Jack Turner Iii
POL S 509
Introduction to central themes in political theory and the works of major political theorists, past and present.
WINTER 2011 THEME: POLITICAL THEORY AND THE SCIENCE OF POLITICS
The relationship between political theory and the larger discipline of political science is increasingly fraught with tension. Many political scientists believe that political theory has outlived its usefulness and should be allowed to die a gradual death. Many political theorists accuse empirical political scientists of clinging to positivist epistemologies and fact/value distinctions that are intellectually naive. Can political science and political theory have a relationship that is other than acrimonious? This seminar explores this possibility by introducing students to three major works in political theory that tried to develop a "science of politics": Plato's REPUBLIC, Hobbes's LEVIATHAN, and Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA. The course also includes a book by a thinker skeptical of the possibility of "political science," but who nevertheless produced an empirically-rich work brimming with political insight: Hannah Arendt and THE ORIGINS OF TOTALITARIANISM. Through close study of these four works, we will explore the questions: What is the proper relationship between "theory" and "science"? Is it possible to practice science in a way that does not entail controversial theoretical commitments? Is it possible to practice theory in a way that does not entail contestable empirical assumptions? What do we mean by "theory" and "science"? Can we have one without the other? What are the intellectual and social obligations of theorists and scientists? Do they have special responsibilities in democracies? In addition to Plato, Hobbes, Tocqueville, and Arendt, we will also read work by contemporary political theorists and political scientists on the relationship between the two enterprises.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading