What does your argument teach the reader or suggest about the relationship between theory and politics, about the nature of politics itself, etc.?

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Instructions: Choose ONE of the following topics. Write an essay on the questions it raises, trying

to produce a single, integrated paper with a clearly developed line of argument, even though the topic

may consist of several distinct quotations and questions. Support your argument with lots of

evidence from the required reading by providing page references, but do not use long quotations.

Essays should be 3-5 pages long (approximately 900-1500 words), double-spaced, using a 12 pt. font

and one-inch margins. Also, be sure to indicate the specific prompt to which you are responding and

to consult my “Helpful Hints on Papers”



HELPFUL HINTS FOR WRITING POLITICAL THEORY PAPERS This course raises broad theoretical and political questions through an analysis of particular texts and events. In the papers, your task is to draw upon the readings and discussions to create arguments of your own. You must therefore be very careful that each of your papers 1) makes an argument (at the very least, this means no papers that only summarize the material or review the discussion), and 2) makes the argument clearly. The following structure is a useful guideline: 1. Introductory paragraph–This paragraph should do three things at the very least: a. Indicate the topic/question you have chosen. b. State clearly what your answer will be to the topic/question you have picked. This is your thesis, and the rest of the paper should be organized to substantiate it. c. Outline the kinds of arguments you will be making in the rest of your paper in support of your thesis/answer. 2. Body of the paper–Most of your paper should serve to advance and substantiate your thesis with arguments drawn from the text and your own readings of particular passages from the books that support your arguments. Each paragraph in the body of the paper should serve to advance your thesis. It should not be a stream of unrelated thoughts about the question you have chosen. A way to avoid this is to make sure that the first sentence of each paragraph states clearly what point that paragraph will be making and how that point helps advance your overall thesis. 3. Conclusion–Do not use a concluding paragraph to simply summarize the arguments you have already made. Use the conclusion instead to speculate about the implications of your arguments for the themes of the course, or for our understanding of contemporary politics. What does your argument teach the reader or suggest about the relationship between theory and politics, about the nature of politics itself, etc.? This is the portion of the paper where you can demonstrate how well you understand what is at stake in the debate/issue/problem you are addressing, and where you stand on the matter. DO NOT JUST STATE YOUR VIEWS, EXPLAIN WHY YOU FEEL THAT WAY. Here are a few hints for developing your arguments and preparing your essays. 1. Read the question carefully. Think about the question and reflect upon it before you sit down to write the paper. Feel free to challenge the assumptions of the authors we have read, and the terms of the question itself. 2. Read the text carefully. Reread the passages you think are relevant to the question, using them to spark your own interpretation. Remember, relevant passages from the texts and your own intellectual imagination are the material for your argument. 3. Keep your paper tight and well-organized. Organize your paper so that the reader is able to easily follow the flow of your argument and so that you are able to answer all parts of the question (or all parts implied by the question). One way to do this is to use topic sentences to organize your paragraphs, but there are other ways as well. 4. Strive for concision in your writing. Keep in mind that complex ideas are best stated simply. 5. Have a thesis and state it clearly. Make it clear what your position is on the question early in the paper, and indicate what kind of arguments you will make to support that position. 6. Use the texts sparingly. Use passages from the texts to support your interpretation in the body of the paper, but do so sparingly: these are short papers and the text should be used as a support for your argument, not as a substitute for your voice. (Make sure you cite the pages from the texts from which you quote in footnotes.) 7. Consider objections. As these papers require you to take a position and make a clear argument, it will strengthen your paper considerably to entertain and respond to some of the strongest objections to the interpretation/position you advance. For example, if you want to argue that Machiavelli’s The Prince and Discourses are contradictory texts containing fundamentally opposed views of politics, you must also consider objections to that argument. In this case, you would need to consider and respond to the claim that there are in fact a number of important continuities between the texts. You would also need to discuss and reply to the argument that the differences between the two texts might be explained by the different political contexts that Machiavelli is addressing, e.g., the challenge of founding a new state or reforming an existing state that has disintegrated or become corrupt (The Prince) vs. the challenge of constructing political institutions that will enable a state to remain vital, autonomous and free over a long period of time (Discourses). 