SOCIAL WORLD is a two-semester course sequence emphasizing the foundations and development of the social sciences (political science, psychology, anthropology, economics, sociology), the tools of these disciplines (quantitative and qualitative), and the use of the social sciences in analyzing current social issues. Faculty from the various social sciences have designed and are team-teaching this interdisciplinary course.
This course studies classic works from the ancient and medieval traditions of western social and political thought up to the modern rejection of those traditions inaugurated by Machiavelli. Ancient and medieval thinkers typically conceived of civic life as involving an ordering of the soul as well as an arrangement of physical conditions and resources, while early moderns like Machiavelli promote a realism dominated by the concepts of material self-interest and bodily security. With this course, we seek to put in place a framework to facilitate our own reconsideration of the famous "quarrel between the ancients and the moderns" on perennial questions of social and political organization. Representative texts include Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Politics and Ethics, Augustine's City of God, Aquinas' On Kingship, and John of Salisbury's Policraticus, in addition to Machiavelli's Prince and Discourses on Livy.
This course studies classic modern works of western social and political thought that have played a formative role in the rise of modern political life and contemporary social science. In works by Hobbes and Locke, for example, we explore the origins of contemporary liberal democracy and consider the initial efforts to formulate a social science on the model of modern natural science. In works by Rousseau and Marx, we encounter the first great critical assessment of modern liberalism and examine its impact on the political landscape of modernity as well as on the study of social and political life. Utilizing the framework erected in the previous semester (Social World I), we also continue our mediation of the famous "quarrel between the ancients and the moderns" on certain perennial questions of human existence. Representative texts include Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration and Second Treatise, Rousseau's Social Contract, Smith's Wealth of Nations, Marx's German Ideology, and Weber's The Protestant Ethic.