The trial of Adolf Eichmann, as presented in Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, is the topic of discussion. Professor Shapiro asks students what made them uncomfortable, not only about Eichmann's actions as a Nazi officer, but also the actions of Israel in capturing, extraditing, trying, and executing him. This begs the questions, what makes a government legitimate? And more specifically, was the Third Reich illegitimate and was Eichmann breaking some kind of higher law? After class discussion, Professor Shapiro frames the five traditions that were introduced in the previous class as ways to answer this question of governmental legitimacy, and introduces John Locke, the topic of the next lecture, as a backdrop for these traditions.
Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, chapters 1-8 and 13-15
Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, rest of the book [optional]
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.