Content varies from quarter to quarter.
SIS 498 Readings on Democracy: From Ancient Athens to the Arab Spring In this course, we will discuss key readings on the nature, history, and meaning of democracy, from ancient Athens to the Arab Spring. Many recent authors, from Francis Fukuyama to Samuel Huntington, have weighed in on this topic, particularly since the fall of communism. We begin from the perception that “democracy” is an idea that has found varied embodiment over time. We will pursue how this idea has been defined, elaborated, linked to other fundamental notions of human worth, and institutionalized in a wide range of settings. A number of our readings will be from foundational thinkers and observers—Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Rousseau, Condorcet, Jefferson/Hamilton/Madison, de Tocqueville, Schumpeter. But we will also include more recent authors, such as Milton Friedman, Samuel Huntington, Amartya Sen, and Benjamin Barber. Our aim will be to develop a consensus about the fundamental aspects of the democratic ideal that have made it, thus far, the most enduring and widespread approach to government and human organization in the modern world. We will end by an examination of the Arab Spring, with particular interest in two questions: 1) Why have people in a region run by empires and tyrannies for 1,500 years come to feel that true democracy is something worth fighting and dying for? And: 2) How does the Arab Spring reflect upon the true status of democratic government in the world today, as well as its prospects for the future?
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Readings, class discussion, student-led debates
Class assignments and grading
Class participation Class presentation Research paper