This course looks at political theory as an attempt to answer the question, How should we live together as members of a political community? We will consider this question in light of a key political problem: disagreement among citizens about how our political community should look like. This problem of pluralism will inform our discussions of more particular political questions: What, if anything, is the common good in a pluralistic society? What is the role of law and the Constitution? How can we justify civil disobedience? How can one be a patriot if one’s country follows a course with which one disagrees?
We will begin by considering political theories that deny pluralism and will examine how they understand the common good and justify the obligation to obey the law. These theories will serve us as a comparison to the problems that emerge once we acknowledge the fact of pluralism. Having considered the grounds for pluralism and the fact of reasonable disagreement, we will turn to contemporary political theories that take pluralism for granted but nonetheless search for a shared public ground. These theories will include political liberalism and deliberative democracy. In the last part of the course we will consider theories that deny the existence of a shared political culture and will ask how they define the common good, justify obeying the law, and explain the possibility of patriotism.