PLSC 475 Contemporary Political Theory

The course has two primary purposes. The first is to survey a cross section of some important political writings from the last few decades. The second is to facilitate the development of a compelling account of our politics, an account of where we sit right now as citizens, students, and critical observers of contemporary politics. The texts we will read have been selected because they are representative of the questions confronted by political theorists in the recent past. But they have also been selected with an eye toward developing a status report on the state of affairs in contemporary political life.

We will focus on two main topics–power and identity–with an emphasis on the relationship between the two, on the way the two interact to mutually constitute one another. Students are invited to reflect on the role played in this process by (among others): democracy, rights, citizenship, the state, class, race, gender, sexual orientation, consumerism, nationalism, populism, and imperialism.


Students will:

1. Demonstrate critical thinking, writing and research skills.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of the most important developments in contemporary political theory.

3. Apply theory to specific developments in contemporary politics.

4. Apply an international or cross-cultural perspective.

REQUIRED TEXTS: Some assignments are available on Blackboard. In addition, the books listed below must be purchased or borrowed. I have included links to Amazon, but you should feel free to get them from preferred vendor.

Texts must be brought to class on the day they will be discussed.  Students will be considered absent if they do not bring the reading to class on the discussed.  Texts from Blackboard must be printed out and brought in hard copy as electronic devices are not permitted in class.

GENERAL INFORMATION: This course will emphasize critical reading and analysis of the assigned texts. Class meetings will be primarily discussion based. Readings must be completed before the class meeting in which they will be discussed. This enables students to get the most out of the lectures and to participate effectively in discussion.

Discussion: During class discussion you are not expected to have fully developed points of view about the course materials, but you are expected to participate. You will be rewarded for trying; you will not be penalized for being wrong or unclear, but it should be clear that you have done the readings and are working toward mastery of the material.

Aggressive Reading: Unlike other courses in which you read to complete an assignment—in which you read in order to read every word—you will benefit most from this course by reading aggressively. Rather than attempting to read every word, you should attempt to understand and ponder every idea. That may allow you to skim/skip repetitive paragraphs, or you may need to read some sections two or three times. The key is that you read for understanding, not completion. You are most likely to do this if you read with a pen and paper in which you write down ideas, questions, quotes, points of confusion, and points of disagreement.

Questions: None of us, myself included, knows everything about the topics of this class. It is our responsibility to ask others who may know the answer, either in class, in office hours, or over dinner. I expect that you are learning the material, not that you know it. As much as possible, try not to be shy or embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. The biggest failure in learning any material, in college or in life, is to fail to ask questions about things you do not know.

Availability: I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me at some point during the semester. I am available to discuss the course material, either during office hours, at other times, over the phone, or through email.  If you would prefer to schedule a time during non-office hours, simply contact me by phone or email and we will schedule an appropriate time.

Course Conduct: In order to build and maintain a supportive and productive learning community, students and instructors must treat one another with respect.

For students, this includes but is not limited to:

  • Being prepared to discuss the assigned readings each day;
  • Regular attendance;
  • Notifying the instructor of any scheduling conflicts;
  • On-time arrival to class;
  • Minimizing trips in and out of the room during class;
  • Minimizing side-conversations;
  • Refraining from use of cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Neither laptops nor tablets may be used in class.  Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings.  Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent.

Failure to adhere to these expectations – especially if students are disrupting others’ learning or creating an unwelcoming environment – will result in disciplinary measures. For more on University policies on appropriate classroom conduct, see the University of La Verne Catalog.

For instructors, responsibility for building and maintaining a supportive and productive learning community includes but is not limited to:

  • Being accessible to students;
  • Communicating clear expectations for student success;
  • Addressing students respectfully, including use of preferred names and pronouns; 
  • Returning graded work in a timely fashion;
  • Creating a open exchange of ideas to which all students are encouraged to contribute;
  • Facilitating the interrogation and critical analysis of ideas, including interrogation of the instructor’s views, biases, and values.

Students are encouraged to report violations of University policy, including sexual misconduct and social justice incidents here:


  • Weekly Assignments:  30%
  • Status Report:  30%
  • Midterm:  15%
  • Final Exam: 15%
  • In-class participation:  10%

Weekly Assignments:  On the Schedule of Meetings (below), you will find study questions for each class session.  On the first day of class, students will be assigned questions for each week.  All students are responsible for writing approximately 1-2 pages in response to these questions.  The weekly assignments must be brought to class so that they can be used in our discussion.  Students will be discussion leaders for the questions they have answered.  These assignments should be handed in at the end of each class. In these assignments, you should feel free to answer the questions not only as they pertain to the texts but also with reference to contemporary political issues.

Weekly assignments should reflect an accurate grasp of the reading. Excellent answers will include critical reflection and specific references to the text.

Status Report: Students are required to write a 4000-word status report on contemporary American politics. What is going well? What isn’t? Why? This is obviously a broad assignment. It will be up to you to specify your focus. First, you you should decide how broadly or narrowly you wish to define “contemporary.” Second, you will need to pick an area of emphasis. You might start by looking at the topics mentioned in the course description. Your status report must reference at least four works of political theory at least two of which must be by our assigned authors. Essays must have a thesis or argument and a theoretical framework by which the topic of the status report is analyzed and/or evaluated.

Students must upload a 1-2 page outline to SafeAssign on Blackboard (by 11:59 pm after class in week 3). Outlines must include a thesis statement. On the dates given below for the submission of installments, students must upload 1500 words of their research by 11:59 pm. I will return this work with comments and suggestions. Late papers will be penalized at the rate of one grade per day. All papers must be submitted in Microsoft Word. No PDFs. 

Exams: The midterm and the final exam will be composed of a selection of the study questions given below.