8. Avoid the passive voice. NOT: Tehsildar was killed during the hunt. RATHER: Mary Oraon killed Tehsildar during the hunt. 9. Define your terms. Because this is a class in political theory, we question and debate the meaning of such supposedly self-evident words as “freedom,” “politics,” and “theory.” Consequently, it is not enough to say that a particular argument is “political” or “theoretical”; as there is no one definition of these terms, you need to make explicit what you mean by them when you invoke them, or what you think the authors mean by them when they use them. 10. Make it look professional. Do not turn in papers with spelling errors and easily corrected typographical errors. Footnotes and bibliography are mandatory; please follow the standard footnoting and bibliographic citation methods outlined in Chicago=s Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations. 11. Feel free to consult with others. Talk to your friends or to others in the class about the questions and your ideas, if you wish. Sometimes, just airing your thoughts helps to clarify them. Examples of essay styles A. Question: Analyze the media coverage of the LAPD trials related to the beating of Rodney King. Answer 1. The meaning of the videotape was shaped by the defense lawyers in the courtroom. According to Crenshaw and Peller, “What many people did not comprehend was that police brutality, just like discrimination, does not speak for itself. This very struggle over meaning is precisely what the intense contestations about race in the law are really about. Rather than providing some kind of firm ground to challenge racist institutional practices, notions of formal equality, objectivity, neutrality, and the like tend to obscure the way that race is experienced by the vast majority of African Americans in this society.” (Crenshaw and Peller1993: 64) So we can see that oppressed people cannot control the ways in which the law is used against them…. Comments: The student is relying on the quotation too much; her argument is not brought to the fore; the student has merely gone into the text, found some key passages, and then pasted them together; it is not even clear that the student has grasped the more complex aspects of the quotation. This writing is at a C to C+ level. ————————————————Answer # 2 Having examined the general political context for the LAPD trials in Los Angeles, California and the United States as a whole, we will now consider the ways in which the trial was conducted and represented in the media. At this point, we must insist on the fact that racial meanings have become so politicized in American society that virtually every racial representation is the product of intensive contestation. The videotape of King’s beating — images that many assumed would be taken “on face value” as objective evidence of the LAPD officers’ guilt — was no exception. Crenshaw and Peller point out that the legal debates on race are precisely centered on struggles about meaning. They demonstrate, for example, that the LAPD officers’ defense used the same legal strategy that anti-affirmative action plaintiffs use in court: they attempted to restrict the category of “legitimate evidence” and to re-define unfavorable evidence by placing it in the most favorable context possible. (1992: 64) It is only when we take Crenshaw and Peller’s warning about the constructed nature of every racial image seriously that we can begin to analyze the media coverage of the trials. Comments: The student’s own argument is driving the essay: she is taking a position and defending it; the reference to the article is paraphrased accurately and properly noted; the student clearly has a thesis and is marshaling her references to support her argument; she is building a case, presenting the different parts of the argument in a logical order, and telling the reader very clearly why she is moving from one idea to the next. This section of the paper would merit a grade of A- or better. ————————————————–B. Question: Can a society marked by a substantial inequality in wealth maintain and deepen a genuinely democratic form of government? Answer #1 Its pretty obvious that the system is run by rich white men. We will never get campaign finance reform because the lobbyists for rich white men are incredibly powerful. (http://www.conspiracytheory.com) So many Americans don=t even bother to vote. Comments: First, the tone of the passage is far too casual, journalistic and cliché-ridden. Phrases such as “it’s pretty obvious” do not belong in an academic essay. “Its” ought to be spelled “it’s.” Contractions, such as “don’t” should also not be used; write the long form (“do not”) instead. The term, “the