Modern Political Thought
This course is designed to create a deeper understanding and interest in contemporary issues in political thought. Its topics change frequently to keep up with the latest developments in the field. This semester, the focus is on democracy. One of the areas of greatest concern and debate in recent political thought has been the communitarian challenge to the classical liberal tradition. In the first part of this course, we will explore the communitarians' ideas of political friendship as a critique of contemporary liberal ideas of citizenship and political participation within democracy. We will also explore competing liberal and conservative understandings of democracy that challenge communitarianism as anti-democratic. In the second part of the course, we will turn to a study of the democratic ideology of America through another lens, America's popular culture, and in particular popular television. Popular television shows such as Start Trek and The X-Files are examined for what they convey about American democracy and America's impact on the world. We will look at the globalization of America's democratic culture and examine the claim that this global culture is "delegitimizing the nation-state."
Cantor, Gilligan Unbound, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers,
Inc., New York, 2001.
midterm essay exam: 35%
The "book review and analysis" portion of your grade consists of a 7-10
page typewritten, doublespaced paper in which you choose a book available
in KSU's library, review it and incorporate into your review your own
analysis of its merits and its application to issues raised in class.
A list of applicable books is available on the political thought
web page, address above.
Communitarianism1. Introduction to Communitarianism
Frohnen, "Introduction: The Rediscovery of Virtue," pp. 1-17.
2. The Crisis of Liberalism
Frohnen, Ch. 1: "A Liberal Community?" pp. 18-56.
Video of Amitai Etzioni, on privacy, from NewsHour: link on Communitarian
3. The Model of Friendship
selection from Rhetoric, pp. 72-76 in Other Selves.
4. How Can We Unite? Civil Religion and Founding Myths
Ch. 2: "From Social Cohesion to Radical Reform: The Politics of Civil
Religion," pp. 57-74.
5. Education: The Path to Proper Socialization?
Frohnen, Ch. 5: "Liberalism as Social Movement: Communitarianism in Practice," pp. 150-176.
Education and the Development of Moral and Civic Responsibility," by
Anne Colby and Thomas Ehrlich
6. The Liberal and Conservative Response
Ch. 6, "Covenant, Contract, and the Power of Interpreters," pp. 177-203.
Popular Culture in the Age of GlobalizationNote: Links in this section are for your reference and do not include required reading unless otherwise announced in class by the instructor.
1. Why Popular Culture is Important
"Introduction," pp. ix-xxv.
2. National Television and the Democratic Ideology of America
Cantor, "The Courage of the Fearless Crew": Gilligan's Island and the Americanization of the Globe," pp. 3-33.
3. America: The End of History?
Cantor, "Shakespeare in the Original Klingon: Star Trek and the End of History," pp. 35-64.
4. Global Television and the Decline of the Nation-State
Cantor, "Simpson Agonistes: Atomistic Politics, the Nuclear Family, and the Globalization of Springfield," pp. 67-109.
5. The X-Files: Mainstreaming Paranoia
Cantor, "Mainstreaming Paranoia: The X-Files and the Deligitimization of the Nation-State," pp. 111-198.
6. Cantor's Conclusions
Cantor, "There's No Place Like Home," pp. 199-211.