DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE



POLITICAL SCIENCE 351/351HP-1                          PROFESSOR GARY D. GLENN

LIBERALISM AND ITS CRITICS                              OFFICE: ZULAUF 407

SPRING 2006                                                                 OFFICE HOURS: 11:00-11:45MTWTh

CLASS MEETS: 12:30-1:45pm  TTh                           AND BY APPOINTMENT

ROOM: DU 459                                                              please call 753-1091 or email at


                                             Liberalism and Its Critics


Catalog Description: Advocates and critics of the political philosophy of liberalism which contends that the purpose of civil society is to secure peaceful enjoyment of natural individual rights (life, liberty and property). Representative authors include Hobbes, Locke, Smith, Rousseau, Burke, Marx and Mill. PRQ: Sophomore standing or consent of department.



                                            What this course will study


Contemporary liberalism and conservatism agree that certain parts of human life should be free from public\government regulation. They call these parts of human life “private” as distinguished from “public” or sometimes “society” as distinguished from the “state” or “government.” While they agree about the existence of these distinctions, they disagree about what areas of human life should belong to the private sphere (or society), and hence be free from political control. Liberals think such things as speech, press, and sexual orientation belong to the private and that government should protect and defend the private sphere but not intrude into and regulate it. Conservatives think the market and property should be similarly protected but not controlled by government. Thus, contemporary liberalism and conservatism both share the same belief that some areas of human life should be free from government control but they disagree about what those areas are.


Contemporary liberalism and conservatism thus understood are both Liberalism which is the focus of this class. This Liberalism with a capital “L” might be called “classical liberalism” as distinguished from contemporary liberalism. We will focus on classical liberalism and its critics. But in doing that we will observe that classical liberalism has changed. Thus we cannot avoid trying to understand “the liberal tradition.” This development of that tradition has now culminated in contemporary liberalism and conservatism each of which are partial embodiments of classical liberalism. We will try to understand why the idea of “the private sphere” came into being, which requires understanding the pre-liberal thought against which Liberalism was a reaction; what reasons justify and attack its existence; and why what was originally one (Liberalism) has become two (contemporary liberalism and conservatism).


                                                    Required Texts


Please purchase the following editions. We will frequently refer to them in class and it will be time consuming and confusing if we do not all have the same editions.


John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration ed. James H. Tully

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government ed. Peter Laslett 

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France ed. By John Pocock

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty ed. by Elizabeth Rapaport

A Reading Packet available from the Professor.


                                                    Course Outline


1/17    Introduction: Political philosophy, liberal education, Liberalism, liberalism and conservatism.


1/19     Short quiz at beginning of class.


1/24-2/2 (4 classes)   

I. What is Liberalism?

A. Liberalism as limiting government for the sake of religious liberty and civil peace.

             John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) Entire. Study questions to guide the                                                 

             reading are in the Reading Packet pp. 74-75. Come to class thoroughly prepared to              

             discuss the text based on these questions.


2/2     Short quiz at beginning of class.


2/9     Short quiz at beginning of class.


2/7-2/23 (6 classes)      

B. Liberalism as government by consent of the governed and the right of revolution,                                      

government limited to securing individual natural rights and to securing the conditions                     

of happiness.

            The Declaration of Independence (1776), RP 1-2.

            John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1689) Selections only. Study                            

            questions to guide your reading are in the Reading packer, pp. 1-2.


2/28    EXAM (essays and short answer including definitions)


3/2-3-9 (3 classes before break)

1.      The conservative side of Liberalism: Edmund Burke’s modification of natural rights,                   

            consent of the governed, and of the right of revolution.

            Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1789). Selections only. See   

            Reading Packet, pp. 76-78 both for what pages to read and for study questions to guide          

            the reading.


3/14-3/16  Spring Break


3/21-3/23 (2 classes after break).  Burke continued


3/23 PAPER ASSIGNED (900 words). Due 4/13. 


3/28-4/11 (5 classes)

        2. The liberal side of Liberalism:

            John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859). Selections only. Study questions to guide the  

            reading  are in the Reading Packet p. 7.




II. Critics of Liberalism


    A. Rousseau. "Jean Jacques Rousseau by Allan Bloom, RP pp. 8-19.



    B. Catholicism

       “Liberalism” in John A. Ryan and Francis Boland,  RP, pp. 20-24.


    C. Nietzsche

         Twilight of the Idols, RP, 25-32.

         Glenn, “Speculation on Strauss’ Political Intentions Suggested by On Tyranny”, RP 33-39.


4/25-5/2 (3 classes)

III. Contemporary liberalism.

       Harry Clor, AChoice, Equality, Dignity: Contemporary Liberal Perspectives RP, pp. 48-73.


5/4 Wrap up. What is the best case for the best kind of Liberalism and what are the best objections to that case?


5/11 (Thursday) FINAL EXAM 12:00-1:50 (Essay and short answer.)


