Democracy Courses at UChicago
In Spring 2019, and again in Fall 2020, Professor Susan Stokes taught the innovative cross-university Democratic Erosion course. This course is part of a consortium of nearly 50 institutions that each offer a variation on this course, which teaches students to evaluate threats to democracy in the United States and abroad.
“Democratic Erosion was by far one of the best classes I took at the University of Chicago. The combination of hyper-relevant course material, a diversity of interesting readings, and a set of presentations from many of the authors themselves made the experience unforgettable.” —UChicago undergraduate student Justin Saint-Loubert-Bié
2021-22 Courses Related to Democracy
One of the key activities of the Democracy Curriculum is to organize new curricular structures related to democracy. Our first new structure is a three-course Social Sciences sequence, launched in Fall 2021. As we work to create new structures, we will draw from the extensive list of democracy-related courses at the university. Below is the list of those courses we have identified for the 2021-22 year. Note that we have listed each course once, rather than repeating cross-listed courses. This list is drawn from on the 2021-22 College catalog. If you are aware of any courses that we have missed, please email Kevin Kromash at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to see previous year’s courses.
ANTH 25459. Topics in Contemporary Critical Theory III. 100 Units.
This course examines selections from the vast literature on ideology-with attention to the political commitments and intellectual genealogies that have made the concept both important and vexed. The bulk of the course will entail examining ideology’s relationship to material practice, the notion of interpellation, the usefulness of “hegemony,” and the problems associated with false consciousness. We shall also analyze ideology’s connection to prevailing theoretical and empirical concerns, such as those related to “subject” formation, affect, new developments in capitalism, the resurgence of populism, and the dynamics associated with contemporary “democratic” liberal, as well as authoritarian, political order.
Instructor(s): Lisa Wedeen Terms Offered: Winter. Offered in alternating years. The program will next run in Winter 2022.
Prerequisite(s): Admission to the Paris: Social Sciences – Critical Theory study abroad program.
Note(s): This course is part of the College’s Paris: Social Sciences – Critical Theory study abroad program.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 25459, CCCT 25459
Cinema and Media Studies
CMST 20904. Media Wars. 100 Units.
Media practices and discourses evoking war or violence are common today, such as the “weaponization” of social media; “cyber warfare” and attacks; “online battlefields;” “guerilla” media tactics; “The Great Meme War” and “Infowars.com,” to name a few. In relationship with terms suggesting that we live in an age of “post-truth” dominated by “fake news” or “fact-challenged” journalism, the media wars of today may seem unique to the twenty-first century. But in fact, the history of the use of media to either combat or spread ideas dates back centuries to the earliest phases of mass media and communication. In this class, we will proceed historically, broadly conceiving of media to include print and visual, cultural, and artistic forms, cinema, television, and the internet. While we will explore how media have historically been used to construct or counter dominant systems of representation, we will also discuss how different media forms function formally, learning to analyze how they construct discourses of truth as texts (documentary; propaganda). This class will also function as a contemporary research laboratory where students will be asked to track, evaluate, and theorize contemporary or historical media that are taking part in a so-called “media war.”
Instructor(s): Jennifer Wild Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): Please note: Students who have previously completed the course “Problems in the Study of Gender and Sexuality: Media Wars” are not eligible to receive credit for this class.
Equivalent Course(s): GNSE 30114, GNSE 20114, SIGN 26061, CMST 30904, MAAD 10904
CLCV 23921. Thucydides and Athenian Democracy at War. 100 Units.
In this course we will closely read the entirety of Thucydides’ War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians. Alongside Thucydides we will read selections from Plutarch’s Lives as well as some of the tragedies and comedies of the war years. Our goal will be to read Thucydides’ account in its political and cultural context in order to understand both the text and the event that have proved foundational to the western tradition of thinking on democracy, empire, and particularly international relations. Among the questions we will discuss: How did the Athenians’ democratic politics and culture influence the course of the war? How did the pursuit of empire influence their practice of democracy? And how can we draw general lessons about war and the conduct of nations from a source so far removed from our own time? The course will conclude with a discussion of the realist tradition of international relations which draws from Thucydides and his account of the war, and of the problems posed by such readings.
