Insegnamento a.a. 2015-2016



Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English

Go to class group/s: 23
BIG (6 credits - II sem. - OB  |  SPS/01)
Course Director:

Classes: 23 (II sem.)

Course Objectives

How free should human beings be? How equal? What kind of freedom and equality are worth having?How powerful should states be?Who should rule?What kinds of constraints should limit the actions of rulers? Of ordinary people?What is democracy?What is good, and what might not be good, about democracy?What is justice?

These are some of the central questions of political theory. They introduce students to the analysis of the two constellations of themes that concern all political societies and the way people choose and behave, in their private and public life: that of liberty and that of justice. In relation to them and the way people are able to answer the questions they pose, communities construct their political order, define the limits of power, and make valuable decisions.

Course Content Summary

  • Theoretical Issues:
    • Freedom and Equality.
  • Political Associations:
    • Polis and Paideia.
    • Republica virtù.
    • The state and Power.
  • Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law.
  • Democracy.
  • Rights, Obligations and Exclusion.
  • Freedom, Markets, and Justice.

Detailed Description of Assessment Methods

  • Two short papers (15%).
  • A long paper (30%).
  • Final exam (35%).
  • and 5% of the final grade will be based on students’ participation in class.  Please note that these percentages are approximations; your final grade will be based ultimately on our judgments about your command of the subject matter of this course and of the skills required to reason about questions of justice.


Readings available on the course reserve;
Required readings:
  • Berlin, Two Concept of Liberty.
  • J.J. Rousseau, The Social Contract (selection as indicated); R.H. Tawney, Equality (selection): B. Williams, The Idea of Equality (selection): Anartya Sen, Inequality Reexamined (selection).
  • Aristotele, Politics Book I; Book VII, ch. 1; Book VIII.
  • N. Machiavelli, Discourses Book I, chs. 1-10, 16-18, 42,43, 46, 58; Book III chs. 1, 3, 41.
  • T. Hobbes, Leviathan Part 1 chs. 13-16; Part 2 chs. 17-18,21, 26-30.
  • J. Locke, The Second Treatise of Government (chs. VII-XIX);
  • Montesquieu, The Spirit of Law (book 11);Federalist 10.
  • M.J.C. Vile, Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers, ch. 2
  • J. Elster, Ulysses and the Sirens II.8 (pp. 87-103).
  • J. Waldron, Law and Disagreement, ch. 12 (Disagreement and Precommitment).
  • Herodotus, The Histories, Book III, sections 80-82;Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book II, ch. 6, sections 35-46 (Funeral Oration of Pericles);J.J.  Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Books I,II,III chs. 1-5, IV chs. 1-3 and 7-9;J.A. Schumpeter Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Part IV, chapters 20-23.
  • I. Kant, Perpetual Peace, in Kant, Political Writings (Cambridge University Press), pp. 93-130; D.A.J. Richards, Rights and Autonomy, Ethics 92(October 1981);M.L. King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail; Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet;M. Walzer, Political Alienation and Military Service, in Walzer, Obligations:  Essays on Disobedience, War, and Citizenship, pp. 99-119;R. Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously, in Dworkin,Taking Rights Seriously, pp. 184-205. What about Berlin instead of Mill?
  • J.S. Mill, On Liberty, ch. 3 (Of Individuality);H. Frankfurt, Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person, Journal of Philosophy 68 (1971);M. Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, ch. 1 (The Relation Between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom);T.H. Green, Lecture on Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract;A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, chs. 1-2; J. Rawls, Justice as Fairness, Philosophical Review 67 (1958):164-194; D. Johnston, A Brief History of Justice, ch. 8 (The TheoryOf Justice as Fairness).
Exam textbooks & Online Articles (check availability at the Library)


Last change 12/05/2015 09:42