Spring 2009

SOCS 635
Self-Reliance, Community, and the State

Eisner,Marc A.

01/27/2009 - 05/05/2009
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

What is distinctive about the position of the individual, community and state in American political thought? To be certain, there are distinctive features of American political thought that have persisted throughout U.S. history. There has been an ongoing and seemingly unshakable faith in the individual and a great value placed on self-reliance. Likewise, the community (whether defined in terms of geography, ethnicity, or shared religious or political beliefs) has often received far greater emphasis than the state. Indeed, the state has been feared as a negative force that must be guarded against if individual liberty and community self-governance are to be preserved. While there is a certain consistency in American political thought, there have been significant shifts as well. Citizens have adjusted their understanding of individualism, the community, and the state in response to changes in the economy and the organization of society. As citizens have survived wars and depressions, encountered the growing power of large economic and political organizations, and sought greater equality of opportunity, they have placed new demands on the state. The expansion of the national government and the transfer of power from the community are consequences of these demands. This seminar is designed to be an examination of how American political thought has changed since the constitutional debates.

We will read representative books and essays from several periods in US history, including works written by Madison, Emerson, Thoreau, Alger, Bellamy, West, Roosevelt, Rand, King, Kristol, and Murray.

Students will be graded on several analytical essays.

This course is open to auditors.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Marc Eisner (B.A. University of Wisconsin; M.A. Marquette University; M.B.A. University of Connecticut; Ph.D. University of Wisconsin) is professor of government and Henry Merritt Wriston chair in public policy. He is author of six books, including Governing the Environment: The Transformation of Environmental Governance (Lynne Rienner, 2007), and is past president of the New England Political Science Association. Click here for more information about Marc Eisner.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Horatio Alger, RAGGED DICK (Digireads), paperback

Edward Bellamy, LOOKING BACKWARD (Dover), Paperback

Ralph Waldo Emerson, SELF-RELIANCE AND OTHER ESSAYS (Dover), Paperback

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, HERLAND (DOVER), Paperback

Hamilton, Madison, & Jay, SELECTED FEDERALIST PAPERS (Dover), Paperback

Martin Luther King, Jr., WHY WE CAN'T WAIT (Signet Classics), Paperback

Thomas Paine, COMMON SENSE (Dover), Paperback

Francis Schaeffer, A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO (Crossway Books), Paperback

Henry David Thoreau, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE AND OTHER ESSAYS (Dover), Paperback

Nathanael West, A COOL MILLION AND THE DREAM LIFE OF BALSO SNELL (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), Paperback


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