Political Theory Project
by The Janus Forum
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The mission of the Political Theory Project is to invigorate the study of institutions and ideas that make societies free, prosperous, and fair. Distinctively, the Project brings to this study not only the normative concerns characteristic of the humanities, nor only the empirical and institutional methods of the social sciences, but a synthesis of humanistic and social scientific tools. In this way, the Political Theory Project aims to encourage discussions that are more than merely "academic," or intellectually "fashionable." The Project drives beneath the familiar and easy ideological labels, focusing on questions about what actually works in the world. The Project creates new spaces at Brown where students of good faith, and diverse viewpoints, can come together to debate one another other, freely and passionately, about the most pressing political problems of our day. The Janus Forum is a campus initiative that encourages open-minded debate about political ideas at Brown. The Janus Forum seeks to actively promote critical thinking and discourse by exposing students to a variety of perspectives regarding controversial political issues.
|1||VideoIn God We Trust? Religion and Public Life||Thursday, February 25, 2010 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm Salomon 101 Speakers: Jose Casanova and Mark Lilla What is the role of religion in public life, particularly in pluralistic, democratic societies? Should religion and politics be separated? What role should government have in regulating religion? Does a cohesive society need religion? Those who argue against any state use of religion claim that such mention of faith, for ceremonial purposes or otherwise, can have the effect of draining religion of its meaning and power. Beyond this, opponents of religion in the public sphere disparage “taxpayer supported religion” like faith based initiatives, “church politicking”, imposition of religious views of institutions like marriage and sexuality, and any breach of the separation of church and state, claiming that such violations are detrimental to both the government and organized faith. Those who argue for religious involvement in public life range from claiming that the United States was founded as and remains a Christian nation, to advocating a substantial role of religion as an agent of progress. These supporters often state that political and social movements – from abolition to women's suffrage to civil rights to today's struggles over abortion and gay marriage – have drawn upon religious institutions for moral authority, inspirational leadership and organizational muscle. Furthermore, proponents of religion in the public sphere often point to faith based organizations as important and necessary charitable foundations that support society by providing aid, encouraging public discourse, and providing a shared moral core.||16 3 2010||Free||View In iTunes|
|2||VideoDoes Race Matter? Minority Groups and Political Representation||Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 4:00pm Salomon 101 Speakers: Lani Guinier & Jim Sleeper In her now-infamous speech to the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declared, "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences ... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging." Sotomayor’s statement reinvigorated a national discussion regarding the issue of minority representation in American politics. Our speakers shine a light on this topic in addressing the question: when, to what extent and why could members of a minority group or identity better represent that group’s interests than non-members? Speakers: Jim Sleeper is a writer and teacher on American civic culture and politics and a lecturer in political science at Yale. He is the author of The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York and Liberal Racism. Lani Guinier is an American civil rights scholar and the first black woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School.||11 12 2009||Free||View In iTunes|
|3||VideoDoing Good or Doing Well? Ethics in the Pharmaceutical Industry||Thursday, October 8, 2009 - 4:00pm Salomon 001 Speakers: Marcia Angell, Mary Ruwart The pharmaceutical industry is an important part of the United States health care system, politics, and economy. But what are the responsibilities of these companies to the well-being of people in need of medicines both in the US and abroad? How should public grants and research facilities like the NIH affect the licensing of drugs? Speakers: Marcia Angell, M.D. is the author of The Truth about Drug Companies and the first female editor of the New England Journal of Health. Mary Ruwart, Ph.D. was a candidate for the Libertarian Presidential nomination in 2008 and author of Healing Our World: The Other Piece of the Puzzle.||20 11 2009||Free||View In iTunes|
|4||VideoThe Right to Bear Arms: DC vs. Heller Revisited||The lead attorneys from the DC v Heller decision discuss the case. Sponsored by the Political Theory Project at Brown University. Featuring Joseph Blocher and Alan Gura. District of Columbia v. Heller upheld the second amendment right to possess a firearm for private use. It is considered a landmark case because it was the first time since 1939 (United States v. Miller) the court directly addressed the right to own firearms as an individual right as opposed to one that applied only to state militias. The case began as a suit challenging the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which prohibited D.C residents from owning handguns. The district court dismissed the case, but it was reversed on appeal. The Court of Appeals struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act as unconstitutional. The defendants then petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case regarding the specific question of whether the D.C. ordinance violated the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the D.C. ordinance on the basis of the operative clause of the Second amendment, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed, which is under- stood to refer to a pre-existing right of individuals to possess and carry personal weapons for self-defense and to protect against tyranny.||20 11 2009||Free||View In iTunes|