PICK ONE TO ANSWER
MODERN POLITICAL THEORY
FIRST WRITING ASSIGNMENT
Due via turnitin.com on Monday, March 8 by 11:00 AM
Write a 1,500-1,900-word double-spaced paper on ONE of the following options:
1) It is often said that one of the things that distinguishes modern political thought from earlier political thought is a deliberate and significant lowering of the aims of politics. No longer do political theorists seek to discover the “greatest good,” pursue the “best regime,” or identify ways for citizens to achieve excellence or virtue. Instead, scholars contend, they aim for more achievable, down-to-earth goals. How do Machiavelli and Hobbes lower the aim of politics? In your response, address the following questions: What aim or aims do they establish for politics? How do these aims impact the obligations and responsibilities of ordinary subjects or citizens? How do these aims affect the obligations and responsibilities of those in positions of political authority?
2) One of the defining features of modern political thought is the tendency to validate and appeal to self-interest. Instead of asking readers to rise above their narrow self-interest(s) and do things for altruistic, communal, or other-directed reasons, modern political thinkers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes make arguments that build overtly on the self-interest of their readers. Discuss the role of self-interest in Machiavelli’s Prince and Hobbes’s Leviathan by addressing the following questions: How do these two thinkers define the self-interest of their intended audience and what role does self-interest play in their overall arguments? To whose interests do Machiavelli and Hobbes appeal (i.e., who is their intended audience?)? How does each thinker define self-interest? Does each thinker simply take self-interest as a given, or does he seek to transform the way his readers understand their own self-interest? What is the significance of self-interest in the larger argument of each thinker?
3) Modern political thought is marked by a number of “breaks” with the past. Perhaps the most significant is its break with the religious and theological mindset of medieval Christianity. Specifically, it is often said that modern political thinkers are pre-occupied with “this-worldly” matters to the exclusion of “other-worldly” concerns. How do Machiavelli and Hobbes contribute to this shift toward secularism in political thought? In your response, explain 1) how Machiavelli and Hobbes make “this-worldly” concerns the primary focus of politics (i.e., what do they suggest should concern their readers), and 2) why they establish this shift (i.e., explain the significance of this shift).
4) In recent years, many political systems around the world have shifted toward more authoritarian forms of rule centered around powerful executives who tend to spurn conventional or established political and moral norms and seek ways to avoid accountability to legislatures, courts, and ordinary citizens. Critics of these authoritarian leaders sometimes refer to them as “Machiavellian” or “Hobbesian” in their approaches to ruling. Do you agree with the characterization of authoritarian leaders such as Viktor Orbàn in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and others throughout the world as Machiavellian or Hobbesian in the way they have governed? Your response to this question may cite specific examples from recent politics, but it should focus on what Machiavelli and Hobbes have to say about the concentration of power and avoidance of accountability (or checks) on executives. Make sure to identify and explain any areas of disagreement between Machiavelli and Hobbes on these points.
5) Develop a paper topic of your own that discusses themes or problems addressed by both Machiavelli and Hobbes. If you decide to pursue this option, you should discuss your proposal with Professor Fatovic in advance and submit a brief (250-350-word) description via e-mail no later than Monday, March 1.
Whichever topic you choose, your papers should reflect what you have learned from lectures and assigned readings.
Before submitting a hard copy of your paper, you must submit your paper to www.turnitin.com. Follow the instructions for students. To use this website you will need to enter the correct class ID (27670936) and enrollment password (modernity) for this course.
Helpful hints and reminders:
Make sure you address the assigned topic directly and thoroughly. Avoid digressions and tangential discussions that do not relate to the topic and focus on building a persuasive argument.
You should use properly cited evidence from the texts to support your argument. Whether you are using direct quotations or simply paraphrasing, you should always indicate page numbers, either in parentheses or in footnotes. Avoid using quotes that have no obvious connection to the topic under discussion. Make sure the meaning or significance of a quote is apparent.
Your papers should reflect independent thought, not a recitation of irrelevant facts or other extraneous information. Feel free to draw upon material covered in lectures and discussions—as long as such material helps you make relevant points that advance the discussion. You are cautioned against using internet sources, which are sometimes highly unreliable. You do not need to do any outside research for this paper, but if you do decide to use outside sources, including internet sources, you must provide full bibliographic information. Any quotes you use must be placed in quotation marks to indicate that you are using someone else’s words. Failure to do so will result in a failing grade for the course and additional disciplinary action.
Late papers will not be accepted. It is your responsibility to make sure you submit this assignment on time and in the proper format.
For additional advice on writing your paper, refer to the writing tips provided on page 3 of the syllabus.