POLSC201 Study Guide

Site: Saylor Academy
Course: POLSC201: Introduction to Western Political Thought
Book: POLSC201 Study Guide
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Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2021, 8:52 PM

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Study Guide Structure

In this study guide, the sections in each unit (1a., 1b., etc.) are the learning outcomes of that unit. 

Beneath each learning outcome are:

  • questions for you to answer independently;
  • a brief summary of the learning outcome topic;
  • and resources related to the learning outcome. 

At the end of each unit, there is also a list of suggested vocabulary words.


How to Use the Study Guide

  1. Review the entire course by reading the learning outcome summaries and suggested resources.
  2. Test your understanding of the course information by answering questions related to each unit learning outcome and defining and memorizing the vocabulary words at the end of each unit.

By clicking on the gear button on the top right of the screen, you can print the study guide. Then you can make notes, highlight, and underline as you work.

Through reviewing and completing the study guide, you should gain a deeper understanding of each learning outcome in the course and be better prepared for the final exam!

Course Review

Hopefully this course has given you a thoughtful and lucid account of the most important political thinkers and the enduring themes of the last two and a half millennia. As you've seen, Western political thought encompasses a variety of differences and schools of thought. For example, in Unit 1, we discussed the origins of Western thinking on the polis, or city-state. Plato and Aristotle both discuss the ideal polis by considering governance, citizenship, social order, and personal virtue. Essentially, their works ultimately ask the question of what the ideal state is. While Plato feels that a ruler with philosophical training should govern the polis, he also asks several questions in the Republic, such as: Why do men behave justly? Do the stronger elements of society scare the weak into submission in the name of law? Or do men behave justly because it is good for them to do so? Is justice, regardless of its rewards and punishments, a good thing in and of itself? How do we define justice? In the Apology, Socrates (on trial for his life) is less concerned with political doctrine than defining the ideal philosopher.

In Crito, interestingly enough, Socrates seems quite willing to accept his imminent execution because, in his estimation, he would be aiding his enemies in wronging him unjustly and would thus be acting unjustly himself, essentially violating the social contract. And finally, in Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle's most comprehensive work on ethics, he conceives of ethical theory as a field distinct from the theoretical sciences. Its methodology must match its subject matter – good action – and must respect the fact that in this field, many generalizations hold only for the most part. We study ethics to improve our lives, he argues, and therefore its principal concern is the nature of human well-being. Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance, and so on) as complex rational, emotional, and social skills. But he rejects Plato's idea that training in the sciences and metaphysics is a prerequisite for a full understanding of our good. To quote Socrates, "the unexamined life is not worth living". These ancient Greek philosophers did just this, laying the foundation for the first comprehensive examination of the state and its relationship to its citizens.

In Unit 2, we focused on modern political philosophers – Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke. While the ancient Greek polis served as influential models of governance and citizens for centuries, the world was becoming much more complex. As such, these thinkers approached the relationship of the state to its citizens in a much more realistic way. Machiavelli's The Prince is essentially an extended analysis of how to acquire and maintain political power. Machiavelli draws many of his examples in The Prince from contemporary Italian politics and its main political powers. He was one of the first political philosophers to conceive and create politics as an art form, in which the best rulers should be cruel rather than merciful, should break promises if keeping them would be against their interests, undertake great projects to enhance their reputation, and avoid making themselves hated and despised (the goodwill of the people is a better defense than any fortress).

Thomas Hobbes was an admirer of Machiavelli and used his principles on the artificiality of the state in Leviathan, which established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory. Hobbes was a champion of the absolutism of the sovereign. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society cede some rights for the sake of protection. Any abuses of power by this authority are to be accepted as the price of peace. There is no doctrine of separation of powers in Hobbes' discussion. According to Hobbes, the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial, and ecclesiastical powers.

John Locke, one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers, was also a proponent of a strict sovereign. Still, he believed that any government that rules without the consent of the people could, in theory, be overthrown. He did argue that all men are created equal in the state of nature by God. From this, he explains the hypothetical rise of property and civilization, in the process explaining that the only legitimate governments are those that have the consent of the people - a constitutional government. The theories of these three philosophers helped in the development of the modern state.

