POLS G4134: Modern Political Thought
Professor Melissa Schwartzberg
Teaching Assistant: Jeffrey Lenowitz
Hamilton Hall 516
Office hours: IAB 718, Monday 10-12 and by appointment
This course, while ostensibly a lecture course, will be conducted as an advanced
seminar in modern political thought. This is in large part because the course meets only
weekly, which means that we will not have time to provide a substantial introduction to
the texts; instead, we will be taking up a set of interpretive and normative problems raised
by each work. As such, students are expected to have completed the spring semester of
Contemporary Civilization or an equivalent course. (Should you have questions about
whether you have adequate background knowledge, please see Professor Schwartzberg.)
Participation is required, and on a fairly high level -- undergraduates should note that this
course also counts as part of the core sequence for Ph.D. students in political theory.
There is a mandatory weekly discussion section for undergraduates.
- Two take-home exams (each 6-8 pages): 40% each
- Participation (including one-page papers) in discussion section: 10%
- Participation in lecture: 10%
- Either two take-home exams (each 10-12 pages): 45% each
- Term paper (20-25 pages): 90%
- Participation in lecture: 10%
Texts for purchase (available at Book Culture):
- Hobbes, Leviathan (Oxford)
- Locke, Second Treatise of Government (Hackett)
- Rousseau, Basic Political Writings (Hackett)
- Hume, Treatise of Human Nature (Oxford)
- Kant, Political Writings (Cambridge)
- Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge)
- Madison/Hamilton/Jay, Federalist Papers (Penguin)
- De Tocqueville, Alexis (Penguin)
- Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford)
Jan. 19: Introduction
Social Contract I: Obligation and order
Jan. 26: Hobbes, Leviathan, chs. 11, 13-18
Feb. 2: Hobbes, Leviathan, chs. 19-21, 26, 29-30
Feb. 9: Locke, Second Treatise of Government, chs. 1-9
Feb. 16: Locke, Second Treatise, chs. 10-19
Feb. 23: Hume, “Of the Original Contract” [on Courseworks] and Treatise of Human
Nature, Book III: Part I; Part II, sections 1-10.
Social Contract II: Autonomy and republic
March 2: Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and On the Social Contract,
March 9: Rousseau, Social Contract, Book II, chs. 1-7; Book III, chs. 1-6, 11, 15, 18;
Book IV, chs. 1-3.
March 16: Spring Break
March 23: Kant, On the common saying: “This may be true in theory, but it does not
apply in practice,” section 2 (pp. 73-87); Perpetual Peace, section 2, first article (pp. 98-
102) and Appendix, section 2 (pp. 125-126); The Metaphysics of Morals, “Introduction to
the theory of right” and “The theory of right, Part II: Public Right,” §§ 43-49 (pp. 136-
Separation of powers, liberty, and majority rule
March 30: Passover (class cancelled, rescheduled for April 2)
Friday, April 2: Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Book 1, chs. 1-3; Book 2, chs. 1-5;
Book 3, chs. 1-4, 6, 9-10; Book 5, chs. 1-9, 11, 14, 16, 19; Book 6, chs.1-6; Book 8, chs.
2-5; Book 11, chs. 1-6; Book 12, chs. 1-4; 19-20; Book 29, ch. 1.
April 6: Federalist #10, #47-51.
April 13: Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Vol. 1: Author’s Introduction; Part I ch. 3;
Part II, chs. 1-9; Vol. 2: Part I chs. 7, 15-17; Part II chs. 1-13; Part III chs. 8-13, 21; Part
IV chs. 1-8.
April 20: Mill, On Liberty, chs. 1-2, 4; Considerations on Representative Government,
chs. 2, 5-8, 10.
April 27: Conclusion
***Final exam distributed, due May 11***