Modern Political Theory

You should follow the standard procedures for writing a coherent essay: you should have a thesis statement, points that develop your thesis, and conclusions.

Try to answer the question, and to develop a persuasive argument in answer to the question. In doing so, please do make specific reference to the text(s) that you are discussing. For example, saying, “Machiavelli thinks that human beings are basically evil” may be correct, but saying “In the Discourses, Book I, chapter 3, Machiavelli asserts that all human beings are basically evil when he states that ‘all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature’ (Machiavelli 1984 [1531], 117)” is more accurate. The reference may also be made via footnotes; the point is that I want you to offer not merely your impressions of an author’s intent, but your substantiated argument regarding the author’s intent. This is not intended to exclude speculation but rather to indicate that it should be informed speculation.

Papers must be typed, double-spaced, formatted for standard (8 ½ by 11) paper with standard one-inch margins, (albeit that you are submitting electronically) in 11 or 12-point font, and as noted, 4-5 pages in length, the equivalent of approximately 1500 words. Papers should include footnotes, endnotes, or in-text notes to refer to works cited or referenced. You may use whatever citation style you prefer, as long as you follow it consistently. Please note that all references must be complete, including author, title, publisher, date and place of publication, and the specific page or pages cited. If your paper includes references to multiple books/articles, please include a bibliography or reference list. If you are uncertain about citation style, refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, or some other standard reference on the subject of citation; this and other reference books are available at the reference desk in the library. You could also refer to such professional journals as Ethics, Political Theory, American Political Science Review, The Review of Politics, or Philosophy and Public Affairs. There is also a reference list below in the questions, to give you an example. But if you prefer another citation format, that is fine.

We have provided a rubric for how we will approach grading for this paper; please let us know if you have questions.


Questions (choose ONE of these questions)


The first sentence of Hannah Fenichel Pitkin’s book, Fortune is a Woman, is “Niccolò Machiavelli may well be the most political of all the great political theorists; and, like politics itself, Machiavelli horrifies and repels us, yet also attracts and fascinates” (Pitkin 1984, 3). Do you think this description of Machiavelli’s political thought is accurate? What aspects of Machiavelli’s thought are horrifying and repulsive? What aspects are fascinating or attractive? Use examples from The Prince (Machiavelli 2019 [1532]) to explain your answer.
What are some of the key aspects of Machiavelli’s political advice to princes? What kind of character should a prince cultivate? How should princes provide for military defense? What other political advice does he offer? Briefly assess this advice and whether it applies to contemporary political leaders or is more appropriate for leaders of Machiavelli’s time.
Thomas Hobbes makes frequent references to science, and to geometry, in Leviathan (2018 [1651]). Discuss some of the specific ways that Hobbes discusses science and how he believes it can help to understand political life. Do you think Hobbes is correct in this argument? Why or why not?
Discuss Hobbes’ view of human nature, and how humans relate to each other in the state or nature, and under the social contract. Would you want to live in a society bound by the social contract Hobbes describes? Why or why not?

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