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Courses on Public/Private/Counterpublic

McGill University (Montreal)
160-715B Public/Private Constructs in Political Thought
Offered through the Department of Political Science. This seminar will expose students to debates in political theory on the nature, meaning and significance of the public/private construct. What have the words ‘public’ and ‘private’ meant in political discourse, and what have been their roles in normative argument? We will examine liberal, republican, and feminist constructions and criticisms of the construct, with a focus on their implications for our understanding of the political realm, and of individual freedom.

University of Toronto (Toronto)

SSC 199Y-Y Public, Private, and the Liberal State
Offered through the Department of Political Science. The distinction between public and private is central to liberalism and, hence, to the liberal state. But two things have happened recently that complicate our capacity to figure out what public and private mean. The first is that there has been a significant blurring of the boundary between public and private – what between the emergence of institutions like charter schools in education, the rise of “public markets” in the provision of “public goods,” and the growing “privatization” of something as quintessentially public as war. The second development is the Babel effect. We continue to construct political programs around the public/private distinction. But what happens if different people mean fundamentally different things by these terms? How do we sift through the various meanings of public and private to give some coherence to our political language? Or are we doomed to talk past each other? The seminar will focus on the U.S., Canada and, where possible, Europe. We will address a broad range of perspectives, among political theory, constitutional law, and public policy

POL480Y-Y Pluralism, Justice and Equality
Offered through the Department of Political Science. This course will explore the challenge of reconciling the fact of social difference with the aspiration to equality. In particular, it will examine challenges to liberal conceptions of justice that have been brought from the standpoint of marginalized or oppressed groups. To what extent do such challenges undercut long-standing liberal strategies for coping with pluralism? With these questions in the background, we will focus on the concept of impartiality as integral to the ideal of justice. What are the alternative interpretations of the ideal of impartiality? What should we make of feminist and postmodernist claims about the impossibility of impartiality? Do such claims irreparably damage the liberal ideal of impartiality, or is it retrievable?

York University (North York)
AP/COMM 4314 Media, Publics and Democracy
Offered through the Department of Communication Studies. The course explores the relationship between contemporary forms of mediated communication and democratic public life. It examines issues such as freedom of expression and the regulation of communication and culture in the context of both dominant and alternative media practices.