Instructor(s): Robert Stone Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): SCTH 20677
CLCV 24521. Politics and Political Space in Ancient Rome. 100 Units.
Aristotle called human beings “political animals,” suggesting an inherent connection between politics and the human propensity to live in cities. Using the city of Rome as its focus, this course aims to deepen our understanding of how urban spaces are not just backdrops to history but fundamentally shape political power. Focusing on the late Republic and early empire, in the first half of the class we will debate how the Roman forum, Campus Martius, and imperial fora altered the possibilities for political activity-from large public assemblies to restricted, autocratic displays focused on the emperor. We will also explore how “private” or seemingly “apolitical” spaces, such as houses and theaters, were used for the demonstration and negotiation of political and social power. This course will encourage students to use a variety of methodologies and source materials, from literary sources to digital archaeology, to construct arguments about the relationships between politics and space. We will also discuss how the lessons of Rome can be applied to battles over the landscapes of modern US cities.
Instructor(s): T. Clark Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): ARCH 29450, CLAS 34521
CLCV 27709. Caesar and His Reception. 100 Units.
Julius Caesar is a captivating figure in the Western political and literary imaginary. Consummate general, admired stylist, lover of Cleopatra, winner of the civil war against Pompey, and dictator for life, Caesar seems to have it all until his assassination by some of his closest friends. Did he have the ambition to control the state from the beginning or did he react in response to provocation? Did he have a just cause for waging civil war? Was he a figure of consummate cruelty or did he do atrocious things to forward a progressive political agenda? How are we to interpret his vaunted clemency? To address these questions, we will read Julius Caesar’s extant works and examine the rich variety of representations of this charismatic figure in imperial Greek and Roman literature (Appian, Plutarch, Suetonius, Lucan) and beyond (Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Richard Nelson’s 2008 play, Conversations in Tusculum).
Instructor(s): Michele Lowrie Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): CLAS 37709
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
CRES 21748. Global Human Rights Literature. 100 Units.
This course surveys key human rights texts (philosophical texts, literary works, and legal documents) of the 20th and 21st centuries. By reading global literatures alongside international human rights instruments, and by treating literature as an archive of ideas that circulate among a literary public invested in human rights, this course explores the importance of art and literature to legal and political projects and provides students with the opportunity to conceptualize the role of narrative for human rights advocacy and human rights imaginaries. We will chart the rise of the global human rights movement, beginning with the 1940s up to our contemporary moment, paying close attention to key human rights issues such as genocide, citizenship, enforced disappearance, detention, apartheid, refugee crises, and mass incarceration. Readings will include works by Anna Seghers, Primo Levi, Hannah Arendt, Jacobo Timerman, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Rigoberta Menchú, Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo, Antije Krog, Dave Eggers, and Albert Woodfox.
Instructor(s): Nory Peters
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 21748, CMLT 21748
English Language and Literature
ENGL 25230. Democracy and the School: Writing about Education. 100 Units.
Examining arguments about schooling in democracy, access to education, and the relationship between education and power, this course reads fiction and nonfiction prose from the US during the decades after Reconstruction, when education figures centrally in debates about citizenship and enfranchisement. Taking up writers including Anna Julia Cooper, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Zitkala-Sa, W.E.B. Du Bois, Edith Wharton, and Henry Adams, we’ll weigh conflicting accounts of education as device for control, a site for violence, a means of becoming oneself, and a vital form of democratic empowerment. (Fiction, 1830-1940)
Instructor(s): Emily Coit Terms Offered: Spring
GRMN 25421. Babylon Berlin: Politics and Culture in the Weimar Period. 100 Units.
This seminar will focus on the political and cultural turmoil of the Weimar Republic from its beginnings up to Hitler’s seizure of power. How did Germany’s first experiment with democracy go so terribly wrong? How was it that the arts flourished while the Republic succumbed ever more to extremist politics accompanied by armed militias? What role did new media and art forms play in the cultural and political turmoil of the period? Course material will include historical studies, novels, poetry, theater, political essays, philosophy, visual art, and film.
Instructor(s): Eric Santner Terms Offered: Autumn
GLST 20203. Caste and Race: The Politics of Radical Equality. 100 Units.
