Contemporary Feminist Thought: Identity, Culture, and Rights
Fall 1999

POSC 355

Prof. Barbara Allen


Willis 408, ext. 4084

Library 344

Office Hours


The Course:

This course is designed as a research seminar. We will be considering a central issue of liberal theory, the tension between individual rights and the community good. We will look at this tension in the context of current debates of individual rights and group rights in the context of multiculturalism and identity politics. While much of our discussion will focus on philosophical justifications for making rights or the good our primary concern, we will also look at practical means for bridging these two ways of defining justice. Our discussions of practical politics will include general institutional responses to minority culture demands for group rights.


The following books have been ordered for the class:

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice

____. Political Liberalism

Amy Gutman ed., Multiculturalism

Will Kymlicka, Liberalism, Communtiy and Culture.

___. The Rights of Minority Cultures

Shane Phelan, Getting Specific

Shane Phelan, Playing With Fire

David Heyd, Toleration an Elusive Virtue

Lori Gruen and George Panichas, Sex, Morality, and the Law

Iris Young, Intersecting Voices


This research seminar requires one major paper for the term. The topic for this paper should be selected very early in the term, to facilitate your research strategy and our class discussions (which will include time for your own research questions to be addressed).

You will present your 15-20 page paper orally and in writing. Please note the schedule for turning in topic proposals, drafts, etc. In addition to this paper, you will also be asked to lead a discussion, write a discussion paper (a critique of the readings or an idea for that days discussion), due the day you lead discussion, and to participate in class. There is no additional final exam; the research paper is due in class during our last meeting.


Assignments will be counted toward your final grade as follows:

Written research paper

60 points

Oral presentations

10 points

Discussion paper

30 points


100 points


Part 1 Individual Rights and Group Cohesion: Enduring Tensions in Liberal Theory

Tues Sept 14 Multiculturalism as a political issue and as a puzzle in liberal theory
Read: Kymlica, Liberalism, Intro, Ch 1

Rec: Rawls, Justice, Ch 1

Thurs Sept 16 Fundamentals of Liberal Theory 1:

The Right and the Good

Read Kymlicka, Liberalism, Ch 2

Rec: Rawls, Justice, Ch 2

Tues Sept 21 Fundamentals of Liberal Theory 3:

Individual Rights, Poltical Obligation, and Government Form

Read Kymlicka, Hyde, Toleration Ch 5 (Kymlicka), 6 (Halbertal)

Rawls, Justice, Ch 3

Part 2 Criticisms and Methods of Expanding the Liberal Vision

Thurs Sept 23 Communitarianism 1:
Political Philosophy

Read Taylor, Multicult., Preface, Part 1 Pp. 1-105

Tues Sept 28 Communitarianism 2:

Political Theory

Read Kymlicka, Rights, Ch 1 (Van Dyke)

Thurs Sept 30 Communitarianism 3:

Political Practice

Read Kymlicka, Rights, 6 (Walzer)

Rec: Kymlicka, Rights, 5 (Glazer); 7 (Young)

*********Research Proposal Due*******

Tues Oct 5 Liberal Critique of Communitarianism:

Read Kymlicka, Liberalism, Ch 4, 5

Thurs Oct 7 A Liberal View of Group Differentiated Rights

Read Young, Intersecting Voices Ch 1, 2, 3

Tues Oct 12 The Right and the Good in a Pluralist World

Read Kymlicka, Liberalism, Ch 7

Young, Intersecting Voices Ch 5, 6, 7

Thurs Oct 14 Valuing Cultural Pluralism

Read Kymlicka, Liberalism, Ch 8, 9

Heyd, Toleration, Intro (Heyd), Ch 3 (Graham) Ch 4 (Herman)

Part 3 Reconstructing Liberalism and Problems of "Identity Politics"

Tues Oct 19 Liberalism Recast: A Philosophy of Individual Rights and Group Rights
Read Rawls, Liberalism, Lectures 1, 4

Thurs Oct 21 Group Rights for Illiberal Groups?

Read Heyd, Ch 1 (Williams), Ch 2 (Horton)

Tues Oct 26 Beyond Identity and Difference

Read Phalen, Specific, Ch 1, 2

Rec, Rawls, Liberalism, Lectures 5, 6

Thurs Oct 28 Identity, Community, and Culture

Read Phalen, Specific, Interlude I, Ch 3, 5

Phalen, Playing with Fire Intro, Ch 1 (Butler)

Tues Nov 2 Democracy, Identity, and Difference

Read Kymlicka, Rights Ch 13 (Phillips)

Phalen, Specific, Ch 6, 7

Rec Rawls, Liberalism, Lecture 8

*********Draft of Research Paper Due in Class*******

Part 4 Sex Morality and the Law: Sexual Identity, Tolerance, Right, and Community

Thurs Nov 4 Reading the Case Bowers v. Hardwick
Read Gruen & Panichas pp. 1-14; 32-43

Phalen, Playing with Fire, Ch 7 (Babst)

Tues Nov 9 Reading the Case Romer v. Evans

Read Gruen & Panichias 15-31; 44; Phalen, Playing w Fire Ch 9 (Kaplan)

Thurs Nov 11 Prospects for Multiculturalism and "Toleration"

Read Gruen & Panichias 44-74; Phalen Ch 8 (Lehring), Ch 10 (Currah)

Ch 11 (Bower)

Tues Nov 16 Class Presentations

***************Final Research Paper Due in Class*************