Authority & the Individual

This political theory survey explores the moral relationship between authority and the individual. Well before Plato, political thinkers have been concerned with the question of what a decent society looks like. Since the rise of liberalism especially, this question has taken the form of a struggle between authority on the one hand and the individual on the other. The modern state, including liberal democracies and autocracies alike, comes embedded with notions about the proper place of authority and the individual—but while these ideas have gained traction through their present universal implementation, they are not the only ideas in circulation. We will explore thinkers from very different historical epochs and cultural contexts, some of whom are not typically read as political theory: Thomas Hobbes, Confucius, Mohandas Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, Emma Goldman, Iris Murdoch, Bertrand Russell, Alexander von Humboldt, Karl Marx, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Sayd Qutb among others.