This course will explore the bodies of knowledge surrounding the politics and practices of caste in South Asia. We will study the emergence and development of radical social movements in the colonial and postcolonial periods that were opposed to caste oppression, along with scholarship that seeks to understand how such a form of social hierarchy and difference operates within regional and national communities. We will also examine how caste interacts with forms of identity such as class, gender, and religion. Caste has often been compared to race: we will study historical parallels as well as present scholarship and activism that aligns political struggles against caste and racial injustice in South Asia and the United States. Through close readings of primary sources and secondary literature in the fields of history, political science, anthropology and literature, the course will foreground the ubiquity of caste in everyday life in South Asia; the epistemologies that have developed to explain, understand and accommodate it; and finally the urgent, radical struggles that seek to annihilate it.
Instructor(s): Ahona Panda Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): SOCI 30529, KNOW 20203, SALC 30203, GNSE 32233, KNOW 30203, SOCI 20529, SALC 20203, GNSE 22233
GLST 22600. What Is Socialism? Experiences from Eastern Europe. 100 Units.
A specter is haunting US politics-the specter of socialism. On both sides of the aisle, politicians invoke “socialism” as shorthand for Cold War rivalries and contemporary international conflicts, as well as to condemn or praise domestic agendas. But what is socialism? What defines it ideologically? What do political and economic systems based on socialist ideology look like? Are they (just) totalitarian dictatorships or one-party states? Drawing upon examples from twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe, this course explores the history of the region’s socialist regimes. The course will do so from a variety of perspectives: ideological and philosophical writings (Marx, Fourier, Lenin, Lukacs, Havel), political and economic forms (from Stalinist dictatorships to “Goulash Communism”), gender arrangements, cultural production, and everyday life. Throughout the course, students will reflect on the differences between socialism and communism, between ideology and politics, and consider questions of individual agency, and individual and collective rights.
Instructor(s): M. Appeltová Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 12600, HMRT 12600, GNSE 12600
HIST 17110. Democracy: Age of Revolutions. 100 Units.
This course is designed to introduce students to the historical element in evaluating the emergence of and threats to democracies. By focusing on the age of revolutions we will examine why democratizing polities emerged during this period, what alternatives developed at the same time, and the ways in which democratizing impulses were sometimes constrained or reversed. Students will therefore be introduced to the historical fragility and contingency of democracy. Readings will include theoretical works, historical accounts, and a variety of primary documents. Revolutions discussed may include the English Revolution of 1688-89, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Haitian Revolution. Developments in South and East Asia will also be explored. Writing assignments will include essays engaging with theoretical claims, analyses of primary documents, and construction of historical narratives.
Instructor(s): S. Pincus Terms Offered: Winter
HIST 20507. The Idea of Freedom in Antiquity. 100 Units.
Freedom may be the greatest of American values. But it also has a long history, a dizzying variety of meanings, and a huge literature. This course will be an introduction to critical thinking on freedom (primarily political freedom) with an emphasis on Greco-Roman texts. The first half of the class will focus on Greek authors, including Herodotus, Euripides, and Aristotle. The second half will focus on Roman authors, from Cicero to Livy to Tacitus. The ancient texts will be supplemented by modern literature on freedom, such as John Stuart Mill and Isaiah Berlin.
Instructor(s): A. Horne Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 30507, CLCV 24319, CLAS 34319, LLSO 24319
HIST 22610. Paris and the French Revolution. 100 Units.
The French Revolution is one of the defining moments of modern world history. This course will explore the mix of social, political, and cultural factors which caused its outbreak in 1789 and go on to consider the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy in 1792, the drift towards state-driven Terror in 1793-94, and the ensuing failure to achieve political stability down to the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. We will view these epochal changes through the prism of France’s capital city. Paris shaped the revolution in many ways, but the revolution also reshaped Paris. The urbane city of European enlightenment acquired new identities as democratic hub from 1789 and as site of popular democracy after 1793-94. In addition, the revolution generated new ways of thinking about urban living and remodelling the city for the modern age. A wide range of primary sources will be used, including visual sources (notably paintings, political cartoons and caricatures, and maps).
