School of Arts and Sciences




 Course Number

  POL 211-A

Course Title

  Western Political Concepts II


 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester


Summer Semester

Credit Hours



Name of Instructor

 William Miller


Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number
 Tuesdays, Fridays, 2:00-3:15pm, Rowley G205


Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

 Friday, May 12, 3:00pm, Rowley G205


Office Hours, Location, Phone

 Tuesdays and Fridays, 12:00-2:00pm, Ireton G107, (703) 284-1687 Always email ahead of time!


 E-mail and Web Site Email is always the best way to reach me! My website is All announcements and assignments are posted on this web site, not on Canvas.

Course Description

A study of various political theories and ideologies from early modern to contemporary times. Topics include liberalism, conservatism, and political ideologies. (3)





By accepting this syllabus, you pledge to uphold the principles of Academic Integrity expressed by the Marymount University Community. You agree to observe these principles yourself and to defend them against abuse by others. Items submitted for this course may be submitted to for analysis.


For the benefit of current and future students, work in this course may be used for educational critique, demonstrations, samples, presentations, and verification.  Outside of these uses, work shall not be sold, copied, broadcast, or distributed for profit without student consent. 

Please address any special challenges or needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester. Students seeking accommodations for a disability must complete the required steps for obtaining a Faculty Contact Sheet from the Office of Student Access Services (SAS). Students are then responsible for meeting with their instructors at the beginning of the semester to review and sign the Faculty Contact Sheet and develop a specific plan for providing the accommodations listed. Accommodations cannot be granted to students who fail to follow this process. Appointments with the SAS director can be scheduled through the Starfish "Success Network" tab in Canvas. For more information, check the SAS website, e-mail, or call 703-284-1538 to reach the SAS director or an academic support coordinator.


When students are absent due to a crisis situation or unexpected, serious illness and unable to contact their individual instructors directly, the Division of Student Affairs can send out an Emergency Notification. To initiate an Emergency Notification, students should contact the Division of Student Affairs 703-284-1615 or Emergency Notifications are NOT appropriate for non-emergency situations (e.g. car problems, planned absences, minor illnesses, or a past absence); are NOT a request or mandate to excuse an absence, which is at the sole discretion of the instructor; and are NOT a requirement for student absences. If a student contacts instructors about an emergency situation directly, it is not necessary to involve the Division of Student Affairs as arrangements are made to resolve the absence.

For non-emergency absences, students should inform their instructors directly. 


Copies of your work in this course, including copies of any submitted papers and your portfolios, may be kept on file for institutional research, assessment, and accreditation purposes. All work used for these purposes will be submitted anonymously. 


Weather and Emergency closings are announced on Marymount’s web site:, through MUAlerts, area radio stations, and TV stations. You may also call the Weather and Emergency Hotline at (703) 526-6888 for current status. Unless otherwise advised by local media or by official bulletins listed above, students are expected to report for class as near normal time as possible on days when weather conditions are adverse. Decisions as to inclement closing or delayed opening are not generally made before 6:00 AM and by 3:00 PM for evening classes of the working day. Emergency closing could occur at any time making MUAlerts the most timely announcement mechanism. Students are expected to attend class if the University is not officially closed. If the University is closed, course content and assignments will still be covered as directed by the course instructor. Please look for communication from the course instructor (e.g., Canvas) for information on course work during periods in which the University is closed.


This course provides a study of various political theories and ideologies from early modern to contemporary times. Topics include liberalism, conservatism, and political ideologies. The different concepts and topics are presented in classic readings designed to introduce students to some of the most important literature of modern and contemporary political thought and to provoke inquiry into the writers' fundamental conceptions about nature, reason, human nature, good and evil, and government.

