Post-Enlightenment Thought Lecture 1

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In the first lecture, Warren Magnusson primarily sets out the course, provides some tips on reading, and contextualizes political theory. Beware the shitty videography... I blame the plastic tripod. I get better at it from here on out.

University of Victoria


Post-Enlightenment Political Thought

Fall 2010 Warren Magnusson
SSM A 341
Telephone: 472-5466

This course focuses on three thinkers: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), John Stuart Mill (1806-73), and Karl Marx (1818-83). We will not be reading any secondary literature. Instead, we will be giving close consideration to the following primary texts:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987).
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
David McLellan, ed. Karl Marx: Selected Writings, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

The works in question are available in other editions – and different translations, in the cases of Rousseau and Marx – but these are the ones I recommend and to which I will be referring in class.

I will be explaining the course’s focus in my introductory lecture on Thursday, September 9th. As you probably know, the Department of Political Science offers a sequence courses that deal with the classics of Western political thought. Poli 300A focuses especially on the ancient Greeks, who developed the foundational vocabulary for political science and political philosophy. Poli 300B deals with the 16th, 17th, and 18th century European thinkers who articulated the idea of the modern state. Poli 300C takes us forward from about 1750 to 1880, and brings us into a more recognizably modern era. Rousseau lived at a time of sailing ships and horse-drawn carriages – not too different from what the Greeks and Romans knew – but Mill and Marx lived in a world transformed by large-scale industrial production, rapid transportation by rail and steamship, and even more rapid communication by telegraph. The world of the 1850s or 1860s might seem slow to us, but it had speeded up enormously since the mid-eighteenth century. Moreover, modern political institutions had begun to take shape in practice, not just in theory. So, thinkers in this era had to deal with circumstances quite different from the ones anyone previously had known. Our interest in what these thinkers had to say is not just historical or philosophical, for we are their children to a greater degree than you might imagine. To a large extent, we think and act politically through the categories established in this era, such as state and society, the rights of man, economic welfare, historical progress, and scientific truth. As I shall argue, the writings of Rousseau, Mill, and Marx are so rich and influential that we can explore many of the relevant issues – and test our own thinking – through them.

I should say immediately that we will be leaving out much more than we include. What about the other great thinkers of the age? Why are there no women on our reading list? What about people from other cultures? Isn’t this selection terribly exclusionary? Such questions are good, and the responses I can provide are only partly valid. We must make a selection of some sort, and I cannot overburden you with reading. I want you to go directly to the primary sources and not rely on secondary accounts (including my own). I have selected thinkers who are obviously influential, representative of important currents of thought, and capable of challenging you and others with ideas that you may find appealing, appalling, provocative, insightful, stimulating, irritating, tendentious, illogical, and illuminating all at once. I think you will learn many things from your engagement with these thinkers – and perhaps you will be motivated to write about what they left out or to explore other currents of thought.


My regular office hours are between 2 and 5 on Thursdays, and you can talk to me briefly after class at any time. Otherwise, please email me to make an appointment.



9th: Introduction: Why Rousseau, Mill, and Marx?

13th: Marx, The Communist Manifesto, Part 1, in McLellan, pp. 246-55

compare Rousseau, Preface to the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, pp. 33-6, and Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, ch. 1, pp. 205-16

N.B.: First Assignment Due (5%). Maximum length: 500 words. This assignment must be submitted in class. There will be no extensions.

16th: Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Part 1, pp. 37-60

compare Marx, “The Premises of the Materialist Method,” in McLellan, pp. 175-84, and Mill, Utilitarianism, ch. 1, pp. 131-33

20th: Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Part 2, pp. 60-81.

compare Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, chs. 2-3, pp. 217-56, and Marx, “Private Property and Communism” and “Communism and History,” in McLellan, pp. 187-98, and Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book 1, pp. 141-53

23rd: Mill, On Liberty, chs. 1-3, pp. 2-82

compare Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Book II, pp. 153-72, and Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” in McLellan, pp. 46-70

27th: Mill, On Liberty, chs. 4-5, pp. 83-128

compare Rousseau, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, pp. 1-21, and Marx, “On James Mill,” in McLellan, pp. 124-33

30th: Marx, “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts” in McLellan, pp. 83-104

compare Rousseau, Discourse on Political Economy, pp. 111-38, and Mill, The Subjection of Women, pp. 472-523


4th: Marx, “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” pp. 104-20

compare Rousseau, On the Social Contract, Books 3 and 4, pp. 173-208, and Mill, The Subjection of Women, pp. 524-82

7th: Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”, in McLellan, pp. 171-73, and “Preface to A Critique of Political Economy, pp. 424-27

N.B.: Second Assignment Due (15%). Maximum length: 1500 words. This assignment will be accepted up to 4:00 pm on Friday, October 8th. If you choose to submit the assignment after class, you will be expected to put it in my assignment box in the Department of Political Science before 4:00 pm on Friday, October 8th.

