L57 RelPol 207c

Modern Political Thought: Text and Traditions

Spring 2023, M/W 2:30–3:50PM

This course pursues two major lines of inquiry in modern Western political thought: the relation between the individual and the state, and the means of holding state power accountable. 


What is modernity? What kinds of politics are characteristic of modern politics? How did modern figures imagine this new world? What kind of politics were they rejecting in these efforts? This course begins by examining early modern figures, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, and the concepts, principles, and aspirations of the modern project, such as the emergence of the nation state, modern notions of freedom, and religious toleration. Next, we engage with some of the most influential critics of modernity, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Hannah Arendt, asking how they challenge our modern intuitions and commitments.