2.  COURSE OBJECTIVES:  Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected to:


1.   be able to analyze political writings and determine the authors' fundamental conceptions regarding (1) "nature" or the structure of reality ("ontology" and "cosmology"), (2) the processes of and capacity for human knowledge ("epistemology"), (3) human nature ("philosophical anthropology" or "philosophical psychology"), (4) the ultimate standards of right and wrong ("ethics"), and (5) the proper functions of government ("politics");

2.   have a basic understanding of the political concepts of "authority," "rights," "liberalism," "conservatism," "nationalism," "socialism," "communism," and "positivism";

3.   be familiar with important writings by leading figures representing these approaches in modern political theory;

4.   demonstrate a basic understanding of the nature of political “ideology” as a distinct form of political thought and action;

5.   demonstrate a basic ability to read texts in political theory with critical understanding--i.e., to grasp the author's main points, to identify his supporting arguments and rationales, and to offer cogent internal and external criticism of the readings; and,

6.   engage in the practice of writing and critical reasoning by composing well organized, acceptably written, logically argued essays and papers on issues of political theory.




The course will consist primarily of guided discussions of the readings and secondarily of lectures and background information by the instructor.




Friday, February 17, is the last day to drop a class without academic record

Friday, March 24, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of a "W"


The final grade is based on a possible total of 100 points that includes grades for class assignments (which includes answering questions in class and participating in class discussions) and quizzes, two short graded papers, two mid-term essay exams, and a final essay exam, as follows:


20% = Two papers (each is worth 10%)

40% = Mid-term exams (each is worth 20%)

25% = Final exam

15% = Class assignments, quizzes, constructive contributions to class discussions, and one practice paper worth up to 5% for simply turning in a good faith effort. Students new to the POL210-211 sequence must also schedule an appointment (worth 2%) to review the paper.


The usual scale of 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, and 59% and below=F will be used for all graded work.


The exams and the papers are all based on the primary readings of the course: not on the class lectures, which are intended to help you understand the readings and not to substitute for the readings. No grade of "I" or "Incomplete" will be given. If possible, papers and exams will be graded and returned within two weeks. No late papers will be accepted. Papers emailed to me by the due date and time will be accepted as long as you give me a hard copy by the next class. Students must retain a copy of each paper on their hard drive, thumb drive, or the cloud. 




Attendance: Beginning with the second week of classes, students are allowed a total of nine absences, excused and/or unexcused. Students who miss ten classes or more will receive an “F” in the course.   


Each unexcused absence beyond three—up to the absolute limit of nine—will result in a lowering of the final grade by one percentage point. To be excused, an absence must be explained to and approved by me, preferably before it occurs. Excused absences are typically those that are documented, such as medical-, legal-, or job-related excuses. Note: Occasionally coming to class late—even real late once or twice—is not considered an absence. Coming to class without hard copies of the text for the day, or leaving class after dropping off a paper or taking an announced quiz without my prior permission, or spending time in class on internet sources unrelated to class, however, is considered an absence.


Merely informing me ahead of time that you will be absent from class does not mean I excuse the absence, though I appreciate your courtesy. I will not excuse your absence because you are simply not feeling well or because you choose to do something worthwhile other than come to class even if you inform me ahead of time. If you are coughing and sneezing and coming down with a cold or the flu, and you don't want to spread your virus to your classmates, your fellow students and I salute you! Staying home may be the right thing to do, but it is not an excused absence. You all get three unexcused absences to use as you see fit, and it is your decision to use them to stay home when you don't feel well or want to attend some other event or need to prepare for another class instead of going to my class. Use them for good reasons: that's what they are for.


The limit of nine total absences recognizes that excessive excused absences may also be a problem. You should discuss such situations with me well before the last month of the semester. This is not a distance learning class. Any absence prevents you from participating in the class, but if your job or an illness keeps you away from class, it will significantly affect the class participation component of your grade and may be a good reason to drop the course and take it another time. All of us find ourselves in these situations from time to time and have to deal with them appropriately. You also have an obligation to report this to a University office (see the section on “Absenteeism in the 2016-2017 University Catalogue).


When in doubt about any of these policies, please come and talk to me. They have been formulated with our substantial commuter and working student population in mind and are intended to be fair to everyone. You should also review the University's policies on “Absenteeism” in the 2016-2017 University Catalogue.


