Accueil > Introduction to Libertarianism

DSPO 25A06 - Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism

Type d'enseignement : Seminar

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Libertarianism is a theory that believes in natural inalienable individual rights and advocates for minimum state intervention. It departs from classical liberal thought yet is usually understood to derive from the works of Locke and Mill, even though earlier traces can be also identified in The Levellers and Hobbes. This class proposes to analyse libertarian thought by retracing its footsteps back to its sources. To identify major turning points in libertarian thought, we will look at its classic liberal roots, to understand the exact relationship between liberalism and libertarianism. This shall be done by focusing on the concepts of natural rights, consent, autonomy, voluntariness and self-ownership. Then we shall examine libertarian authors, in particular Nozick and Hayek, to examine their theory in detail and its implications. We shall put this into context by identifying different streaks of contemporary libertarian thought, in particular left libertarianism and multicultural libertarianism. Finally, we shall engage with critiques of libertarian thought: the Marxist, feminist and race-oriented critiques. This class will not exclusively focus on theory. As a class of history of political thought, it shall constantly endeavor to make explicit the connection between the historical context of these theories, to understand how they came about. This will take students on a journey starting in 17th century Britain to the Vietnam War in the US or the Brexit vote. The class will also pay specific attention to the application of this theory, and students will be asked to reflect on specific case studies relating to libertarian theory.


MORNINGTON, Alicia-Dorothy (Maître de conférences)

Course validation

There will 4 marks: a final essay (30%), an oral presentation (25%), a midterm exam (25%), class participation (20%). Students will be expected to complete each week's key reading and come prepared for an active class discussion.

Required reading

  • • HAYEK, F. A., The Constitution of Liberty, University of Chicago Press, 1960
  • • MILL, John Stuart, On Liberty, New York, Prometheus Books, 1986
  • • NOZICK, Robert, Anarchy, State and Utopia, Oxford, Blackwell, 1974