Instructor(s): C. Jones Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Students taking FREN 22619/32619 must read French texts in French.
Equivalent Course(s): FREN 32619, HIST 32610, ENST 22610, ARCH 22610, FREN 22619
HIST 25300. American Revolution, 1763 to 1789. 100 Units.
This lecture and discussion course explores the background of the American Revolution and the problem of organizing a new nation. The first half of the course uses the theory of revolutionary stages to organize a framework for the events of the 1760s and 1770s, and the second half of the course examines the period of constitution making (1776-1789) for evidence on the ways in which the Revolution was truly revolutionary.
Instructor(s): E. Cook Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 20601, HIST 35300
HIST 29632. History Colloquium: The CIA and American Democracy. 100 Units.
This colloquium will examine all aspects of American intelligence and its influence on history, politics, society, and academe since the inception of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Particular attention will be paid to how intelligence is gathered and interpreted, intelligence failures and why they happened, the close association between top Ivy League universities and origins of US intelligence, the penetration of the early Central Intelligence Agency by British individuals spying for the Soviets, the wide influence of the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s on major aspects of American life, the crisis of US intelligence in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, the revival of intelligence vigor in the 1980s, and the uses and misuses of intelligence in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assignments: Six or seven books during the course of the colloquium, a few films outside of class time, a paper of roughly fifteen pages in the seventh week of the term, and a final exam (a mix of essay questions with questions on the reading). Outstanding participation in colloquium will merit an increment in the final grade, which otherwise will be determined equally by the outside paper and final exam.
Instructor(s): B. Cumings Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Priority registration is given to History majors.
HMRT 21001. Human Rights: Contemporary Issues. 100 Units.
This course examines basic human rights norms and concepts and selected contemporary human rights problems from across the globe, including human rights implications of the COVID pandemic. Beginning with an overview of the present crises and significant actors on the world stage, we will then examine the political setting for the United Nations’ approval of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. The post-World War 2 period was a period of optimism and fertile ground for the establishment of a universal rights regime, given the defeat of fascism in Europe. International jurists wanted to establish a framework of rights that went beyond the nation-state, taking into consideration the partitions of India-Pakistan and Israel-Palestine – and the rising expectations of African-Americans in the U.S. and colonized peoples across Africa and Asia. But from the beginning, there were basic contradictions in a system of rights promulgated by representatives of nation-states that ruled colonial regimes, maintained de facto and de jure systems of racial discrimination, and imprisoned political dissidents and journalists. Cross-cutting themes of the course include the universalism of human rights, problems of impunity and accountability, notions of “exceptionalism,” and the emerging issue of the “shamelessness” of authoritarian regimes. Students will research a human rights topic of their choosing, to be presented as either a final research paper or a group presentation.
Instructor(s): Susan Gzesh, Senior Lecturer, (The College) Terms Offered: Autumn Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 29304, LLSO 21001, SOSC 21001, LACS 21001
HMRT 21002. Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations. 100 Units.
In this class we explore the philosophical foundations of human rights, investigating theories of how our shared humanity in the context of an interdependent world gives rise to obligations of justice. We begin by asking what rights are, how they are distinguished from other part of morality, and what role they play in our social and political life. But rights come in many varieties, and we are interested in human rights in particular. In later weeks, we will ask what makes something a human right, and how are human rights different from other kinds of rights. We will consider a number of contemporary philosophers (and one historian) who attempt to answer this question, including James Griffin, Joseph Raz, John Rawls, John Tasioulas, Samuel Moyn, Jiewuh Song, and Martha Nussbaum. Throughout we will be asking questions such as, “What makes something a human right?” “What role does human dignity play in grounding our human rights?” “Are human rights historical?” “What role does the nation and the individual play in our account of human rights?” “When can one nation legitimately intervene in the affairs of another nation?” “How can we respect the demands of justice while also respecting cultural difference?” “How do human rights relate to global inequality and markets?” (A) (I)
Instructor(s): B. Laurence Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 39319, LLSO 21002, HIST 29319, HMRT 31002, MAPH 42002, PHIL 21002, PHIL 31002, INRE 31602
HMRT 21005. Militant Democracy and the Preventative State. 100 Units.
