Democracy is not a given. The Greeks experimented with it. Then it faded into oblivion, only to return many centuries later. Nowadays, democracy structures much of our modern world. But could it do a disappearing act again? If there's enough complaceny and duplicity, you can't rule it out.
All of this is to say, it's a good time to think about democracy and its alternatives. And to do that, you can spend time with Yale University's free course, Introduction to Political Philosophy. Taught by professor Steven B. Smith, the course covers the following ground:
This course is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major texts and thinkers of the Western political tradition. Three broad themes that are central to understanding political life are focused upon: the polis experience (Plato, Aristotle), the sovereign state (Machiavelli, Hobbes), constitutional government (Locke), and democracy (Rousseau, Tocqueville). The way in which different political philosophies have given expression to various forms of political institutions and our ways of life are examined throughout the course.
The main texts used in this course include the following. You can find them in our collection of Free eBooks, or purchase copies online.
- Plato, Trial and Death of Socrates
- Plato, Republic
- Aristotle, Politics
- Machiavelli, The Prince
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
- John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Political Writings
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
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