Politics and Political Theory in the U.S.: Power, Participation, and Choice

Term: Fall 2009

Subject Code: GPOL

Course Number: 5455

This course is about democracy and theories of democracy--in field terms, it is at the junction of American politics and political theory. Whatever merit debates about minimal versus full forms of democracy or procedural vs. substantive democracy may have had, they now impede clarity and innovation in thinking about democracy. We begin with three starting points of analyses and arguments about democracy. One point of departure is about founding democracy, and thus about rebellions, pacts, transitions, and constitutions in creating and renewing democratic polities. A second point of departure emphasizes forms of expression--where democratic politics is a means through which the citizens and public develop and articulate their programs and claims. Central is the third point of departure--decisions. How can legitimately democratic decisions be produced and enacted? This point leads to questions about power, equality, voting, representation, participation and collective action, judicial review, and civil disobedience. Two questions persist through our specific inquiries. How are different democratic virtues (e.g., deliberation, inclusion, equality) related in democratic theories and practices? What is the relation between (democratic) politics and other social relations? These questions are pursued via empirical cases (mainly from the U.S.) and theoretical works. Authors include Kenneth Arrow; Robert Dahl; John Gaventa; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Gerry Mackie; Jane Mansbridge; Susan Moller Okin; Mancur Olson; John Rawls; William Riker; Michael Walzer; Iris Marion Young; and others.


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