Make-up Exams: The same basic rules about excused absences apply to taking mid-terms. My policy of giving makeup exams on the same day as the final does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on that day rather than on the regularly scheduled day: it is not an alternative test date. To be eligible for a makeup, you must qualify for an excused absence, and this you should do a reasonable time before the day of the mid-term, if that is at all possible. You may be excused from taking a mid-term if you are certifiably sick or your job prevents you from attending class or you have a serious family or personal or employment emergency on the day of the test. If one of these applies and I am informed in a reasonable time before the exam and you have written documentation to support your request, you may take the exam on the same day as the final exam. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. If you are late for the exam because of events outside of your control, let me know immediately or as soon as possible that day, and I will let you take the exam later that same day if possible.




This schedule is subject to changes because of weather and other factors: see the link to "Western Political Concepts II (Spring 2016)" in the Weekly Assignments section of the webpage before each class for an updated schedule and specific assignments. 


Week I (1/17-20): Introduction to the course: the problem of authority and the liberal-Epicurean solution. Introductory essays (handouts and web links).

Week II (1/24-27): Ancient, Classical, and Classical-Christian solutions: macrocosmic and anthropological order. Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas; "Modern Philosophers' Rejections of Classical Philosophy."

Week III (1/31-2/3): Epicurean solutions: social contracts and bills of rights: readings from Locke, Hobbes, & Rousseau.

Week IV (2/7-10): Readings from and about Machiavelli. FIRST PAPER.

Week V (2/14-17): Readings from and about Machiavelli.

Week VI (2/21-24):   Readings from and about Machiavelli. MID-TERM EXAM.

Week VII (2/28-3/3):  Political Ideologies. Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto.


Spring Break!


Week VIII (3/14-17): Readings from Adolf Hitler, Norman Cohn. 

Week IX (3/21-24):  Readings from and about ideologies. SECOND PAPER.

Week X (3/28-31):  Readings from and about ideologies.

Week XI (4/4-7): Readings from and about ideologies. MID-TERM EXAM

Week XII (4/11): Readings from and about Mill.

Week XIII (4/21):  Readings from and about Mill.

Week XIV (4/25-28):  Readings from and about Mill. THIRD PAPER.

Week XV (5/2-5): Readings from and about Mill. 


The final exam will be given only at the date and time prescribed by the University Final Exam Schedule: Friday, May 12th, at 3:00pm. Also, any permitted make-ups of mid-term exams will take place on the 12th. Make your travel plans accordingly!





Niccolo Machiavelli, Selected Political Writings, Hackett, 978-0872202474


Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, Pathfinder 978-1604880038


John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Utilitarianism, and Other Essays, Oxford University Press 978-0199670802




For the benefit of the class and your classmates, the following rules regarding electronic devices also apply to this course:


1.     Turn your cell phones off during the class. If you are expecting an important call, put your phone on “Vibrate,” sit near the door, and, when the call comes, answer it outside the classroom.

2.     It follows from the foregoing rule, but it must be separately stated: no talking and no texting on cell phones during class. If you do not follow this rule, I will publicly ask you to leave the room for the remainder of the class and will do my best to have you removed from the course for the rest of the semester.

3.     No open lap-top or other computers are allowed in class without my prior permission. Devices such as tablets, Ipads, Kindles, Kobos, and Nooks that lie flat on the desk and on to which the readings can be loaded are permitted if approved by me, but hard copies of the readings are better. You can mark them up and take notes on them in class.

4.     Be sure to check your Marymount email address regularly! This is Marymount’s and my principal way of contacting you with important information. Perhaps you rely mostly on Yahoo, gmail, or some other provider, but check your mail daily to make sure you do not miss school information.


These rules are necessary to foster a suitable learning environment in the classroom during class. There are enough distractions with lawnmowers, air conditioners, and other outside forces to combat during lectures and discussions without these controllable distractions within the room.