system,” is a popular cliché that is far too vague. Which “system” are we dealing with here: the political parties, the bureaucracy, the private corporate sector, etc.? “Campaign finance reform” is not defined. “Rich white men” is not an academic phrase. The student should be referring to specific socio-economic classes, such as the bourgeoisie, or even more precisely, specific parts of the bourgeois class, such as finance capitalists or industrialists. Then we cannot assume that the white race and the male gender always coincides perfectly with wealth — what about wealthy women, poor whites, and wealthy non-whites? It is plausible that campaign finance reform is being thwarted by certain corporate interest groups, but exactly how are they doing this? What does the writer exactly mean by “powerful”? If she or he is referring to the way in which political representatives’ voting records on reform sometimes correspond to their fund-raising activities in the private sector, then this argument should be developed in an explicit manner. The cited source, the web page, is not an acceptable academic text. Web page sources must be used very carefully. Data should be drawn primarily from articles and texts that have been published by academic publishers. Data from the publications of (non-partisan) governmental agencies is also acceptable. The latter are often available on the web; ask a reference librarian if you need help locating them. Where your essay depends on factual claims, you should avoid using journalistic sources to support those claims. The only journalistic source that is acceptable is The New York Times — references to Time Magazine, Newsweek, CNN reports and so on are not legitimate. Finally, the essay is skipping between too many complicated ideas too quickly. Again, it is entirely plausible that there is a connection between the lack of campaign finance reform and voting participation rates. If the agendas of the Republicans and Democrats are in fact influenced by wealthy interest groups first and foremost, then the large numbers of Americans who are not represented by those interest groups will not see the issues that matter to them discussed and dealt with by the two parties. Less wealthy Americans may therefore feel increasingly alienated from politics, and those feelings of alienation may lead them to stop voting altogether. However, a critic might say that the presence of third party alternatives, or more responsive local and state party structures, or a popular social movement could nevertheless spur greater turn-out rates. The essay needs to build each argument one at a time, give full and careful treatment to each claim, construct the argument using clearly defined academic terms, anticipate the objections of a critic, support important factual claims with academic sources, and then clearly indicate how the essay is moving logically on to the next point. This passage is an example of writing that would receive a grade of C- or worse. Note: These guidelines apply only to the assignments in my classes. Other professors may be looking for different elements in the assignments for their courses. THE FOLLOWING CHECKLIST MAY BE HELPFUL: Do I succinctly set out my own position and the kinds of arguments I will make in the course of the paper? Do I offer persuasive textual evidence and convincing arguments to support my interpretation? Does my discussion go beyond the readings in one or more ways: by adding new arguments, criticizing old arguments, or synthesizing a set of arguments in an original way? Do I avoid description, arguments, and rhetoric that are extraneous to the point of the paper? By the time I have reached my conclusion, have I considered possible objections to my interpretation and addressed them? Is the paper clearly written? Is it carefully edited and proofread? Do I avoid the passive voice and other impediments to clear thinking and writing? PS 31A FIRST ESSAY ASSIGNMENT Professor Topper University of California, Irvine Spring 2021 TAs: John Deacon & Nat Deken Instructions: Choose ONE of the following topics. Write an essay on the questions it raises, trying to produce a single, integrated paper with a clearly developed line of argument, even though the topic may consist of several distinct quotations and questions. Support your argument with lots of evidence from the required reading by providing page references, but do not use long quotations. Essays should be 3-5 pages long (approximately 900-1500 words), double-spaced, using a 12 pt. font and one-inch margins. Also, be sure to indicate the specific prompt to which you are responding and to consult my “Helpful Hints on Papers” (available on Canvas under “Essay Assignments”) when thinking about the appropriate form, structure and content of your essay. If you wish to write on another topic, check with me or one of your TAs (Nat Deken and John Deacon) first. Keep in mind that you are not required to agree with the views expressed in the questions and quotations; indeed, you are encouraged to think critically about them. ALL (not just some or most) papers are due on Friday, April 23rd, 11:59 PM. All papers must be submitted online. Hard copies will not be accepted. To submit your paper, simply upload it to the Canvas assignment page for the first essay assignment. 