Democracy and Its Critics
One Section Available to Choose From:
|Course Dates||Weeks||Meeting Times||Status||Instructor(s)||CRN|
|June 30, 2014 - July 11, 2014||2||M-F 12:45-3:35P||Open||Jennie Ikuta||10654|
This course is centrally about examining and challenging our often unreflective political commitment to democracy. It does so through readings in the history of political thought as lenses through which to investigate how democracy was thought about as it was coming to the forefront of political life in the U.S. and Western Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
"Everything is argued over in this world. Apart from only one thing that is not argued over. Nobody argues about democracy" declares writer Jose Saramago. The language of democracy, along with related concepts such as equality and freedom, stand at the center of American political life, and are often employed as standards for political legitimacy in the international political arena. But what exactly is democracy, or "the rule of the people"? Our unreflective support for democracy often blinds us to the fact that historically, democracy has not always been viewed favorably, but rather, with a great deal of skepticism, particularly as it was coming to the forefront of political life in the United States and Western Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This course investigates claims and assumptions about democracy through historical and philosophical readings; contra Saramago's claim, we will argue about democracy. What is democracy? How is it justified (or not)? How is democracy related to themes such as representation, liberty, gender, and class? We investigate these questions through eighteenth and nineteenth century thinkers such as Burke, Paine, Wollstonecraft, deTocqueville, Marx, Douglass, Mill, Taylor, and Nietzsche.
Students will develop their critical thinking skills by engaging in close textual analysis and debating key questions and concepts in arguments about democracy and political life more broadly. They will also cultivate an appreciation for historical arguments about democracy, and will be able to better articulate their own positions regarding a political commitment to democracy.