POLS 351: Liberalism and Its Critics

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Fall 2006



  • Prof. Andrea Radasanu


  • Zulauf 408

Phone Number

  • 753-7052

Email Address

  • aradasanu@niu.edu

Office Hours

  • T & Th 1:30pm – 3:00pm or by appointment.


  • DU 459

Class Time

  • T & Th 11am- 12:15pm



Course Description:


Classical liberalism contends that the purpose of civil society and government is to secure the peaceful enjoyment of natural individual rights –life, liberty and property. Liberalism makes a distinction between private and public domains, and understands the public domain to be limited by and subservient to the private domain. This understanding constituted a major departure from all political thought that preceded it, from Greek, to Roman and Medieval Christian. The protection of one’s life, liberty and property became the goals of civil society; no longer was public life considered an important or legitimate component of striving towards the good life.


In this course we will be reading several key authors who helped define the contours of liberalism, as well as ones who argued that liberalism is deficient in certain important respects. We will concentrate on the way of life encouraged by a liberal understanding of politics. We will ask ourselves, by engaging with these thinkers, whether the bourgeois, the type of human being that Locke and Montesquieu sought to bring into being, leads a good and satisfying life. Locke, Montesquieu and Mill defend the liberal life and the bourgeois human type, while Rousseau, Burke and Flaubert argue that this type of life is fundamentally petty and unsatisfying. We will consider the ways in which religion, commerce and a government marked by a separation of powers come to denote this liberal way of life, and we will ask ourselves what this means for us living in a liberal democratic society.


Suggested Prerequisite: POLS251, Introduction to Political Philosophy




1. The following are REQUIRED texts. They can be purchased at either of the campus bookstores.

v     John Locke, Second Treatise of Government. Hackett.

v     John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration. Hackett.

v     Jean Jacques Rousseau, Rousseau: The Discourses and Other Early Political Writings. Cambridge.

v     John Stuart Mill, Mill: On Liberty. Prentice Hall.

v     Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Penguin Classics.

v     Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary. Oxford World Classics.


2. In addition to acquiring the required books listed above, you are also responsible for (the very few) readings mentioned on the course outline (below) that are on library reserve. More short reading may be added to the lesson plan as the course unfolds.


Course Requirements:


1. Attendance and Participation:


Your attendance and class participation are important components of the course and will make up 15% of your course grade. Attendance will be recorded every class, and class participation will be monitored. Attendance will be recorded in the first TEN minutes of class. Please do not come in after that hoping to sign your name on the attendance sheet. Four or more classes missed, for whatever reason, will result in an automatic 30% penalty of your participation grade. You are expected to participate in a lively manner, by answering questions about the text, asking questions about the text, and, generally, by offering insightful comments that will enrich your experience as well as that of your fellow students.


Since particular passages of the text will be referred to and read in class, please bring the appropriate texts to class.


2. Reading:


All reading assignments must be completed BEFORE the beginning of the relevant class. Please keep in mind that your ability to participate effectively will depend on your diligence in completing the readings as assigned. Where it is not clear what readings will be assigned for a particular class (where “con’d” is indicated on the syllabus), readings will be specified by the end of the prior class. All readings as well as all lecture material are fair game for tests and examinations. You must study your readings and take good notes in lectures in order to do well on the tests and examinations.


3. Tests and Assignments:


i) Short Take-Home Essays. You are required to write three short papers in the course of the semester. The subject will be assigned a week before the essay is due each time. These papers can be no more and only slightly less than two pages, double-spaced, standard margins (1 or 1.5 inch), Times New Roman font (or equivalent). These essays will confront the essay question posed, and will be graded according to command of the material demonstrated, logic of the arguments, grammar, style, and organization. These papers will rely on the primary material assigned and will not require you to do secondary research. They are very short, and so will test your ability to make your points concisely. No filler!


These will be handed in at the beginning of class in which they are due, or they will be deemed late. Late assignments will not be accepted. Each paper will be worth 15% of your final grade.


Here are the dates on which these assignments will be due: Oct. 17, Nov. 7, Nov. 21.


ii) Test: September 26, 2006. The test will be written in class, and will be one hour long. It will cover the Locke and Montesquieu material. It will comprise a few definitions, but mainly short essay questions. This is worth 15% of the final grade.


iii) Final Exam. This exam, worth 25% of the final grade, will be given in the final class of the semester. It will cover all the material in the course. It will ask short questions and a longer essay question. A review session will be held on the second last day of the semester.


If classes or assignments coincide with your religious observance, please let the professor know as soon as possible so that you can be accommodated in the best possible way.


