POL 243 Modern Political Thought

 Politically, the trend toward globalization is the legacy of the Western renaissance and reformation.  Selected documents in political thought since 1500 are used for firsthand analysis.  Supplementary lectures, survey textbooks, and the whole of students’ other courses help fill in the picture.  Hypotheses behind the themes are (1) human consciousness, involving people in large numbers, has been elevated to the mental plane, (2) barriers of separatism, isolation, and prejudice have been challenged and are breaking.

What do you want them to know?  About each assigned thinker—

Biographical background, occupation, political writings
Dilemma, paradox, contradiction as springboard
Organizing concepts
A priori
value judgments
Environing structural and conducive conditions
Levels of Realization
Calculated Risks

What do you want them to do?  Read selected primary sources as a class.  Find clues within writer for parsing that writers work—secret writing, hidden meanings, subtexts.  Closely study assigned theorists as individuals so as to do role-playing and to engage in dialogue--distinguish, define, and debate viewpoints—with others.  Test assigned hypotheses in analytical projects using individually allocated data.

Give name and ID number; specify course
Title (probably assigned)
Hypothesis (must be a declarative statement)
Definitions of Key Terms (what is key and what is subordinate will be discerned)
Sources (may use footnotes instead in brief paper)

What habits of mind are they to form?  Read between the lines.  Think through others’ viewpoints.  See questions from multiple angles, beyond agree | disagree, yes | no.

How will you know?  Distinctions, definitions, dialogue (dialectic).

TEXTS:                  Niccolo Machiavelli, The  Prince
                                Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
                                James Harrington, Commonwealth of Oceana, System of Politics
                                John Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government
                                Albert Camus, The Rebel

required:  Björn Wittrock, "Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition," Daedalus, Winter 2000, pp. 31-60.  Library on-line reserve, password Saturday.

recommended:  any summary text of political philosophy since 1500—to identify names, ideas, writings, sequence of events:

Bluhm, William T., Theories of the Political System:  Classics of Political Thought and Modern Political Analysis (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965).
Cahill, Thomas, How the Irish Saved Civilization (New York: Doubleday, 1995).
Coker, Francis W., Recent Political Thought (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1934).
Curtis, Michael (ed.), The Great Political Theories (2 vols.; New York: Avon, 1961, 1962).
Dunning, William Archibald, From Luther to Montesquieu (New York: Macmillan, 1905, 1959).
Dunning, William Archibald, From Rousseau to Spencer (New York: Macmillan, 1920, 1959).
Gould, James A., and Vincent V. Thursby, eds., Contemporary Political Thought:  Issues in Scope, Value, and Direction (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969).
Hacker, Andrew, Political Theory:  Philosophy, Ideology, Science (New York: Macmillan, 1961).
Jones, W. T., Masters of Political Thought:  Vol. II Machiavelli to Bentham (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, n.d.).
Kateb, George, Political Theory:  Its Nature and Uses (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1968).
Lancaster, Lane W., Masters of Political Thought:  Vol. III Hegel to Dewey (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, n.d.).
Lipson, Leslie, The Great Issues of Politics (9th ed.; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1993).
Lurier, Harold E., The Emergence of the Western World (Dubuque, IO: Kendall/Hunt, 1994).
McDonald, Lee Cameron, Western Political Theory:  From Its Origins to the Present (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968).
Popper, Karl R., The Open Society and Its Enemies (2 vols.; New York: Harper Torch, 1962).
Porter, Jene M., ed., Classics in Political Philosophy (Scarborough, Ont., Canada: Prentice Hall, 1997).
Portis, Edward Bryan, Reconstructing the Classics:  Political Theory from Plato to Marx (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1998).
Rosen, Michael, and Jonathan Wolff, eds., Political Thought (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999).
Sabine, George, and T. Thorsen, A History of Political Theory (4th ed.; New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1973).
Skinner, Q., The Foundations of Modern Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978).
Strauss, Leo, What Is Political Philosophy (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1959).
Strauss, Leo, and Joseph Cropsey, A History of Political Philosophy (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1987).
Tannenbaun, Donald G., and David Schultz, Inventors of Ideas:  An Introduction to Western Political Philosophy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).
Thiele, Leslie Paul, Thinking Politics:  Perspectives in Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern Political Theory (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1997).
Voegelin, Eric, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1952).
Wild, John, Plato’s Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1953).
Wiser, James, Political Theory:  A Thematic Inquiry (Chicago, Nelson-Hall, 1986).


Principal readings

Collateral lectures, Projects due


Week 1

Machiavelli (1469-1527)

John Huss (1373-1415)


Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Week 2


John Calvin (1509-1564)

necessita, occasione

Vindiciae contra tyrannos (1579)


John Knox (1506-1572)

Week 3

Hobbes 1588-1679

Jean Bodin (1530-1596)


Project #1 Economy of Violence

Week 4


Hugo Grotius (1583-1647)


Galileo (1564-1642); Descartes (1596-1650)


Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677)

Week 5

Harrington 1611-1677

I. Newton (1642-1727); Leibnitz (1646-1716)

goods of fortune

Project #2 Trifles

goods of the mind

Montesquieu (1689-175)

Week 6

law, Commonwealth

David Hume (1711-1776)


Rousseau (1712-1778)

Week 7

Locke 1632-1704

Declaration of Independence (1776)


Benjamin Constant (1767-1830)

Week 8 


Adam Smith (1723-1790)


Project #3 Contract

Week 9


Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Week 10

Conflict and Change

Descartes vs. Disney
Spinoza vs. Leibniz

Week 11

Camus 1913-1960

Robert Owen (1771-1858)


Bentham (1748-1818), J. S. Mill (1806-1873)


Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Week 12


Leo Strauss (1899-1973)


Vaclav Havel (b. 1936)

Week 13

Crick contemporary

Project #4 The Choice that Lies Between  Police State & Insane Asylum


truth | lie … power | powerless

pluralism-globalization | bigotry-annihilation