Phil 480:814 Social and Political Philosophy: Liberalism, Communitarianism and Globalization

Instructors: David Ingram and Thomas Wren

Tuesday: 7:00- 9:30

Rm: DH 730


This course revisits the liberal-communitarian debate in the context of globalization. Issues to be discussed include: international law; human rights, neo-liberal economic policy and alternative proposals for global economic policy; global democracy; and cultural identity. We begin with what is perhaps the most influential treatise ever written on international law: Kant’s  Perpetual Peace (1795- available on-line);. We then move to two contemporary settings of Kant’s liberal classic: John Rawls’s widely discussed The Law of Peoples  and Jürgen Habermas’s The Postnational Constellation. What unifies these liberal philosophies is faith in the power of reason to provide a theory of international justice and human rights that can be made equally persuasive to all reasonable persons, regardless of their particular religious and cultural identifications. What divides them is the question of the role that peculiarly liberal and democratic values play in such a theory. Rawls believes that the irrepressible existence and reasonableness of cultural disagreement will require modifying (if not abandoning) liberal and democratic values in constructing international principles of justice; Habermas disagrees. We will examine their differences in light of David Ingram’s recent and current research on human rights and international law.


The second half of the course examines Charles Taylor’s important communitarian response to the dominant liberal view that world history is geared toward realizing a certain conception of cultural and social modernity and that this conception is centered around the peculiarly liberal and democratic values associated with Western capitalism and its dominant constitutional models, which privilege individual rights over group rights, partisan and competitive democratic forms over consensual and organic forms; and secular, culturally-transcendent principles over religious, culturally-immanent principles. Although Taylor’s communitarianian vision in Modern Social Imaginaries is compatible with some forms of liberalism, it is much more receptive to alternative conceptions of modernity that deviate from standard Western views about the kind of liberal-democratic trajectory globalization should take. We will fill out the concepts of cultural identity and integrity by considering some of Thomas Wren’s recent investigation of the way social sciences use the concepts of culture and society, and then conclude with Carol Gould’s Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights, which examines the possibility of developing global democratic institutions that give equal weight to liberal and communitarian values. In addition to discussing multiculturalism and neoliberalism, Gould also brings feminism to the forefront of her thinking.. 


In addition to these books, students will be asked to read important essays by Nussbaum, Pogge, Sen, Luban, and McCarthy (among others) to supplement their understanding of the aforementioned texts. Most of these readings are contained in Global Justice: Transnational Politics, edited by De Greiff and Cronin. A list of recommended texts such as Seyla Benabib’s … will also be circulated.


Student Expectations and Grading: The grade will be based on two short, 4-page reaction papers (worth 40 % of the grade) and a final exam paper (worth 60% of the grade). The final exam paper will be assigned four weeks before its ABSOLUTE due date, no incompletes being granted except for dire emergencies. N.B. Advanced students or students enrolled for WOST credit will have the option of writing a 15- 20 page research paper on a topic of their choice instead of the exam paper just mentioned. The same due date applies to these papers.


Regarding reaction papers: Students will submit the papers on classes meeting Oct. 04 and Nov. 29, and should bring along enough copies to be distributed among the professors and the rest of the class. These papers must address topics from previously assigned readings, and the choice of topics will be left to students (except for the qualification mentioned below). The following week’s class (Oct 11 and Dec. 5) will be set aside to discuss the papers according to a debate format that will be explained in class.


A schedule of readings is posted …


8/30 Introduction: Liberal Citizenship and Loyalty to One’s Creed. Reading: Rawls’s “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” in The Law of Peoples  (hereafter LP). (Wren)


9/07 Kant’s Perpetual Peace (Wren)

9/14 Rawls, LP, Parts I and II

9/21 “   “ Part III

9/28 Habermas, The Postnational Constellation (hereafter PC): Readings to be announced

10/04 “     reaction papers due; essays by Pogge, Wener, McCarthy, Habermas

10/11 mid-semester break

10/18 Debate: Habermas v. Rawls

10/25 Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries (hereafter MSI), Chs. 1-6

11/01 “    chs. 7-14

11/08 Wren

11/15 Gould, Globalizing Democracy, chs. 1-5. final Exam assigned

11/22      chs. 6-12;

11/29 essays by Sen, Nussbaum, Luban; second reaction paper due

12/05 Debate

12/12 Final papers due