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Introduction to Political Theory

Grossmont College
Professor Braunwarth

  • How should society be governed?
  • Who should rule?
  • What are our rights and do we have obligations to the larger community?
  • How do we resolve the tension between valuing the individual and supporting the collective?
  • Who should get what and why?
  • Are people basically good? Evil? Selfish? Reasonable?

These are some of the great questions that have occupied the minds of some of the great thinkers of time. This is the stuff of political theory. Through an understanding of how different theories and ideologies grapple with these questions we will come to a better understanding of our own conceptions of how things should be.

Catalog Description:

A comparative and conceptual analysis of the principal ideological and philosophical approaches to government. This course surveys the important political ideas and alternatives which have been suggested from ancient to modern times.

Required Text and Readings (you must buy and read):

  • Schumaker, Kiel, and Heilke. Great Ideas/Grand Schemes: Political Ideologies in the 19th and 20th Centuries. McGraw-Hill, 1996.
  • Ball and Dagger. Ideals and Ideologies: A Reader. 4th edition. Longman, 2002.
  • Additional readings will be assigned throughout the semester. These will be available either on-line or on reserve at the library.
  • Occasionally films and videos will be shown in class. These are to be considered texts for this class and information from these sources may appear on exams accordingly.

Recommended Text:

Bell and McGrane. This Book is Not Required. Revised Edition. Pine Forge Press, 1999.

Course Requirements/Methods of Evaluations


Students will be required to complete all reading assignments by the date on which they are assigned.  Since the course will be run as a seminar, active participation in the forms of listening, discussing, asking questions (respectfully), challenging others, and submitting your own ideas to scrutiny by others is a central ingredient of this course. Twice during the semester you will be asked to evaluate your own participation including how well you have kept up with the readings.  These self-assessments will serve as the basis for your final participation grade.


Short papers (1-3 pages) will be assigned periodically. Late papers will be accepted, but will be downgraded precipitously (in other words, turn your papers in on time).


In addition to our primary text, we will read the work of some of the greatest political theorists of all time.  You will be responsible for introducing to the class the main ideas of one of these selections during the semester.  Your presentation must include:

-a brief overview of the reading and how it relates to the course

-some additional insight, information, “value-added”, etc.

-question(s) or topic(s) for class discussion

-some type of visual aid (handout, power point, whiteboard, poster, etc.)

-a typewritten outline of the presentation for the instructor


Midterm exam.  Exams will consist of selections from the readings.  You will have to identify the theorist and explain the theory.


Final exam.

Total Points



Your final grade is not curved and will be assigned according to the following table:

A = 90%+

(outstanding work)

B = 80%-89%

(very good work)

C = 70%-79%

(average, satisfactory work)

D = 60%-69%

(below average, marginal work)

F = 0 –69%

(very unsatisfactory work)


Plagiarism or cheating will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.

Be on time, let me know if you will have to leave early, turn off your cell phone.

Do the readings before the class. You will be tested on this information

Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor and contact Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSP&S) early in the semester so that reasonable accommodations may be implemented as soon as possible. Students may contact DSP&S in person in room 110 or by phone at 619-644-7112 (voice) or 619-644-7119 (TTY for deaf).

On-Campus Resources:

Academic Counseling, Rm. 118, x7208

Transfer Center, Rm. 100, x7215

Writing Lab, Rm. 571, x7516

Reading Center, Rm. 546, x7464

Tutor Center, LRC Rm. 711J, x7387

Writing Guidelines

Writing Resources

How not to do well in this class

An Optimistic Course Outline and Readings:


Schumaker, Kiel, Heilke

Ball and Dagger

Assignment/ other readings


1.   Introduction

Preface and Chapter 1

pp. 1,2


“The Allegory of the Cave”


2.      Classical Liberalism 

Chapter 2

pp. 69-71

12. Hobbes “The State of Nature and the Basis of Obligation”

13. Locke “Toleration and Government”

15. Declaration of Independence of the United States

7. Bill of Rights of the United States


Jose Orosco

3. Classical Liberalism – The Free Market


17. Smith “Private Profit, Public Good”

19. J.S. Mill “Liberty and Individuality”

 Churchill press release

Will Breen

Lindsay Everett

4. Traditional Conservatism

Chapter 3

pp. 143-144

25. Burke “Society, Reverence, and the “True Natural Aristocracy””

29. Oakeshott “On Being Conservative”

Locke and Burke assignment due Tue 2/22

John Shippam

Jack Ross

5. Anarchism

Chapter 4

41. Bakunin “Anarcho-Communism v. Marxism”

42. Goldman “Anarchism: What it Really Stands For”

Thoreau "Civil Disobedience"

"The Anarchists Next Door" 

Nickie Bergvall

Scott Schulman

6. Marxism

Chapter  5

pp. 195-196

34. Owen “Address to the Inhabitants of New Lanark

35. Marx and Engels The Communist Manifesto

36.  Marx “On the Materialist Conception of History”

 Other information on Marxism

Liz Meihaus

7. Communism

Chapter 6

pp. 215-216

38. Lenin “Revision, Imperialism, and Revolution”

40. Mao “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”


Nick Rodenberg

Jim Griffin

8. Democratic Socialism

Chapter 9

43. Shaw “Fabian Socialism”

10. Walzer “Town Meetings and Workers’ Control”

45. Gould “Socialism and Democracy”

Marx assignment

Midterm 3/17/05

Alma Acevedo

Barrett VanTieghem

9. Neo-Marxism



Marcuse  Chapter One of "One Dimensional Man

Jorge Martinez

10. Contemporary Liberalism and

Contemporary Conservatism

Chapter 8 Chapter 10

21. Green “Liberalism and Positive Freedom”

24. Spragans

31. Bork “Modern Liberalism and Cultural Decline”

32. Reed “A Religious Conservative Vision for America”


Michael George

Vince Tursi


Sabrina Macilvaine

Lindsay Osborn


11. Fascism

Chapter 7


48. The Political Theory of Fascism, Alfredo Rocco.


Bowling for Columbine assignment

Devan Heuther

Adam Medlin


12. Political Islam

Chapter 11

64. “Secularism and the Civil Society,” Bernard Lewis.

65. “The Neglected Duty,” Abd al-Salam Faraj.


Ahmad Kiyam

Jaryd Davis

13. Political Economy Week



Political Economy Week Schedule


14. Feminism

Chapter 13


Political Economy Week assignment

Gordon Rush Ad


Mary Nelson


15. Liberation Ideologies


50. King “Letters From Birmingham City Jail”

56. Corvino "Homosexuality: The Nature and Harm Arguments"

Gay Tolerance at Grossmont Union H.S.?

William Lake

16. Green Ideology

Chapter 12

59. Singer “All Animals are Equal”

60. Leopold “The Land Ethic”

61. Berry “Getting Along with Nature”

62. Foreman “Putting the Earth First”

Free Range at Last

Global Warming

Liberation Ideology assignment

Steve Marshall

Carlo Emami



Tu 5/24 11:30-1:30



Last Updated: 11/16/2014
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