Lecture: Appropriating Locke Today

Ian Shapiro - Yale

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Lecture Description

The final Enlightenment tradition left to be explored in this course is social contract theory, for which we must return to Locke and somehow secularize his views and reconcile them with the refutation of natural rights. Modern social contract theorists replace natural rights with Kant's categorical imperatives, and accept the Aristotelian notion that there is no such thing as pre-political man. They approach the social contract as a hypothetical thought experiment, asking, if there were no state, what kind of state, if any, would people like you and I create? The first modern social contract theorist Professor Shapiro introduces is Robert Nozick, whose theory derives from the voluntary entry of individuals into mutual protective associations in the absence of a state. But he also makes two important points about force: (1) for coercive force to be a good, it has to be exercised as a monopoly, and (2) there's no other natural monopoly. Therefore, a dominant protective association will come out on top and resemble the state. But one problem remains: the incorporation of independents into this state.

Course Description

This course explores main answers to the question "when do governments deserve our allegiance?" It starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking. Practical implications of these arguments are covered through discussion of a variety of concrete problems.

from course: The Moral Foundations of Politics


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