“Big Ideas” in Political Thought

Created for thoughtful high school students, this course explores the evolution of significant ideas about political systems and the status of the individual within them. Students study concepts such as sovereignty, citizenship, and rights, and the ways they have been enacted and contested over time. Read on for an abbreviated version of the syllabus.


Hobbes & The Social Contract

Locke & the Social Contract

  • Excerpts from Locke. Second Treatise of Government. Project Gutenberg. 2005.
  • Lim. Doing Comparative Politics. 2010. Read p.8.
  • Ch.1, and the intro to Ch.8. Gaddis. The Landscape of History. 2002.

Tocqueville on Political Culture


Civil Rights & Human Rights


Roots of Conservatism

Democratic Backsliding

Governing & Big Tech

  • Zuboff. “Big Other.” J. of Information Technology. 2015. (PDF here)
  • Posetti & Bontcheva. “Is Facebook a Failed State?” Foreign Policy. 5/10/2021. (Link here)
  • A graph of monthly Facebook users over time.
  • Taylor. “If Social Networks were Countries…” (bar graph). World Economic Forum. 4/28/2016.

Pandemics & Politics

Closing Thoughts