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Theorizing Subjection Beyond Contract and Consent

CHUM 376
Fall 2021
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: GOVT 356
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

What modes of subjection does political life elicit from us, and how do they underpin and challenge our ideas of consent? Can we give genuine consent when we have already been subjected to parental authority? When we have unconscious desires we cannot avow? When we lack meaningful control over the norms that constitute our political, social, psychic lives? This class examines the centrality of the notion of consent to the liberal democratic order, and how it requires a prior mode of subjection that the liberal subject cannot knowingly or willingly consent to. In Unit 1, we read classic formulations of the liberal individual who consents to political rule (Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau). We look for the ways these theorists presuppose and disavow practices of subject formation that are beyond consent--parental authority, the informal authority of mores and norms, deception, precarity, ideology. We then read critiques of the social contract tradition that highlight the constitutive exclusions of liberalism, and ask how consent bears upon subjects that are constituted by the state as included others (Pateman, MacKinnon, West, Mills, Simplican). In Unit 2, we read critiques of the liberal subject that interrogate the possibility of genuine consent, examining issues of false consciousness (Marx, Marcuse), self-opacity and the unconscious (Freud, Benjamin), discursive constitution (Foucault), and performativity (Butler). We use these thinkers to interrogate the distinctions underpinning liberal notions of consent, such as autonomous and heteronomous, authentic and inauthentic, public and private. In Unit 3, we examine how the notion of consent is changing in in our current political moment, in which the liberal democratic state is waning, but the notion of consent persists, such as under neoliberalism (Brown, Feher, Berlant), sexual assault (Kessel, Halley, Murray), and right-wing movements (Grattan, Anker). We close by considering what might be alternatives to and reconfigurations of this model of consent (late Foucault, Maxwell).
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA CHUM
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode:
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (CSCT)(GOVT)(GOVT-Theory)
Past Enrollment Probability: 50% - 74%

Last Updated on JUL-21-2024
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