undergraduate Introduction to Civic Studies Course

PHIL-0020-01-Intro to Civic Studies at Tufts University (Fall 2018)

  • Ioannis D. Evrigenis, Professor of Political Science
  • Erin I. Kelly, Professor of Philosophy
  • Peter Levine, Lincoln-Filene Professor and Academic Dean, Tisch College

Civic Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on critical reflection, ethical thinking, and action for social change. People who think and act together to improve society must address problems of collective action (how to get members to work together) and deliberation (how to reason together about contested values). They must understand how power is organized and how it operates within and between societies. They must grapple with social conflict, violence, and other obstacles to peaceful cooperation. When tensions arise within a group, people face questions of justice and fairness, and they must confront questions about appropriate relationships to outsiders of all types. This introductory course explores ethical, political, and theological frameworks for understanding how people can and should organize themselves to improve societies. Readings are drawn from philosophy and political theory, economics, the history of social movements, and other disciplines. This course provides theoretical grounding for Civic Studies majors and for other students interested in social change.


Mark Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics. On order at the Tufts bookstore. Recommended: David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon.

Final grades will depend on:

  • 10% class participation
  • 25% first paper (5-7 pages)
  • 25% second paper (5-7 pages)
  • 30% a simulation (a group exercise that comprises six short writing assignments, each worth 5%)
  • 10% in-class midterm exam

September 5: Introduction

September 10: A “feeling of personal responsibility for the world”

September 12: What is a citizen? Who is a citizen?

Aristotle, Politics III.1-5 .

September 17: The citizen in a modern democracy

John Dewey, The Public and its Problems, Chapter 5, “Search for the Great Community.

Problems of Collective Action

September 19: Elinor Ostrom and the Bloomington School

Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize Lecture  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.(video or text)

September 24: Ostrom Continued

Thomas Dietz, Nives Dolsak, Elinor Ostrom, and Paul C. Stern, “The Drama of the Commons” in Elinor Ostrom, ed., Drama of the Commons, pp. 3-26.

Elinor Ostrom, “Covenants, Collective Action, and Common-Pool Resources

September 26: Collective Action Problems at Scale

James Madison, The Federalist #10.  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Jane Mansbridge, Beyond Adversary Democracypp. 23-35, 59-76, 163-182 293-8 

October 1: Spontaneous Order

Friedrich Hayek, “The Pretence of Knowledge ” Nobel Prize Lecture (1974)

Friedrich Hayek” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed,Introduction (pp. 1-8), Chapter 3 “Authoritarian High Modernism”

Draft of first paper due

October 3: Social Capital as a Solution

Robert D. Putnam, “Community-Based Social Capital and Educational Performance,” in Ravitch and Viteritti, eds., Making Good Citizens, pp. 58-95

Identifying Good Ends and Means

October 9: Habermas and Deliberative Democracy

First group assignment  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. due

October 10: Habermas Continued

  • Jürgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms, pp. 359-379

October 15: Implementing Deliberative Democracy

Nabatchi, Matt Leighninger, Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy (2015), pp. 241-285 and 305-324 

Danielle E. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship Since Brown, v. Board of Education pp 140-186

Final draft of first paper due

October 17: Scholars in Public Deliberation

Visiting speaker: Prof. Jonathan Garlick

Bent Flyvbjerg, ” Social Science that Matters ” (2006)

(additional reading)

October 22: John Rawls

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, pp. 3-19, 52-57

October 24: John Rawls, continued

John Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited”

Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics, pp. 1-22

Lynn Sanders, “ Against Deliberation

Exclusion and Identity

October 29

Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” 

Steve Biko, Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity” 

The Book of Nehemiah 

Second group assignment   due

October 31: Identity and the Common Good

Lilla, The Once and Future Liberal 

November 5: Social Movements

Charles Tilly, ” Social Movements, 1768-2004″

Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, vol. 2, pp. 391-6.

Marshall Ganz, “Why David Sometimes Wins: Strategic Capacity in Social Movements,” in Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper, Rethinking Social Movements: Structure, Meaning, and Emotion (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) pp.177-98.

November 7: Community Organizing

Saul AlinskyReveille for Radicals1946 (1969 edition), pp. 76-81; 85-88; 92-100, 132-5, 155-158.

Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking, pp. 115-138

November 14: Midterm in class

November 19: Nonviolent Campaigns

Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, chapters 3, 4, and 5.

? Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, chapters 1 and 2 

November 26: Nonviolence

Bikhu Parekh, GandhiChapter 4 (“Satyagraha”), pp. 51-62;

Timothy Garton Ash, “Velvet Revolution: The Prospects,” New York Review of Books, December 3, 2009

The Person in Community

November 28: Plato, Apology of Socrates

December 3: Plato, Apology of SocratesCrito

December 5: Civic Education: What all this means for what students should learn

Joel Westheimer and Joseph E. Kahne, “Educating the ‘Good Citizen’: Political Choices and Pedagogical Goals,” PS Online

Third group assignment  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. due

December 10: Civic Studies at Tufts and Beyond

Draft of second paper due

Dec. 20: Final paper due.