last updates: 1/2/2018 11:47 AM

Professor Jacinda Swanson

PSCI 6630

3412 Friedmann

Spring 2018

Office Hours: MW 12:30-1:45 & 5-5:15pm & by appt

W 5:30-8 pm


Friedmann 3309



Political Philosophy II: Modern Political Theory


Overview and Objectives:

This course is intended to provide an intensive introduction to some of the key texts and themes in the modern period, roughly the 16th through the 19th century, of the approximately 2500-year history of Western political theory. (Western political theory first emerged as a field of inquiry in ancient Greece.) Even within the time period we are studying, we will not be able to discuss many important theorists and ideas. We will, though, cover some of the more important texts in the emergence and development of liberalism, social contract theory, republicanism, conservatism, theories of representative government, Marxian theory, and critiques of metaphysics. Consequently, we will begin to get some sense of the wide range of ways in which politics and political phenomena have been theorized. Moreover, we will read some of the texts that have shaped how later political theorists, political scientists, philosophers, social theorists, and citizens today think about politics.


As we will see, even in the Western world, theorists have thought about politics and government in very different ways. Yet, there are numerous themes or topics that recur throughout the history of political thought, including the following: the characteristics of human nature; the relationship between the citizen and the state/government; the origin of government; the ends or purposes of government; freedom; rights; equality; legislation; justice; political obligation/duty; citizenship; the different types of political regimes/forms of government, including democracy; the powers and functions of government; revolution and rebellion; property and economics. Studying some of the history of political theory allows us to see how issues like freedom or the purpose of government can be thought about in different ways and what the strengths and limitations of each of these different ways are. It will also enable us to see how what is considered “political” is itself variable and disputed.


In this seminar, we will be taking the texts and their arguments seriously, paying close attention to how authors define concepts, the logic of their arguments, and the ethical, social, political, and economic consequences of their arguments. This will require close, detailed readings of the texts. In other words, this class seeks to further develop your skills in systematically analyzing political arguments and theories, rather than simply summarizing them, which will require a particular (analytical) approach to reading, discussing, and writing. (Analyzing involves, for example, determining a writer’s assumptions, how she/he defines key political concepts, the logical steps in her/his argument, how her/his different ideas fit together, etc.) We will also be attentive to the similarities and differences among the authors. The aim is not only to gain an in-depth understanding of the specific theorists we read, but also, more generally, to increase your ability to read and grasp the arguments of other political theorists as well as your ability to formulate appropriate and compelling theoretical frameworks for (empirically) studying various political phenomena, whether it’s in the field of U.S. politics or comparative politics.


Required Texts:

Please purchase the specified edition of these books, so that everyone in class is using the same edition (and thus the same translation and pagination), which will facilitate seminar discussion. Please bring the relevant book to class since we will often read and analyze passages from the readings in class. The edition you use is also an issue with regard to your paper citations—you’ll need to let me know if a paper you submit cites another edition.


·         Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, revised student edition, ed. by Richard Tuck, Cambridge University Press, 1996

·         John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, ed. C. B. Macpherson, Hackett, 1980

·         Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings, 2nd ed., trans. Donald A. Cress, intro. David Wootton, Hackett, 2012

·         Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Penguin Classic, 1982

·         John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays, ed. John Gray, Oxford, 1998 or 2008

·         Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed., ed. Robert C. Tucker, W. W. Norton, 1978

·         Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. & intro. Douglas Smith, Oxford, 1999 or 2009


Additional REQUIRED readings: secondary sources available through WMU library’s e-reserve system (, under the listing for this class; these books are also on reserve at Waldo Library). Please bring a hard copy of these readings to class.


·         Terence Ball and Richard Dagger. 1995. Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal, 2nd ed., excerpts, 24-9, 31-3, 51-63, 93-9. New York: HarperCollins.

·         Tracy B. Strong. 1994. “The General Will and the Scandal of Politics.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Politics of the Ordinary, 67-103. Sage.

