SMNR: Emergency Powers & Constitutional Theory

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE 3:30 - 6:20 pm TNH 3.114

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location


"Emergency powers" have become a pervasive topic of contemporary political theory, political science, and law. This seminar will therefore be highly interdisciplinary. It will begin with a close examination of some classical political theorists who have written on the subject, including Machiavelli, John Locke, and Carl Schmitt (to name only three). We will also look at key American political thinkers, including the authors of the Federalist Papers, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. We will obviously also look at a variety of cases, primarily from the United States Supreme Court, addressing the nature and limits of "emergency powers." It is important to realize that "emergencies" can arise in a number of different guises. We are probably most aware of "national security emergencies" linked with war and terrorism. But there are also emergencies provoked by breakdowns in the economy, by natural disasters, and by public health contagions. All raises interestingly different problems, ranging from the identity of those we would like to make decisions to the particular powers we would grant them. Students will be expected to write a seminar paper based on original research, though, with professorial approval, it will be possible to substitute an extended review of one or more books relevant to the subject at hand. Most important, though, is the expectation that students will be well prepared on the weeks' readings and be prepared to discuss them with one another. To this end, students will also be asked to prepare a number of short "response papers" that will help serve to establish the agenda for each session's discussions.