The final unit of this course focuses on contemporary political philosophy, mostly in the mid-19th century. Historically, this was a time of tremendous technological advancement, rapid industrialization, and clear social class divisions. Here, these thinkers consider issues of the legitimacy of the elites, the notion of participatory democracy, and the redistribution of resources between the rich and the poor. For example, Rousseau argues in his Discourse that the only natural inequality among men is the inequality that results from differences in physical strength, for this is the only sort of inequality that exists in the state of nature. As Rousseau explains, however, in modern societies, the creation of laws and property have corrupted natural men and created new forms of inequality that are not following natural law. Rousseau calls these unjustifiable, unacceptable forms of inequality moral inequality, and he concludes by clarifying that this sort of inequality must be contested.

During his travels in 19th-century America, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville analyzed why republican representative democracy succeeded in the United States while failing in so many other places. However, he warned of possible threats to democracy and the possible dangers of democracy (including the tyranny of the majority).

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels crafted theories about society, economics, and politics – collectively known as Marxism – which hold that all societies progress through the dialectic of class struggle: a conflict between an ownership class that controls production and a lower class which produces the labor for goods. Again, they were both warnings of the Industrial Revolution, which was spreading rapidly throughout Europe. This unit served as both a historical study and a platform for discussing today's political debate on class inequality and the role of government in the economy and the redistribution of resources.

Unit 1: The Polis

1a. Describe the social order and governance of society as presented in Plato's Republic

  • Briefly describe the concept of the polis. What did it mean to Plato, and what does the term refer to now?
  • Explain the virtue of justice, as described in The Republic.
  • Consider the questions: is justice always a virtue, and injustice always a vice? Is justice worthwhile, in and of itself? How does justice at the city-state level differ from justice at the individual level?
  • Identify the three classes of society described in The Republic.
  • Describe the roles of each of the three classes.
  • Why does specialization in the three classes lead to a "just" society?
  • Describe the characteristics of a philosopher-king.
  • Explain why Plato thinks philosopher-kings are the ideal rulers.
  • How does rule by a philosopher-king reflect the principle of specialization? Be sure to understand the concept of the Form of the Good, and how it relates to the philosopher-king's right to rule.

In his book, The Republic, Plato (c. 428–348 BC) outlines the ideal state, relaying a discussion Socrates had with his companions about the individual and the individual's relationship to the state.

Plato believes an ideal society is based on the principle of specialization. When labor is divided among citizens "justly", and according to their natural inclinations, the city will reach its maximum potential.

A key question in Western political thought is: who should rule? According to Plato, the ideal political community is ruled by a philosopher-king.

Review Plato's thoughts on justice in Book I and Book II of The Republic. Review Plato's thoughts on justice in Philosophers and Kings: Plato's Republic, III-IV. Review Plato's writings on specialization in Book II and Book IV of The Republic, and the roles of the three classes in the Unit 1 Discussion. Review the "Form of the Good" in Book V of The Republic.


1b. Explain the narrative of Socrates' trial and subsequent death as told in Plato's Apology and Crito

  • What do you think are the actual reasons Socrates was put on trial and sentenced to death?
  • Why did the Athenian authorities find Socrates threatening?
  • Consider what we mean by the Socratic Method.
  • Explain what characterizes Socrates's speech in Plato's work, The Apology. How is it unique?
  • Consider how Socrates' rhetoric differs from the rhetoric and approach of his accusers.
  • Why does Socrates believe philosophy and poetry are in conflict?
  • Why does Socrates believe it would be better for him to die, than to confess or otherwise evade his sentence? Describe Socrates' view of the Laws.
  • Why does Crito disagree with Socrates? How does Crito's worldview contrast with the worldview of Socrates?

In The Apology, Plato outlines the speech Socrates (c. 470–399 BC), his teacher and mentor, made in self-defense when he was put on trial for impiety and for morally corrupting the youth of the city-state. In Crito, Plato recounts a debate between Crito and Socrates before Socrates's death sentence is carried out.

