HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT
Learning outcomes of the course unit
Acquire a deeper and more sophisticated knowledge of the origins and the historical development of Western political thought both in ancient and modern times.
- This course will help students to understand the main themes and authors of the Western political tradition in the historical contexts where they developed.
- Students are expected to be able to analyze and interpret past and present national and international political scenarios.
- They are also supposed to elaborate an independent critical textual analysis, and to associate different authors to their political thoughts.
- By analyzing political thinkers’ thought, students will be able to clearly develop critical ideas on the main questions related to modern and contemporary politics.
Course contents summary
By focussing on the works of some of the most important Western political thinkers, the course will address the origins and development of the main concepts in ancient and modern history. This knowledge will be helpful to understand the political experiences of past epochs and of the contemporary world too. The teaching will follow two lines. On the one hand, it will discuss some of the most relevant historical events that shaped the history of political thought, from ancient times to the modern age (i.e. the crisis of the polis model in the Greek world; the civil and religious wars in the perspective of the birth of the modern State; the French Revolution and its consequences on the ideas and political institutions in the nineteenth century; WWI and the birth of mass society; totalitarianism in Europe and the liberal and social models of democracy). On the other hand, the course will address the works of some of the classic authors in the history of political thought, such as Plato's Republic, Machiavelli's Prince, Hobbes's Leviathan, Tocqueville's Democracy in America etc., including some sections of the ideological debates in the 20th century. For a more detailed (though preliminary) list of authors and key-concepts (absolutism, constitutionalism, revolution, liberalism, socialism etc.) check below in the section 'Programma esteso'. For further information and explanation concerning textbooks, office hours, seminars and tutorial activities (even on specific requests by the students) check the section 'Metodi didattici' section).
The origins of political thought in ancient Greece; the political thought of the main Greek philosphers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle; political thought and law in the Roman Republic; Roman thought: Polybius and Cicero; the coming of Christianity: Augustine and Aquinas; Machiavelli; State and sovereignty: Bodin; State of nature, civil society, authority and liberty in Hobbes; Locke’s political thought; Constitution, powers and liberty in Montesquieu; liberty and equality in Rousseau; David Hume; Adam Smith; the American Revolution and “the Federalist”; representation, parties and revolution in Burke; Kant’s political thought; liberalism: B. Constant; democracy and liberty in Tocqueville; socialist currents in the early 19th century and the communist doctrine of K. Marx; liberty and representation in John Stuart Mill; twentieth century political thought: the elitist school (Mosca, Pareto, Michels); Carl Schmitt; Max Weber; totalitarianism.
L.M. Bassani, A. Mingardi, Dalla Polis allo Stato. Introduzione alla Storia del pensiero politico, Giappichelli, Torino 2017 up to page 287.
J.-J. Chevallier, Le grandi opere del pensiero politico, il Mulino, Bologna 1998 (ten chapters by students' choice out of sixteen).
Suggested readings: J.-J. Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, any edition.
No difference between attending and not attending students. However, attending students will be allowed to face topics specifically dealt with during the course: for the a.a. 2018/19 "The political thought of J.-J. Rousseau from the 'Discourses' to the
Students can make proposals for minor group seminarial discussions focused on the analysis of texts (even in the original version). The relationship between the text and the historical context (by stressing the several institutional, socio-economic and philosophical features) is one of the most prominent aims of this optional teaching activity.
During lectures visual instruments (e.g. instance slides, PPT) are not normally used but constant reference is made to visual sources, which can be easily found online. Students are warmly invited to make use of these suggestions.
Assessment methods and criteria
During the exam students should take into consideration:
a) Mastery of basic elements, factual as well conceptual, concerning the course.
b) Assurance in relating authors and works to their historical context.
c) Use of a correct and accurate language.
d) A critical (not simply mnemonic) attitude will be greatly appreciated.
Students particularly interested in the course, especially those who are thinking to write a thesis in the field, but unable to attend, can directly get in touch with the professor.