11th: Thanksgiving (No Class)

14th: Rousseau, On the Social Contract, pp. 141-227 [review and recapitulation]

compare Rousseau, the Discourses, pp. 1-138 [review and recapitulation]

18th: Mill, Utilitarianism, pp. 131-75

compare Mill, On Liberty, pp. 5-128 [review and recapitulation]

21st: Marx, The Materialist Conception of History 1844-1847, in McLellan, pp. 139-236 [especially pp. 171-208]

compare Marx, The Early Writings 1837-1844, in McLellan, pp. 3-137

25th: Marx, 1848 and After, in McLellan, pp. 245-372 [esp. pp. 245-71 and 303-24]

28th: Marx, The ‘Economics’ 1857-1867, pp. 379-451 [esp. 379-427]


1st: Marx, The ‘Economics’ 1857-1867 continued, pp. 452-567 [esp. 452-544]

4th: Marx, Later Political Writings, pp. 576-643 [esp.584-603]

8th: Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, chs. 4-6, pp. 257-301

11th: Remembrance Day (No Class)

15th: Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, chs. 5-14, pp. 302-410 [esp. 302-45 and 353-69]

18th: Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, chs. 15-18, pp. 411-67

N.B.: Third Assignment Due (30%). Maximum length: 3500 words. This assignment will be accepted up to 4:00 pm on Friday, November 19th. If you choose to submit the assignment after class, you will be expected to put it in my assignment box in the Department of Political Science before 4:00 pm on Friday, November 19th.

22nd: Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” in McLellan, pp. 329-54

25th: Mill, “On the Connection Between Justice and Utility,” Utilitarianism, ch. 5, pp. 176-201

29th: Rousseau, “Letter to the Republic of Geneva,” pp. 25-32


2nd: Final Class: Review

N.B.: At this time, I will be distributing the questions for the Final Examination. You must attend class. I will be explaining what I expect for the Final Examination. I will not give this explanation elsewhere, nor will I distribute the questions by any other means before or afterwards. Plan to be there.


First Assignment (Due 13 September): 5%
Second Assignment (Due 7/8 October): 15%
Third Assignment (Due 18/19 November): 30%

Final Examination (December)
Answer written in advance 20%
Answers written at the Exam 30%


First Assignment (September 13th): 5% of Final Grade

Length: 500 words maximum
Due: In class, Monday, September 13th.

Write a brief critical analysis of the section of the Communist Manifesto, entitled “Bourgeois and Proletarians” (in McLellan, pp. 246-55).

Second Assignment (October 7th): 15% of Final Grade

Length: 1500 words maximum
Due: In class, Thursday, October 7th.

Write a commentary on one of the passages below. You may focus on exposition, comparison, or critique. If your focus is critique, you must first explain the passage carefully and put the author’s claims in the best possible light, before you begin your discussion of the problems you find with the author’s position. If your focus is comparison, you must select a passage from one of the other books we are studying – that is, a book by a different author – and use it as a foil to bring out the differences and similarities between that author’s view and the one you find expressed in the passage you have selected from the list below. Remember that it is the latter passage that you are trying to illuminate. If your focus is exposition, you should be using other passages from the author’s work to illuminate the passage you have selected.

Do not use secondary sources. I want to read your analysis – an analysis that flows from your own reading and not someone else’s. If you quote from the authors concerned – as of course you should – please use the translations I have recommended, and give exact page references to those translations. If you summarize an author’s thinking, you should reference the range of pages about which you are writing. Rousseau, Marx, and Mill wrote things other than the books or articles we are studying, but in your commentary I want you to confine yourself to the works we are studying.

1. AFrom the character of this relationship we can conclude how far man has become a species-being, a human being, and conceives of himself as such; the relationship of man to woman is the most natural relationship of human being to human being. Thus it shows how far the natural behaviour of man has become human or how far the human essence has become his natural essence, how far this human nature has become nature for him. This relationship also shows how far the need of man has become a human need, how far his fellow men as men have become a need, how far in his most individual existence he is at the same time a human being.” (Marx, “The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” in McLellan, pp. 96-7.)

2. AThe first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.@ (Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, p. 60).

3. “Though society is not founded on a contract, and though no good purpose is answered by inventing a contract in order to deduce social obligations from it, every one who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest. This conduct consists, first, in not injuring the interests of one another; or rather certain interests, which, either by express legal provision or by tacit understanding, ought to be considered rights; and secondly, in each person’s bearing his share (to be fixed on some equitable principle) of the labours and sacrifices incurred for defending the society or its members from injury and molestation.” (Mill, On Liberty, p.83)

4. “What experiments would be necessary to achieve knowledge of natural man? And what are the means of carrying out these experiments in the midst of society? Far from undertaking to resolve this problem, I believe I have meditated sufficiently on the subject to dare respond in advance that the greatest philosophers will not be too good to direct these experiments, nor the most powerful sovereigns to carry them out.” (Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, p. 34)

Third Assignment

Length: 3500 words maximum
Due: In class, Thursday, November 18th

You will have a choice of topics for your third assignment. Essentially, you will be asked to write an essay in response to a question related to the works we are studying. I will be distributing the questions at a later date.


Due dates are as indicated. I have given some leeway for the second and third assignments. I will not give an extension on the first assignment for any reason. If you have medical problems or a family bereavement that inteferes with you ability to complete an assignment or write the final examination, you may apply for an Academic Concession in the regular way.


The final examination is worth half your grade, and so you should take it seriously. You will have a choice of questions to answer, and you will receive all of the questions in advance at our last class. I have no control over when the examination is scheduled, and I will not schedule a special examination to accommodate your travel plans or you employer’s requirements.

In total, you will have to answer four questions from the ones you are given. (You will have at least eight questions to choose from.) I expect you to write one of your answers in advance, and hand it in at the examination before the examination begins. This “advance’ answer of yours must be quite succinct – no more than 750 words – but it will be worth 20% of your final grade. Each of the other answers you write will be worth 10% of your final grade. You will write those answers in the examination room without any notes or other materials to which you can refer. Because you will have all the questions in advance, you will have the opportunity to work out what you want to say beforehand.

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