Are states of exception still exceptional? The current debates and developments as well as the existential governmental crises has led to a securitization of rights. State security discourse narrates how states understand and mediate their legal obligations and has been used justify pre-emptive actions and measures which otherwise would not fit within an international law framework. When narrated in the public square, States often construct a discourse around a necessity defence-measures that may be extra-legal but argued to be necessary to protect democratic values and the democratic ‘way of life.’ This typifies what we refer to as ‘militant democratic’ language of the ‘preventive state’ and has been most visible in the raft of antiterrorism measures that were introduced after the events of September 11, 2001 and remain to date. This course will examine the impact of militant democracy and the preventative state on the current human rights landscape. It will look specifically how the narrative of prevention and protection has impacted normative changes to fundamental human rights and how the permanence of emergency is beginning to give the concept of ‘securitization of rights’ legal legs.
Instructor(s): Kathleen Cavanaugh, Senior Lecturer, Executive Director, Pozen Center for Human Rights Terms Offered: Autumn
HMRT 23561. Democracy: Athens and America. 100 Units.
What does it mean for a country to be a democracy? Political scientists and historians say that the Athenians invented democracy, but their government looked very different from the democracies we see in the world today. How can understanding democracy as it was conceived and practiced in ancient Greece contribute to our own understanding and practice of democracy? Does modern democracy fulfill the promise of ancient democracy, or betray its fundamental tenets? Have we improved on an ancient idea or invented a new form of government? In this class, we will explore these questions primarily through a comparative study of Athenian and American democracy. Class discussion will also draw on democracy in other countries and democracy building. We will examine institutional elements of democratic governance and the intersectional challenges faced in a government “by the people and for the people” in a global environment, such as issues of race, gender, slavery, war, and empire.
Instructor(s): Hannah Ridge, Pozen Center for Human Rights Postdoctoral Instructor Terms Offered: Spring
Law, Letters, and Society
LLSO 28050. The American Constitution. 100 Units.
This is a survey of the main themes of the American Constitution-popular sovereignty, separation of powers, federalism, and rights-and of the basic techniques of constitutional interpretation. The course introduces the history and doctrines of American constitutional law primarily through the analysis of cases.
Instructor(s): David Lebow Terms Offered: Winter
LLSO 29030. Totalitarianism, Law and Revolution. 100 Units.
In the final chapter of her seminal The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argued that, far from being a lawless form of government, totalitarianism is an attempt to impose some notion of ultimate law directly on the world, with no mediation through positive law and no regard for the lived particularity of human communities. In this course we will examine some seminal attempts at theorizing about totalitarianism, as well as primary sources and some secondary sources on the history of totalitarian movements, all with an eye toward understanding what relationship totalitarianism bears both to forms of legality and to attempts at overturning prior legal, social, and political regimes.
Instructor(s): David Lyons Terms Offered: Not offered in 2020-21
LLSO 29071. Great Books of the Founding Fathers: Revolution and Constitution. 100 Units.
In contemporary arguments about the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, participants often make claims about what the Framers of the Constitution and their opponents thought and said about topics like the powers of Congress and the President, the strengths and weaknesses of federalism, and the role of the judiciary in a republican form of government. This course will seek to provide students with the means of evaluating the strengths of such claims. To that end, we will examine the emergence of the U.S. Constitution in three phases. First, we will look at discussions of liberty and self-government in the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s that led to the American Revolution. Second, we will look at the concerns that animated the calling of what became the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and read Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention. Third, we will look at the debates over ratification of the Constitution between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists.
Instructor(s): David P. Lyons Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HIST 27016
Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse
PARR 16600. Political Rhetoric: Presidential Inauguration, Transition, and Legislation. 100 Units.
Presidential transitions provide unique and particularly robust moments for ritual, transition, and potential transformation on policies and politics. Through the lens of rhetorical theory on inaugurations, political communication, and transition, this course will examine the beginning of the Biden Presidency. Students will examine inaugural addresses, symbolic rituals, speeches, legislative agenda, and executive orders and directions executed in the first few weeks of the new administration. Course readings and discussions will review and synthesize relevant theory in relationship to emerging discourse, events, and proposals. In assignments, students will utilize theory to analyze and critique discourse and legislative and political developments.