Review this material in Socratic Citizenship: Plato's Apology. Reread the passages in The Apology where Socrates compares himself to a gadfly or a gift of God. Review the characteristics of the Socratic Method in the Unit 1 Discussion and in the text of The Apology. Review Socrates' conceptualization of a poet and philosopher in Book X of The Republic, and Poetry and Philosophy, and Crito.


1c. Compare and contrast the arguments of Socrates in the Apology and Crito with his arguments in the Republic

  • Explain the idea of a social contract, which Socrates describes in Crito. Why is the concept of a social contract an important contribution to the study of political philosophy?
  • Focus particularly on the role of the individual, as described in The Republic and The Apology, with the role of the individual Crito describes.

Some believe the views Socrates expressed in Crito conflict with those he expressed in The Republic and The Apology.

Review The Antagonism Between Personal and Public Virtue for a succinct comparison of Socrates' views expressed in The Republic, The Apology, and Crito. Pay close attention to the first paragraph, and the second full paragraph on the second page. Also review the last third of Socratic Citizenship: Plato's Crito.


1d. Discuss the concepts of justice, equality, citizenship, and virtue as presented in the Republic with those presented in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Politics

  • What is eudaimonia? Describe the connections between virtue, intelligence, happiness, and eudaimonia.
  • Compare and contrast eudaimonia with Socrates' views of the highest end of man, as described in The Republic by Plato.
  • What does this mean, and how does this differ from the metaphysical approach of Socrates?
  • How do men live virtuous lives according to Aristotle? Think about what it takes to become a virtuous person. Does Aristotle believe we pick and choose our virtues?
  • What is the relationship between happiness and virtue?
  • What does it mean when Aristotle says virtue is a mean state?
  • Explain why Aristotle believes that justice sums up all virtues.
  • Explain why Socrates believes harmony is the guiding principle behind justice at the individual and city levels.
  • What does Aristotle think about distributive justice?
  • Compare Aristotle's ideas of distributive justice with Socrates' discussion of the principle of specialization (outlined in Book II and Book IV of The Republic).

According to Aristotle (384–322 BC), eudaimonia is the highest end of human beings. Read the first paragraph The Doctrine of the Mean and revisit Book I of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics to explore the concept of eudaimonia. It may help to think about what Aristotle means by a "highest end", as described on page two of The Good Life: Virtue and Well-Being. Then, return to Socrates' discussion on the Form of the Good, in Book VI of The Republic.

We often say that Aristotle's method of inquiry regarding virtue and justice begins from praxis. Review this material in page one and page four of The Good Life: Virtue and Well-Being.

Recognizing that Aristotle's approach begins from praxis, think about how Aristotle addresses the following questions in his book Nicomachean Ethics. Review Aristotle's thoughts about questions about virtue in Book I, Book II, Book III and Book IV of Nicomachean Ethics. Also review page four of  The Doctrine of the Mean and the The Preconditions of Virtue.

Both Socrates and Aristotle explore the concept of justice, and believe it is supreme among the virtues. In fact, Aristotle even states that all virtue is summed up in the virtue of justice. Review this material in Book V of Nicomachean Ethics. Socrates approaches the concept of justice by exploring it at the city level in Books III and IV of The Republic. He argues that justice at the city level will parallel justice at the individual level. Review Aristotle's thoughts on distributive and general justice in Book V of Nicomachean Ethics, Book III of Politics, and in  Distributive Justice as the Task of the Polis. Review pages three to four of The Good Life: Virtue and Well-Being for additional insight into the differences between Socrates and Aristotle's views of justice.


1e. Explain how Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics forms the basis for conceptions of government in Politics, and why Aristotle considers aristocracy based in virtue as the ideal form of government over oligarchy or democracy

  • Why does Aristotle believe that political science is the most authoritative of the sciences?
  • How is theoretical wisdom important to Aristotle's conception of governance?
  • What benefits and problems does he see with oligarchy? What about democracy?
  • Why does society benefit from a ruler who is a virtuous aristocrat? Consider what Aristotle means by virtuous and aristocrat as you formulate your answer.

