What is Legitimate?

The course explores how and why equilibria around questions of legitimate action in the areas of domestic governance, foreign policy, and international interventions form and why they often remain contentious. The course encourages students to understand ideas of legitimacy as bound in time and space, i.e., what is considered legitimate by some societies at some point in time may not be considered legitimate by others. Students discover how different modes of production and resulting philosophical disputes and political agendas drive the social construction of legitimate action. The course draws primarily on sociological scholarship but embraces an interdisciplinary approach. It comprises lectures, student presentations, and case-based classroom debates. A guided tour of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center at Mount Vernon and to the United States Supreme Court help anchor key concepts in historical and contemporary contexts. Introductory training on interviews, surveys and experimental research designs enables experiential learning by empowering students to conduct their own research based on primary data collection in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

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