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LEGACY OF POWER: BUILDING THE PERFECT GOVERNMENT

Renee Faubion, sanren@unm.edu
Core: Humanities

 

At its most ideal, the American system allows individuals to exercise their rights unimpeded by others. But as recent debates over issues such as gun control and the right to contribute to campaigns suggest, while Americans share a government, they buy into a wide range of dramatically differing values—values so divergent that sometimes it is difficult to understand how we might reconcile their competing claims to forge meaningful law and policy. To better understand this problem, we will explore theories about the role of government. Aristotle, for example, argues that every community aims at some good; what might our “good” be, and how can we best achieve it?

To help refine our ideas, we will consider Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government and Mill’s On Liberty, both fundamental to understanding our own system, as well as Yevgeny Zamyatin’s science fiction novel We, which asks whether it is better to be “happy” than to be “free.” We will also consider the premises and sources of some of our values, the role of property in the civil state and the distinction between violence and power suggested by Hannah Arendt. Over the course of the semester, we will create our own presidential candidates, fictional figures with developing platforms who will compete against one another in a class election. Through readings, discussion, and exercises both fanciful and grounded in reality, we will make ourselves more thoughtful, better-informed participants in our political system.

READINGS AND TEXTS

U. S. Constitution and Amendments 
Aristotle, The Politics
Locke, Second Treatise of Government

Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Hannah Arendt, On Violence

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

Analytic essay; a final research project involving the writing of a policy paper; short homework assignments; active participation in seminar sessions, including the election project; attendance at Legacy lectures, as stipulated by Honors College policy

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

After receiving degrees in Russian from Trinity University and the University of Kansas, Renée Faubion earned a second M.A. and a Ph.D. in English at UNM. She has published articles on H.D. and Tim O’Brien and has won four awards for excellence in teaching.