Many would now argue that communism has run its course. Do you agree? If so, why did that happen? We'll get caught up in the next class.
29. The Soviet Experiment.
Read Baradat, pp. 194-206. 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?
30. "The Great Helmsman."
Read Baradat, pp. 206-221; 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.
31. Period Test #2.
32. Behind The Iron Curtain.
Read Baradat, pp. 221-235. How will forty years of being Soviet satellites continue to shape the post-Cold War Eastern Europe emerging before our eyes? How does Cuban socialism reflect a different set of issues in the Western hemisphere?
33. The Rise of Fascism.
Read Baradat, pp. 237-242 and 261-264. 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?
34. Hitler and Nazism.
Read Baradat, pp. 242-261. 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?
Read Baradat, pp. 265-274. How does the modern world deal with fascist movements? What are their origins?
36. Research and Writing I.
Class will meet in the Andrew Mellon Library so that you may work on Paper #2. I will be there and available to confer.
37. Research and Writing II.
NG at NEPSAC Executive Board meeting on Tuesday, February 21. Use this time to work on your paper. I am available in Memorial House Monday evening for individual conferences as needed.
38. Paper #2 Due.
Final revision for Paper #2 due at the beginning of class on Thursday, February 23, which is the designated "end of term testing day" for the HPRSS Department. 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 winter.
39. The Developing World.
Read Baradat, pp. 275-302. 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?
The course is ended; go in peace.
Sadness will begin.
Syllabus copyright © 1987-2012 Ned Gallagher. All rights reserved.
Last revised: February 13, 2012