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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2009

T C 302 • Right and Wrong in Politics - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43730 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

The proper role of morality in politics has been a fundamental question for western civilization since Plato. This seminar will consider how this subject has been treated in philosophy, literature, journalism and film. Some of the subjects that will be covered: whether political values have a universal basis; the conflict and compatibility between liberty and equality; the strengths and weaknesses of democratic systems; the moral constraints on those who hold power and their opposition. All issues will be examined in the context of how politics actually works. We will consider why lying seems to be so prevalent in politics, the influence of the Internet on the democratic process, and whether the nature of politics defies reform. A few class periods will be devoted to appearances by political practitioners, including lobbyists, legislators, and political consultants. Every student will also engage in an in-class debate.

Grading Policy

There will be six papers of varying lengths, typically 750-1000 words. These will be based on analysis of the readings and will comprise 75–80% of the final grade. The remainder will be determined by class discussion. There will be no examinations, so long as the discussions indicate that students are keeping up with the readings. Any paper with a grade lower than a B- must be rewritten.


Alinsky, Rules for Radicals Bo, Lying Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
Ibsen, Enemy of the People
Machiavelli, The Prince
Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall
Thucydides, On Justice, Power, and Human Nature
de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol.1
Warren, All the King's Men
Matthews, Hardball
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

About the Professor

Paul Burka, a visiting lecturer, is the executive editor of Texas Monthly and a seasoned observer of Texas politics; he is well known for his many columns and features, including his biennial report on the best and worst legislators. Before entering the field of journalism, Mr. Burka served as an attorney in the Texas Legislature.


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