Utopia, Power and Sovereignty

This course will examine, drawing on an interdisciplinary approach, the major developments in European political thought of the Sixteenth century. The first two lectures will offer an overview of the historical, productive and social characteristics of the principal European countries of the time, analyzing, in particular, the colonization of the Americas and its effects, structural changes of economy, and demographic, cultural and religious trends.

The central part of the course will concentrate on theories related to the rise of the modern state. The formation of the modern state will be analyzed through the works written in the midst of the most important political and cultural occurrences of the century: the Italian Renaissance, the Protestant reformation, and the French Wars of Religion. These three events resulted in: I) the development of a firm distinction between morality and politics, with the primacy of the latter (Machiavelli and Botero); II) the elaboration of a doctrine of the State in service of the “true religion” (Luther, Calvin, the Monarchomachs, Suarez); and III) the making of a theory of sovereignty as a remedy to the upheavals of the epoch (Bodin).

In addition to these authors, special attention will be given to the voices of protest of some of the major Christian humanists, social reformers and political philosophers of the period, in particular More, Campanella, Bacon, de las Casas and Althusius.


York University

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 AS/POLS 3020 3.0 M (W)