Political Theory and Public Law

Govt 86.30 (Identical to Phil 50.21)

Current Research in Social/Political Philosophy

Course Description

GOVT 86.42

Work, Leisure, and a Good Life

Course Description:

In this course, we combine classic and contemporary readings to consider what kinds of work and what kinds of leisure lead to human happiness and well-being. All our readings, discussions, and essays are focused on helping students reflect on the optimal balance of work and leisure in their own lives. As a seminar at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and economics, this seminar is an ideal capstone course for all PPE modified Government majors.

GOVT 86.43

Intellectual History of Racism

Course Description:

This seminar will explore the intellectual history of racism, particularly anti-black racism.  When did arguments about the inherent superiority and inferiority of 'races' first emerge?  What purpose did they serve?  And how have they changed over time?  Our focus will be on addressing race as a political idea, and racism as a political ideology.  Accordingly, we will pay especially close attention to how ideas of racial difference have been used to justify inequalities of power. The class takes its bearings from the observation that contemporary textbooks on the history of political thought are largely silent about race.  A quick survey of student-orientated 'guides' to political ideology reveal chapters on liberalism, conservatism, socialism, feminism, environmentalism, fascism, anarchism, and other '-isms' – but not racism.  Why?  We'll talk about what that omission tells us about the nature of racism and how we tend to conceptualize it.  From there, we will turn to what intellectual history attempts to do, how an intellectual history of racism could be valuable, and what an intellectual history of racism might look for/at.  We'll briefly discuss the complexities of trying to understand the ideas and values of the past, then move through some of the best available scholarship on the history of racism that has been produced in the past 25 years.  We'll review some of the criticisms that have been made of this research and develop our own judgments about its successes and failures. 

GOVT 86.44

American Public World

Course Description:

This course explores the role of physical spaces, objects, and landmarks in American public life. We will explore how these places come into existence, shape historical narratives, and reinforce attachment to or alienation from American civil society. The public world combines architecture and design with many of the central concerns of political theory: power, democracy, citizenship, affect, history, and narrative, to name but a few. Our readings combine theorists like Hannah Arendt, Jurgen Habermas, and Henri Lefebvre on what constitutes a shared world, as well as Alexis de Tocqueville and others on how monuments, plazas, and other forms of public space affect public life in the American context. The course opens with some general writings on the relationship between space, time, and the presence of a tangible "public," drawn primarily from Hannah Arendt. Part II explores the power of symbolism, particularly in monuments and other prominent public spaces, to reinforce identity and attachment to national identity. Part III looks at smaller-scale shared spaces and their role in supporting democratic participation. Each of the first three sections will explore a case study from the "object world," such as the Statue of Liberty or the Vietnam Memorial; these applied studies will culminate in our final unit, an extensive discussion of Confederate monuments and the active negotiation over publicly visible sites as representations of race and violence in American history.