Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
plan2 masthead
Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2007

T C 301 • Partisanship and Ideology

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43335 W
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
CRD 007A

Course Description

Not for a century has party spirit in America been so vital, so vitriolic, as it is now. A president who ran in 2000 as a 'uniter not a divider' has effectively divided: at the close of his first term, two thirds of Republican voters "very strongly" approved of his performance while two-thirds of Democrats very strongly disapproved. And disapproval is too mild for what many partisans felt: more than a few Democrats openly hated the president. This was the mirror image of the late 1990s, when Democrats swallowed their many misgivings and stood behind President Clinton while Congressional Republicans impeached a president for the first time since the turmoil following the American Civil War and President Lincolns assassination. We may be one nation, indivisible, but our oneness is seen only from certain angles and comes packaged with profound divisions. Partisans today see not one but two Americas; they want to live in only one of them.

Amid the resurgence of party spirit, partisanship retains its bad name as an expression of inherited prejudice, petty ambition, narrow interest, or dogmatic ideological commitments, it does not seem respectable and may even be at odds with good citizenship. But what are the roots of partisanship? In what forms, if any, is partisanship respectable? Is it ever admirable? Should good citizens be partisans? What would be the sources of ideological division in a just society, if any? Such are the questions we will address.

About the Professor

Russell Muirhead grew up surrounded by partisans of many stripes in the swing state of New Hampshire. For the past six years he taught at Harvard College, where he was awarded the Roslyn Abramson Teaching Award. Prior to that, Muirhead taught at Williams College. His book on the moral and political importance of labor, Just Work, was published in 2004 by Harvard University Press. His current book project, Left, Right, and Beyond: A Defense of Party Spirit, will be published in 2007.

Grading Policy

Three papers (5-7 pages each): 60%
Participation (including short class presentations): 20%
Final 7-10 page paper or in-class exam: 20%


Readings are drawn from the history of political thought, contemporary political theory, and contemporary political science:

John Aldrich, Why Parties
Aristotle, The Politics
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Mo Fiorina, Culture Wars: The Myth of Polarization
Thomas Hobbes, On the Citizen
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man
John Rawls, Political Liberalism
Carl Schmitt, Concept of the Political
Alan Wolfe, One Nation After All


bottom border