Why Big Government

This interdisciplinary course explores a pressing intellectual challenge of our time: Americans’ ambivalent historical relationship with the state. It explores how Americans from the era of Alexander Hamilton to the Age of Obama conceptualize and confront the state by demanding, protesting, prohibiting, and expanding government power over their persons and their property. The course pursues these themes through classics of social and political thought, such as the writings of James Madison, Frederick Lloyd Garrison, John Dewey, and John Maynard Keynes, alongside compelling new frameworks offered by scholars such as sociologists Monica Prasad and Andrew Abbott, journalist Ta-Nahesi Coates, and philosopher Danielle Allen. The course also draws upon visual media, such as screenings of The Wire and Birth of a Nation, while using the social media platform of Twitter to undertake some of the inquiries in public and in real time.