Democracy and the Masses

New School for Social Research: Politics

Liberal Arts
Graduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Democracy and the Masses
Spring 2023
Taught By: Sandipto Dasgupta
Section: A

CRN: 13272

Credits: 3

Ever since democracy was conceived, it has been animated and haunted by the figure of the masses (or crowds, mobs etc.). Till less than a hundred years ago, the inextricable association with the masses was what made democracy both dangerous to rulers and appealing to revolutionaries. Only in the twentieth century did western political thought successfully detach the two: democracy was now a set of constitutional procedures and rights; the masses were to be exiled to the domain of surveys and psychology. Only in recent times have we seen an unsanctioned and unruly return of the popular or the masses back into politics, resulting in a much discussed ‘crisis of democracy.’ This course revisits the conjoined concept of democracy/masses through four periods in history – 6th to 4th century BCE Greece, 19th century France, Post-Civil War United States, and 20th century (anti/postcolonial) India. Each were times of momentous social and political transformation. Each witnessed different groups of previously excluded ‘masses’ (the poor, the workers, the freed slaves, and the colonized respectively) storming the stage of politics. Consequently, these periods also produced some of the richest reflections on what democracy is and should be; and the hopes and dangers of a politics of the masses. The course invites students to rethink both the concept of democracy and the politics of the masses from these different historical vantage points. They would get an opportunity to read major political thinkers – Plato and Marx, Dubois and Gandhi, amongst others – through the contentious times that produced them. The course material would consist of both primary texts from those periods and secondary commentaries.

College: New School for Social Research (GF)

Department: Politics (GPOL)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 5:44am EDT 9/29/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday
Times: 4:00pm - 5:50pm
Building: 6 East 16th Street
Room: 600
Date Range: 1/23/2023 - 5/15/2023