Law and Politics

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Course Level:
Course Length:
15 weeks

Course Objectives:

This course introduces students to the study of law and its relation to politics in both theoretical and practical terms. We will begin with a discussion on the nature of both law and politics, and proceed to investigate how different interpretations of the two terms lead to remarkably different conclusions regarding the proper relationship between them. We will be concerned, initially with the questions “what is law?” and “what are politics?”. Is law divinely ordained? Is it a human invention? What is the role of reason in the realm of law? We will ask similar questions regarding the nature of politics. While we will focus primarily on American law and politics, we will also consider ancient formulations and modern alternatives to liberal democracy throughout the course of the semester.



Required Texts:

  • Gerald Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  • Cass Sunstein, After the Rights Revolution, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1990. ISBN: 0-674-00909-6
  • The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique, David Kairys, editor., New York: Basic Books, 1998. ISBN: 0-465-05959-7
  • Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk, New York: The Free Press, 1991. ISBN: 0-02-911823-2

These books are in print and readily available. It is your responsibility to obtain them. ISBN numbers have been provided to enable you to easily locate these books on any of the various web sites that specialize in selling books.



Grade Distribution:

  1. Thought Paper 15%
  2. Mid-Term Exam 30%
  3. Final Exam 45%
  4. Class Participation 10%

The thought paper will be a commentary that you write on a given quotation. Secondary sources are not required, although you may consult them if you wish. Be certain, if you do, that your sources are cited properly. This paper is not to exceed three typed, double spaced pages. The assignment will he handed out on Monday, September 18, and will be due on Friday, October 6, 2000. Extensions will not be granted for any reason.

The mid-term will be a take-home exam consisting of one question. You may answer this question any way you wish, but all of the niceties of a paper are expected. You will receive the question no later than October 13, and the exam will be due on Friday, November 3. Your papers should be from 7-10 pages long, and should address the given topic in as comprehensive a manner as possible. Again, extensions will not be granted for any reason.

As with the mid-term, your final examination will be a take home exam consisting of one question. Your exam is scheduled 9:30-11:20 am on December 14, 2000. Your final will thus be due no later than 11:20 am on December 14. These papers may be dropped off at my office or in my departmental mail box any time before they are due.

Class participation is required. You must do all of the assigned reading for each class. I will call on students at random in every class to discuss the readings, so please be prepared. We have a large class. Suffice it to say that if we reach the end of the term, and I have no idea who you are, you will receive no participation credit. It is impossible to get an “A” in this class with no participation credit.

We will be addressing the assigned texts very seriously. It is important that you bring your texts with you every session. If you fail to bring the assigned text with you, you may be asked to leave.



Course Outline:

  1. Introduction. (Aug. 28)
  2. What is Law and What is its Foundation?
    1. The Declaration of Independence. (handout).
    2. Deuteronomy 4:1-8. (bring your own Bible).
  3. The Politics of Law.
    1. The Politics of Law (hereafter POL) pgs. 1-114.
  4. The Role of the Courts.
    1. Rosenberg 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12
    2. The Federalist 78-83. (reserve)
  5. The Trouble with Equality?
    1. POL 279-380, 410-433
    2. Harry Jaffa, “Are These Truths Now, Or Have They Ever Been, Self-Evident?”, in Original Intent and the Framers of the Constitution, pgs. 75-81. (reserve)
  6. The Problem of Rights?
    1. Glendon, entire.
    2. Sunstein, entire.
  7. Law, Politics, and Justice.
    1. POL 641-662, 708-717