GOV 335M • Liberalism and its Critics
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
This course examines the writings of a wide range of thinkers who have reflected deeply on the strengths and weaknesses of the most powerful political doctrine in the world today: liberal democracy. We will begin by studying the original case for modern liberalism as it was presented by John Locke, the great architect of the modern liberal form of government and of the modern liberal way of life. After studying Locke, we will look at the Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers to consider the ways in which Lockean principles informed the American Founding. After this introduction, we will look at a set of thinkers who range from friends of liberal democracy with worries about its dangers to hostile critics of liberal democracy who argue for its destruction. The "friendly critics" will include authors such as Mill and Tocqueville. The hostile critics will span the political spectrum, from Marx on the Left to Nietzsche on the Right. These authors raise far-reaching questions about liberalism: Do the principles of freedom and equality promote an isolating individualism that dissolves communal bonds? Is liberalism tied to an oppressive capitalist economic system? Has the rise of liberal democracy fostered mediocrity and complacency? Finally, we will conclude by considering several different views of the theoretical and practical health of liberal democracy today; readings in this section of the course will include authors such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Benjamin Barber, Francis Fukuyama, and Richard Rorty.
Grades will be based on two exams, one essay, and in-class quizzes. Class participation will also be taken into account.
Locke, Two Treatises of Government (Yale) Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration (Hackett) Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, The Federalist Papers (Signet Classics) Mill, On Liberty (Penguin) Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Chicago) Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago) Marx and Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader (Norton) There will also be a Course Packet of other readings.