345-102-MQ, Liberty and Tyranny: Visions of Social Order
The tension between personal liberty and collective unity constitutes one of the defining features of any society. Since the 18th century, the Western, democratic concept of liberty has become an ideal that many people across the world struggle to attain; yet the experience of liberty continues to remain largely elusive today, as much in countries recovering from years of authoritarian rule, as in established democracies where freedom is most taken for granted. The purpose of the course is to consider the meaning of ‘liberty’ and ‘tyranny’ by bringing together political philosophy, cultural psychology, and critical theory. In the first half of the term, we will examine classic texts of Western political thought, from Plato’s reflections on the ideal republic to the birth of modern liberalism during the Enlightenment. The second half will focus on the development of the modern state, mass society, and the totalitarian worldview, particularly as embodied in its two most radical versions – Stalin’s communism and Hitler’s Nazism. Toward the end, we will consider the limits and possibilities of liberty in a world permeated by ever new forms of political, economic, religious or technological tyranny.