·         J. G. A. Pocock. 1987. “Introduction.” Reflections on the Revolution in France, vii-lvi. Indianapolis: Hackett.

·         Dennis F. Thompson. 1976. “The Theory of Government.” John Stuart Mill and Representative Government, 91-135. Princeton.

·         Richard D. Wolff and Stephen A. Resnick. 1987. Economics: Marxian Versus Neoclassical, excerpts. Johns Hopkins University Press.

·         Tracy B. Strong. 1975. “The Necessity and Possibility of Truth.” Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration, 20-52. University of California Press.


Course Requirements:

Please notify me if you have a documented disability that requires accommodation (see It’s crucial that you do so during the FIRST WEEK of the semester so that we can make appropriate arrangements.


Please see the university’s religious observance policy at


Students and instructors are responsible for making themselves aware of and abiding by the “Western Michigan University Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Stalking Policy and Procedures” related to prohibited sexual misconduct under Title IX, the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Campus Safe. Under this policy, responsible employees (including instructors) are required to report claims of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or designee (located in the Office of Institutional Equity). Responsible employees are not confidential resources. For a complete list of resources and more information about the policy see


Western Michigan University recognizes that some students use first names other than their legal names to identify themselves. As an inclusive and diverse community, WMU allows students to use a preferred first name different than their legal name for certain purposes and records in the course of university business, communication, and education. Please refer to the preferred name policy and LGBT resources page at and


A complete and updated copy of this syllabus can be found online, at the link for this class at Assignments and concepts to look for in the readings will be emailed to you at your WMU email account. Feel free to contact me via email with questions about the readings, assignments, and so forth.



·         seminar participation, 20%

Participation includes regular, active participation in weekly seminar discussion (10%), as well as writing 3-9 (depending on class enrollment) one-page maximum (1.5-spaced, 11 or 12 pt. font, 1” margins) in-depth analyses of an important concept or argument from one of the week’s assigned readings (10%). These analyses should NOT attempt to summarize an entire reading. You should analyze the author’s own ideas, rather than the author’s analysis or critique of another theorist. Each week, students will be assigned to provide such an analysis for specific portions of the readings; each student should email me a copy of her/his analysis by NOON ON THE DAY BEFORE CLASS (i.e., Tue.), which I will then read, comment on, and photocopy for the rest of the class; each student will read her/his analysis to the class during our discussion of that reading (in the name of time, students should limit themselves to reading their analysis and take no more than 5 minutes). These one page analyses will be graded and should contain appropriate citations (see below). Regular, active oral participation in weekly seminar discussion should reflect a careful reading of the texts and include thoughtful questions about the readings; students should keep their comments and questions brief and should make sure they do not dominate the discussion, so that other students also have adequate opportunity to participate. If you do not come to seminar with many questions or issues you want to discuss, you surely aren’t reading the texts closely and carefully enough.

·         3 short (approx. 5-6 page) papers, 13% each

These papers will be on assigned topics and based on the assigned readings; they do not require outside research. Students will be allowed to revise and resubmit their papers for re-grading, provided they submit a memo explaining their revisions and thoroughly address my comments on their first paper submission. If they revise and resubmit their paper, the grades from the first and second submissions will be averaged; a higher grade on the second submission is not guaranteed, especially if my comments are not adequately addressed and the paper is therefore not substantially better. Students will have a maximum of nine days after I’ve returned their paper to resubmit their revised paper. Students should make sure that revising their paper does not negatively impact their other assignments in this course.

·         take-home final exam (approx. 16-20 pages), 41%

It will be based on the assigned readings and does not require outside research. The questions will be distributed in advance (see below), so that you can work on them during the last several weeks of the semester.


Note: Because I am typically in my office only on Mon. and Wed., you’ll need to email your papers and final exam to me (unless you’re turning them in early, when I am in my office). If you turn in a paper via email, do NOT assume I have received it just because your email apparently went through. Make sure you receive an email back from me confirming receipt of a printable file.


