May 21, 2004

Political and Social Philosophy: Request for Syllabus Help

I'll be teaching an introductory course in political and social philosophy next fall, and I'm interested in suggestions for contemporary-ish stuff that fills some of the following slots. I'll be teaching short chunks of stuff that should be accessible to non-specialists, so keep that in mind; these papers may not help.

Libertarianism aside from Nozick (I've heard Loren Lomasky is good; is there anything easily digestible? Should I just go with Locke?)
Egalitarianist/Redistributionist things that's not Rawls
Some sort of response to the libertarian view (does Etzioni have good stuff here?)
Gender or Race theories that make good contact with the tradition (which, in addition to that mentioned above, includes Hobbes, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, probably Plato, some others).

Thanks for your help.

Posted by Matt Weiner at May 21, 2004 03:18 PM

As far as a response to libertarianism and liberalism go MacIntyre has an essay called “The Privatization of the Good,” which should be no problem for college level readers. I've used it before and it seemed to work pretty good.

Posted by: Chris Blakley at May 26, 2004 03:13 PM

Tom Spraegens has a good, accessable critique of libertarianism that's nice for undergrads, although it might be a bit simplistic. It's ostensibly from a left-liberal position, but it's also informed by a soft communitarianism. I'm not sure where it was originally published, but it's reproduced in that Ball and Dagger reading. I'll look this up forther and get back to you when I've got a chance.

Lomansky's book is much better than Nozick's. It's a much more creative and original argument. I've also heard good things about _Liberalism Beyond Justice_ by John Tomasi. THe problem is, the more interesting and good libertarian arguments are, the further they are from "standard" libertarian arguments, which leaves you with an interesting pedagogical puzzle.

Got to go teach, more later.

Posted by: DJW at May 27, 2004 11:10 AM

Non-Rawlsian egalitarianism--how about the capabilities approach developed by Arartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum? Sen's got lots of good stuff on this (_Development as Freedom_ is accessable and lends itself to excerpting). I just got a copy of recent lecture of Nussbaum's, published in Oxford Development Studies, March 2004. It's a critique of social contract theory (mostly Rawls) and an argument for the capabilities approach as a stronger foundation for global justice. A quick scan suggests it might be a pretty good choice.

On Race and the canon, I can't really say enough good things about _The Racial Contract_ by Charles Mills. This short book (10 theses, 133 pages) provocatively argues the social contract tradition is really a racial contract in disguise. The argument is too blunt to be thoroughly persuasive, but it seems to bring out the best in my students. He engages Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau/Kant quite directly, as well as non-contract theorists (Mill, Marx) less so. Students really respond to this book, in my experience. The best students get to work offering provisional defenses of the tradition, and many others that you wouldn't expect to take such a radical book seriously actually do.

An obvious parallel to this on the gender side is Carole Pateman's _The Sexual Contract_ which is in many ways a model for Mills. But it's longer, more difficult, and I haven't had as much luck teaching it.

Posted by: DJW at May 27, 2004 05:28 PM

Hey Matt... You may want to check out some work by Friedrich Hayek, a classical liberal theorist. He is a trained Austrian economist and Nobel laureate. Some of his work (I think) would be appropriate for an introductory social and political philosophy class. You may want to review his _Constitution of Liberty_ and _Road to Serfdom_. His work would fit well with an examination of Rawls, Nozick, and Mill.

Posted by: Joe Ulatowski at June 1, 2004 09:05 AM