Aim of the course
This course aims to provide a systematic description and a critical examination of the main trends of modern political thought. The course will focus on the classical thinkers within the western tradition of political philosophy, from Machiavelli to Rousseau. It will give priority to the theories of social contract, and consequently to the sources, conditions and limits of the political obligation. Some secondary issues, such as controversies of interpretation, will be also taken into account. The second level of the course will consist in an examination of the connections between political systems and political ideas and ideals.
Role of the course in the overall degree curriculum
History of modern political thought is an introductory course. It offers a historical approach to a series of concepts and problems in political theory, thus being complementary to the courses dealing with similar problems and proceeding by a systematic approach.
Giving that political theory was a part of philosophy, the political ideas of modernity will be studied in their original framework. The main method used will be text analysis.
The topics of the course are the following:
- Machiavelli: the foundations of modern political science (1 week).
Elements of the ancient science of politics and the emerence of the modern approach to politics; sepparation of politics from religion and moral grounds; patterns of political behaviour.
Machiavelli, The Prince
- Machiavelli: necessity, fortuna, virtu (1 week).
Definition and role of these three key concepts in Machiavelli's thought; republics as mixed governments and the conditions for republican rule; political values of social conflicts.
Machiavelli, The Discourses
- Utopia and the goals of politics (1 week).
The myth of Atlantis as a pattern for positive utopia; the political arrangements of the Utopia.
Thomas More, Utopia
- The philosophical framework of Hobbes' theory of state (1 week).
Hobbes' model of science; materialism and the basic laws of human behaviour; the modern individualism and its political consequences.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Thomas Hobbes, Elements of Law Natural and Politic
- Social Contract and the defence of political absolutism (1 week).
The natural condition of mankind; political arrangements emerging from the social contract.
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
- John Locke: the foundations of political liberalism (2 weeks).
The historical background: England during the Glorious Revolution; state of nature, laws of nature; the social contract and the civil society: a brief account of the evolution of the concept.
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government.
- John Locke: the conditions of political obligation (1 week).
Legislative and executive powers: is there a sepparation? maintaining, changing and overthrowing the government; civil disobedience.
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government
- J.J. Rousseau: philosophical ambiguities of the theory of social contract (2 weeks).
Ancient polity as a political model; political society as a conventional creation; political will and consent; the sovereignty of the people.
J.J. Rousseau, The Social Contract
J.J. Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
- J.J. Rousseau: critics of modern politics (1 week).
Community and citizenship; the general will and the meaning of freedom; the analysis of modernity: failing political socialization.
George .H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, fourth edition, revised by Thomas Landon
Thorson, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Fort Worth - Tokyo, 1973
John Morrow, History of Political Thought. A Thematic Introduction, MacMillan Press, 1998.
Patrick Riley, Will and Political Legitimacy, Harvard University Press, 1982.
Leo Strauss, Joseph Cropsey, History of Political Philosophy, University of Chicago Press,
Jean Touchard, Histoire des ideés politiques, 1: Des origines au XVIIIe siècle, P.U.F., Paris, 6e
Dmitri Georges Lavroff, Histoire des ideés politiques, Dalloz, 1988.