Late assignments: ALL (one-page and short) papers and exams MUST be turned in on time. Unless you have a serious, documented excuse for turning something in late, I reserve the right to not accept or to significantly penalize late submissions.


You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Graduate Catalog that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. The policies can be found at under Academic Policies, Student Rights and Responsibilities. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test. A finding of responsibility for academic dishonesty on any assignment will result in failure of this course (see the Graduate Catalog).


Citations:                     [You should review this paragraph BEFORE writing each of your papers.]

For various reasons—proper scholarly practice, because the papers and exam are to be grounded in a close reading of the texts, and in order to properly back up your interpretation and argument—you are REQUIRED to give a citation for EVERY claim you make about the theorist’s definitions, arguments, assumptions, etc. in ALL papers and exams you submit in this class. (I should be able to look up every point you make in order to confirm that you are making a plausible claim about the theorist’s argument.) Your paper should not consist, though, of a bunch of direct quotes strung together: do not use too many direct quotes or overly long quotes (1-2 lines max), because you ALWAYS need to explain/interpret the quote and to indicate its relevance to your argument, both of which take up valuable space. Use quotation marks to indicate when you are borrowing more than 3-5 exact words of the author. When you paraphrase the author’s ideas, you MUST SUBSTANTIALLY reword the author’s words. Unless indicated otherwise, simply cite page numbers by putting them in parentheses at the end of the sentence(s) for which you’re providing a citation. If you are using an edition of the reading different from the assigned one, you will need to give me a copy of that edition when you turn in your paper so I can look up any points I may need to verify.


Grading scale:











The Political Science Department faculty considers grades of B and below as poor work in a graduate class. Students planning to take comprehensive exams in a field should be aiming for As; other students should be aiming for at least BAs.


The professor reserves the right to revise assignments, deadlines, and other course requirements and schedules based on enrollment and for other pedagogical reasons.


Course Outline:

Jan. 10

Introduction: course content & requirements; overview of common theoretical terms; analyzing political theories


Ball and Dagger, excerpts from “The Democratic Ideal,” “Liberalism,” & “Conservatism”



Jan. 17

Hobbes, Leviathan, Hobbes’ dedication & introduction, ch. 1-7, 10-17



Jan. 24

Hobbes, Leviathan, ch. 18-21, 24, 26, 28-31, “A Review and Conclusion”





Jan. 31

Locke, Second Treatise, preface, ch. I-X



Feb. 7

Locke, Second Treatise, ch. XI-XIX





Feb. 10




Feb. 14

Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book I-II



Feb. 21

Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book III-IV


Strong, “The General Will”





Feb. 24




Feb. 28

Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 83-120, 121-155, 169-173, 186-200, 265-285, 371-377


Pocock, “Introduction”





Mar. 7

NO CLASS (spring break)



Mar. 14

Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, ch. I-III, V-VIII



Mar. 17




Mar. 21

Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, X, XII


Thompson, “The Theory of Government”


Mill, On Liberty, ch. I (all), II (pp. 20-25, 37-42, 51-4, 59-61), III (pp. 62-5, 71-82), IV (pp. 83-8)





Mar. 28

Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, pp. 3-6


Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” pp. 26-52


Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, “Estranged Labor” and “Private Property and Communism,” pp. 70-93


Marx, first 2 paragraphs of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, pp. 594-5


Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, pp. 469-500



Apr. 4

Marx, Capital, Vol. I, ch. 1, 4, 6, 7, 26, 27, 31, 32; Vol. III excerpts (pp. 294-361, 431-42)


Resnick and Wolff, Introduction: E.2, E.3, E.5 (pp. 25-7, 30-5); Ch. 3: A-D.5 (pp. 125-161)





Apr. 11

Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, preface, First Essay, Second Essay



Apr. 18

Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Third Essay


Strong, “The Necessity and Possibility of Truth”





Apr. 25