American Political Thought

Course Description

American ideas have been indebted to and haunted by European thought. This Atlantic exchange framed the only two creative political moments in our national life that led to the founding and re-founding of a sovereign state. The first, the American Revolution, which on some accounts stretched past constitutional authors to the Civil War, was caught up in the dilemmas of crafting a political space for an expanding commercial republic. The second, the Progressive Era, which began in remembrance of Lincoln and culminated in the political economy of the New Deal, inherited a novel set of questions regarding time, history, and destiny.In both opposition to and collaboration with these state-centric moments lay the anti-politics of American society: thriving first in Jefferson’s “empire of liberty,” the tragic romance of frontier settlement, and the Emersonian literature of inner emigration. In recent decades prospering in a symbolic renewal of Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson: a human rights centered discourse that beckoned to those excluded from the original Jeffersonian promise. For purchase, Wooten, The Essential Federalist. Also Royce, California: A Study of American Character plus a course packet with selections from Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Bancroft, Tocqueville, Hegel, Fuller, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Whitman, Lincoln, Royce, Turner, Croly, Dewey, Bourne, Du Bois, Wilson, TR, FDR and MLK.