Spring 2024

Lovers and Friends: A Democratic Idea?

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-228  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-227


Jared Loggins (Section 01)


(Offered as POSC 228 and SWAG 227) In his 1955 Notes on a Native Son, James Baldwin framed his democratic obligation to the United States in romantic terms when he wrote that “because I love America more than any other country in the world, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Only two years later, soon after Martin Luther King Jr. had become the most public face of the Civil Rights Movement, he instructed his congregation that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” From Aristotle in the ancient world to Frederick Douglass and David Walker in the 19th century to W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Baldwin, King, and Audre Lorde in the 20th, politics is framed in terms of the love we owe each other. What has been the theoretical upshot of framing political obligation in terms of love and friendship? What has this framing obscured and mystified? Is love and friendship an important pre-requisite for democratic citizenship or a dangerous political fantasy? This course is about the contested terrain of love as a political metaphor. We will investigate love and its cognates—care, trust, friendship, betrayal, sacrifice, resentment, desire—as conceptual terms deployed throughout the late-19th and 20th centuries to frame contests over citizenship, political obligation and responsibility, futurity, and democratic practice more generally. We will ask questions such as: What is love and friendship’s object of desire as a way of thinking democratic politics? Is there such a thing as civic love and political friendship? When, if ever, is it appropriate to love political enemies? Can we trust strangers?  Should the state love its citizens? Is politics a matter of desire? Should some political members be expected to sacrifice more than others? Can we care for others without loving or befriending them? Have we come to love or desire a vision of democracy that is actually a hindrance to our flourishing?This is a discussion-based course. High participation is a requirement and care will be taken to cultivate an environment in which students feel comfortable embarking on a shared journey of intellectual discovery. We will spend time in the course perfecting our ability to reason with each other by drawing on textual evidence to support our claims. There will be weekly reflection assignments as well as a final paper. Finally, this course will involve a practical component: students will be strongly encouraged to submit by the end of the semester a plan for how they might apply insights in the course to everyday life (political organizing, internships, volunteer work, etc.)  

Spring semester. Assistant Professor Loggins.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: The class will emphasize written argumentative essays. This course has two essay requirements--one 5-6 pages in length and another 7-8 pages. All papers should be submitted on Moodle as a .pdf. No hard copies. In the course, students will submit on the Moodle discussion forum before class a brief statement (one or two sentences) of the main question and the sources they will have engaged with each week.

POSC 228 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM CONV 209
Th 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM CONV 209


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2024