Summer Block

Course Descriptions

We will only be offering one Summer Block class in 2017. 

The End of Freedom? Freedom in American Political Life

Instructor: Joseph Prud’homme
Associate Professor of Political Science
jprudhomme2@washcoll.edu


Is American freedom dead? That is, has the quest for freedom as an ideal animating political and social life been rejected in favor of an approach to politics that undermines the freedom of individuals and organizations to pursue their own understanding of the human good? An increasing number of political and social theorists—many identified with the contemporary political right—have maintained that freedom in the United Sates is more beleaguered now than at any time in the past century. From the political left, those who define freedom as the uninhibited expression of individual taste and the unopposed expression of individual autonomy believe that a liberal society realizes the promise of human freedom.    

This course will explore the contested meanings of freedom in American political thought, paying special attention to the argument that freedom is best understood as freedom from a centralized state’s imposition of controversial values, and that freedom in turn is beleaguered in modern political life. To do so, we will explore the historic understanding of the American constitutional project, and the role of a commitment to freedom throughout significant episodes in American history. The course culminates in a final paper and presentation requiring each student to formulate a reasoned response to the question of the current condition of freedom in the United States.