96820 - HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims to give theoretical tools for the study of history of Western modern and contemporary political thought, to highlight the milestone political concepts and its traditions, to analyze the relationship between the development of political theory and the building of political institutions and social processes.

Course contents

The course will pursue a critical exploration of some key political concepts, doctrines and their historic roots. At the end of the course, students are expected to (a) acquire knowledge of the milestone concepts and doctrines worked out in the history of political thought; (b) develop abilities to analytically read a text, by situating political concepts in the historical and linguistic context of different ages; (c) develop capacities to identify aspects of continuity and discontinuity between different political dotrines across the centuries.

The course aims to analyse the most important Western ancient, modern and contemporary political doctrines through the lens of the notion of “Democracy”. As it is well known, democracy is an essentially contested concept, one which admits of a variety of definitions and connnotations. The course will try to provide possible paths of discussion of following questions:

How is the idea of democracy treated in history of political thought? What are the “substantive” aspects of democracy? What about its procedural underpinnings and implications? How do various liberal theories shape democratic procedures and inspiring ideals?

The lectures will address the thinking of the main Western political thinkers (Machiavelli, Luther and Calvin, Bodin, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Constant, Tocqueville, Marx, Weber, Schmitt, Arendt). The main concepts that this first part proposes to examine are “State” “political power”, “pact/covenant”, “sovereignty”, “citizenship”, “representation”, “rights”, “civil society”, “constitution”, and “political party”.

The course is composed by two different sections. The first one consists of 16 lectures, for a total of 32 hours) and it aims to introduce students to the acquisition of basic conceptual and theoretical tools of a selection of political doctrines, from ancient to modern times.

The second part of the module, which will be organized in the form of seminars, will critically address the thought of John Rawls, his liberal theory of justice and view of political liberalism and public reason.

An additional part of the seminar will deal with possible disfunctional phenomena inherent in the democratic life: populistic attitudes, hate speech, gender inequality.

Readings/Bibliography

All the material will be supplied by the lecturer in the form of pdf documents.

Compulsory Readings

A. Ryan, On Politics: a History of Political Thought from Herodotus to the Present, Penguin, 2013 (chapters 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21).

Seminar readings

* Selected chapters of John Rawls' "A Theory of justice" and "Political Liberalism"

* Paul Cartledge, "Digital Democracy: Ancient and Modern - or Ancient versus Modern?", in A. Brändly and G. Vale (eds.), Going digital? Citizen Participation and the Future of Direct Democracy, pp. 27-33.

* Fabrizio Sciacca, "Direct vs Representative Democracy. A Formal or Substantive Distinction?", in A. Brändly and G. Vale (eds.), Going digital?Citizen Participation and the Future of Direct Democracy, pp. 73-80.

* Melissa Schwartzberg, "Epistemic Democracy and Its Challenges", in Annual Review of Political Science 18(2015), pp. 187-203.

 

Readings for the oral exam (one text to be chosen among the following list)

Anna Elisabetta Galeotti: Toleration as Recognition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Margaret Walters: Feminism. A very short introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Charles Taylor et. al, Multiculturalism. Examining the Politics of Recognition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Will Kymlicka, The Strains of Commitment. The Political Sources of Solidarity in Diverse Societies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017 (pp. 1-177)

Teaching methods

The course is composed by two different sections. The first one consists of 16 in-presence lectures, for a total of 32 hours) and it aims to introduce students to the acquisition of basic conceptual and theoretical tools of a selection of political doctrines, from ancient to modern times.

For the section organized according to seminar modalities, students will be divided into 2 groups of 14 hours each: one group will attend the seminar in person and one group online on MS TEAMS. Right after the beginning of the courses, students will be allowed to register on the various lists. For each student, therefore, a total of 46 hours are provided, plus at least 14 hours of individual work in preparation for the seminar activity.

Assessment methods

Two written tests (3 questions for each test. Time available. 1h: 30) on the institutional program.

A test on the seminar part (which may consist either in the elaboration of a paper or in a presentation to the class: in both cases the topic is agreed with the teacher).

An oral exam (one book required, to be chosen among the list supplied above).

Office hours

See the website of Elena Irrera

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