James A. Chamberlain
POL S 301
Study of topics in political theory.
Few would dispute that freedom is, or should be, a central value in contemporary western political communities, yet our political discourse and policies reveal substantial disagreement about what freedom means or entails. In this class we will read authors who approach the thorny issue of freedom, as well as what they see as the most pressing threats to it, from a range of perspectives including liberalism, existentialism, Marxism, postcolonial theory, feminist theory, and poststructuralist theory. In so doing, we will also consider how their visions of freedom and related critiques of domination and oppression are nested in broader theories concerning selfhood and identity, economics, and the role of government in ordering social life. Finally, we will examine how freedom structures our communities and social relations and thus consider the value of freedom itself.
Student learning goals
To acquire a deeper understanding of the concept of freedom and its role in social, economic, and political life.
To become familiar with arguments and analyses from various philosophical and theoretical schools, including liberalism, existentialism, Marxism, postcolonial theory, feminist theory, and poststructuralist theory.
To improve speaking and listening skills through thoughtful and respectful classroom discussion
To strengthen our command of English prose through careful writing.
General method of instruction
Seminar style discussion
Although there are no prerequisites for this class, some background in political theory, philosophy, or the history of ideas is highly recommended.
Class assignments and grading
Students will write four half-page reading response papers (20% of grade), one five page paper (25% of grade) and one ten page paper (35% of grade). The ten page paper will revise and expand upon the five page paper. Students will also lead the discussion for a portion of one class session as a part of their grade for participation (20%).