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Grant number: AQ-50688-12

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AQ-50688-12

University of Montana (Missoula, MT 59801-4494)
Robert Saldin (Project Director: 09/21/2011 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on "What Form of Government Is Best Suited to Human Society?"

The development of an undergraduate seminar on the question, What form of government is best suited to human society?

Assistant Professor Robert Saldin develops a first- and second- year seminar that is sponsored by the university's political science department and honors college. The seminar addresses how governmental structures are attuned to social arrangements and how these structures influence "a society's way of life." The first part of the course considers theories about governmental forms, with examples from classical antiquity. "An essential purpose of this first portion . . . will be to encourage students to take a step back from our own familiar life within a liberal democracy" and consider other possible forms of government organization in different times and places. Tentative readings for this section include selections from Aristotle's Politics, Plato's Republic, and Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. Aristophanes' The Clouds, Shakespeare's Coriolanus, and Plutarch's "Life of Lycurgus" are read in full. The second part of the course examines "three government forms-theocracy, liberal democracy, and socialism-that are contemporary, and controversial" to provide specific case studies to illuminate the central question. Readings on theocracy include John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity"; Ayatollah Khomeini, "Messages to Pilgrims"; Thomas Jefferson, "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom"; and Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter. Readings for liberal democracy encompass Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; and Kurt Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron." Socialism is studied through Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto; Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution; and Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon. The course is offered twice, in Fall 2013 and Fall 2014; each iteration includes two outside guest lectures open to the university community with live streaming video; the lecturers also meet privately with the class to discuss their presentations. Professor Saldin notes that his scholarly training focuses on "American politics and public policy." The grant allows him to expand his expertise into other periods and cultures through close study of works listed in the scholarly bibliography included in the application.

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General

Program:
Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Division:
Education Programs

Total amounts:
$24,999 (approved)
$24,995 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2012 – 12/31/2014