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For everyone’s health and safety, Summer Session will not host students on campus for residential programs this summer. Many of our courses will be taught remotely online so that you can still explore your intellectual interests, gain insight into college life, and be a part of our distinctive learning community. We hope you will join us online this summer! Our Summer Session team is here to help via email at


Democracy's Discontents

Program(s): Immersion

This course is currently at capacity. We are admitting students to the waitlist only.

*Taught Online for Summer 2020*  Most would agree that in recent years the very idea of democracy has taken it on the chin, but might we also be learning that democracy has a glass jaw? There have certainly been those over the past two-hundred-plus years who thought so. In this course we will read a number of major thinkers who have called the value and very possibility of democracy into question. We will begin the course with an examination of the democratic impulses of the French Revolution and then turn to three nineteenth century thinkers who expressed varying types of discontent with democracy: Benjamin Constant, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Friedrich Nietzsche. We will then move to two major twentieth-century discontents, Carl Schmitt and José Ortega y Gasset. The point of this course will, ultimately, be to ask whether and under what conditions democracy is a system worth defending and what alternatives one might be forced to accept if one concludes that democracy is more trouble than it's worth. In addition, you will learn to recognize some of your own unrecognized biases and gain some comfort in subjecting those biases to considered, searching reflection; become a more careful reader and interpreter of complex texts; and improve your ability to write essays that display rigorous analysis in clear and direct prose.

Course Considerations

This course is an excellent introduction to the kind of close reading, interpretive, discussion, and writing skills that undergraduates learn in the College at the University of Chicago.

Writing Intensive
Reading Intensive
Discussion Intensive

Course Overview

Current Grade / Education Level

9th Grade
10th Grade
11th Grade



Start Date

July 14

End Date

July 30

Class Details

Primary Instructor

David Lyons

Secondary Instructor

Academic Interest

Humanities (e.g., arts, philosophy)
Examining Culture and Society
Social Sciences (e.g., history, sociology)

Class Specifics

Course Code

SOSC 25306 94

Class Day(s)

Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri

Class Duration


3:00 PM


Session II

Course Length

3 weeks