From Autocracy to Democracy: The Social Contract in Flux

Social Sciences

Course Description

This course will take place on Zoom.

From earliest records until today, tension has existed between strong national leaders and those they govern. Evolving alongside other ideas, like that of a divine contract, social contract theory is based on an agreement between rulers and the ruled. These agreements have been subject to change over time and are often in flux. 

As with the preceding course, “The Will of the People,” which focused on the historical aspects of the social contract, this course will delve into the philosophic aspects of this relationship. What responsibilities are required of the rulers? What rights and duties do the ruled have? What difficulties arise from competing expectations? What approaches have been attempted to solve these problems? 

We will discuss the rise of demagogues in the 20th and 21st centuries and explore the fundamental question of whether democracy as we know it is dying or whether it is evolving into a new system. We will read excerpts from works by Plato, Locke, and Rousseau dealing with the social contract as well as excerpts from Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy and Madeleine Albright’s Fascism. William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies will also be part of the reading list.

Books to Purchase (will be available at Argo Bookshop during the weeks prior to the course beginning):

    • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Please note that this course has a maximum enrollment of 14 students.

Priority is given to students who pay upon registration.

For fully registered courses, a waiting list will be created. Should vacancies develop, those on the waiting list will be contacted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Course Details

First Session: Thursday 23 September 2021

Course Length: 12 weeks

Discussion Team: Peter Jankowski, Irene Menear, Barbara Smith

Degree Credit: 3.0 credits

Course Fees: 

$150.00 (standard tuition)

$100.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$185.00 (standard tuition)

$135.00 (promotion for new students)


Course fees are refundable in full before the second session. After the second session, a fee of $50 for the withdrawal will be applied. Refunds will not be issued after the third session. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Degree students, course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers should not register online. 

Students pursuing studies for credit are encouraged to consult with their advisers as they register for courses.

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

If you are a RETURNING student

If you are NEW at TMI

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