Virtue, justice, and eudaimonia are a few of the major points of exploration in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. However, Aristotle believes virtue is grounded in the real world and stems from praxis. Consequently, virtue is intertwined with the polis and cannot exist without it. In other words, there is no separate political and ethical sphere; instead, they are one. Review the connection between virtue and the polis in The Doctrine of the Mean. Review Book I of Nicomachean Ethics and the first paragraph of The Good Life: Virtue and Well-Being. Review the concept of theoretical wisdom in Book X of Nicomachean Ethics and in Practical Reason and Politics.

As you work through these topics, consider other specific ways that the main points from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics also appear in Politics and in his thoughts about government as a whole. Review The Primacy of Law as you think through these connections.

According to Aristotle, a virtuous aristocracy is the ideal form of government. Review The Mixed Regime and the Rule of Law: Aristotle's Politics IV and Aristotle's discussion on the various forms of government and their benefits in Book III of Politics. Distributive Justice and the Task of the Polis also addresses Aristotle's views on oligarchy, democracy, and virtuous aristocracy.


Unit 1 Vocabulary

  • Aristotle
  • Aristocracy
  • Auxiliary class
  • Eudaimonia
  • Crito
  • Democracy
  • Distributive justice
  • Form of the Good
  • Gadfly
  • Governance
  • Guardian class
  • Justice
  • Kallipolis
  • Nicomachean Ethics
  • Mean state
  • Metaphysical approach
  • Oligarchy
  • Poetry
  • Polis
  • Philosopher-king
  • Plato
  • Praxis
  • Producer class
  • Rhetoric
  • Social contract
  • Socrates
  • Socratic Method
  • Specialization
  • The Apology
  • The Republic
  • Theoretical wisdom
  • Vice
  • Virtuous autocracy
  • Virtue

Unit 2: Modern Political Thought

2a. Explain the difference between classical political thought and modern political thought both in terms of historical context and method

  • Consider the historical context surrounding classical political thought. What characterized the political landscape of ancient Greece and Rome?
  • Next, consider the historical context of modern political thought. How did events like the Renaissance (1300–1600), the English Civil War (1642–1651), the American Revolution (1765–1783), the European Enlightenment (1715–1789), and the French Revolution (1789–1799), shape the ideas of the European philosophers Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), and John Locke (1632–1704)?
  • Do you see classical political thought reflected in the views of modern political thinkers like Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke? What do they have in common, and how are they different? For example, consider how Machiavelli's perspective on virtue in The Prince differs from Plato's perspective on virtue.
  • How do their methods compare to those of the classical political thinkers? Think about which approach is more practical, and which is more theoretical.

All political thinkers are influenced by the era in which they live. As they formulate their ideas about politics, society, and governance, they are observing and experiencing events in the world around them.

Review comparisons of Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli in New Modes and Orders: Machiavelli's The Prince 1-12, and a comparison of Hobbes with Aristotle in The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan I.


2b. Describe the influence that the Renaissance and the Enlightenment had on political thought

  • What were the key values of the European Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment?
  • How did the Renaissance and the Enlightenment change how people thought about government, individualism, religion, reason, and the state?
  • How did the events of the Renaissance and Enlightenment influence Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke?
  • Why do political scientists consider the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1651 to be a significant political development? How did it influence the writing of Hobbes' Leviathan?
  • How did the scientific revolution influence political thought?

The European Renaissance began in Italy in the 14th century and spread throughout Europe until the 17th century, when the Age of Enlightenment began. Review how the Renaissance influenced the idea of the self in The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan II-III.

Make a timeline that historically maps out when Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke were formulating their ideas on politics and governance. What do you observe? The Renaissance and the Enlightenment resulted in new and complex political issues. Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke experienced events Aristotle and Plato could not have imagined. Review this material in The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan I, and in Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Review how Hobbes envisioned himself as part of the scientific revolution in The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan I. Also revisit The Significance of Mercenaries, which studies humanism, Machiavelli, and the values of the Renaissance.


2c. Define the state of nature

  • What does Hobbes think about human nature, and how do these beliefs relate to his concept of the state of nature? Do you agree with Hobbes' view of human nature?
  • According to Hobbes, why is the "state of nature" characterized by insecurity and war?
  • Hobbes argues that we need government, law, and civilization due to the "state of nature". A key question is: how does the "state of nature" make legitimate authority possible?
  • How does Locke's view of the state of nature differ from Hobbes? In particular, consider how Locke's emphasis on property rights influences his definition of "state of nature".

