Final_Lecture - MC 201 Final Lecture Outline Democratic...

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MC 201 Final Lecture Outline Democratic Citizenship and its Conditions. Immigration debate as starting point for thinking about the course. Complaint in America about partisan character of much contemporary political debate. Sharp divisions between left and right, liberal and conservative. Culture wars. Red vs. Blue. Immigration debate highly partisan and yet cutting across ideological boundaries. Role of the social and political scientist as engaged observer. The role of the Federalist Papers in course. Democracy is not an unmitigated good. Distinction between pure democracy and “republican” government, i.e. representative government necessary because of the tendency of human beings to be governed by passion and self-interest rather than reasoned deliberation or dispassionate altruism. Human beings not “angelic,” to use the language of both James Madison in the Federalist Papers and Marcello Pera in Without Roots. Importance of institutions as ways of channeling people’s passions and self-interest toward the common good. Separation of Powers, bicameral Legislature, executive veto, distinct modes of election and appointment to office etc., are important precisely because rulers can not be expected to work for the common good.
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The Role of Tocqueville in the Course: Democracy is not an unmitigated good and political institutions alone are not a sufficient bulwark against the dangers inherent in democracy. Tocqueville adds an historical and sociological dimension to the analysis of democracy in the Federalist Papers. Tocqueville account of both the dangers confronting democracy and the possible remedies to these dangers are thus different in kind from the Federalist Papers. Two main dangers: Majority Tyranny and Individualism. Two main remedies: Civil Associations and Self-Interest Properly Understood. Majority Tyranny differs from Majority Faction because it does not necessarily operate directly through the passage of oppressive laws but also indirectly through the influence of public opinion. Individualism is a more insidious danger. It’s like carbon monoxide poisoning, you don’t know it’s happening to you until its too late. Civil association and self-interest properly understood are both ways of expanding human beings’ narrow egoism to encompass broader social and political concerns. Civil associations are both arenas for the exercise of political virtue and bulwarks against an overly intrusive state. Self-interest rightly understood ties one’s self-interest to the common good in a psychological sense rather than through institutions. Tocqueville makes one further point that is of relevance to the later readings. He argues that what Professor Lindahl called moderate, non-fanatical religious belief is an important element of a healthy democracy. Religion provides democratic citizens with a moral compass and it encourages our aspirations to higher goals beyond the satisfaction of our immediate material needs. That this is a controversial issue today is shown by the debate between Ratzinger and Pera on the one side and Habermas on the other. Does the 2
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This note was uploaded on 05/18/2008 for the course MC 201 taught by Professor Lynnscott during the Fall '08 term at Michigan State University.

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Final_Lecture - MC 201 Final Lecture Outline Democratic...

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