If you need disability accommodations for an exam or other assignment, please see the instructor as soon as possible. Information regarding disabilities, including learning disabilities, will remain confidential. If you are not sure whether you need special accommodations, please contact the Accessibility Services Department. Information about location and contact numbers can be found here:

In-Class Participation: Class participation will be measured based on attendance and preparedness (i.e. whether students are prepared to discuss the reading in class). Students who miss more than four classes will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B).  Students who miss more than seven classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+). Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent. Multiple instances of tardiness will also result in a deduction of one-third of a grade.

Late Assignments: Late assignments may be submitted for partial credit, but no assignments will be accepted after the last day of finals week.

SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS AND REQUIRED READINGS: (For all of the assigned readings, please begin by noting when the text was published, why the author wrote it, and to whom the author was responding.)


Feb. 2:

George Monbiot, “Neoliberalism

Umberto Eco, “Ur-fascism” and John Ganz, What Makes Facism Fascist?


Feb. 4:

Robert Dahl, “Procedural Democracy” (Blackboard)

Group 1__Ashley, Christy_____ _

  • What persons have a rightful claim to be included as citizens with full and equal rights to participate in governing?
  • What are the conditions for democratic decision-making?
  • What is Dahl’s criterion for political equality?
  • What is effective participation?

Group 2___Emma__

  • Why is some measure of enlightenment necessary for democracy?
  • What does it mean to say the demos is sovereign?
  • What is the role of delegation in a democracy?
  • What are the qualifications for inclusion in the demos?
  • What is Dahl’s critique of Schumpeter?

Group 3__Hannah___

  • Explain the distinction between the “categorical principle” and the “contingent principle”? (p. 116)
  • Why are children so important to Dahl’s argument?
  • What is the principle of equal consideration?
  • What are the best objections to procedural democracy?
  • What rights, if any, are required by Dahl’s argument?

Feb. 9:

Thomas Pogge, “Migration and Poverty” (Blackboard)

Group 1__Ana___

  • What obligations, if any, do nations have to migrants?

Group 2__Damian___

  • Why does Pogge favor poverty mitigation to migration?
  • Should political refugees be treated differently from economic migrants?

Group 3__Julissa, Melissa____

  • If we opt for foreign aid, how should it be distributed?
  • Where does Pogge suggest the funds for foreign aid could come from?
  • According to Pogge, why don’t people generally see things his way?

Feb. 11:

John Rawls, “Justice as Fairness” (Blackboard)

Group 1__Emma_____

  • What are the two principles of justice?
  • What types of inequality are just? What types are unjust?

Group 2___Hannah____

  • How is Rawls’ position different from utilitarianism?
  • How does Rawls derive the two principles of justice?

Group 3__Ashley, Rachel____

  • What determines whether a practice is fair?
  • What is the general position?
  • What is Rawls’ critique of utilitarianism?

Feb. 16:

Robert Nozick, “Distributive Justice” (Blackboard)

Group 1___Christy, Melissa____

  • What is the entitlement theory?
  • What makes a distribution just?
  • Does a just distribution depend on how people came to possess their holdings?

Group 2__Ana____

  • How does liberty upset attempts to pattern distribution?
  • Why is taxation a system of forced labor?
  • What is the Lockean limitation on property rights?

Group 3___Damian, Julissa___

  • What is Nozick’s critique of Rawls?
  • Are people entitled to their natural assets?
  • Why does Nozick only accept rectification as grounds for redistribution?


February 18:

Hannah Arendt, Human Condition, pp. 22-78 (Blackboard)

Group 1__Hannah, Ana_____

  • What defines humans as human?
  • What is the distinctive feature of the polis? What separates it from the household?
  • Why has the line between the household and polis been blurred for us?
  • What is the sphere of freedom?
  • How did the Greeks view a purely private life?
  • What provoked Rousseau’s emphasis on the intimate?

Group 2___Emma, Damian____

  • How is modern “society” different from the ancients’ “political realm”?
  • What is the difference between government and administration?
  • What is Arendt’s critique of the behavioral sciences?
  • What are the pleasures of the private realm?
  • What is the basis of the Christian community?
  • How was the private realm necessary for the public realm?

Group 3___Ashley, Julissa_____

  • Why do the moderns hold wealth sacred?
  • How has the decline of the public realm undermined the private realm as well?
  • What role do women play in the public realm?
  • What distinguishes the public from the private?
  • What’s wrong with Christian goodness?

Feb. 23:

Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, pp. 19-37 (Blackboard)

Group 1___Rachel_______

  • What is the concept of the political?
  • What’s wrong with existing definitions of the political?

Group 2___Christy_____

  • How did democracy change the definition of politics?
  • What is the relationship between state and society?
  • What is the nature of the friend-enemy distinction?

Group 3____Melissa ______

  • How does the friend-enemy distinction vary from society to society?
  • How is war related to the friend-enemy distinction?
  • Can the friend-enemy distinction be overcome?


Feb. 25:

Michel Foucault, “Power, Right, Truth” (Blackboard)

Group 1___Hannah_____

  • What is the relationship between truth and power?
  • What is a discourse?

Group 2__Ashley_______

  • What is the field of application of power?
  • What is the locus of power? Where does it reside?
  • How is power employed and executed?

Group 3__Christy________

  • What is an ascending analysis of power?
  • What’s wrong with studying sovereignty?
  • What is disciplinary power?