The concept of the "state of nature" represents a critical theme in Hobbes' writings. To Hobbes, the "state of nature" is the natural condition of all mankind. It is what we would experience in a world where we have no laws or civilization to constrain human action. Review this in Book I, Chapter XIII of Leviathan, where Hobbes describes life as "nasty, brutish, and short". Also review The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan, Part I and The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan II-III.

Locke also discusses the "state of nature". Review Constitutional Government: Locke's Second Treatise 1-5.


2d. Discuss and analyze the ideas and arguments regarding justice, equality, sovereignty, citizenship, and the nature of the individual in the works of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke, with particular regard to the social contract

  • How does the social contract arise out of the state of nature? How does the social contract give a government legitimacy?
  • Describe Locke's doctrine of consent to government.
  • As you compare the views of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke regarding the social contract, what do each of these thinkers believe is the main responsibility of government?
  • What is individualism? Why is the freedom of an individual an important part of social contract theory?
  • Define citizenship. According to the ideas of the social contract, what are the benefits of citizenship, and what do we have to give up to be citizens?
  • Do Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Locke believe all men are equal? Why is your response to this question important when considering their views about the social contract?

A social contract is an implicit agreement between a government and a citizen of that government. For example, the government may agree to provide security and order. In exchange, citizens are willing to give up some of their freedoms and autonomy, and accept the government has a legitimate right to rule. Review Hobbes' view of the social contract in Book II, Chapter 17-19 of Leviathan and in The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan I. Review Locke's view of the social contract in the Second Treatise of Government.

Review the doctrine of consent in the Second Treatise of Government and in Constitutional Government: Locke's Second Treatise 1-5.

Review the views on the main responsibility of government in Chapters I-IV of The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli and in the Second Treatise of Government by John Locke.

This idea of the social contract influenced how Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke understood other key values, such as justice, equality, sovereignty, citizenship, and individualism. Review Hobbes' views on individualism in The Sovereign State: Hobbes' Leviathan II-III.

Review how Machiavelli and Locke viewed the concept of citizenship in Chapters V-VII of The Prince and Chapters 1-2 of the Second Treatise of Government.

Review the key themes surrounding the social contract for Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke in Constitutional Government: Locke's Second Treatise 1-5.


2e. Define constitutional government and explain Locke's arguments in support of it

  • In the Second Treatise, Locke outlines what is necessary for a government to be considered legitimate. Why is consent necessary for legitimacy? How does a constitutional government achieve consent?
  • Why does Locke argue that government is necessary because of the state of nature?
  • Define natural rights.

A constitutional government is, quite simply, a government that is constrained by a constitution. In what ways does a constitution constrain the actions of a government? Review this in Chapters 3-4 of Locke's Second Treatise of Government and in Constitutional Government: Locke's Second Treatise 7-12.

Throughout his Second Treatise, Locke argues in favor of constitutional government, and against monarchies, focusing on the importance of property rights. Review Locke's explanation of what constitutes the natural rights of man in Chapter 7, section 87, of his Second Treatise of Government.

Finally, in order to explain why Locke argues in favor of constitutional government, it may help to explain why Locke argues against monarchies. Monarchies can take away citizens' property or lives without penalty, which violates their natural rights. Consider how constitutional governments protect natural rights. Review the right to property in Constitutional Government: Locke's Second Treatise 1-5. Review Chapters VI to VII of Locke's Second Treatise of Government.


2f. Explain Locke's influence on the content of the US Constitution

  • The U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence emphasize the inalienable rights of man. How do these inalienable rights compare to the natural rights Locke describes in Chapter II of his Second Treatise of Government?
  • An important principle expressed in the U.S. Constitution is the idea of limited government, restrained by the rule of law. What does Locke say about limited government?
  • Locke wrote extensively on the doctrine of consent. Do you see this doctrine at work in the foundational documents of the U.S. government?
  • What did Locke say about legislative powers and the separation of powers within government? How is this theme reflected in the U.S. Constitution?

