POLS 351: Liberalism and Its Critics

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Spring 2008



  • Dr. Andrea Radasanu


  • Zulauf 408

Phone Number

  • 753-7052

Email Address

  • aradasanu@niu.edu

Office Hours

  • T & Th 2:00pm – 3:00pm, W 12:00-1:00pm or by appointment.


  • DU 459

Class Time

  • T & Th 12:30pm-1:45pm



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 Hobbes and Locke sought to bring into being, leads a good and satisfying life. Hobbes and Locke defend the liberal life and the bourgeois human type, while Rousseau, Marx and Nietzsche 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




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


v     Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Hackett.

v     John Locke, Second Treatise of Government. Hackett.

v     Jean Jacques Rousseau, The First and Second Discourses. St. Martin’s.

v     Karl Marx, The Marx-Engels Reader. Norton.

v     Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. Vintage.

v     Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. Avon Books.



Course Requirements:


1. Attendance and Participation:


Your attendance and class participation are important components of the course and will make up 10% 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.


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.


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


3. Tests and Assignments:


i) Quizzes. Five quizzes will be administered throughout the term. Your four best will be equally weighted and count for 40% of your final grade. If you write all five of them, the worst result will be dropped. The quizzes will contain short-answer identification questions as well as more analytical and longer ones. They are always administered at the beginning of the classes on the days they are scheduled.


ii) Mid-Term Essay. You are required to write one paper, of no less than 1000 words and no more than 1500 words. Further specifications will be given when the essay topics are handed out within the first couple of weeks of class. The essay will be graded according to command of the material demonstrated, logic of the arguments, grammar, style, and organization. It will rely on the primary material assigned and will not require you to do secondary research.


The essay will be handed in at the beginning of class in which it is due, or it will be deemed late. Late assignments will not be accepted.


iii) Final Exam. This exam, worth 30% of the final grade, will be given, as per the University’s schedule, on Tuesday, May 8th at 12pm to 1:50pm. It will cover all the material in the course.


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: 10%

Five Quizzes: 40% (Best four will be counted)

Mid-Term Essay: 20%

Final Exam: 30%


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:


In principle, NO lateness is permitted in this course. The essay will not be accepted late, and there will be no make-up quizzes. Those essays that are not received in the first ten minutes of class will receive the grade of F. Those quizzes that are missed will receive the grade of F. The same goes for the final exam.


IF there are extraordinary circumstances that make it impossible for the student to complete work or come to class, the professor must be notified as soon as possible. Let it be clear that only EXTRAORDINARY and unexpected circumstances will be considered. For example, a heavy workload within or without the university does not count as extraordinary –and neither does a common cold. If there is a serious medical problem that has impeded the student’s ability to do his or her work, then please let the professor know and bring supporting documentation. NO consideration will be given to those students who do not alert the professor of a problem prior to the due date of an assignment or the date of a quiz or exam.


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.


Religious Observance:


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.


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:      

v     The assignment and test dates are set in stone.

v     The lecture schedule indicates the order in which we will be reading the works, and what excerpts we will be reading from the various authors. It is very likely that there will be some deviation from the schedule below, day to day. To know how to prepare for each class, it is crucial that you are always present.


January 15


Fukuyama, End of History, Part I, Chapter 4

January 17

Hobbes, Leviathan, X, XI & XIII

January 22

Hobbes, Leviathan, XIV & XV

January 24

Hobbes, Leviathan, XVII – XX

January 29

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

Quiz #1

January 31

Locke, Second Treatise, VI, V

February 5

Locke, Second Treatise, X, XI, XII

February 7

Locke, Second Treatise, XIII, XIV, XIX

February 12

Rousseau, Second Discourse, First Part

February 14

Quiz #2

February 19

Rousseau, Second Discourse, First Part con’d

February 21

Rousseau, Second Discourse, First Part, con’d

February 26

Rousseau, Second Discourse, Second Part

February 28

Rousseau, Second Discourse, Second Part con’d

March 4

Marx, German Ideology

March 6

Marx, German Ideology, con’d

Essay Due

March 11

Spring Break J

March 13

Spring Break J

March 18

Marx, Communist Manifesto

March 20

Marx, Communist Manifesto, con’d

March 25

Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, “Nietzsche’s Preface” (p.1); “On the Natural History of Morals” (p. 95-118)

Quiz #3

March 27

Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, “Natural History of Morals,” con’d; “We Scholars” (p.96-142)

April 1

Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, “Our Virtues” (p.143-170)

April 3

No Class

April 8

Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, “Peoples and Fatherlands” (p.171-198)

April 10

Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, “What is Noble?” (p. 199-238)

April 15

Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, “What is Noble,” con’d

Quiz #4

April 17

Fukuyama, End of History, Part II, Chapter 5; Part III

April 22

Fukuyama, End of History, Part III, con’d

April 24

Fukuyama, End of History, Part V

April 29

Fukuyama, End of History, Part V con’d

Quiz #5

May 1