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The Good Citizen: the "social contract" reconsidered

Spring 2003

Project Presentations: schedule

The web-x sites are now available for posting the revised Project Descriptions. Please turn in two hard copies, as well.

Wednesday, June 4, 9-12, Project Presentations will be in Library 4300.

Thursday, June 5, 10-1, Project Presentations will be in LH 3.

Program Description
Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr., among others, tell us that it is the responsibility of good citizens to rebel against the things that we find unjust. Today, however, popular notions of good citizenship often emphasize following the rules rather than challenging them. This program asks: What does it mean to be a good citizen in the 21st century? To address this question, we will critically examine Western discourses of citizenship in both classic and contemporary texts. We will begin with classics of social contract theory (Plato, Rousseau, Locke) and then briefly trace the lived experiences of these ideas in the American founding period, Victorian America, and contemporary U.S. society. We will ask: What is the social contract? Who is privy to it? What rights and responsibilities does citizenship entail? We will then expand our scope to consider how some contemporary social movements and theorists (e.g., feminist, anarchist, radical democratic) inside and outside of the U.S. are negotiating these questions. How do concepts like "cosmopolitanism" attempt to redefine notions of social responsibility in an increasingly globalized world? What kinds of alternative social contracts and definitions of citizenship might we imagine? This class is appropriate for students interested in political philosophy and theory, American history and culture, and social movements.



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last updated: 6/1/2003