Each of the three topics as described below includes a series of questions. These are simply suggested guides for writing. You need not address yourself to all of these questions as long as you write a coherent, illuminating, and well-argued essay on the main topic.
1. Discuss Spinoza’s conception of the correct relationship between religion and politics. According to him, what is the nature of religious truth? How does he distinguish that truth from “superstition?” How does the state come into existence and what is its proper role? What kind of power ought the state to possess regarding the regulation of religion? Do church organizations have any place in politics? What rights should religious believers as well as other citizens enjoy regarding freedom of expression and worship? Apply Spinoza’s ideas to an analysis of any one of the three contemporary issues we discussed in this course: gay marriage, the death penalty, or the conflict between creationism and evolutionary biology.
2. Discuss Foucault’s treatment of disciplinary power in the chapters we have read from his book, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. What exactly is disciplinary power? How does it differ from the sovereign power of the state? What role does surveillance (“panopticism”) play in networks of disciplinary power? Apply Foucault’s ideas to an analysis of the expansion of surveillance in the United States after 9/11, including the revelations of Edward Snowden about NSA surveillance programs.
3. Discuss Foucault’s treatment of biopower in the final chapter of History of Sexuality, Vol 1, as well as the discussions of Foucault’s treatment in the two articles on our website by Mario Lazzarato. What is biopower? How does it differ from sovereignty as well as disciplinary power, and how are the three forms of power related to one another? Apply the concept of biopower to an analysis of China’s one-child policy.