Professor Shapiro transitions to the third and final section of the course, an in-depth look at democracy and its institutions. According to him, democracy is the most successful at delivering on the mature Enlightenment's twin promises to recognize individual rights as the ultimate political good and to base politics on some kind of commitment to objective knowledge. And interestingly, democracy as a tradition was not made famous by its champions, but rather by its critics. Professor Shapiro guides the class through the writings of Plato, Tocqueville, Madison, and Dahl. He zeroes in specifically on American democracy and such concepts as tyranny of the majority, factionalism, and checks and balances.
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 1, 9, 10, 14, 23, 39, 47, 48, 51, 55, 58, 62, 70, 78
This course explores main answers to the question, "When do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.