March 2:

Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, Introduction, ch. 1; Foucault/Chomsky Debate

Group 1__Melissa ____

  • What are governmentality and pastoral power?  What is the relationship between the two? p. xviii-xix
  • What is the appeal of “conduct” for Foucault? p. xix
  • “Resistance is ‘coextensive and absolutely contemporaneous’ to power.” (p. xx)  What are the implications of this, especially for those who would resist power?
  • Give an example of what Foucault calls “counter-conduct?” p. xxiii
  • What is ascesis? p. xxiii

Group 2__Ana___

  • What is the relationship between morality, moral conduct, and practices of the self? p. xxiv
  • What are the components of “care of the self?” p. xxiv
  • What is the relationship between power and freedom? p. xxiv
  • What is asceticism?  Why isn’t Christianity ascetic? p. xxiv-xxv
  • What is the “‘juridification’ of moral and political experience?” p. xxvi

Group 3_Damian___

  • What is the relevance of J.S. Mill to Foucault’s argument? p. xxvii
  • What is truly radical about homosexuality?  What might Foucault think of gay marriage? p. xxviii
  • “Probably the principal objective today is not to discover but to refuse what we are?”  What is the meaning of this claim? p. xxx
  • Why not “behave yourself?” p. xxxii
  • What is “bio-power?” p. 1

Group 4__Emma____

  • From where do mechanisms of power emerge? p. 2
  • On what basis does Foucault define philosophy as “the politics of truth?” p. 3
  • Foucault frames his analysis around struggle.  What must one know if one wants to struggle? p. 3
  • What is the difference between the two “modulations” penalizing stealing? p. 4
  • What effects of the second modulation of punishment is Foucault interested in exploring? p. 4

Group 5___Rachel____

  • How do the different penal forms map on different historical periods? p. 6
  • What is the role of history in philosophy? p. 8
  • What does Foucault mean by “security?” p. 10
  • What is an apparatus (dispositif)? p. 11
  • What is population? How does it emerge historically? p. 11

Group 6__Julissa___

  • What are the targets of sovereignty, discipline, and security? p. 11
  • What was the apparatus of governance in the 18th-century European town? p. 18
  • What is the difference between discipline and security as models of governance? p. 19

March 4:

Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, ch. 2 (pp. 44-49), ch. 3 (pp. 63-79), ch. 4

Group 1__Ashley____

  • What are the three differences between discipline and security? pp. 44-46
  • Law works “in the imaginary.” (p. 47)  What is the meaning of this claim?
  • “Freedom is nothing else but the correlative of the deployment of apparatuses of security.” (p. 48)  What is the meaning of this claim?
  • How does Foucault use the term “ideology?” p. 49
  • What is the relationship between a law and a norm? p. 56
  • Why is the town important in the shift from discipline to security? pp. 63-4
  • Why was the town “free” under feudalism in a way that the rest of the territory was not? p. 64
  • What is the “problem of circulation?” p. 64

Group 2___Hannah____

  • How is Foucault’s analysis different from Machiavelli’s? p. 65
  • What is a panopticon?  Why is it archaic? p. 66
  • How and why did the concept “population” change in the 17th century? p. 68
  • What is required for the population to serve the state’s power and strength? p. 69
  • What are mercantilists and physiocrats? p. 70
  • How does the physiocrats’ view of population differ from the mercantilists’ view? p. 70
  • What techniques are available for controlling the population on the physiocrats’ (security) model? p. 72

Group 3__Christy_____

  • What unites a diverse population? p. 72
  • What series of knowledges emerges with population? p. 76
  • “Man…, as he is reflected in nineteenth century humanism, is nothing other than a figure of population.” (p. 79)  What does Foucault mean?  What are the implications of this claim?
  • “For Machiavelli, the Prince exists in a relationship of singularity and externality, of transcendence, to his principality.” (p. 91)  What does Foucault mean by this?
  • What are the consequences of the externality of the Prince? pp. 91-2
  • What is the “art of government?” (p. 92)  Why is it missing in Machiavelli?
  • What are the three types of government? p. 93
  • How does La Perrière’s definition of government differ from Machiavelli’s? p. 96

Group 4___Melissa____

  • Why does the importance of law recede for La Perrière? p. 99
  • Why, according to La Perrière, should a good ruler rule like a bumblebee? p. 100
  • What were the conditions for the emergence of the art of government? p. 103
  • What role do statistics play in the art of government? p. 104
  • How does the family change with the emergence of population? p. 105
  • What role do sovereignty and discipline play in the new era of population? p. 107
  • What does Foucault mean by “governmentality?” p. 108
  • What are the three stages of governmentality?  What characterizes each one? p. 110

March 9:

Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, ch. 5, ch. 7 (pp. 183-5), ch. 8 (pp. 191-7), ch. 10 ( pp. 273-5)

Group 5___Ana____

  • What is a “technology of power?” p. 117
  • “Madness exists, which does not mean that it is a thing.”  What does this mean? p. 118
  • What did “government” connote in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries? p. 121-2
  • How is the Greco-Roman model of governance different from the Hebrew model? pp. 122-25
  • What differences between the Greek gods and the Hebrew God does Foucault emphasize? p. 125
  • What is Greco-Roman power if not beneficent? p. 126
  • Why is pastoral power uniquely individualizing? p. 128
  • Why is the pastorate so important to governmentality? p. 184

Group 6___Damian____

  • What are the forms of resistance to pastoral power? p. 195
  • What was the Western pastorate founded against? pp. 195-6
  • How did Christianity deal with with Medieval counter-conduct? pp. 215
  • At the start of the seventeenth century, what new knowledge was required for one who governs? p. 273-4
  • Why do statistics become important at the start of the seventeenth century? p. 274
  • What is the “problem of the public?” p. 275

Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos

Group 1___Emma____

  • What is “neoliberal reason?” p.. 17
  • What is the “open and contestable signification of democracy?” p. 20
  • What is neoliberalism?
  • How does Brown’s argument mirror Plato’s?
  • How has neoliberal reason transformed higher education? How has it transformed the state?

