POL 1610-1:
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
[under its new name:]
INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL THEORY
Spring 2007

MWF 12:00-12:50, Cina 102

Current week | Grades | Diverse 1610 links

Professor Stephen Chilton

Office location | Office hours | Email | Phone / FAX


COURSE DESCRIPTION & OBJECTIVES

Though this may sound odd to you, I'm not particularly concerned with our society's day-to-day politics.  I realize they are important to the people involved and their partisans, but I am convinced that their specifics are mostly determined by what I call the "deep currents" of our society — the huge forces that pattern our interactions.  For example, you may have heard people complain that we aren't given a meaningful choice in our elections, that the candidates are merely Tweedledum and Tweedledee.  Such comments reflect a sense that there are forces at work larger than individual political races.  It's those forces that we will be thinking about in this course.

To see these deep currents, we need to think more closely about what politics is about, namely, how human beings "coordinate their actions with one another" — i.e., get along together.  But it's really hard to get along with each other, because we're all different people, each of us with different ideas.  Not only do we (each) have to figure out what we ourselves want and what we think is right;  we also have to persuade others to go along with us, while simultaneously they're trying to persuade us to go along with them.  What a confusing and difficult task it is to work out a society-wide agreement under these circumstances!

Because the task is so hard, political discussions cluster around a few rallying points:  liberalism, conservatism, fascism, socialism, and so on.  Each of these has its problems, but for their adherents, they create some sense of how to deal fairly with each other, some way to work things out with each other, some understanding of how the world works, some set of common assumptions.  In other words, and without meaning any disrespect by the term, they are ideologies. It's these ideologies — these rallying points — that we'll be studying.  You don't have to believe them, but you need to know them in order to participate in our society's political discourse.  Until someone invents better ideas — and persuades others to use them! — we are stuck with our current ones.  Unless you are happy having others decide things for you, you need to be able to talk politics.

Does this sound like learning Greek or some other complicated, useless language?  It isn't like that at all.  Most of the ideas in the course are already familiar to you.  They aren't mysteries,  they aren't even particularly complicated, and all make some sense.  That's why they're so important and have stuck around for so long.  This political language is one you've already heard and used in many different ways—around the dinner table, in the comics, pledging allegiance to the flag, enduring parental lectures (and arguing back at them), making decisions with your friends, getting along with your roommates, and so on.  You already have all the ideas in this course in embryonic form;  my real task as a teacher is simply to hold them up for you to recognize.  I hope that it will bring you great pleasure to be able finally to bring together all your thinking through this process.



REQUIRED TEXTS


GRADING
 
ASSIGNMENT DATE / DUE WEIGHT IN
COURSE GRADE*
Exam 1 Fri, 2/16 13
Exam 2 Fri, 3/9 16
Exam 3 Fri, 4/6 18
Exam 4 (final) Mon, 5/7 21
Quizzes (excl. low 3 scores) At random 12
Journal Various + 4/30 20

Extra credit

[N/A] Added credit

Course-specific extra credit

[N/A] Added credit

[* Each exam (& other) score is converted to a percentage of its maximum possible points (i.e., normalized to a scale of 100) and the weighted average of these normalized scores — weighted by the column above — becomes your overall course score, which determines your letter grade in the course.]



WK DAY CLASS CONTENT AND PREPARATION
1
1/17

Topics:  Introduction.  Syllabus & grading.  Links.   Roll call.

1/19

[No class;  Chilton out sick.]

2
1/22

Topics:  Journals & policies.   "No one knows";   construction vs. critique.  Kohlberg's stages of moral and political reasoning.

Readings:

Related readings:

  • Stephen Chilton (1988).  Defining Political Development.  Boulder, CO:  Lynne Rienner. Ch. 3 ("Normative Justification") and Ch. 4 ("The Hierarchy of Forms of Political Culture").
1/24

Topics:  Ideologies.  Coordination via simplification via focus on central concerns.

Journal:  No one knows

Readings:

Related readings:

  • Thomas Schelling (1960).  The Strategy of Conflict. [esp. the §§ on coordination games]
1/26

Topics:  Ideologies.  Left & right.  Is ideology positive?  negative? — no, inevitable.  Solution:  recognition of the dialectical nature of construction & critique;  respect.

Readings:

3
1/29

Topics:  Democracy as legitimation and good public policy. The breakdown of medieval society;  the breakdown of God and force as legitimation.  Modernity and awareness of others.

Readings:

Related readings:

  • Reader:  Euripides (422 B.C.)  [Selection from The Suppliants]  [14-15]
1/31

J's:
0

Topics:  Problems of majoritarianism:  "mobocracy";   stupidity;  ignorance;  irrationality;   narrow-mindedness;  selfishness.

Readings:

[If there's time:] Topics:  Democracy and virtue.  Morality distinct from virtue.  Democracy produces a good people (which mobocracy does not).  Systemic thinking.  Readings:  Reader:  John Stuart Mill (1861) "Democratic Participation and Political Education" [46-52]

2/2

J's:
1

Topics:  The beginnings of Classical Liberalism:  Hobbes's contract of the fearful.

