Spring 2001
Professor Kimberly Smith
Office Hours: MWF 10-12
Office: Willis 418
Phone: 4123
e-mail: ksmith@carleton.edu

This course surveys Western political thought. We will focus in particular on the republican tradition, the oldest and most influential body of democratic theory in the Western canon, and the rise of liberalism. Topics will include revolution and the problem of political stability, the relationship between the citizen and the state, the virtues and vices of democracy, social contract and consent theory, gender as a category of political thought, and myriad others too numerous to mention.

This is a lecture and discussion course, with a strong emphasis on discussion. You are expected to complete the readings before class and come prepared to participate in a lively and thoughtful manner.


Four Texts on Socrates
Aristotle, The Politics
Machiavelli, The Prince & Discourses on Livy
Hobbes, Leviathan
Locke, Second Treatise
Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality

**Other readings are on reserve

Your grade will be calculated as follows:

Summary of Aristotle


Summary of Pitkin


Comparison of Locke & Hobbes


Final Paper


Reflective paper




All papers may be rewritten as often as you like for a new grade.

Participation: Your participation grade will be based on the frequency and thoughtfulness of your contributions to class discussion. Attendance alone does not count as participation.

Summary of Aristotle Bk I: You will prepare a concise, accurate summary of the text. You should identify and explain the theorist's thesis and most important points. Your summary may not exceed 3 pages (12-pt font, 1" margins, double-spaced). This exercise will develop your ability to understand a complex text, identify its central arguments and communicate them simply and accurately. Critical analysis of the text is not part of this assignment.

Summary of Pitkin: Pitkin is on reserve at the library. You should summarize the author's central thesis and argument. The summary may not exceed 3 pages (12-pt font, 1" margins, double-spaced). Critical analysis of the text is not part of this assignment.

Comparison of Locke and Hobbes: Both Hobbes and Locke begin with state of nature, but Hobbes ends up endorsing absolutism while Locke supports representative, limited government. Identify the key differences in their arguments that lead to this result. As always, your paper should have a clearly stated thesis (e.g. "Locke and Hobbes reach different conclusions because….")

This paper may not exceed 4 pp. (12-pt font, 1" margins, double-spaced). This exercise will develop your ability to understand the logic of complex arguments, explain that logic concisely and accurately, and relate texts to one another. Critical evaluation is not part of this assignment.

Final Paper: You may choose from among the suggested topics. If none of these questions appeal to you, you should meet with me to discuss a different topic. Guidelines:

· Your paper should cover at least three of the assigned theorists.

· You should have a clearly stated and well-supported thesis

· You should demonstrate the ability to summarize, compare and critically evaluate the texts.

There is no page limit, but I expect this paper to be 7-9 pages.

Reflective paper: To be assigned. 2-3 pp.

*Note on documentation: no outside research is necessary for these assignments, so you do not need to include a bibliography. However, when referring to the text (with a quotation, for example) you must cite the page number.

Final paper suggested topics:

  1. Many of the texts we examine in this course focus on the problem of political stability. Compare and contrast three texts on this question. Does the author consider political stability a problem? How does he propose we deal with it?
  2. Compare Locke, Hobbes and one republican theorist (Aristotle, Machiavelli, Rousseau) on the question of the citizen's relationship to the state. What are the citizen's duties, if any, toward the state? What is the state's responsibilities, if any, toward the citizen?
  3. Does the ideal republican citizen have to be a man? Consider how at least three of the following theorists would answer that question: Aristotle, Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau.
  4. Liberalism has been criticized on the grounds that it puts too much emphasis on individual property rights, which makes it difficult for liberal regimes to justify redistribution of wealth and regulations designed to protect the environment. Drawing on Locke, MacPherson, and Rousseau, evaluate this argument.
  5. What, if anything, is wrong with simple democracy? Consider the critiques and defenses of democracy offered by at least three of the writers considered in this class.
  6. One could argue that equality is a central value in both the republican and liberal tradition. How do these traditions differ in their treatment of equality? What do liberal and republican theorists mean by equality, respectively, and how do they differ on why equality is important? In answering this question you should draw on both liberal and republican theorists.
  7. Compare and contrast three of the theorists we've discussed on the question of revolution. What produces revolutions? Under what circumstances is it justified?
Course Outline

I. Introduction

Class 1: Why Plato and not Confucius?

Class 2: Introduction to political theory

Plamenatz/Skinner [handout]

II. Athenian Democracy

Class 3: Sinclair, Democracy and Participation in Athens (selection) [on reserve]
Phillips, Looking Backward (selection) [on reserve]

Class 4: Plato, Apology

Class 5: Plato, Crito

Class 6: Trial of Socrates

Class 7: Aristotle, The Politics, Bk I

Class 8: Aristotle Bk III, ch. 1-13

*Summary of Aristotle, Bk I due

Class 9: Aristotle Bk IV ch. 2, 9, 11

Class 10: Aristotle Bk V ch. 1-11

III. The Florentine Republic

Class 11: Machiavelli, The Prince, preface - Ch. 15

Class 12: The Prince, Ch. 16 - end

Class 13: Pitkin, Fortune is a Woman, Ch. 6 [on reserve]

*Summary of Pitkin, Fortune is a Woman, Ch. 6 due

Class 14: Discourses on Livy, Bk I, Ch. 1 - 10, 17, 18

Class 15: Bk II, Intro - Ch. 4; Bk III Ch. 1- 9

*Trial of Machiavelli

IV. The English Republic

Class 16: Hobbes, Ch. 1-12

Class 17: Hobbes, Ch. 13-21

Class 18: Hobbes, Ch. 29-30

Herzog, Happy Slaves, Ch. 3

Class 19: Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Ch. 1 - 10

*Final rewrite of Aristotle paper due

Class 20: Locke, Ch. 11 -16

Class 21: Locke, Ch. 17-19

*Final rewrite of Pitkin paper due

Class 22: Locke, 20 - end

Class 23: MacPherson, Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, pp. 194-220 [R]

*Comparison of Locke and Hobbes due

Class 24: Declaration of Independence [on reserve]

*Debate on the American Revolution

V. The French Republic

Class 25: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, pp. 57 - 81

Class 26: Rousseau, Part One

*Final paper due

Class 27: Rousseau, Part Two

Class 28: Rousseau cont.

*reflective paper due

*Final rewrites of Hobbes/Locke paper due

Final rewrites of final paper due Monday, June 4, at noon