17.037 / 17.038 American Political Thought

As taught in: Spring 2004

Engraving of senators gathered to impeach Andrew Johnson.

Vote to Impeach Andrew Johnson. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.)


Undergraduate / Graduate


Prof. Sarah Song

Course Features

Course Description

This course surveys American political thought from the colonial era to the present. Required readings are drawn mainly from primary sources, including writings of politicians, activists, and theorists. Topics include the relationship between religion and politics, rights, federalism, national identity, republicanism versus liberalism, the relationship of subordinated groups to mainstream political discourse, and the role of ideas in politics. We will analyze the simultaneous radicalism and weakness of American liberalism, how the revolutionary ideas of freedom and equality run up against persistent patterns of inequality. Graduate students are expected to pursue the subject in greater depth through suggested reading and individual research.