Instructor(s): L. Brammer Terms Offered: Winter
PLSC 10500. What Should Democracy Mean Today? 100 Units.
This course is designed to explore broad themes of democratic crises. Providing first an overview of democracy by way of reflecting on four major democratic models, the course will proceed to take up our first theme, comprising three separate trends: the rise of right-wing populism; the emergence of social media; and the spawning of conspiracism. Disparate as they are in considerable ways, these trends share a crucial trait-their success is invariably undergirded by a robust popular support, mimicking what in democratic discussion we call “participation”. Paradoxically, scholars of diverse orientation have cautioned us against the pernicious effects they have on democracy. Our second theme concerns the problem of globalization and global warming, raising especially the question whether democracy in its conventional sense-tethered to the notion of sovereign nation-states-is any longer viable in the face of an impending climate apocalypse? Scholars like David Held are calling instead for “cosmopolitan democracy,” while Latour implores us to go beyond democracy’s anthropocentric biases. By way of reflecting on these emerging threats to democracy, we will try to explore-through a number of collective and fun exercises-the critical question of what should democracy look like in our present time?
Terms Offered: Summer
PLSC 20817. Race, Social Movements and American Politics. 100 Units.
Throughout history it has often been the collective action of the most oppressed groups that has changed political systems and hierarchies in unprecedented ways, providing a vehicle for the participation of the those formally disempowered. It is just such collective political action that we will examine in this course. Throughout the quarter we will concentrate on one particular form of collective resistance-social movements. Given the rise of race-based social movements such as the Immigrant’s Rights Movement and the Movement for Black Lives, exploring this form of mobilization, voice and political participation seems especially pertinent to the study of American politics today. Under consideration throughout the quarter will be such questions as: What counts as a social movement? What motivates people to engage in such activity? What are the challenges that movements and their leaders face? What impact do social movements have on the distribution of the lives of marginal communities and the general functioning of the state?
Instructor(s): C. Cohen Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): CRES 20817
PLSC 23100. Democracy and the Information Technology Revolution. 100 Units.
The revolution in information technologies has serious implications for democratic societies. We concentrate, though not exclusively, on the United States. We look at which populations have the most access to technology-based information sources (the digital divide), and how individual and group identities are being forged online. We ask how is the responsiveness of government being affected, and how representative is the online community. Severe conflict over the tension between national security and individual privacy rights in the U.S., United Kingdom, and Ireland will be explored as well. We analyze both modern works (such as those by Turkle and Gilder) and the work of modern democratic theorists (such as Habermas).
Instructor(s): M. Dawson Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 27101
PLSC 23313. Democracy and Equality. 100 Units.
Democracy has often been celebrated (and often criticized) for expressing some kind of equality among citizens. This course will investigate a series of questions prompted by this supposed relationship between democracy and equality. Is democracy an important part of a just society? What institutions and practices does democracy require? Is equality a meaningful or important political ideal? If so, what kind of equality? Does democracy require some kind of equality, or vice-versa? The course will begin by studying classical arguments for democracy by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Stuart Mill, and then focus on contemporary approaches to these questions. The course will conclude with some treatment of current democratic controversies, potentially including issues of race and representation; the fair design of elections; the role of wealth in political processes; and the role of judicial review. The course aims to deepen participants’ understanding of these and related issues, and to develop our abilities to engage in argument about moral and political life. This course is part of the College Course Cluster program, Inequality.
Instructor(s): J. Wilson Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 43301, LLSO 29705
PLSC 23615. Reconstructing Democracy: Tocqueville and Du Bois. 100 Units.
Over the last few years, ideas of democratic crisis and democratic breakdown have been pervasive in public and scholarly discussion. This course examines two classical texts on American Democracy-Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Du Bois Black Reconstruction. We will think through central puzzles of democratic politics-from majoritarianism to the role of racial identity and imperial expansion guided by Tocqueville and Du Bois.
Instructor(s): A. Getachew Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 33615
PLSC 25215. The American Presidency. 100 Units.
