This class examines the moral and political questions that arise over the lifecycle of a machine learning system: from the genealogy of the technology, to problem definition and data collection, model selection and training, evaluation, interface design, deployment, use, and societal effects. By examining the case of machine learning in detail, the class invites students to think more broadly about the political agency of technology, and about the ways in which politics is already embedded in technology. It brings work in STS, sociology, anthropology, and political science into conversation with perennial concerns in political theory about power, authority, legitimacy, justice, liberty, and equality.
An introduction to contemporary political thought centered around the ideal of justice and the realities of injustice. We examine what a just society might look like and how we should understand various forms of oppression and domination. We begin by studying three theories of justice (Utilitarianism, Libertarianism, and Egalitarian Liberalism), then bring them into conversation with other traditions of political thought that shed light on topics such as power, ideology, racism, sexism, colonialism, and alienation.
MIT, PhD Seminar
MIT, PhD Seminar
A survey of contemporary political theory with an eye to questions of concern in social science. Each week is devoted to a political concept and to the normative and interpretive questions surrounding it. Topics covered include: power, ideology, repugnance, liberty, justice, equality, oppression, mystification, meaning, silence, democracy, political ethics, and the agency of technology.
We spend a considerable part of our lives in buildings and cities designed for us by architects and urban planners. What normative considerations should guide the design of such spaces? What social role should architecture aim to play? And what criteria should we use to assess whether an architectural intervention is successful or not? This course seeks to address these questions by bringing architecture in conversation with political theory. It examines how political theory can inform our thinking about architecture, and how the work of architects and urban planners—with its attention to the specificities of the built environment—can advance our thinking about politics.
Collective action problems arise when actions that are individually rational give rise to results that are collectively irrational. Scholars have thought in these terms about a wide range of political phenomena. We examine their findings and probe the theoretical foundations of their approach. What does this way of thinking about politics bring into focus, and what does it leave out? What role do formal and informal institutions play in resolving collective action problems? And what if the required institutions are absent? Are we, as individuals, morally required to cooperate even if we expect that others may not play their part?
What is power? How should we conceptualize it? How should we go about studying it? This course introduces students to various ways of answering these questions. Readings are drawn from political theory, and from a variety of empirical disciplines, including political science, sociology, anthropology, and psychology.