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.
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.