Fall/Winter Timetable

SII199Y1Y L0352

First-Year Seminar

Public, Private, and the Liberal State


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.


A package of customized readings will be produced for students in the seminar.


This course is open only to newly admitted first year students.

The 199Y seminars do not substitute for POL 101Y/103Y/105/108Y. Also, the 199Y seminars do not count toward the requirements of any of the Political Science programs.