Group 2___Rachel, Julissa____

  • What is the neoliberal policy agenda? Explain the standard critiques of this agenda.
  • What is economization? What is distinctive about neoliberal economization?
  • How does neoliberalism turn its subjects into human capital?
  • How does relocating liberty in the economic sphere affect equality?
  • How does neoliberalism attack the “good life?”


March 11: 

Carole Pateman, “The Sexual Contract” (Blackboard)

Group 1___Hannah, Rachel_________

  • What is the function of the social contract?
  • Why is the social contract actually a fraternal contract?

Group 2___Christy_________

  • What is the difference between patriarchy and patriarchalism?
  • How do contract theorists deal with the problem that women would not agree to subordinate themselves to a husband?

Group 3___Ashley_______

  • Who are the parties to the social contract?
  • How can women become civil individuals?

Firestone, Dialectic of Sex, chs. 1, 2

Ch 1___Melissa, Ana________

  • What is sex class? Why is it invisible?
  • Why is revolution the only solution?
  • What does Firestone want to borrow from Karl Marx?
  • What are the fundamental elements of the biological family?
  • What does it mean to say that human society is against nature?
  • What is the end or goal of the feminist revolution?
Ch 2___Damian, Emma______
  • What is the difference between a reformer and a feminist?
  • Why was the extension of suffrage a mixed bag for the W.R.M.?
  • What were the instruments of ridicule in the backlash that Firestone calls the “50-Year Ridicule?”
  • How were women convinced to return to the home after they had been drafted into the workforce during World War II?
  • Why are science and technology so essential to feminism? pp. 16-36
March 15-19: SPRING BREAK

March 23:

Firestone, Dialectic of Sex, chs. 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, Conclusion (pp. 232-7, 250-74)

Ch  4___Christy______

  • What is the relationship between patriarchy and matriarchy? p. 66
  • What is the purpose of childhood? How were children seen before childhood?
  • How was childhood different for girls and boys?
  • How did the privatization of family life bring more and more oppression?
  • What is the purpose of school?
Ch 6___Ana_______
  • Do women want to get rid of love?
  • Is it a truism that women live for love and men for work?
  • What defines a successful love experience? What defines a destructive one?
  • Why, according to Firestone, can’t men love?
  • Why do women engage in “clinging” behavior?
  • How has women’s emancipation served men?
Ch 7___Rachel_______
  • How is romance a tool for keeping women mystified?
  • What’s wrong with eroticism as currently enacted?
  • What does Firestone mean by the rediffusion of eroticism?
Conclusion, pp. 184-7, 198-216__Ashley_____
  • What are the components of the sexual revolution?
  • What is keeping marriage alive?
  • How are women worse off than they were when marriage was an economic arrangement?
  • What are single professions?
  • What is Firestone’s proposal for parenthood?
  • What are the most significant changes that have occurred since the publication of The Dialectic of Sex?

March 25:

hooks, Ain’t I a Woman? (Blackboard)

Group 1___Hannah, Melissa________
  • How has Black women’s experience with patriarchy differed from white women’s? How has it been similar?
  • Why did 19th-century Black women support patriarchy?
  • Why have Black men been less likely to romanticize labor?
  • How has birth control changed men’s view of women?

Group 2___Emma_______

  • Why has the figure of the pimp been glorified?
  • Why were Black women attracted to the Nation of Islam?
  • Why do Black men prize white women?
  • How do white women think of racism? What do they miss?

Group 3_____Damian________

  • What is hooks’ critique of the feminist movement?
  • How have white women stigmatized Black women?
  • What motive did white feminists have for excluding Black women?
  • Is joining the workforce a sign of feminist progress?
  • How did slavery create a new status for white women?


March 30:

Butler, Gender Trouble, pp. 1-25 (Blackboard)

Group 1___Hannah___________

  • What is a woman?
  • Why is the question of the subject so important?
  • What’s wrong with the masculine/feminine binary?

Group 2____Christy________

  • Can we escape representational politics?
  • What is the difference between sex and gender?
  • How is the body itself a construction?

Group 3_____Emma______

  • Why is the feminine defined by absence?
  • When are gendered identities disallowed?
  • What does it mean to think of gender as performative?

Manne, Down Girl, pp. 78-84, ch. 8 (Blackboard)

Group 1______Melissa_____

  • What is the difference between sexism and misogyny?
  • How does Julia Gillard’s speech illustrate the distinction between sexism and misogyny?
  • How are gender hierarchies maintained even when women are undeniably competent?

Group 2______Damian_____

  • Can women by misogynistic? How?
  • What role does disgust play in moral judgment?
  • What are the characteristics of “good” and “bad” women under patriarchy?
  • What makes it difficult for women to compete with men for positions of high power?


April 1:

Mills, The Racial Contract, Introduction, chs. 1-3


  • Why isn’t white supremacy taught in political theory classes?
  • What is the racial contract?
  • What is the appeal of contract theory? What is the difference between ideal contract theory and a naturalized account? p. 5
  • What are the moral, political, and epistemological contracts?
  • In what way do all white people benefit from the racial contract?

