Reading and discussion of selected works of major importance in interdisciplinary international studies. Restricted to majors in International Studies.
Readings on Democracy: From Ancient Athens to the Arab Spring
In this course, we will discuss some key readings on the 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, Alexander Hamilton, de Tocqueville. But we will also include more recent authors, such as Milton Friedman, Samuel Huntington, Amartya Sen, and Benjamin Barber. These readings will be selective and fairly short, but diverse in outlook. 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 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
Class discussion of assigned readings, plus one writing assignment.
None, except willingness to discuss important ideas!
Class assignments and grading
Each week, one or two students will be assigned to give brief summaries of the readings. There will be several class debates, and one research paper.
Class participation: 50% Summary of readings: 20% Research paper: 30%