                                                 COURSE POLICIES


1.  Attendance: Attendance at each class is both expected and required. Attendance will be taken at most classes after the first few days. Being in attendance is operationally defined as being present when attendance is taken at the beginning of class and remaining until class is dismissed. Students who come to class after attendance has been taken, that is after they have been marked absent, will be considered absent. The instructor will also regard such conduct as rude and inconsiderate. No distinction is made between excused and unexcused absences. However, the instructor requests that absences be explained in writing on the first class you return. He will keep such explanations and they could be beneficial at final grading time. Students who have extended absences due to illness should notify the instructor as promptly as possible during the absence and produce a doctor=s note indicating the nature and duration of the illness. This note should be presented at the first class upon returning. Extended absences are regarded as not fulfilling course requirements and, unless justified with appropriate documentation, will adversely affect the final grade. (See section 4 below).


Since this attendance policy is at odds with part of the student culture at NIU, it is perhaps worth stating why attendance is stressed in this class to such an extent that it may affect a student’s final grade. Part of a liberal education is to teach you responsibility. Part of responsibility is being in control of your life to the extent of doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are supposed to be doing it. Usually, this means being in class. Hence, the emphasis on attendance. However, there are some times when being in class is not what you should be doing. That is why written explanations for absences are requested and why there are three “freebies.”


2.  Class Preparation: The best way to prepare for each class is to read the entire assigned portion of each book prior to the first day we begin that book. While one reading of this material is not sufficient, the lectures will be easier to grasp if you have done at least that much.


Good note taking is important to your success in this class. Learn to listen carefully to the arguments made and write them down as best you can. Review your notes after class to see if they make sense. By reviewing them soon after they are taken, sometimes you can remember things that will make sense out of what is confusing. Get together with other students periodically to go over each other=s notes. If you got 50% of the lecture and your study partners got 50%, perhaps between you, you will have 75%. What remains unclear can be discussed with the instructor. One of the important suggestions I can make is to be sure to write down the questions asked by other students and my responses. I frequently use students= questions as a vehicle to make important points so if you write down their questions, as well as my answers, you will benefit. If you only write down my responses, without noting the questions to which they are a response, the responses will make little sense.


3.  Class Participation: The proper kind of participation in the class is expected, required and

rewarded. Participation is operationally defined in two ways.

         First, it means being attentive to the lectures and discussions. Students who sleep, read the newspaper, persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive to the lectures and discussion will not be tolerated. How this intolerance is operationalized can range from public admonition, to having your grade lowered, or to being administratively dismissed from the course at the instructor=s request.

The second meaning of participation is that you should be prepared to be interrogated (in a friendly but sharp manner) about each reading. Only those who have prepared for class by doing the appropriate reading can expect to survive the interrogation with pride intact. Moreover, the lectures will presuppose students’ familiarity with the readings. Good students will not only be present and attentive in class, they will also actively participate by answering the professor=s questions al-out the reading, by asking intelligent questions and by making thoughtful observations.

It is important that you understand the kind of discussion sought. The purpose of discussion is to enable students to raise questions concerning the meaning of the lectures or texts and to relate different arguments, passages and insights to each other. Above all, discussion and the professor=s interrogation of your answers are intended to help you learn how to express your thought coherently, that is, to learn how to tell the difference between talking sense and talking rot. It is his job to tell the difference, and to help you learn how to tell the difference, between thoughtful questions/comments and bovine droppings. Hence, he will not be impressed by comments made to impress the professor.

Some classes will be mainly lecture and discussion but most will involve reading and discussing passages from the readings. Since classes are usually conducted by reading and discussing passages from the assigned readings, it is necessary that you bring the appropriate readings to class.



1.Final course grades are based on the 3 quizzes, 2 exams, the paper, the quality of class participation and, in a certain way, on attendance. (See #2 below). Thee exams, paper and participation count equally with the following qualifications and exceptions.

a. No one will receive an A who does not demonstrate the kind of class participation indicated above.

b. An "A" in the class also requires the written assignments to show clarity, economy, and focus. They must show at least a smidgen of insight into the material beyond the obvious.  Showing how the text sheds light on contemporary issues, both in politics and in political science, is important and encouraged. But first understand the text in the manner intended by the author.

c. No one can receive a course grade more than one grade higher than the final exam grade.

2.  The final course grade is reduced one grade for each absence over 3.

3. Paper grades are reduced one letter for each calendar day it is late.

4. Papers returned for revision because they do not meet the length requirement will be docked one letter grade for each day they are late because of this infraction.

5. The written work requires demonstration of the ability to understand the arguments studied and the ability to state and evaluate them in good standard English. Ability to write English with precision and care shows that you can think, analyze, and communicate clearly and will accordingly improve your grade on the written work.



                                     Miscellaneous Policies


1. Papers: The paper is due on the date specified. Late papers will be accepted up to 3 days

after the due date. However, see #3 above.

2. Make-up exam: A make-up exam will be given only with adequate documentation that

the absence was unavoidable. The make-up exams are sufficiently more difficult than the

original that prudent people will avoid them where possible.

3. Tardiness: Please do not come late to class. The instructor will be on time. Please pay him the

same courtesy. If it becomes necessary, students who come late may be barred from class. If

there are special circumstances that may be relevant here, please discuss them with the professor

at the first opportunity. He is not unreasonable about this if there are extenuating and

unavoidable circumstances.

4. Appointments: The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to you. If you

cannot come during his scheduled office hours, please call or e-mail to schedule a mutually

convenient appointment. Voice mail messages should include times when you are likely to be

reachable. No appointment is needed during regular office hours but please do not stop by his

office at other time without an appointment. Please do not call his home.