Winter 2019/20

Undergraduate proseminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

What is capitalism, and why do so many people complain about it? In this course we will explore the ideas, questions, and criticisms surrounding the system known as "capitalism." The first half will be spent examining classic statements by Smith, Marx, Polanyi, Schumpeter, and Hayek. We will then look at some of the challenges capitalism is facing in the 21st century in relation to growth, equality, climate change, and democracy. Along the way, we will ask: How should capitalist markets be regulated, if at all? Does capitalism promote freedom, or are capitalism and freedom at odds with each other? Is capitalism sustainable in the long term, or will we need to think about alternatives? If so, what?

Graduate seminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

This seminar will survey contemporary normative theories of justice in economic relationships and organization. The years since the 2008 crisis have brought a flurry of creative thinking about socioeconomic justice, opening up a variety of new and exciting domains in normative theorizing. After reviewing core statements by John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, and GA Cohen, we will look at innovations that push beyond conventional paradigms of distributive justice, including Erik Olin Wright's idea of "real utopias," the idea of a universal basic income, central banking and financial markets as topics of justice, the firm as a "political" entity, and workplace democracy.

Summer 2019

Undergraduate proseminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

This proseminar will provide an introduction to some key questions and debates in international political theory. Can we speak of "laws," "justice," or "morality" beyond the sovereign state? Do states and their citizens have obligations to foreigners, other societies, or even the world as a whole? Do they have the right to unilaterally control their borders? Is talk of "human rights" or "universal morality" ever anything more than an extension of Western imperialism? In this seminar, we will examine various aspects of debates in four key topics: human rights, postcolonialism, global inequality, and migration.

Teacher training seminar, Institut für Allgemeine Erziehungswissenschaft [Institute for General Educational Science], Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

What does it mean to be a citizen in a modern democratic society? In this seminar, we will examine a variety of questions about modern democratic life from a political theory perspective, including: What is the significance of freedom? How do we understand specifically modern forms of power and domination? How does mass media affect democratic discussion and debate? How do we make sense of cultural diversity? How do the pressures of 21st-century capitalism influence democratic life? Readings will be drawn from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Max Weber, Jürgen Habermas, Michel Foucault, Cécile Laborde, Wolfgang Streeck, and Nancy Fraser.

Winter 2018/9

Introductory undergraduate lecture course, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

This course is an introduction to major ideas and theories that have shaped how liberal-democratic societies think about political community, power, justice, and freedom. What does it mean to belong to a political community? What do we owe to our fellow citizens? Why are we obligated to obey the law? How do we know injustice when we see it? What should we do about it? Over the course of the semester, we will consider how classical and modern theorists grapple with questions such as these, and we will explore how they relate to present-day debates surrounding multiculturalism, capitalism, populism, and the future of democracy.

syllabus

Summer 2018

Graduate seminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Over the past several decades, “deliberative democracy” has emerged as a major paradigm in contemporary democratic theory. Its core premise is that the essence of democracy ultimately lies not in voting and elections but in the way citizens generate a public will through active discussion and debate. Many have found this theory appealing, but it is not without its critics. And there remain many questions about how one goes about making a democracy more “deliberative.” In this seminar, we will examine major statements on deliberative democracy, with special attention to the approach laid out by Jürgen Habermas in Between Facts and Norms. We will consider some of the criticisms of deliberative democracy, and we will also explore proposals and strategies for putting deliberative theory into practice. In addition to Habermas, readings may be drawn from John Rawls, Iris Marion Young, Chantal Mouffe, Bonnie Honig, John Dryzek, Baobang He, Jane Mansbridge, Lea Ypi, Jonathan White, and others.

syllabus

Undergraduate proseminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

What is freedom? And why is it important to us? In this proseminar, we will explore the meaning and value of freedom in modern political philosophy. Freedom has long been considered a central value in modern political society, and yet there is large disagreement on why this is so or even what exactly freedom is. Does “being free” simply mean we are permitted to act as we please without restraints, or does it require something more? Is freedom valuable only because it helps us achieve other things, such as prosperity or happiness, or is freedom valuable for its own sake? How do we weigh freedom with other values important to society, such as security or equality? Might there be certain kinds of freedom in society that turn out to be masks for certain forms of oppression (for example, gender oppression)? These are a few of the questions we will consider as we examine and debate major theories of freedom from the 17th century to the present day. Readings for this proseminar may be taken from Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Constant, John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin, Carole Pateman, Nancy Hirschmann, Cécile Laborde, and others.