1. “Although widely considered one of the most important books in the history of political thought, Plato’s Republic is in fact a deeply anti-political work. Contrary to appearances, Plato=s ideal state doesn’t provide useful resources for coming to grips with the deep conflicts and controversies about public life and political action that are the very stuff of politics. Instead, it provides a picture of a world in which those conflicts never arise in the first place.” Do you agree? Why or why not? 2. “When all is said and done no one wants to be ruled by self-interested, narrow-minded ideologues. If philosophers are truly able to care more for the common good than their private goods and to take a larger view of the needs of society, why not let them rule? No doubt there are dangers in doing so, but there are far more dangers in not doing so.” Write an essay that examines the issues raised in this quotation. In the course of your analysis, be sure to explain whether you agree or disagree with the view it expresses, and why. 3. “Our claim that we cannot judge between different kinds of lives or political societies is simply moral laziness. What we mean is that WE don’t want to be judged and don’t want to take the time or make the effort to engage in moral argument. Plato shows us why we must judge and provides grounds for such judgment, and demonstrates to us what form moral argument must take.” Write an essay that explores and assesses the issues raised by this remark. 4. Plato argues that inequality does not entail oppression if those who rule do so on the basis of superior wisdom rather than on the basis of wealth, social standing, gender, or race. Do you agree or disagree with him? Why? 5. “Socrates is simply a slyer Thrasymachus. The latter states openly that he wants power (in the dialogue and in the world) and that power means dominating others. Socrates says that he doesn’t want power and that anyway power is ruling in the interest of the ruled. In what more effective way could you disguise your desire for power? What more effective way could there be to get it than by denying your interest in it and by defining any interest you might have as benevolent? No wonder Thrasymachus hangs around. Watching Socrates manipulate others is the best education a potential tyrant could possibly have.” Do you agree? Why or why not? 6. Write an essay that articulates and assesses Plato’s critique of democracy in The Republic. 7. “Those who argue that Plato’s Republic represents a blueprint of a totalitarian state have plenty of textual evidence to support their claim: censorship, eugenics, ‘noble lies,’ elite rule, etc. Yet such arguments are persuasive only if one ignores much of what Socrates says and does. In fact, Socrates represents a model of political thinking and democratic citizenship that is entirely at odds with the theory and practice of totalitarianism.” Do you agree? Why? 8. Some of the most important arguments in The Republic are expressed through the use of images. Choose one image from The Republic and show how it operates as an argument and assess its effectiveness as an argument. Among the questions you might consider: What does the image aim to illuminate or accomplish? How is it designed to do this? What is the particular context in which the image is introduced? Why might Plato choose to use an image at this juncture in the text? How effective is the image as argument? What are its limitations? How does the use of this image fit (or fail to fit) with what Socrates says about images and appearances in The Republic? 9. “The philosopher-king’s claim to rule rests upon a prior claim to knowledge. Is politics something about which we can have specialized knowledge? Or does it rest on experience, which philosophers are debarred from having precisely because they are philosophers? Does being removed from attachment and commitment to what is particular and local give you a privileged understanding of politics or an impoverished one?” Use Plato to comment. 10. “The only thing wrong with hierarchy is that it is not politically correct. For while we all agree that parents must guide the lives of their children, we refuse to recognize the fact that being a child is not simply a matter of how old you are. Some, perhaps many, adults think and act like children. They need moral instruction and political guidance for the same reason that our children do. Is such authority paternal? Perhaps. Is it wrong? I think not. And I have the authority of Plato to support me.” Discuss, analyze and assess the issues raised in this remark. 11. Offered as an aside while narrating the myth of Er, Socrates remarks: “Here it seems, my dear Glaucon, a human being faces the greatest danger of all, and because of that each must, to the neglect of all other subjects, take care above all else to be a seeker and student of the subject which will enabl …
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