Political Science 101 Introduction to Political Science

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Political Science 101

Introduction to Political Science

Professor Markovitz

Course Description: Classic and currently popular films, such as Triumph of the Will, Night and Fog, Battle of Algiers, The Siege, Wag the Dog, The Truman Show, Fahrenheit 9/11, Reds, Obedience, Bulworth, and The Full Monty, illuminate the classic questions of political science: What is power? Who gets what, when, and how? These questions, often humorously positioned as the sine qua non of the field, distinguish political scientists from other social scientists and the liberal arts in general. Although film and philosophy will form the core of our study in this course, the central concern of our inquiry will always be governmentality. Politics is, after all, yet another way that representation occurs in our society; the state represents its citizens. Accompanied by some of the leading works for the study of politics, including The Federalist Papers, de Tocqueville, Marx and Fanon, these questions will provide the focus of this course and will help us define the scope as well as the method of our inquiry. During the first half of the semester we will analyze conflicting theoretical approaches to the study of democracy; in theory and in the real world. The second part of the semester will deal with the application of these approaches to selected political problems that may include the holocaust and Hitler’s Willing Executioners, environmental degradation and An Inconvenient Truth, poverty and Class Matters, and issues of democracy and capitalism in the world today such as the stealing of elections in the United States.
How does Political Science 101 satisfy PLAS criteria? This course satisfies PLAS criteria in two ways. First, because the focus of our investigation is on institutions of governance, power, and the ways those have evolved throughout history and are represented in the products of popular culture, students will learn to analyze social structures that not only shape the world they live in but which also provide them with the tools through which those structures are invested with meaning. Second, because the focus of our investigation is on the history, foundational documents, and institutions of American Government, this course satisfies the PLAS requirement for the United States context of experience.
Requirements: A midterm and final examination; one required short typewritten paper; one optional short typewritten paper. Attendance is expected at every class meeting and it will be very difficult to pass the course without having been in class. Regular attendance is, of course, essential for a good grade in class participation.
Required Books:

The Federalist Papers

Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville

The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx

Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon

Class Matters, Bill Keller

Amazing Grace, Jonathan Kozal

Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore

Steal this Vote, Andrew Gumbel
Section I: Theoretical Perspectives and Approaches

The conflict of factions: The clash of ambitions and pluralism.

Definitions of democracy; majority and minority and faction; checks and balances; appeals to the people; a new science of politics.
Required Reading: The Federalist Papers

Films: Obedience, Celebration, The Siege

Section II: The Terror of Equality; A Conservative Approach

Barriers to the tyranny of the prince; fear and tranquility; the psychological and social underpinnings of society; feudalism and democracy compared; the key of history and historical development; public opinion and the tyranny of the majority.

Required Reading: Democracy in America

Film: Triumph of the Will

Section III: Historical Materialism: The View of Marx

The definition of capitalism, socialism, and communism; class struggle; leisure and the development of freedom; the power of commodities; alienation and anomie.

Required Reading: The Communist Manifesto

Films: Reds, Modern Times

Section IV: The Dispossessed: Race, Ethnicity and Class

Colonization, decolonization and recolonization; the necessity of violence; independence as fraud; the organizational bourgeoisie; individualism as a false value.

Required Reading: Wretched of the Earth

Film: Battle of Algiers

Section V: America: Democracy at home and in the World

The drive for political hegemony; nation or class; linkages between domestic and foreign policy; strong societies and weak societies.

Required Reading: Class Matters

Films: Primary Colors, Farenheit 9/11, Celsius 41.11

Section VI: The Social Nature of Contemporary America: Race, Class, The Public and Pluralism

A nation in shackles? ideological and human impulses; the fear of falling; ethnicity, race, religion and class; the feminine mystique revisited.

Required Reading: Amazing Grace

Film: Bulworth.

Section VII: Duties of a Law-Abiding Citizen

The administration of the final solution; on the difference between power and authority; why obey? Challenges to the state; consciousness and society.

Required Reading: Hitler’s Willing Executioners

Films: Rain and Fog, The Pianist

Section VIII: An “Elective Despotism”

Not a paper Constitution; “lite democracy”; cultural diversions?; not where you are, but where you want to be; class “in itself” and class “for itself.”

Required Reading: Steal this Vote

Film: The Truman Show

Section IX: Human Nature, Self-Interest, Social Interests, and Ecology

Beyond self-interest?; the environment and its despoliation; the “population explosion?; realism or utopianism.

Required Reading: An Inconvenient Truth

Films: Wag the Dog, The Full Monty, Silkwood

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