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Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory

$260 Limited inc GST / $234
Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory

<p>The course will cover ideas which are central to contemporary political theory, for example: Conflict Theories; Shared-Values Theories and Exchange Theories. We will begin with a short overview of

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The course will cover ideas which are central to contemporary political theory, for example: Conflict Theories; Shared-Values Theories and Exchange Theories. We will begin with a short overview of the history of political theory as a background to the present, and will cover theorists such as Hobbes, Montesquieu, de Tocqueville, and others. Some of the topics covered in the course are: Civil Society and its role in contemporary political reality; Contemporary Social Contract theory and its relevance for today; Corporatism; Distributive Justice; Human Rights after six decades; and what constitutes ‘The State’.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction: Overview of central concepts in political philosophy.
  • Introduction to Historical background: All contemporary theories draw on and assume some knowledge by the reader of the main political philosophers of history. We will do a short overview of the main players including: Hobbes, Montesquieu, de Tocqueville, and others.
  • Three Approaches: Conflict Theories, Shared-Values Theories & Exchange Theories. Conflict theories commonly turn to coercion or threat to resolve issues, which also entails a theory of justification of coercion. Shared-value theories understand the agent’s motivation (to vote a certain way for example) as entailing recognition of oneself in a larger group. Exchange theories involve the idea of cooperation for mutual benefit.
  • Autonomy: The concept of ‘agent autonomy’ is central to many contemporary political theories. It entails the justification of democracy, free speech, voting theory, human rights, and the historical rational of Liberalism.
  • Civil Society: This conception reflects the importance of independent spheres of ‘society’, ‘economy’, church', and ‘state’.
  • *Social Contract Theory:: Social Contract theory has a long history going back to Hobbes. Contemporary political philosophers have become interested in this foundational idea, however one must ask: is it still useful in our world.
  • Corporatism: “Who runs the global power game” is a question answered by some political theorists as: economic syndicates. Is politics the slave of global corporatism?
  • Distributive Justice: Justice can be understood as ‘what we morally owe each other’, but why do we owe each other anything at all, and if we do how do we decide to distribute it. The concept and structure of welfare is one of the central issues for distributive justice.
  • Human Rights: Since 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been accepted by many countries as a political good. Six decades later contemporary political philosophers are interested in the successes and failures of this movement and its practical outcomes.
  • The State: The definition of a ‘state’ would seem at first glance to be non-controversial, but the devil is in the detail, for example does ‘stateship’ require recognition by other states to qualify.


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Gain a better understanding of the evolution of contemporary political institutions.
  2. Have a better knowledge of the Social Contract Theory, its history and relevance to the world today.
  3. Explore the connection between Corporatism, Social Justice, and Civil Society.
  4. Consider the fate of the state in a globalizing world.