syllabus

Summer 2017

Undergraduate proseminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

The world we live in is a world divided into units called “nation-states.” So natural is this order of things to us, that it is hard to imagine it being any other way. Indeed, the idea of the nation-state is one of the most powerful ideas in the modern world. It is the site of democratic community, law, and government; it provides its citizens with rights, protections, a sense of identity, belonging, and even purpose; it instills in its members a willingness to sacrifice their own lives for it or to take the lives of others; it provides governments with the rationale for exclusion, war, conquest, and even genocide. In short, the modern nation-state is the site of some of the greatest political achievements and the most horrifying atrocities in all of human history. In this class, we will explore various aspects of this paradoxical form of political organization. We will look at its historical origins in Europe and its eventual spread around the globe; at the various ideas, ideologies, and forms of social power that made its rise possible; at the ways the development of the nation-state is tied to that of capitalism, imperialism, culture, exclusion, and control. We will also inquire about the future of the nation-state in the present age of globalization, mass immigration, and supranational governance.

syllabus

Winter 2015/6

Graduate seminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

The concept of “crisis” has long held a central place in the modern worldview. As far back as the time of Hobbes, ideas and experiences of crisis have played a key role in shaping how we think about politics, economics, society, history, progress, and law. But what exactly is a crisis? How does the way we think about crisis inform the way we think about politics and society? More to the point, how does the way we think about crisis inform the way we understand the tasks of political and social thought? Our aim in this course will be to unpack these questions by exploring the ways people have thought about crisis from the early modern period to today. For example, many associate crisis with the imminent breakdown of social order, for which extraordinary emergency measures are needed to protect and preserve society. Others, in contrast, read crises as turning points, as crucial moments of decision that allow society to advance from one stage of historical progress to the next. Still others identify crises with symptoms of historical decline, or with deep-seated dysfunctions that gradually wear away at the very fabric of society. Possible readings will draw from Thomas Hobbes, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Carl Schmitt, Reinhart Koselleck, Oren Gross, Bonnie Honig, Jürgen Habermas, Wolfgang Streeck, Nancy Fraser, Janet Roitman, and others.

syllabus

Summer 2012

Interdisciplinary graduate seminar (co-taught with Ethan Miller), Freie Universität Berlin

Pragmatism is by one description an “idea about ideas” or about how we ought to approach ideas in our collective social and political lives. As a school of thought, it is often considered to be the United States’ main contribution to philosophy, one that has been influential around the world as well as criticized. This course will explore the origins, development, and impact of the pragmatist tradition in philosophy and social theory, starting in the late nineteenth century and continuing up to the present day. We will inquire after the historical circumstances in which the early Pragmatists expressed their ideas and how they took shape against the background of the riotous transformations of the late nineteenth century. In addition to examining the historical contexts of Pragmatism, we will also explore and consider various Pragmatists' philosophical contributions to the theory of truth, the philosophy of social science, our understanding of how individuals relate to society, and modern democratic theory. We will read a variety of key thinkers—including Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and Richard Rorty—as well as key texts grapple with the legacy, diversity, and historical meaning of Pragmatism through to the present day.

syllabus

Fall 2006, Fall 2007, and Spring 2008

Undergraduate seminar, New School for General Studies (Public Engagement)

This is an introduction to theories that have shaped our thinking in modern liberal societies about the nature of power, authority, and justice. We will examine the meanings and moral foundations of rights; the idea of a social contract; state sovereignty and individual autonomy; competing conceptions of human nature; the role of reason, nature, and natural law in politics; the concepts of justice, liberty, equality, and democracy; and the emerging tensions between the nation-state and the forces of globalization. Students engage in critical analysis of primary texts by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Marx, Arendt, and other selected theorists. The relevance of these thinkers and their theories to contemporary social and political issues is a theme throughout.

syllabus