Ch. 1______Rachel__________

  • To whom does the racial contract apply?
  • What does Mills make of colonial edicts to respect the rights of native peoples?
  • What is the relationship between humanism and racism?
  • What is the role of economics in the racial contract?
  • Why is European economic development depicted as autochthonous? What is the actual explanation for European economic dominance?
  • What role does Japan play in Mills’ argument?
  • What are Mills’ criticisms of social contract theory?
Ch 2_____Ana__________
  • What is spacing? What are its epistemological and moral dimensions?
  • What role does terra nullius play in the racial contract?
  • What role does white fear play in the racial contract?
  • What is the origin of racism?
  • Who, according to Mills, lives in the state of nature?
  • How does racism persist even after it is written out of “formal existence?”
  • How is it possible that a claim of racelessness can itself be a racial act?
  • How does Mills address the fact that the West has also targeted whites for discrimination and persecution? pp. 79-81
Ch 3________________
  • How does Mills’ argument change the way we view the Holocaust? How does it explain the supposed exceptional nature of the Holocaust?
  • How do whites choose to reject the racial contract? Give some examples. pp. 108-9
  • Why is the racial contract superior to the raceless social contract in an explanatory sense?
  • Why is the racial contract excluded from mainstream political theory?
  • If race is not biological, if it is “sociopolitical,” why can’t it simply be eliminated as a category of analysis?
  • At the end of the book, Mills raises the problem of how to integrate Black critique into political theory more generally. How might we do this?

April 6: MIDTERM

April 8:

James Baldwin, “On Being White” 

Group 1__Ashley, Christy________

  • What does Baldwin mean when he says there is “no white community?”
  • How did America become white?
  • What is the origin of the Black identity?

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Part I 

Group 1__Emma________

  • What lies between the world and Coates?
  • What role does atheism play in Coates’ worldview?
  • Why does Coates emphasize the Black body?
  • What does it mean to say that “race is the child of racism?”

Group 2__Hannah_____

  • How do people become Black and white?
  • How are white people held accountable for brutalizing Black people?
  • What is the significance of Howard University for Coates?
  • What is the Dream? Why is Coates wary of it?

April 13:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, Part II 

Group 3__Ana_______

  • What are the unique burdens borne by young Black men?
  • How does Coates connect the Dream to the murder of Prince Jones? To the urban violence in Chicago?
  • What makes someone Black, according to Coates?
  • What did Coates learn from Paris?
  • White people made Black people into a race. Black people made themselves into a people. (p. 149) What is the meaning of this claim?

Barbara Fields, “Slavery Race and Ideology in the United States of America”

Group 1___Damian, Rachel__

  • What’s wrong with the way the Supreme Court decided Shaare Tefila v. Cobb (1987)? p. 97
  • Did the Constitution declare Black people to be 3/5 of a person?
  • How does Fields define ideology? pp. 109-113
  • What does it mean to understand race as an ideology?

Group 2___Melissa__

  • Why were workers of African descent enslaved while others were not?
  • What is the relationship between race and slavery?
  • Why did it take 100 years (after the inception of slavery in the Americas) for racial ideology to develop?
  • What keeps race alive today?


April 15:

Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion, pp. 1-45

Group 1___Emma_____

  • Kazin begins by quoting Carl Sandburg, “Who shall speak for the people?”  Why can’t the people speak for themselves? p. 1
  • What is so compelling about the distinction between the powerful and the powerless? p. 1
  • What is the “language of populism?” p. 1
  • Who do populists celebrate? pp. 1-2
  • Why is American populism unique? pp. 1-2
  • “Populism” is “more an impulse than an ideology.”  What does Kazin mean by this? p. 3
  • Why did populism move from the left to the right in the late 1940s? p. 4
  • What were George Wallace’s primary arguments? p. 5
  • How did the “New Left” respond to Wallace’s success? p. 5
  • How did the New Left’s response to Wallace’s success ultimately benefit the right? p. 5
  • What is the primary question Kazin’s text is intended to answer? p. 6
  • What does Kazin admire about populism? What does he fear about it? pp. 6-7

Group 2___Hannah_______

  • Describe the populist themes in the cartoon on p. 8.
  • What were Thomas Jefferson’s and Publius’ arguments in favor of the “middling sort?” p. 9
  • What were the two strains of the “embryonic populist rhetoric” in antebellum America? p. 10
  • What was the relationship between the two strains in the 19th century? p. 11
  • What are the four clusters of populist belief? p. 11
  • “Speakers and writers transformed the country from a mere place on the map to an ideology.”  What is the meaning of this claim? p. 12
  • What was producerism? p. 13
  • What made one a producer? p. 14
  • Why weren’t women factory workers considered producers?   Who else was excluded from the class of producers? p. 14
  • Why did Black activists resist joining the populist movement? p. 15
  • What were the characteristics of the “elite?” p. 15
  • What was the role of movements in populism? p. 16

Group 3____Ashley_____

  • For Jefferson, what did it mean to be a republican? An anti-republican? p. 18
  • What were the goals of Jacksonian populism? p. 19
  • How does the Bank of the U.S. illustrate the dangers of populism? pp. 20-21
  • Where did populism come down on the question of slavery? p. 21
  • How did Jackson’s biography fuel his populist credentials? p. 22
  • How did Lincoln’s biography fuel his populist credentials? p.23
  • What are the populist themes in the political cartoon on p. 26?
  • What was the motive for forming the People’s Party (1892)? pp. 27-8
  • Who were the constituents of the People’s Party? How do they compare to the Tea Party? p. 28
  • What was the platform of the People’s Party? p. 29
  • Why did populist activists decide that a Jackson or Lincoln could not no longer be elected? p. 30

Group 4___Christy_______

  • Why did populist reformers break with the Republicans? p. 31
  • Why and how did populists invoke Christianity? p. 33
  • Why were populists often opposed to immigration? p. 36
  • What were the conditions for Black inclusion into the populist movement? p. 36
  • What did the Populist Party propose? p. 38
  • Why did the Populist Party choose not to address race? p. 40
  • How did the Populist Party propose to increase the power of the state? p. 42
  • What arguments did William Jennings Bryan make? p. 44
  • Why was the 1896 election so pivotal? p. 45

April 20:

Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion, pp. 46-133

Group 5___Melissa_____

  • What is included and excluded in the cartoon printed on p. 48?
  • “…if the great industrial combinations do not deal with us they will have somebody to deal with who will not have the American idea.” (p. 49)  What is Gompers threatening?
  • What contribution did the muckrakers make to populist discourse? p. 51
  • How did the Progressives change populist discourse?  How did their view of “the people” change p. 51
  • Why was an alliance between labor and progressives “never fully consummated?” p. 54
  • How did Samuel Gompers define “John Public?” p. 57
  • What was the AFL’s response to immigrants? pp. 59-60
  • How did the unions pick their enemies? p. 62
  • Why did the unions refrain from vilifying capitalists? p. 63
  • How did the unions feel about government power? p. 63
  • Why did unions fear the government? p. 64
  • How did unions criticize the judiciary? p. 64
  • “The average citizen cannot understand how this judicial shell game is worked.  When he comes to thoroughly understand it there will be doings.” (p. 65)  Do Americans understand the judiciary?
  • What language did the unions speak?  p. 65
  • What was the radicals’ dilemma? p. 66

Group 6___Damian_______

  • Why were workers suspicious of U.S. involvement in WWI? p. 69
  • Why did the AFL ultimately support WWI? pp. 69-70
  • What was the populist argument against the WWI? p. 71
  • What did Woodrow Wilson do to win over labor? p. 72
  • Did the left overplay its hand after WWI? p. 73
  • Compare the language of advertising to the language of populism? p. 76
  • “Why is it?” (p. 78)  What is the artist’s answer to this question?
  • Why was Prohibition appealing? p. 80
  • How was liquor cast as a tool of exploitation? p. 81
  • What was the WCTU?  Why were women attracted to Prohibition? p. 82
  • What precipitated the split in populism after 1896? p. 85
  • What did the Anti-Saloon League have in common with the abolitionists? the unionists? p. 87

Group 7____Rachel _______

  • Why did prohibitionists target the saloon rather than individuals? p. 90
  • For prohibitionists, what did the liquor industry represent or stand-in for? p. 90
  • What motivated the prohibition movement, according to Kazin? p. 93
  • How was prohibition used for right-wing (anti-immigrant) populism? p. 99
  • “The reign of tears is over.” (Billy Sunday, p. 101) Why didn’t Prohibition produce the results Sunday predicted? p. 101
  • How was the KKK able to take on the energy of the prohibition movement? p. 103
  • What did the KKK stand for?  What did it stand against? p. 104
  • What was the anti-Prohibitionists’ populism? p. 105

Group 8_____Ana______

  • In the cartoon on p. 108, who is being depicted as the people and who as the enemies of the people? p. 108
  • How can Charles Coughlin reconcile the “rottenness of modern capitalism” with his vow to “strike against Communism?” p. 109
  • What was the nature of FDR’s populism? p. 113
  • Why is the radio suited to populism? p. 115
  • What was the basis of Coughlin’s populism? p. 118
  • What was Coughlin’s proposed solution to the problem posed by the money changers? p. 120
  • How is it possible to mobilize class without a discourse of class? p. 123
  • What was the role of nostalgia in Coughlin’s populism? p. 128-9
  • Why did Coughlin support fascism, and how much did he support it? p. 130
  • Can Coughlin’s populism be separated from his fascism? p. 132

April 22:

Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion, pp. 134-204

Group 1___Hannah_____

  • What is industrial democracy, as depicted in the cartoon on p. 134?
  • What is the relationship between unions and democracy according to John L. Lewis? p. 135
  • What distinguished the CIO from other populist movements? p. 130
  • What was the CIO’s political agenda? p. 138
  • What accounts for Lewis’ downfall? pp. 155-6
  • Why did the CIO form the nation’s first PAC? p. 159
  • What was C. Wright Mills’ criticism of the CIO PAC? pp. 160-1
  • Why did labor’s power decline in the 1950s? p. 161
  • How did the unionists political rhetoric change in the 1950s? pp. 161-2
  • “Labor’s success was also its failure.” (162) Explain.

Group 2__Ana______

  • What are the populist themes in the cartoon on p. 164?  How have they changed from the earlier cartoons?
  • How did the Cold War open up possibilities of new populist discourse? p. 166
  • What did postwar conservatives jettison in their political rhetoric and policy positions? p. 167
  • Who is the enemy of the people in conservative populism? p. 167
  • What role did masculinity play in conservative populism? p. 170
  • What was the goal of conservative intellectuals? p. 171
  • What role did conspiracy play in conservative populism? p. 173

Group 3____Emma________

  • Why were Catholics attracted to conservative populism? p. 173
  • What was conservative populism’s definition of “the people?” p. 176
  • Who were the “real Americans,” according to Joseph McCarthy? p. 184
  • Why had white ethnics voted Democrat in in the 1930s? p. 186
  • How did Republicans believe McCarthy could bring them back? p. 186
  • Why was Joseph Welch’s attack on McCarthy so effective? p. 189
  • How did intellectuals’ conception of themselves change in the 1950s? p. 191
  • What did Populist campaigners share with conservative anti-communists? p. 192

Group 4____Melissa________

  • What are the populist themes in the cartoon on p. 194?
  • How was the New Left more radical than previous populist movements? p. 197
  • What is radical in Tom Hayden’s Port Huron Statement? p. 198
  • What was the agenda of the participatory democracy movement? p. 198
  • What were the political costs of jettisoning the implicit exclusion of Blacks? pp. 200-1
  • What did Saul Alinsky hope to achieve? pp. 202-3

April 27:

Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion, pp. 204-292

Group 5___Damian_________

  • Why did so many Americans turn aginst 60s radicalism on college campuses? p. 206-7
  • What success, if any, did the New Left have in recruiting working class support? p. 213
  • How did feminism undermine the left’s “traditional agenda?” p. 217
  • Who was the “enemy of the people” for Wallace? p. 221
  • Who are “the people” in the New Right’s populism? p. 223
  • Who are the enemies of the people in the New Right’s populism? p. 224

Group 6____Rachel______

  • How did the right adopt MLK’s and LBJ’s language of rights? p. 227
  • What was Wallace’s “populist formula?” p. 231
  • How were states rights arguments deployed toward populist ends? p. 233
  • How did country music serve Wallace’s populism? p. 235
  • How did left intellectuals play into Wallace’s hands? p. 236
  • For Wallace, who were not “the people?” p. 240
  • “Women simply did not like George Wallace.” (p. 241) Why?

