The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Sanford Levinson

Affiliated Faculty

Sanford Levinson



GOV 381L • Emergency Power & Const Theory

38900 • Spring 2012
Meets T 3:30PM-6:30PM TNH 3.114
(also listed as LAW 397S)

GOV 381L/LAW 397S 

Emergency Power and Constitutional Theory

Jeffrey K. Tulis & Sanford Levinson

Tuesdays, 3:30-5:30 at the Law School

This graduate seminar is open to PhD students as well as JD students.  There are no course prerequisites.  For the Government PhD program the course will count in both the political theory and public law fields.

"Emergency powers" have become a pervasive topic of contemporary political theory, political science, and law.  This seminar will therefore be highly interdisciplinary.  It will begin with a close examination of some classical political theorists who have written on the subject, including Machiavelli, John Locke, and Carl Schmitt (to name only three).  We will also look at key American political thinkers, including the authors of the Federalist Papers, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.  We will obviously also look at a variety of cases, primarily from the United States Supreme Court, addressing the nature and limits of "emergency powers."  We will read studies in contemporary constitutional and political theory, including recent books by Clement Fatovic, Benjamin Kleinerman, and Bonnie Honig.  Finally the syllabus will contain a number of articles on emergencies in different policy areas.

It is important to realize that "emergencies" can arise in a number of different guises.  We are probably most aware of "national security emergencies" linked with war and terrorism.  But there are also emergencies provoked by breakdowns in the economy, by natural disasters, and by public health contagions.  All raises interestingly different problems, ranging from the identity of those we would like to make decisions to the particular powers we would grant them.

Students will be expected to write a seminar paper based on original research, though, with professorial approval, it will be possible to substitute an extended analytic review essay of one or more books relevant to the subject at hand.  Most important, though, is the expectation that students will be well prepared on the weeks' readings and be prepared to discuss them with one another.  To this end, students will also be asked to prepare and present a number of short "response papers" that will help serve to establish the agenda for each session's discussions.

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