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Courses

PCD offers two regular courses each semester:

The American Political Tradition (Fall/Spring)

This course studies the theoretical ideas that informed the creation and development of America’s political system and considers some of the major contemporary challenges to the maintenance of American democracy. Topics treated include: the political thought of the American Founders, the place of religion in public life, the nature of written constitutions, the separation of powers, slavery and civil rights, parties and ideologies, and the role of America in the world. The course takes place in a seminar setting limited to 20 students. Emphasis is placed on the discussion of important texts and documents. The course is supplemented with occasional lectures by selected experts from inside and outside of the University, which are held at the Jefferson Society Hall.

Course syllabus: PLAP 2250 Syllabus, Spring 2017

American Political Economy (Fall/Spring)

This course will explore the development of the American economic system since the Founding and its relationship with political institutions. In particular, we will assess the various arguments for or against specific economic regimes such as Progressivism, the welfare state, and neoliberalism, as well as the ways in which these regimes succeeded or failed within political-institutional restraints. While some basic economic principles will occasionally be drawn upon in order to deepen our understanding of these regimes, no previous knowledge of economics is required for the course.

Course syllabus: PLAP 3400 Syllabus, Spring 2017

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Occasional Seminars

In addition to our regular courses, we offer occasional upper-level seminars in political theory and American politics. Past and future offerings include:

Development of the American Party System (Spring 2020)
Focuses on the development of the political party system in the United States, from the late 18th Century through the present day. Examines why political parties emerged in the U.S., both in Congress and at the mass level; why particular parties like the Federalists and Whigs collapsed; and how different “party systems” have developed historically. (Instructor: Jordan Cash)

Conservative Political Thought (Spring 2020)
Conservatism today is in flux, but how did we get here? This course examines the philosophical origins and development of conservative ideas in Europe and the US, from Edmund Burke and the reaction to the French Revolution to the postwar reckoning with fascism to the culture wars of the late 20th century. We will read liberals, conservatives, fascists, and unclassifiable iconoclasts to understand what conservatism was and what it might become. (Instructor: Rita Koganzon)

Statesmen and Thinkers of America’s Past (Spring 2020)
(Instructor: James Ceaser)

Creating the US Constitution (Spring 2019, Spring 2020)
This course both examines and reenacts the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Students will first study the historic debates of the 1787 Convention, focusing on both the theoretical and the pragmatic arguments that framed the structure of our government. Later, in a role-playing game, the class will convene its own 1787 Convention.  Students will frame a constitution through persuasion, compromise, private deals, and parliamentary procedure.  Once the instruction portion of the course is complete, the game begins and the students take over.  The instructor retires to the back of the room and functions as gamemaster/adviser.  By the end of the class, the students/ delegates will vote on a Constitution of their own devising.  Outcomes often vary from the actual history; a post-mortem session during the final exam period compares the classroom Constitution to the real one. (Instructor: Lynn Uzzell)

Democracy and Its Critics (Spring 2019)
This course explores a particular form of government: democracy. We often hear that democracy is in crisis. But what is democracy? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What are the prospects for liberal democracy in light of the rise of “populist” movements in the US and abroad? We will engage with a handful of foundational texts in the history of political philosophy that deal, in different ways, with the question of democratic government. (Instructor: Tim Brennan)

The Political Philosophy of Education (Spring 2018)
Although questions about childrearing and education may seem too mundane to merit philosophical examination, they have in fact occupied many of the West’s most important thinkers. This course will examine these questions through some of the major educational treatises in Western philosophy, focusing particularly on the relationship between education and politics. Readings will include Plato, Locke, Rousseau, Franklin, Nietzsche, and Dewey. (Instructor: Rita Koganzon)

Theory and Design of Modern Government: Constitutional Democracy (Spring 2018)
A seminar-style survey of the philosophy and practice of constitutional democracy, engaging with texts on the common good, social welfare, representation, citizenship, equality, and the rule of law. The course will examine the central challenges faced by democratic polities before turning to the defining questions of constitutionalism and constitutional design. (Instructor: Connor Ewing)

Religion and Politics (Spring 2012)
Instructor: Jeremiah Russell

The Reformation and Early Modern Political Thought (Spring 2010)
Instructor: Matthew Sitman

The Judaic Political Tradition (Fall 2009)
Instructor: Daniel Doneson