Group 7___Ashley___

  • What are the populist themes in the cartoon on p. 244?  How have they changed from previous cartoons?
  • How did the new conservatives define “the people?” p. 246
  • “The labor-liberal alliance forged in the 1930s was the victim of its own success.” (p. 246) Explain.
  • What allowed conservatives to dominate national politics in the 1970s? p. 248
  • How did Nixon adapt Wallace’s populism? p. 250
  • What was the Nixon-Agnew message in 1972? p. 255
  • How did conservatives incorporate women? p. 258

Group 8__Christy_______

  • What comprised the “New Right,” as Kevin Phillips called it? p. 260
  • For Reagan, who was the enemy of the people? p. 262
  • How can presidents counter populist opposition? p. 265
  • What is wrong with our rhetoric, according the Robert Bellah? p. 269
  • How did the left try to revive a populist movement in the ’70s and ’80s? p. 276
  • What language did this revived left select?  What language did it avoid? p. 276
  • Who supported Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign?  Why didn’t this coalition prove successful? p. 280

Group 9______

  • What was the New World Order? p. 281
  • Why did globalism fail to generate a mass populist movement? p. 285
  • According to Kazin, is populism good, bad, or neither? p. 287
  • Why is populism still heard mainly on the right? p. 288
  • Why, according to Kazin, is the desire to transcend populism shortsighted? p. 289
  • What is “connected criticism?” p. 289


April 29:

Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Introduction, pp. 1-35, 67-9, 75-7, 85-8

Group 1__Hannah, Melissa______

  • Why does the poorest county in America vote Republican (in overwhelming numbers)? p. 1
  • What explanations does Frank offer? pp. 2-3
  • “Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends.” (p. 5) Explain.
  • What is the “Great Backlash?” p. 5
  • “Abortion is never halted.  Affirmative action is never abolished.  The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act.” (p. 6) Why?
  • How do liberals misunderstand the “Great Backlash?” p. 8

Group 2___Emma____

  • What are the sides in the “quasi-civil war” of the “backlash imagination?” p. 13
  • Why is it a mistake to assume that the heartland is inherently conservative? p. 15
  • What is the “latte libel?” p. 16
  • What are David Brooks’ generalizations about “Blue America?”  What’s wrong with them? pp. 18-20
  • What are Brooks’ generalizations about “Red America?” What’s wrong with them? pp. 20-24
  • What’s wrong with Brooks’ model of society? p. 26

Group 3____Ana_______

  • What leads Frank to call early Kansas a “freak state?” p. 31
  • What were the Populists fighting for? pp. 32-34
  • How is it possible that Kansas is both average and freaky? p. 34
  • How have Kansans responded to their economic suffering? p. 68
  • What are the primary tenets of the Kansas Republican Party platform? p. 75
  • What does the story of Ulysses and Boeing illustrate? pp. 85-88

May 4:

Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, pp. 89-96, 113-137, 157-9, 174-182, 191-95, 228-31, 237-51

Group 4___Damian_________

  • How does Frank use 1991 and Operation Rescue to describe the change in conservatism in Kansas? p. 91
  • How did Operation Rescue make use of disgust with “politics as usual?” p. 95
  • What made Kansas conservatives successful? p. 95
  • What separates the Mods from the Cons? p. 103
  • “In Kansas the political geography of social class has been turned upside down.” (p. 104)  What does Frank mean by this claim?
  • How have the upper classes in Kansas contributed to their image among the Cons? p. 107
  • How do the Mods benefit from class antagonism? p. 109

Group 5____Christy_______

  • What is the basis of the class distinction in Kansas?
  • If there is a class war, then why is there “no resentment or class consciousness?” p. 114
  • What is the “liberal elite?”  How has it altered the predominant conception of class in America? p. 114
  • How have conservatives depicted themselves as victims? p. 119-120
  • What do conservatives see themselves subverting? p. 120
  • In what sense has the backlash been a “bust?” p. 121
  • Why are the Cons right to be angry? p. 133-4

Group 6___Rachel______

  • How does the conservative movement provide “an attractive and even a seductive way of dealing with an unfair universe?” p. 157
  • What makes the backlash “holy?” p. 168
  • What was triangulation?  Why was it bad political strategy? p. 176
  • Why doesn’t racism explain the backlash in Kansas? p. 179
  • Who is in charge of the country, according to the backlash? p. 191
  • How does anti-intellectualism serve the free market argument? p. 193
  • How has the “political valence of Vietnam-related martyrdom” been switched? p. 229

Group 7___Ashley__________

  • What is the Kansas stereotype of liberals?  Where does it come from? p. 240
  • Why hasn’t the culture industry changed? p. 241
  • What does the backlash have in common with the commercial culture it derides? p. 242
  • What part did liberals play in the backlash? p. 242
  • What is the lesson in the Kansas story for Democrats? p. 245


May 6:

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, Introduction and ch. 6

Group 1____Ashley________

  • What is market liberalism?
  • What is embeddedness?
  • Why can’t disembedding be successful?