Thomas Jefferson and other U.S. Founding Fathers were familiar with Locke's work: Locke's ideas reflected in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In many ways, the U.S. Constitution embodies a written expression of the social contract that Locke described. Besides this influence on the Constitution, Locke also influenced specific ideas found within the U.S. Constitution.

Review this material in Constitutional Government: Locke's Second Treatise 7-12 and in Locke's Second Treatise of Government.

Unit 2 Vocabulary

  • American revolution
  • Citizenship
  • Classical political thought
  • Constitutional government
  • Doctrine of consent
  • English Civil War
  • Era of Enlightenment
  • Equality
  • French Revolution
  • Human nature
  • Inalienable rights
  • Individualism
  • John Locke
  • Legitimacy
  • Modern political thought
  • Monarchy
  • Natural law
  • Natural rights
  • Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Property rights
  • Renaissance
  • Renaissance humanism
  • Scientific revolution
  • Separation of powers
  • Social contract
  • Sovereignty
  • State of nature
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Treaty of Westphalia
  • Virtue

Unit 3: Liberal Democracy and Its Critics

3a. Describe the difference between Rousseau's notion of "the state of nature" with that of Hobbes and Locke

  • Explain how pity plays a role in Rousseau's state of nature.
  • According to Rousseau, why do men cooperate in the state of nature?
  • Consider the role reason plays in Rousseau's state of nature.

As you recall, Hobbes characterized the state of nature with violence and insecurity, stemming from man's innate aggressiveness. Locke, on the other hand, envisions the state of nature as a condition that exists when all property exists in common. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), the Swiss philosopher, had a different conceptualized of the state of nature. As you review how Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau's described the state of nature, consider their commonalities, including the themes of equality and freedom.

Review Rousseau's notion of the state of nature in The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially Chapters IV-VI. Also review Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse I.


3b. Explain Rousseau's thoughts about the origins of societal inequality and the relationship between freedom and equality

  • Why does Rousseau think man is totally free in the state of nature?
  • What are the chains placed on man outside of the state of nature?
  • Compare moral and natural inequality.
  • Explain why Rousseau believes inequality breeds dependence.
  • What is the general will, and why does Rousseau think people are free when they obey it?
  • How has society created inequalities that do not exist in the state of nature?
  • What is the only "true" inequality that exists, according to Rousseau?

Rousseau's famous quote on freedom, "All men are born free, and everywhere he is in chains", appears in Book I, Chapter I of The Social Contract and Discourses. For Rousseau, man is free when he is able to obey the laws he gives himself.

Next, consider why Rousseau believes equality is an important part of man's freedom. To Rousseau, inequality breeds dependence, and a man who is dependent is not totally free. Thus, the goal of a political community should be to seek moral equality by following the general will.

Review this material in Rousseau's The Social Contract and Discourses and in Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse I.


3c. Compare and contrast the need for and design of a social contract as explained in the writings of Rousseau and Locke

  • As you review the Second Treatise, consider the significance of Locke's doctrine of consent.
  • How is private property a significant part of Locke's views of a social contract?
  • Explain the role of the lawmaker in Rousseau's conceptualization of the social contract.
  • Why is religion important in the social contract according to Rousseau?
  • Why do Locke and Rousseau believe men are willing to give up some of their freedoms to enter into a social contract?
  • Consider the different ways Locke and Rousseau define freedom.
  • Locke and Rousseau felt certain conditions justify the dissolution of a social contract by citizens. What are these conditions?

Locke explored his ideas of a social contract extensively in his Second Treatise of Government. Contrast it with Rousseau's view. Review Rousseau's ideas about the social contract in Democracy and Participation: Rousseau's Discourse I. Review Locke's views in Chapter III of Second Treatise of Government and Book I, Chapter IV of Rousseau's The Social Contract and Discourses.


3d. Explain the role Tocqueville believed religion played in American society

  • What role does religion play in American society?
  • Consider the relationship between religion and the ability of citizens to resist tendencies toward materialism and self-interest.
  • How does religion provide Americans with a purpose? Why does Tocqueville think religion is a necessary component for human action?

