Prompts for the Optional Paper

Here are the instructions and prompts for the optional essay. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Answer ONE of the following paper topics. Your final draft should be 5-7 (seven pages is an absolute, law of nature maximum!) pages long, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins, and in 12 point Times New Roman or Garamond font. The paper is due THURSDAY, APRIL 17, by the end of the day. Since we will not have class that day, you must submit your essay via e-mail. Whenever appropriate, make sure you support your arguments and claims with textual evidence. Note that, for the purposes of this assignment, the professor’s lectures and statements are considered to be in public domain: you don’t need to cite them. However, when the professor says, “Honig thinks blah blah blah,” then you need to cite the appropriate places in Honig.

1. Carl Schmitt argues that parliamentary (i.e., representative) government is in crisis, primarily because the principles of democracy are in fundamental contradiction with the principles of liberalism. In your essay, critically evaluate Benhabib’s conception of deliberative democracy and Honig’s “agonistic” approach. Which approach creates the most compelling response to Schmitt’s diagnosis of the problem of “liberal democracy”? Explain your answer.

2. One of the apparent differences between Honig’s approach and Benhabib’s is the role of undecidability, ambiguity, and “alienness” in democratic practice. Benhabib’s deliberation is focused on coming to rationally motivated agreements. Honig, in contrast, emphasizes the “gothic” aspects of democratic practice—on the passionate attachment to democratic practices combined with a fear that they may go wrong or be unjust (see pp. 120-121). Our question is this: which focus is better at producing a just and inclusive form of democratic politics? Is it more useful for democratic citizens to think that decisions can be made rationally acceptable, or for them to reject such a notion? In answering this question, you should consider analyzing some concrete political phenomenon as an example.

3. In chapter 4 of Democracy and the Foreigner, argues that the myth of the immigrant as “democratic taker” might help avoid the conundrums she has identified in the stories Americans tell about immigrants (pp. 98ff). What are the features of this myth and why does Honig conclude that it might a more valuable story? Do you agree with her analysis? Why or why not?

4. In chapter 2 of Democracy and the Foreigner, Honig offers three different versions of the myth of the “foreign founder.” Which version of this myth does she prefer and why? Do you agree with her assessment? What are the strengths and weaknesses of her conception of what democracy requires.

5. In many respects, the film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” tells the narrative that Rousseau refers to with his figure of the legislator. Using the characters of Tom Doniphon and Ransom Stoddard as examples, explain the theoretical and practical problem that the legislator/founder is supposed to solve, assess whether this figure can actually solve the problem, and draw out the consequences of this solution (or lack thereof) for the political society to be restored or founded.

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