This course explores main answers to the question "when do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.
- Understand how political theory connects to real world politics
- Understand why differences in personal political beliefs are so difficult to reconcile
- How political differences can be resolved
- Understand where political theory currently resides and how it is being developed today
Meet the Instructors
Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He has written widely and influentially on democracy, justice, and the methods of social inquiry. A native of South Africa, he received his J.D. from the Yale Law School and his Ph.D from the Yale Political Science Department where he has taught since 1984 and served as chair from 1999 to 2004. Shapiro also served as Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies from 2004-2019. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Academy of Social Insurance. Shapiro is a past fellow of the Carnegie Corporation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Cape Town, Keio University in Tokyo, and Nuffield College, Oxford. His most recent books are Politics Against Domination (Harvard University Press, 2016), Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy from Itself (Yale University Press, 2018) with Frances Rosenbluth, and The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and how to Fight It (Harvard University Press, 2020) with Michael Graetz. His current research concerns the relations between democracy and the distribution of income and wealth. Full biography