Syllabus for Roster(s):

  • 16F PPOL 3559-200 (LEAD)
  • 16F PPOL 7559-300 (LEAD)
In the UVaCollab course site:   16F PPOL 3559-200 (LEAD)

Course Description (for SIS)

This seminar tackles the problem of statesmanship’s role in democracy by surveying major works in democratic theory, political history, and American politics and by driving students to consider the relevance of their own personal histories, principles, and consciences in their approach to leadership. 

Our readings will range through classic texts such as Plato, Aristotle, Max Weber, and James Madison; modern political science scholarship on leadership (such as William MacGregor Burns’ classic Leadership); texts on community organizing and the popularity of “horizontal leadership” (including the pioneering work of Marshall Ganz, which influenced Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign); John F. Kennedy’s classic work on political courage; Richard Neustadt’s important book on presidential leadership; and texts demonstrating and examining the profound dysfunction in Congress today, such as the bipartisan text, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.

In the process, we will discuss different theories of what statesmanship is, where it has gone, and how it differs from ordinary political leadership.  We will also consider the notion that republican democracy depends on a statesmanship ethos that is cultivated among citizens and leaders, and the components of that ethos.

These questions are especially pressing given the dysfunction in many of our political institutions.  They are made more challenging by the long-standing difficulty political science has experienced with the study of old-fashioned leadership—a difficulty exacerbated by the recent fascination with social media, community organizing, and other “horizontal” forms of political power.  Leadership is a classically “small-n” problem. 

The class will conclude with a group leadership exercise meant to bring students into direct collision with the difficulty of charting a statesmanlike course on an issue of public policy.  In this exercise, students, in playing the role of a candidate, a campaign manager, or a chief of staff, and by writing the final paper employing the course’s materials to propose a strategy, will be forced to confront their own principles, leadership philosophies, and even consciences.