Department of Politics
Professor Brian Weiner
University of San Francisco
Office: 273 Kalmanovitz
Class Meetings: TR 3:30-5:15 in 263 Kalmanovitz Hall
Office Hours: Wednesdays 1-2:30, Thursdays 11-12:30, and by appointment.
Politics 203: Introduction to Political Theory
Course Description and Objectives
The aim of this course is to introduce you to the study, discussion, and reading of political
theory by focusing on central questions of political life. We will examine a number of questions,
including: What distinguishes legitimate from illegitimate forms of political power and
authority? Under what circumstances and in the name of what values should political power or
authority be disobeyed, checked, subverted, or overthrown? How compelling are the arguments
for civil disobedience, passive resistance, revolt, or revolution? What forms does modern power
take? What do we mean by “power” “equality,” “freedom,” and “rights”?
These questions and others will be examined in a theoretical manner.
First, we will set the
themes of the course by reading a Greek tragedy. Then, we will read works by Plato, Thoreau,
and Martin Luther King Jr. that examine tensions between political and legal authority and the
individual conscience. Next, we will consider the nature of political obligation by reading key
texts in the history of western political theory by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques
Rousseau. We then will examine the nature of modern power and the possibilities for resistance
and (democratic) liberation by reading works by Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels), Sandra
Bartky, and Michel Foucault. Finally, we conclude the course by reading three short pieces that
examine the nature of democracy.
II. Course Requirements, Attendance and Grading Policy
Students are required to attend class, to complete the assigned reading before the class period
during which it will be discussed, and to participate in class discussion. You should be prepared
to ask and answer questions about the reading. "Pop" quizzes may be given throughout the
semester on the reading. Always bring the book under discussion to class.
Please note that missing
more than 4 classes
will result in the lowering of your final grade by
one full grade. Also note that I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences: that
is, missing more than 4 classes (excused or unexcused) will result in the lowering of the final
grade. Likewise, missing more than 6 classes will result in the lowering of the final grade by 1 ½
grades, and more than 8 classes in the lowering of the final grade by 2 grades (etc.).