This course examines the institution of the American presidency. It surveys the foundations of presidential power, both as the Founders conceived it, and as it is practiced in the modern era. This course also traces the historical development of the institutional presidency, the president’s relationships with Congress and the courts, the influence presidents wield in domestic and foreign policymaking, and the ways in which presidents make decisions in a system of separated powers.
Instructor(s): W. Howell Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): AMER 25215, LLSO 25215, PBPL 25216
PLSC 28405. Democratic Erosion. 100 Units.
Until recently, democracies died dramatic deaths. Tanks rolled out, politicians were arrested, a free press was suddenly closed. In recent years, the coup d’état is being replaced by slower and less easily identified challenges to democratic governance. The attacks often arise from within, as elected leaders chip away at democratic institutions and norms. What are the causes of the erosion of democracy? What are the early warning signs, and can it be reversed? This course, which is being taught in tandem among 35 universities across the U.S. and several abroad, delves deeply into these themes. It offers students opportunities to write policy briefings and to blog about challenges to democracy in the world today.
Instructor(s): S. Stokes Terms Offered: Autumn
PLSC 28605. Challenges to Democracy. 100 Units.
Challenges of Democracy grapples with the possibilities of, and challenges to, democratic government in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The quarter will begin with the debates over national self-determination and the possibility of democracy that proliferated in the decades from the First through the Second World War. Students will consider the normative case made for rights to self-determination (celebrated by figures such as Woodrow Wilson but recognized as a threat to class-based revolution by Rosa Luxemburg) as well as arguments by those skeptical of the possibility or desirability of a more inclusive and participatory democratic regime. Key readings for the first weeks of class will include arguments that identify the dangers in defining the demos or people in ways that enable despotism or even genocide.
Instructor(s): L. Clemens, S. Stokes Terms Offered: Winter
PLSC 28701. Introduction to Political Theory. 100 Units.
This year, Introduction to Political Theory will focus on democracy. Can democracy be defended in the face of critics and skeptics? Is democratic rule the uniquely just form of collective decision-making? What, if anything, legitimates central democratic institutions such as majority rule? How can we deal with persistent disagreement and polarization in politics? Which political institutions and practices best realize democratic values of equality, freedom, and participation? We will take up these questions drawing on canonical and contemporary works of political theory.
Instructor(s): M. Landauer Terms Offered: Spring
PLSC 28765. The Politics of Authoritarian Regimes. 100 Units.
This course provides an overview of topics related to politics in authoritarian regimes. We begin by introducing the concept of authoritarianism: how it differs from democracy and how authoritarian regimes differ from each other. We then investigate the tools authoritarian rulers employ to maintain power, including institutions, policies, and tactics, and we examine the effects and side effects of these tools. Finally, we study transitions of power and of institutions, both on the way out of authoritarianism (democratization) and on the way in (democratic backsliding). Students who take this course will acquire a broad understanding of authoritarian politics and how it is covered in the literature.
Instructor(s): Scott Gehlbach; Zhaotian Luo Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Prior recommended coursework for undergraduates: one semester in Statistics (Stats 220 or equivalent) and current or prior training in game theory (PBPL 222, Social Science Inquiry core, or equivalent). Prior recommended coursework for graduate students: one semester of statistics and current or prior training in game theory.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 38765, PBPL 28765, PPHA 38765
PLSC 28901. Introduction to Comparative Politics. 100 Units.
Why are some nations rich and others are poor? Why is inequality skyrocketing across the developed world? Why are some countries democratic and others are dictatorships, and what determines switching between regimes? Does democracy matter for health, wealth, and happiness? Why are some countries beset by civil violence and revolution whereas others are politically stable? Why do political parties organize themselves politically around ethnicity, language, religion, or ideology? This course explores these and other similar questions that lie at the core of comparative politics. Drawing on political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology, while utilizing a wealth of data and case studies of major countries, we will examine how power is exercised to shape and control political, cultural, and economic institutions and, in turn, how these institutions generate policies that affect what we learn, what we earn, how long we live, and even who we are.
Instructor(s): M. Albertus, M. Nalepa Terms Offered: Autumn
PBPL 25563. Does American Democracy Need Religion? 100 Units.