Group 2___Christy, Ana_____

  • What is the distinction between real and fictitious commodities?
  • Why did laissez-faire have to be planned?
  • What is the double movement? How did it contribute to the rise of fascism?
  • What was Polanyi’s economic program?

Group 3___Rachel_____

  • What is a market economy?
  • What is a market society?
  • What are the implications of a market economy for the state?

Group 4___Emma____

  • How does a market system differ from a mercantile one?
  • What is the commodity concept?
  • What is the commodity fiction? Why is it unsustainable?

May 11:

Terry Eagleton, Marx Was Right, chs. 1-2, ch. 3 (pp. 30-36), ch. 5, ch. 7

Chs. 1, 2 ____Damian________

  • Why do so many people believe Marxism is outdated? Why, according to Eagleton, are they wrong?
  • What did the “Marxist” societies of the 20th century accomplish? What were their shortcomings? Same question for the capitalist societies.
  • To what extent were the “Marxist” countries of the 20th century actually Marxist?
  • What are the social and cultural prerequisites to a true socialist revolution?
  • What is the difference between socialism and Stalinism?
  • What is a market based economy? What is a planned economy? What is market socialism? What is Eagleton’s proposal for a negotiated middle ground between a planned economy and a market economy?

Ch. 3 (pp. 30-36), Ch. 4__Melissa_____

  • What is distinctive about Marx’s philosophy?
  • What is the meaning of Marx’s claim that the “history of all previously existing societies is the history of class struggle?”
  • How did Marx distinguish his views from utopian socialism?
  • Why didn’t Marx have much to say about how society would look after the revolution?
  • How does Eagleton respond to the charge that communism would require a transformation of human nature?
  • Why is capitalism more conformist than socialism?

Chs. 5 and 7___Hannah______

  • What role does economics play in history?
  • How does Eagleton respond to the charge that Marx reduces all of history to economics?
  • How does Marxism define class? What makes one working class?
  • What makes one middle class? How is the middle class being proletarianized?

May 13:

Terry Eagleton, Marx Was Right, chs. 9-10

Ch. 9_____Ana_____

  • What part of the state does Marxism seek to dismantle? Why?
  • How would the state change under socialism? Answer with respect to the Paris Commune.
  • What is the dictatorship of the proletariat?

Ch. 10_____Rachel_______

  • Does Marxism neglect race and gender as sites of oppression? Colonialism?
  • What is the relationship between nationalism and socialism? Between environmentalism and socialism?
  • What is Eagleton’s critique of postcolonialism?

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “ABC’s of socialism” (Blackboard)

Group 1____Emma_______

  • What is the role of racism in capitalism? What is the role of capitalism in racism?
  • What role did slavery play in the development of capitalism?
  • Why do socialists tend to be anti-racists?
  • Why aren’t general policies favoring economic expansion sufficient to address racism?
  • Why have African Americans gravitated toward socialism?

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation”

Group 1____Ashley_______

  • What does the colonial comparison explain? What does it obscure?
  • Why did anti-capitalism filter into every aspect of Black life? (p. 199)
  • How does Taylor criticize Tim Wise?
  • What is the political economy of racism?

Group 2_____Damian_______

  • If white working-class people do not benefit from capitalist exploitation, why do they allow racism to cloud their ability to united with nonwhite workers? (209)
  • What does the lens of whiteness obscure? (pp. 210-212)
  • Why does Taylor favor solidarity over allyship? (p. 215)


May 18:

Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchism, Preface, chs. 1-2

Preface, Ch. 1_____Melissa_____

  • What attracts Scott to anarchism?
  • How does Scott define anarchism?
  • What is an anarchist squint? What does it enable us to see?
  • Why only two cheers for anarchism?
  • What is the paradox of organization?
  • What are anarchist calisthenics?
  • Why is disordered resistance usually more effective?
  • How is charisma anarchic?
Ch. 2____Christy______
  • How can vernacular order be superior to official order? Give an example.
  • Where do large-scale modernist schemes come up short? Give an example.
  • What is Scott’s critique of visual order?

May 20:

Scott, Two Cheers for Anarchism, chs. 3, 5


Ch. 3____Hannah________

  • What do the Vietnam Memorial and Emdrup playground have in common?
  • Why does Scott favor thinking about the workplace in terms of capacities rather than efficiency?
  • Where does Scott see authoritarianism in American society? What are the consequences of these forms of authoritarianism?
  • How does removing all traffic signs signals and regulations make streets safer and people happier?
Ch. 5_________ 
  • Why is Scott opposed to standardized tests?
  • What’s wrong with quantitative measurements of merit?
  • What happens when a measure becomes a target?
  • What is the appeal, and what are the disadvantages of quantitative measures of merit?
  • What is cost benefit analysis? What are its shortcomings?


Final Exam: Thurs. May 27, 12:45 – 3:25pm


The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk). Here you can access the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style.

Here are a couple of websites that will automatically format citations in Chicago style for you: and


  1. One seat space between students when possible.
  2. No bathroom breaks except in the case of illness or emergency.  Student should discuss this circumstance with the proctor prior to the start of the exam.
  3. No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.
  4. Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.
  5. Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.


Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

A—designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.

B—designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.

C—designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.

D—designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.

F—designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.


Plagiarism is a prevalent but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course, please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.
  • Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.
  • Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.
  • The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.


The Academic Success Center provides free one-on-one peer tutoring to graduate and undergraduate students in a wide variety of courses and subjects. Please make liberal use of the ASC if you need assistance with any of the assignments for this course. To make an appointment, use the quick start guide, stop by ASC on the second floor of the Campus Center, or call (909) 448-4342. Answers to frequently asked questions are available here.

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