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POLSC302: Contemporary Political Thought

Unit 1: The Social Contract, Capitalism, and the Roots of Liberal Political Theory   This unit will introduce the foundational theories for modern democracy and free markets in modern Western Civilization.  Classical liberal theories are rooted in individual liberty, limited powers of government, and, to a lesser extent, capitalism.  We will explore the respective duties of the government to its people, of the people to their government, and of individuals to one another.  Many of the theories we will study in this unit (including those of Montesquieu, Locke, and Rousseau) inspired much of the rhetoric in the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and played a major part in the revolutions that overthrew monarchies in Europe during the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Note: as you will see in this unit and the next, the terms “Liberal” and “Conservative” have different meanings today than they did at the time of their origin.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit will take approximately 12.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 1.4: 3 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Summarize the primary principles of capitalism and liberalism.
  • Identify the major political theorists of capitalism and liberalism.
  • Discuss the emergence and evolution of liberalism from the 18th century through the present.
  • Assess liberalism’s impact on law, economics, international relations, and society.
  • Analyze the primary sources of liberal political theory and understand how these theories can be applied to solve problems in society.

1.1 Classical Liberalism   - Lecture: YouTube: George Mason University: Dr. Nigel Ashford’s “What is Classical Liberalism?” Link: YouTube: George Mason University: Dr. Nigel Ashford’s “What is Classical Liberalism?” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please watch this short lecture (7minutes) in which Dr. Ashford explains the 10 core principles of the classical liberal view of society and the proper role of government.
 
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  • Reading: The National Center for Policy Analysis: John Goodman’s “What is Classical Liberalism?” Link: The National Center for Policy Analysis: John Goodman’s “What is Classical Liberalism?” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Go to the linked page and click where it says “Click here to view entire article” to view and read this article on classical liberalism.  It will give you a broad overview of the issues of governance that classical liberals felt were the most compelling.  It is important to keep in mind that the NCPA is a self-described “conservative” think tank; hence, the author’s opinions could be considered ideologically bent, especially as he argues President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s classical liberal concept of “rights.” This being said, you should think critically about the content of the article and consider alternative points of view.
     
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  • Reading: The Constitution Society’s version of Charles de Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws Book II,” “The Spirit of Laws Book III,” “The Spirit of Laws Book V,” “The Spirit of Laws Book IX,” and “The Spirit of Laws Book XII” Links: The Constitution Society’s version of Charles de Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws, Book II,” “The Sprit of the Laws Book III,” “The Spirit of the Laws Book V,” “The Spirit of the Laws Book IX,” “The Spirit of the Laws, Book XII” (HTML)
     
    Also available in:

    Kindle ($0.95)
    Google Books
     
    Instructions: Please read these excerpts.  John Locke is widely considered the “Father of Liberalism.”His“Second Treatise of Civil Government” was written during England’s Civil War, while the country made efforts to transition from a monarchy to a republic.It is an important text in the history of theories of natural law and the social contract and thus stands as a key document in the history of Western political thought.
     
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  • Lecture: YouTube: ayabaya: Cambridge University: Professor Alan Macfarlane’s “The Baron de Montesquieu” Link: YouTube: ayabaya: Cambridge University: Professor Alan Macfarlane’s “The Baron de Montesquieu” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    Quicktime
     
    Instructions: Please watch this lecture (51 minutes). 
     
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1.2 Capitalism and Free Enterprise   - Lecture: You Tube: The Independent Institute: P.J. O’Rourke’s “On the Wealth of Nations” Link: You Tube: The Independent Institute: P.J. O’Rourke’s “On the Wealth of Nations” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the above lecture (33 minutes) in which satirist, journalist, and writer P.J. O’Rourke examines the revolutionary nature and contemporary relevance of Smith’s seminal work, and why the pursuit of self-interest is so important.
 
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  • Reading: Reading: The Library of Economics and Liberty: Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations Book I: Chapter IV,” “Wealth of Nations Book I: Chapter V,” “Wealth of Nations Book IV: Chapter II,” and “Wealth of Nations Book IV: Chapter VIII” Links: The Library of Economics and Liberty: Adam Smith’s“Wealth of Nations Book I: Chapter IV,” “Wealth of Nations Book I: Chaper V,”  “Wealth of Nations Book IV: Chapter II,” and “Wealth of Nations Book IV: Chapter VIII” (HTML)
     
    Also available in:
    Google Books
     
    Instructions: Please read these excerpts.  Adam Smith is considered the father—the primary theorist—of modern economics.  His works explain the fundamental principles of capitalism, free enterprise, and why government should have minimal regulation of markets and trade. “Wealth of Nations” is considered a fundamental work in classical economics.

    Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

1.3 Limited Government   - Reading: The Constitution Society: Charles de Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws Book II,” “The Spirit of Laws Book III,” “The Spirit of Laws Book V,” “The Spirit of Laws Book IX,” and “The Spirit of Laws Book XII” Links: The Constitution Society: Charles de Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws, Book II,” “The Sprit of the Laws Book III,” “The Spirit of the Laws Book V,” “The Spirit of the Laws Book IX,” “The Spirit of the Laws, Book XII” (HTML)
 
Also available in:

[Kindle](http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Montesquieu-Halcyon-Classics-ebook/dp/B003IPD4H0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1299097645&sr=1-1) ($0.95)  
 [Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=yNMtAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+spirit+of+laws+montesquieu&hl=en&ei=A6huTfnGFordgQehk91M&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false)  
    
 Instructions: Please read these excerpts.  Montesquieu’s writings
sought to point out the injustices of rule by monarchy and propose
political and legal reforms.  Spirithad an enormous influence on
many of his contemporaries, including the Founding Fathers, who
incorporated his ideas within the framework of the U.S.
Constitution, most notably the concept ofseparation of powers.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: YouTube: ayabaya: Cambridge University: Professor Alan Macfarlane’s “The Baron de Montesquieu” Link: YouTube: ayabaya: Cambridge University: Professor Alan Macfarlane’s “The Baron de Montesquieu” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    Quicktime
     
    Instructions: Please watch this lecture (51 minutes) where Professor Macfarlane discusses the life and works of Montesquieu.  The lecture provides a useful companion piece for understanding the theories behind The Spirit of the Laws.
     
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1.4 The Social Contract   - Lecture: YouTube: YaleCourses: Yale University: Professor Steven B. Smith’s “Rousseau and the Social Contract” Link: YouTube: YaleCourses: Yale University: Professor Steven B. Smith’s “Rousseau and the Social Contract” (YouTube)
 
Also available in:
Mp3
Transcript (HTML)
Quicktime (low bandwith)
iTunes U
 
Instructions: Please watch this lecture (40 minutes),where Smith makes the case that the social contract is the foundation of the “general will” and the answer to the problem of natural freedom (because nature itself provides no guidelines for determining who should rule).  He also discusses Rousseau's legacy and the influence he exercised on later nineteenth-century writers and philosophers.
 
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  • Reading: The Constitution Society: Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” Link: The Constitution Society: Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Social Contract” (HTML)
     
    Also available in:

    Kindle ($0.99)
    Google Books
     
    Instructions: Please read this document.  Rousseau’s stated aim with this treatise was to determine whether there can be “legitimate” political authority.  His central argument—monarchs were not divinely empowered to legislate and that political legitimacy comes only from a social contract agreed upon by all citizens for their mutual preservation—helped to inspire political reforms and revolutions throughout Europe.
     
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