Honors Students. Please note that your work will be graded in a more rigorous manner than students not in this program. Higher standards will apply to your work.


Grading Scheme:


Attendance and Participation: 15%

Test: 15%

3 Take-Home Essays: 45%

In-Class Final Exam: 25%


Grading Scale:


93%-100% =


90%-92.9% =


87.5%-89.9% =


83%-87.4% =


80%-82.9% =


77.5%-79.9% =


60%-69.9% =


Less than 60% =





Lateness Policy:


The essays will NOT be accepted late. They are due in class within the first ten minutes of lecture. Those papers that are received late will receive the grade of F.


Makeup tests and exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances indeed exist, the professor must be notified as soon as possible and prior to the scheduled exam. Supporting documentation is REQUIRED, and a missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a grade of F.


Class Decorum:


You are expected to be courteous and collegial in this class. Here are some of the decorum guidelines:

v     Be on time for class.

v     Do not leave during class. Use the restroom, get a drink of water, etc. before class begins or after it ends. If you must leave early or come in late, please provide a reasonable explanation and be as undisruptive as possible when you are coming or going.

v     Respect your classmates. Do not interrupt your colleagues, and make sure that your comments are civil. Discussion is wonderful and encouraged, but it is only possible when we listen to one another and make comments that are courteous.

v     Do not disrupt lectures. No cell phones, no private conversations, no snoring. If you wish to interrupt to ask a question, please put your hand up. Questions are encouraged!


Unannounced Quizzes:


The professor reserves the right to give unannounced quizzes if it becomes clear that students are not doing the assigned reading, and the quality of class participation and discussion is unsatisfactory.


Extra Credit:


Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final grades.


Students with Disabilities:


NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Moreover, your academic success is of importance to me. If you have a disability that may have a negative impact on your performance in this course and you may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. CAAR is located on the fourth floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to talking with you to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.


Plagiarism Policy:


According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalogue “Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university.” In short, all ideas that are not your own or well known must be footnoted. A general rule is that if the information cannot be found in three or more commonly available sources it should be footnoted. All direct quotations must be placed in quotation marks. These guidelines will be enforced. If you are unsure as to what should be footnoted either play it safe and footnote, or ask for assistance. Failure to adhere to the University’s plagiarism policy will result in punishments ranging from a failed course grade to suspension and even expulsion, depending on the egregiousness of the infraction.


Political Science Web Site:


Students are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach this site, go to http://polsci.niu.edu


Undergraduate Writing Awards:


The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Course Outline and Due Dates:      


August 29


August 31


Locke, Second Treatise, Chapters I, II, VIII, IX

September 5

Locke, Second Treatise, VI, V

September 7

Locke, Second Treatise, X, XI, XII, XIV, XIX

September 12

Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Book XI, Chpts. 1-6; Book XIX, Ch. 27 (readings on library reserve).

September 14

Locke, Letter on Toleration, first 25 pages.

September 19

Locke, Letter on Toleration, con’d.

September 21

Locke, Letter on Toleration,  con’d.

September 26

TEST: Locke and Montesquieu

September 28


Rousseau, First Discourse, First Part

October 3

Rousseau, First Discourse, First Part con’d

October 5

Rousseau, First Discourse, Second Part

October 10

Rousseau, First Discourse, Second Part con’d

First Assignment Handed Out

October 12

Rousseau, Second Discourse, First Part

October 17

Rousseau, Second Discourse, First Part con’d

First Take Home Paper Due (First Discourse)

October 19

Rousseau, Second Discourse, Second Part

October 24

Rousseau, Second Discourse, Second Part con’d

October 26

Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Please try to read this book in its entirety before we discuss it. At least, please read half the book for this first class. We will discuss the themes of the work, rather than go through it in the manner we read political philosophy.

October 31

Flaubert, Madame Bovary, con’d.

Second Assignment Handed Out

November 2

Flaubert, Madame Bovary,  con’d.

November 7


Burke, Reflections, 85-147

Second Take Home Paper Due (Second Discourse and/or Madame Bovary)

November 9

Burke, Reflections, pgs. 148-188

November 14

Burke, Reflections, pgs. 188-204

Third Take Home Paper Handed Out

November 16

Burke, Reflections, pgs. 258-270

November 21


Mill, On Liberty, Introductory, Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion (Chs. 1 & 2)

Third Take Home Paper Due: (Reflections)

November 23


November 28

Mill, On Liberty, Of Individuality, Of the Limits to the Authority of Society (Chs. 3 & 4)

November 30

Mill, On Liberty, Applications (Ch. 5)

December 5


December 7


Professor retains the right to alter the schedule, with due notice to students. Assignment due dates are firm.