Program Overview

Submitted by becks on Tue, 08/28/2007 - 2:00pm.

Faculty: Stephen L. Beck (Office: Sem II B2119, x5488;

Wednesdays 6-10 p.m., and alternate Saturdays (9/29, 10/13, 10/27, 11/10, 12/1) , SemII A3109

8 quarter hours

Program website:

The United States was founded on a set of political ideals, yet the words we use to express them hide deep and lasting political disagreements. Our history is infused with recurring conflicts over the nature of liberty and of justice, and most prominently, over whom the phrase for all includes. In this half-time writing intensive program, we will study several theories of political philosophy in the context of different periods of U.S. history in order to better understand their appeal to contemporary Americans. Credit will be awarded in political philosophy and U.S. history.

We will study a range of theories of political philosophy, largely through reading historical selections of philosophical texts, in order to understand the different principles and conceptions of society and the individual that each theory embodies. We will also study different periods of U.S. history in order to better understand how those theoretical conceptions were both embodied in and helped to shape U.S. history.

In doing this work, we will pay attention to the interconnections between historical explanations and philosophical justifications. We will also pay attention to the practical contemporary relevance of both historical political conflicts and philosophical theories. To that end, students will also do independent research so as to reveal how conflicting political philosophies are deployed in specific political issues.  Credit will be awarded in political philosophy and United States history.

Class Meetings will include lectures, conceptual workshops, writing workshops and text seminars.

Required Work for the program will include:

  • full participation in the activities of each class meeting
  • brief initial responses due each class session
  • two 3-page expository essays and rewrites of these
  • regular, timely online responses and critiques of colleagues' writing
  • three drafts of a final 5-page argumentative position paper
  • a transcript self-evaluation and evaluation conference during evaluation week


Dawley, Alan, Struggles for Justice

Foner, Eric, A Short History of Reconstruction

Locke, John, Second Treatise of Government

Mills, Charles, The Racial Contract

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, On The Social Contract

Wood, Gordon, The Radicalism of the American Revolution

Other readings  will be on reserve in the library or accessible through links on the program website.