Readings:

4

2/5

J's:
2

Topics:  Classical Liberalism's "social contract".

Readings:

Related readings:

2/7

J's:
3

Topics:  In Classical Liberalism, rights are prior to government

Readings:

Related readings:

  • Online:  A study of only contingent belief in freedom of speech [TBA]
2/9

[No class;  Chilton out sick]

5

2/12

J's:
4 & 5

 

2/14

J's:
6 & 7

Topics:  Rights as a "system" or "bundle"

Readings:

Overflow / study day

[I will be available in the classroom for questions about the exam, but there will be no quiz and there are no assigned readings.]

2/16

Topics:  Utility & Utilitarianism.

Readings:

  • Text:  Ch 3 § on Utilitarianism [65-68]

Related readings:

Exam 1 & study guide

6

2/19

Topics:  Modern Reform Liberalism.  Communitarianism.

Readings:

Related readings:

2/21

Topics:  Libertarianism

Readings:

Related readings:

2/23

J's:
8

Topics:  Varieties of conservatism.  Free-market (a.k.a. "modern") conservatism.

Readings:

Related readings:

7

2/26

J's:
9

Topics:  Burkean conservatism

Readings:

Related readings:

2/28

J's:
0

Topics:  Reactionary conservatism

Readings:

3/2

[NO CLASS;  UMD CLOSED FOR SNOW]

8

3/5

J's:
1
[& 2, by mistake]

Topics:  Socialist critiques of classical liberalism

Readings:

3/7

Topics:  Utopian socialism

Readings:

Related readings:

Overflow / study day.

[I will be available in the classroom for questions about the exam, but there will be no quiz and there are no assigned readings.]

3/9

Exam 2 & study guide

SPRING BREAK
9

3/19

J's:  2

Topics:  The Manifesto:  Rejection of utopian socialism;  basic categories of analysis (the labor theory of value;  surplus value;  exploitation;  class)

Readings:

Related readings:

3/21

Topics:  The Manifesto:  Base & superstructure

Readings:

Related readings:

3/23

J's:
3

Topics:  Revisionism;  exploitation vs. anomie as foundations of criticism

Readings:

Related readings:

10

3/26

Topics:  Anarchisms.  Review of construction vs. critique.

Readings:

Related readings:

3/28

J's:
4

Topics:  The Marxist analysis of imperialism

Readings:

Related readings:

3/30

Topics:  The fascist critique of liberalism and socialism

Readings:

Related readings:

11

4/2

J's:
5

Topics:  Racialist fascism

Readings:

Related readings:

4/4

J's:
6

Overflow / study day

[I will be available in the classroom for questions about the exam, but there will be no quiz and there are no assigned readings.]

Journal:  Ideological reasoning

4/6

Exam 3study guide

12
4/9

J's:
7

Topics:  Liberation & identity politics; the nature of oppression

Readings:

4/11 No class:  Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting
4/13 No class:  Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting
13 4/16

No class:  Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting

4/18

J's:
8

Topics:  Nonviolent resistance, direct action, and satyagraha

Journal:  Oppression

Readings:

Related readings:

4/20

J's:
9

Topics:  Reclaiming identity — in this reading, Black identity. Liberation ideology vs. identity politics.  Integration vs. separatism.  Separatism vs. segregation & racism.

Readings:

14
4/23

Topics:  Liberation theology. Grass-roots organization.  Spiritual aspects of liberation.

Readings:

4/25

Topics:  Gay liberation. Philosophical analysis.  The dialectic of reason and intuition.

Readings:

4/27

Topics:  Animal liberation. More philosophical analysis.  More dialectic of reason and intuition.

Readings:

15
4/30

J's:
All

Topics:  Islam & radical Islam

Readings:

5/2

Topics:  Islam & radical Islam (cont.)

Readings:

  • Reader:  Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1981) "The Necessity for Islamic Government"
5/4

Final exam review day

[I will be available in the classroom for questions about the exam, but there will be no quiz and there are no assigned readings.  I will also briefly go through what I consider to be the most important ideas since the last exam.]

 

May 7 (Monday), 12:00-1:50:  Final examstudy guide
May 10 (Thursday):  Grades are posted sometime today.

LINKS TO COURSE POLICIES & STATEMENTS

I am committed to being your firm ally in your education.   I'm interested in you, not just your talents as a political analyst.  Lots of things happen to students outside of school that nevertheless affect their ability to learn and perform.  Every student, without exception, has always done the best s/he could, if all the circumstances are taken into account.  This includes you.  Therefore, if you have trouble figuring out what to study, or if you study hard and get a bad grade on an exam or assignment anyway, or things simply aren't going well in your life, come and talk to me.  Please don't just suffer in silence!


URL:   http://www.d.umn.edu/~schilton/1610/1610.Syl.2007.Spring.current.html
Author:  Stephen Chilton [emailLast Modified:  2007-03-26
Honor Roll  |  UMD  |  Pol Sci Department

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