The Moral Foundations of Politics

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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.

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Natural Law Roots of the Social Contract Tradition
Distributive Justice
Neoclassical Utilitarianism
Rights and Utility


Lecture 1 Information and Housekeeping

Lecture 2 Introductory Lecture

Lecture 3 Natural Law Roots of the Social Contract Tradition

Lecture 4 Origins of Classical Utilitarianism

Lecture 5 Classical Utilitarianism and Distributive Justice

Lecture 6 From Classical to Neoclassical Utilitarianism

Lecture 7 The Neoclassical Synthesis of Rights and Utility

Lecture 8 Limits of the Neoclassical Synthesis

Lecture 9 The Marxian Challenge

Lecture 10 Marx's Theory of Capitalism

Lecture 11 Marxian Exploitation and Distributive Justice

Lecture 12 The Marxian Failure and Legacy

Lecture 13 Appropriating Locke Today

Lecture 14 Rights as Side Constraints and the Minimal State

Lecture 15 Compensation versus Redistribution

Exam 1 Midterm

Lecture 16 The Rawlsian Social Contract

Lecture 17 Distributive Justice and the Welfare State

Lecture 18 The "Political-not-Metaphysical" Legacy

Lecture 19 The Burkean Outlook

Lecture 20 Contemporary Communitarianism (I)

Lecture 21 Contemporary Communitarianism (II)

Lecture 22 Democracy and Majority Rule (I)

Lecture 23 Democracy and Majority Rule (II)

Lecture 24 Democratic Justice: Theory

Lecture 25 Democratic Justice: Applications

Exam 2 Final Exam