Modernity – the age of individualism, increasing social autonomy, and political self-determination – was an era of enormous progression and novelty in political thinking. In it we find new conceptions of political rationality and affect (how to think and feel about politics), as well as reconceptualizations of such key concepts as equality and liberty, the state and civil society. These changes held much promise, shaping institutions that seemed destined to improve economic and social conditions for rapidly increasing populations. Yet the politics that ensued from this "modern" thinking sometimes proved disastrous: The 20th century – once thought to fulfill the promise of modernity – has been the most violent in history. This course surveys the development of political concepts in modern Western thought. We will trace paradigmatic shifts in political ideas as they begin to surface in 17th- and 18th-century European thought, evidenced in the writings of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, amongst others. And we will compare these ideas with the thinking of some prominent 19th- and 20th-century critics, including Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, and Schmitt. Through close textual readings and contextual analysis we will engage in a systematic comparison of our assumptions about politics with those expressed in these philosophical debates. And, in so doing, we will attempt to further our understanding of contemporary politics and the problems requisite to our own political practices.
Requisite: One course in POSC or LJST. Spring semester. Professor Poe.