In his work Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859), a French diplomat, discusses the role of religion in American society: he believes religion plays a stronger role in the United States than it does in Europe due to the separation of church and state.

Consider the role of religion in American government and the separation of church and state. Why does Tocqueville consider religion to be another check on the tyranny of the majority in the United States? Why does he think religion is critical for freedom and democracy?

Review this material in Book II, Chapter 9 and Book I, Chapter XVII of Democracy in America. Review the role of religion in Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America II.


3e. Describe Tocqueville's thoughts on the notion of equality in America and France

  • Compare and contrast Tocqueville's ideas about the French and American forms of democracy.
  • What did Tocqueville think the future held for French and American forms of democracy?
  • Explain what Tocqueville meant by equality of social conditions and why it is important to democracy in both France and America.
  • Why does Tocqueville think history progresses toward a gradual equalization of social conditions?
  • Consider the future of equality in France, according to Tocqueville.

In Democracy in America, Tocqueville is interested in the question of how a system of inequality (a monarchy) is replaced by a system in which men are considered equal (a democracy). He spends a great deal of time comparing the form democracy took in the United States with the form democracy took in France. According to Tocqueville, the United States offered the best example of equality achieved through democracy.

Review the future of equality in France and Tocqueville's "equality of social conditions" in Democratic Statecraft: Tocqueville's Democracy in America I. Review Tocqueville's discussions on equality in France and America in Book II, Section IV, Chapter 1 and in Book I, Chapter VI of Democracy in America.


3f. Explain Marx's thoughts on the relationship between Christianity, the secular state, and capitalism

  • Why does Marx believe religion is part of the superstructure in society?
  • How does the bourgeoisie use religion to exploit the proletariat?
  • Explain how religion creates a false consciousness, according to Marx.
  • Consider Marx's famous quote, "religion is the opiate of the masses". According to Marx, how does the proletariat use religion to cope with alienation? What does Marx mean by alienation?

According to Karl Marx (1818–1883), the German philosopher and economist, capitalist society is characterized by a conflict between the bourgeoisie (owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (the working class). The bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat for their own gains.

Review this material in Marx and the Enlightenment and the role of religion in perpetuating capitalist exploitation in Karl Marx (1818-1883).


3g. Describe Marx's theory of history, and how his economic worldview relates to political structure

  • Explain what characterizes each of Marx's stages of history.
  • Why did Marx believe that socialism comes after capitalism?
  • Describe why Marx believed the primary driver of history is class struggle, and why the exploitation of the proletariat is important to Marx's worldview.
  • Why can we characterize Marx's view of history as a materialist view of history?
  • Explain how the term dialectic relates to Marx's theory of history.
  • How is wealth created under capitalism, according to Marx?
  • Consider how these terms relate to Marx's view of economic relations: means of production, division of labor, and alienation.
  • Compare and contrast Marx's concepts of use-value and exchange-value (price).

Marx divides history into five basic stages: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism and socialism. Marx's foundation in evolution, technology, and social change are discussed in Karl Marx (1818-1883). as are Marx's thoughts on the transition from capitalism to socialism, which Marx discusses in his Critique of the Gotha Program.

According to Marx, society's superstructure (or relations of production) is explained by economic structures. Review exploitation and Marx's dialectical method and thoughts on materialism in Marxian Exploitation and Distributive Justice

Review Part I: The Commodity from Marx's Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. For a general overview of Marx's theory of history and his beliefs about the relationship between politics and economics, review Analytical Marxism: Self-Ownership and Distributive Justice.


Unit 3 Vocabulary

  • Alienation
  • Bourgeoisie
  • Capitalism
  • Class struggle
  • Communal
  • Communism
  • Democracy
  • Dialectic
  • Division of labor
  • Doctrine of consent
  • Equality of social conditions
  • Exchange value
  • False consciousness
  • Feudalism
  • Freedom
  • Doctrine of consent
  • General will
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Materialism
  • Means of production
  • Pity
  • Proletariat
  • Religion
  • Separation of church and state
  • Social contract
  • Socialism
  • State of nature
  • Superstructure
  • Tyranny of the majority
  • Use value
  • Wealth