The Search for the Just Society

Edward J. Dodson


The objective of this course is to introduce to students the forces that shape history and the consistency of human behavior over time and across space. By showing the connections that bind us with our past, students will gain a greater understanding of the present.

As a primary area of discussion, the course traces the development of socio-political arrangements and institutions from the earliest period of recorded history (and before) to the modern era. Human behavior is examined in the context of societal structure, with an emphasis on the nature of power and how hierarchical structures advance or thwart the forces of cooperation and competition. Also discussed are the dominant socio-political philosophies that both attacked and defended the socio-political structure of societies as they have undergone change.

Key concepts discussed include the distinction between a human rights doctrine versus assumed or delegated rights as the basis for systems of positive law, and the reliance on moral sense principles to establish objective criteria by which the socio-political arrangements and institutions of any society can be shown to be just or unjust.

The nineteenth-century reform activist, newspaper editor and self-taught political economist, Henry George (1839-1897), is presented as one of the significant socio-political philosophers and political economists of the nineteenth century. His life and activism are discussed in the context of the reform and Progressive era, contrasting the philosophy of cooperative individualism which he espoused with that of Fabian and Marxist socialism dominating the reform movement in Europe -- as well as how cooperative individualism differs from the compromise program of reform we think of as Liberalism.


Lesson 1 * Lesson 2 * Lesson 3 * Lesson 4
Lesson 5 * Lesson 6 * Lesson 7 * Lesson 8