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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Scott Montgomery
SIS 490
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Content varies from quarter to quarter.

Class description

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

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Class participation Class presentation Research paper


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Scott Montgomery
Date: 01/29/2012