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Modern Political Philosophy

Marc Stier

Course Description





Course Outline and Reading List

First Paper Topics

Second Paper Topics

Preliminary Final Examination Questions

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Course Description for Modern Political Philosophy


                                                                        Marc Stier


This course will examine the implications of psychoanalysis for both the explanation and evaluation of political and social life. We will consider such issues as: What are the sources of human conflict, both in the family and in political life? What is the explanation of moral and immoral action? Is a decent political and social life possible only when basic human drives are repressed? Or can our poltical and social life be arranged in ways that better enable us to be fulfilled? What accounts for historical changes in human goals and purposes? What are the sources of patriarchy and how and to what extent can it be overcome? What is the nature of political leadership? Under what circumstances is political leadership dangerous? Under what circumstances can it be liberating?

Texts include works by Freud, by other psychoanalysts with perspectives different from that of Freud, and by political and social philosophers who have drawn on these different versions of psychoanalysis.



Class sessions will proceed mainly by detailed discussion of the texts. Thus it is important that all students use the editions of the texts available in the book store and bring their books to class. Please buy these books now or make some other arrangement for obtaining them. Even more importantly, since the course cannot be successful without active class participation, students are expected to do the assigned reading before class and to be prepared to take part in class discussion. Students who have more than three unexcused absences from class or who regularly come to class unprepared will have the option of withdrawing from the class or failing. At times, the instructor will give students questions to guide their reading of the texts.

Two papers of six to eight pages in length will be due on a date to be announced. Paper topics will be suggested but, with the instructor's approval, students can write on any question concerning these writers. Students will have the option of rewriting their papers and improving their grades. A comprehensive final examination will be held at a time to be scheduled by the registrar.

The final grade will be determined according to the following guidelines:

Class Participation         20%
First paper                    25%
Second paper                25%
Final Examination          30%



Readings marked with an asterisk (*) will be available in a course packet at Copywrite.


I. Introduction


II. Sigmund Freud


Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James Strachey (New York: Nortorn, 1959)
New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis,trans. James Strachey (New York: Nortorn, 1961)
"On Narcissism: An Introduction" in Sigmund Freud, General Psychological Theory, (New York: Collier 1963)*
"Instincts And Their Vicissitudes" in Sigmund Freud, General Psychological Theory, (New York: Collier 1963)*
"Repression" in Sigmund Freud, General Psychological Theory, (New York: Collier 1963)*
"The Unconscious" in Sigmund Freud, General Psychological Theory, (New York: Collier 1963)*
Beyond The Pleasure Principle, trans. James Strachey (New York: Nortorn, 1961)selections*
Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Egotrans. James Strachey (New York: Nortorn, 1959)
Civilization and Its Discontents, trans. James Strachey (New York: Nortorn, 1961)
"Libidinal Types" in Sigmund Freud, General Psychological Theory, (New York: Collier 1963)*

III. Psychoanalysis and the Project of Overcoming Repression: Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown


    Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization  (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969)
Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1959)


IV. Alternatives to Freud: The Object Relations Approach

      Karen Horney, New Ways in Psychoanalysis (New York: Norton, 1937)
Harry Stack Sullivan, The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (New York: Norton, 1953), selections
D. W. Winnicott, essays to be announced*

V. Psychoanalysis and Feminism: Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow

Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and the Minotaur (New York: Harper & Row, 1976)
Nancy Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering  (Berkeley: University of California Presss, 1978)


V. Psychoanalysis and the Critique of Narcissism: Otto Kernberg and Christopher Lasch

Otto Kernberg, Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism, (New York: Jason Arons, 1975), selections*

Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism (New York: Norton, 1978)

Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self (New York: Norton, 198), selections*

V. Conclusion