Core Seminar 2
M.A. Program in Liberal Studies
Peter Bratsis

Required Texts:

    C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism
    Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id
    Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology
    A collection of articles available at the copy center

Substantive Focus:

This section of the course will examine the question of human nature in political and social theory. The question of human nature is vital to some theories while others discard it as ideological residue. Those theories that are based on some assumption of human nature are termed humanist and those that reject the idea of human nature are termed anti-humanist. There are many examples of both but we will focus only on their dominant forms within contemporary social analysis. Liberalism is the dominant form of humanism within modern political and economic theory and we will examine the question of human nature in two of its most significant adherents, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke as well as in contemporary rational choice theory. We will then examine the two most influential versions of anti-humanist theory, Marxism and psychoanalysis, especially as developed by Louis Althusser and Jacques Lacan.

The intent of such a focus is obviously not to provide a menu of the definitions of human nature that political theory has produced. Rather, it is to make explicit the kind of questions and assumptions subsumed by the question of human nature and to show the analytical and normative character of humanist and anti-humanist theory. This should be of particular interest to those who are interested in epistemology , cultural studies, political economy, literary and film criticism, education, and politics.


Humanism in Liberal Political Theory

    C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, sections II and V

    Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
    John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
    Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
    John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism
    Louis Dumont, From Mandeville toMarx

Liberal Theory Applied: Rational Choice Theory


    Jon Elster, Nuts and Bolts, part two

Recommended :
    Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy
    Max Weber, Economy and Society (vol. 1)
    Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action
    Donald Green and Ian Shapiro, Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory

Anti-Humanist Theory: Rationalism, Marxism and Psychoanalysis

    Emile Durkheim, 'What is a Social Fact?', in The Rules of Sociological Method
    Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id
    Louis Althusser, 'Humanism and Marxism', in For Marx
    Jacques Lacan, 'The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I', in Ecrits
    Louis Althusser, 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses', in Lenin and Philosophy
        and Other Essays
    Michele Barrett, 'Subjectivity, Humanism, Psychoanalysis', in The Politics of Truth
    Slavoj Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

    Karl Marx, Capital (vol. 1)
    Karl Marx, 1844 Manuscripts
    Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis
    Benedict de Spinoza, The Ethics
    Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological
    Peter Bratsis, 'Political Theory and the Problem of the National Individual; or, The Dangers
        of Baseball, Hotdogs and Apple Pie', in Found Object #8
    Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society
    Slavoj Zizek, Tarrying with the Negative
    Slavoj Zizek ( ed, ), Cogito and the Unconscious
    Bruce Fink, The Lacanian Subject
    Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital
    Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice
    Antonio Callari and David Ruccio ( eds, ), Postmodern Materialism
    Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus