Professor Paul M. Sniderman


This course focuses on the value of tolerance and its implications for both the principles and practices of democracy. It examines tolerance both as it has been understood by political philosophers and as it is understood by citizens at large. The readings therefore include such classics as John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and Isaiah Berlin’s "Two Concepts of Liberty" and modern studies of public opinion. Among the topics examined are: ideas of liberty; value pluralism; the interplay of authority and obedience; the role of political elites and mass publics in democratic societies; and multiculturalism.

The fundamental objectives of the course are to promote critical thinking and to explore some of the principal forms of value conflict in contemporary liberal democracies.

The class will be run as a seminar, and students will be expected to take responsibility for one topic on the syllabus, preparing a brief paper, circulated in advance, and leading the initial discussion in class. The paper should discuss strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and evidence they encounter in the readings. An adequate paper would provide a summary of the readings; a superior paper would go on to point to weakness in the readings, unresolved research questions, or the substantive implications of any methodological deficiencies. A longer paper will count for two thirds of the grade. Both papers are graded on the logic of the arguments, understanding of the material, creativity, and clarity of exposition.

If you have problems downloading the readings, please contact mprior@stanford.edu.


Course Outline

Oct 2: Introduction

Oct 9: Two Concepts of Liberty

Isaiah Berlin, "Two Concepts of Liberty," in Liberty, David Miller, (ed.), 1991. Oxford University Press.

Charles Taylor, "What's Wrong With Negative Liberty." in David Miller (ed.), 1991, Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ronald Dworkin, "Two Concepts of Liberty," in E. Margolit and A.Margolit, 1991, Isaiah Berlin,University of Chicago Press.

John Gray, "Berlin’s Agonistic Liberalism" in Isaiah Berlin, 1996. Princeton University Press.

Isaiah Berlin and Bernard Williams, “Pluralism and Liberalism: a Reply,” Political Studies: 61: 306-309.

Oct 16: Elites and Mass: Democratic Elitism, Democratic Participation and Democratic Values


Oct. 30: Alienation and Authority


Nov. 6: Identity and Difference

Charles Taylor, "The Politics of Recognition."


Nov. 27: Tolerance, The Principle of Colorblindness, and the Problem of Assimilation

Brian Barry, ch2. The Strategy of Privatization


Dec. 4: Liberty

John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"