In the United States, we find ourselves living as part of a democracy. But that simple fact doesn’t necessarily make us fans of democracy. In fact, it leaves many questions unanswered: Is democracy a good thing? If so, why and on what grounds? Why should you or I esteem or believe in democracy and its ideals (e.g. equality, liberty, fraternity)? If we do, what grounds our devotion to this shared political tradition, if anything? Does, can, or should religion have a role to play? In this course, we will explore American democracy as a normative tradition and its relationship to various religious traditions in American society. Specifically, we will explore three influential trends in conceptualizing the relationship between religion and democracy by examining the statements of key interpreters of American democracy, with an emphasis on the 20th century. First, we’ll investigate the relative independence of democracy and religion, focusing on philosophers who emphasize American democracy as tradition in its own right. Second, we’ll consider “Civil Religion in America,” focusing on sociologists and historians who suggest the dependence of the democratic on the quasi-religious. Third, we’ll examine the relative interdependence of American democracy and religious traditions by turning to statements made by influential religious and political leaders and activists who provide interpretations of American democracy’s ideals during periods of major political and social change.
Instructor(s): Derek Buyan Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): AMER 25563, RLST 25563, CRES 25563
Romance Languages and Literatures
ITAL 21322. Literature and/of/Against Fascism. 100 Units.
How do people become fascists? How does Fascism rise to power? How does literature support, survive or oppose a totalitarian regime? Through literary and visual texts we will explore these and other questions related both to the specificity of Italian fascism and more generally to the relationship between political power and artistic practice. We will examine the fascination with the “superman” and new technologies, the dream of colonial expansion and the building of empire, censorship and the myth of autarky, overt and clandestine forms of dissent, and translation as political resistance. We will read texts by a variety of authors, including Gabriele D’Annunzio, F. T. Marinetti, Benedetto Croce, Primo and Carlo Levi, Benito Mussolini, Eugenio Montale, Elio Vittorini, Cesare Pavese and Curzio Malaparte. We will also analyze interpretations of Fascism and Resistance through films such as Pastrone’s “Cabiria” and Rossellini’s “Paisà,” and through an overview of the main periodicals and publishing houses of the time.
Instructor(s): Silvia Guslandi Terms Offered: Winter
SOCI 20106. Political Sociology. 100 Units.
Political sociology explores how social processes shape outcomes within formal political institutions as well as the politics that occur in the family, civic associations, social networks, and social movements. This course surveys the emergence of the most historically significant forms of political ordering (particularly nation-states and empires); explores the patterns of participation, mobilization, and policy feedback’s within nation-states, both democratic and non-democratic; and considers how transnational politics and globalization may reorder political relations.
Instructor(s): E. Clemens Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Completion of the general education requirement in the social sciences
Equivalent Course(s): SOCI 30106, PBPL 23600, ENST 23500
SOCI 20544. Democratic Backsliding. 100 Units.
What does a sociological approach to study of democracy look like? How is it different from the dominant approaches in political science and political theory? The course takes up this question. We will consider relevant theories and examine several cases of democracy, particularly in the Global South.
Instructor(s): M. Garrido Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): SOCI 30544
South Asian Languages and Civilizations
SALC 26711. South Asia after Independence. 100 Units.
In 1947-48, the world’s greatest experiments in postcolonial democracy and state-building began. This course surveys the histories of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka from independence to the present, with a particular focus on India due to its huge size and historiography. How did politicians and bureaucrats succeed in entrenching democracy in India, while military dictators took control in Pakistan? Why did Bangladesh secede from Pakistan, Indira Gandhi suspend India’s democracy, and Sri Lanka descend into a quarter-century-long civil war? To what extent have religious and caste-based movements succeeded in reshaping South Asia today? In parallel, we will examine the transformations in political economy that have shaped these developments, from economic planning to the rise of billionaires and NGOs. By combining secondary literature with public speeches, visual sources, fictional works and more, we will arrive at a rich picture of how the histories of democratization and development in South Asia challenge conventional wisdom in the West. No prior knowledge of South Asian history or South Asian languages is required.