Democracy and Crisis: Freedom, Security and Emergency Politics
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|Course Dates||Weeks||Meeting Times||Status||Instructor(s)||CRN|
|July 14, 2014 - July 25, 2014||2||M-F 9A-11:50A||Open||Matthew Lyddon||10656|
How should democracies deal with crisis situations? Coping with emergencies places democratic values (such as civil liberties, equal respect for persons, transparency and accountability in power) at risk. As citizens, future policymakers and leaders, we need to take a deep look at the stakes involved in facing up to a range of emergencies while defending our core values.
Responding to emergency situations (such as terrorist attacks, natural and man-made environmental disasters, conflict and mass migration) typically disrupts the usual democratic balance between freedom and order, raising concerns in areas such as civil liberties, equal treatment, and government transparency. In such moments, the "usual way of doing business" is often pushed aside by the need for our leaders and institutions to respond to potential, perceived and actual threats.
The history and development of liberal democratic political values--core ideas about our institutions, rights, and political practices--highlights the need for a consistent political background for our everyday lives, balancing security with liberty, guaranteeing equal treatment under well-publicized law, and executed by accountable political figures. On the other hand, history itself repeatedly shows the need for strong and often rapid leadership in responding to crises, and this need is often in tension with the constitutional background we often take for granted.
Our course, concentrating on political theory and constitutional law and informed by historical and current cases, will allow us to explore this interplay together and gain a close-up, concrete understanding of the stakes involved when liberal democratic political institutions and rights protections are challenged by crises, magnifying the ever-present need for strong, decisive leadership to potentially destabilizing proportions.
The class will support and stimulate further study in the fields of democratic theory and constitutional law, and more generally in subject areas such as government/political science, public service, negotiation and public speaking, and also aims to encourage interest in civic participation among students.
The course will equip students to: understand the core concepts underpinning democratic institutions and practices, and to talk confidently and critically about these in political theory, constitutional law and current affairs contexts. It will impart critical theoretical readings skills and strengthen student's confidence and performance in argument and debate. Our activities will draw on a mix of sources (texts in political theory and constitutional law, news articles, documentary and drama clips, historical accounts) and will prepare students to assess and weigh the values at stake in political discourse surrounding the assessment of, and response to, crisis situations.
Students should have taken generic high school classes in government and/or politics such that they have a familiarity with the concept of democracy, the general structure and institutions of democratic government (largely in the US). Some experience of reading, interpreting, analyzing and discussing texts in a humanities/social-science discipline is advised. Specific knowledge or experience in history, media studies, public speaking and experience in debate would also be helpful though not essential. Students should be able to produce short research assignments and be familiar with the requirements of a standard 5-page research paper and should be prepared to develop their presentational and public speaking skills and confidence.