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The goal of this section of our seminar is to get into the heads of people who would become entranced with the dream  of communism. This entails understanding what it means to have political imagination and then want to act on it.

1.  Tuesday, January 14

Introduction:  Dreaming of Communism

I lay out the topics, pathways, and pitfalls of our exploration.


2.  Thursday, January 16

Discussion:  The Dream of Notre Dame

What does belief look like when it is institutionalized?  Your task is to dissect the Notre Dame “dream in practice” and determine how you fit into it. This means examining the ideas, rules, and incentives that make your status as Notre Dame students different from your counterparts at just about every other major university in the US.

For this session, please examine the following documents as closely as possible and then interview as many people as possible–rectors, First-Year advisers, upper-division students, security officers, football coaches–to determine what is, or is not, reality.

Tuesday, January 21

Discussion:  Who are the dreamers, what do they want to do, and how do they propose to accomplish it?

Your task is to imagine what it would be like to lay the foundations for a movement that would slowly be transformed into an organization as big, as complex, and as vibrant as the Christian church.  Somehow the Apostle Paul was successful.  For the most part, we have never heard about the thousands of similar experiments that failed.  Thus, when you read these segments of the Bible, read them deeply.  Try to envision them as components of a bold project in which everything is up for grabs.  Paul is a leader; 2,000 years ago, you might have been a follower.  In short, I am asking you to insert yourselves into a situation rather than just relying on the words alone.  As the Notre Dame mission statement suggests, feel free to use your imagination.  This is a key to understanding.

Selections from Paul the Apostle


4.  Thursday, January 23

Discussion:  Imagining a Better World in 19th Century England

The challenge for this discussion is two-fold: 1) put yourself into the streets of London (Engels’ description), and 2) figure out Engels’ agenda.

  • Friedrich Engels, “The Great Towns,” excerpt from The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845):  PRINT AND READ
  • What if you were Friedrich Engels?  READ
  • Engels’ times:  VIEW SLIDE SHOW

Is there anything comparable to Engels’ world in the US today?

  • “Victims of Fashion”:  WATCH

What about the world?

  • Distribution of World Wealth:  READ


5.  Tuesday, January 28

“Lame Snow Day”

6.  Thursday, January 30

Discussion:  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto (1)

What is Marx and Engels’ argument?  Why does it make sense?

As you read the  Communist Manifesto, keep in mind that it was written in Europe and reflected a combination of German, French, and British influences.  In other words, this tract came out of the same meld of western European cultures and ways of thinking that produced liberal democracy. Ultimately, communism as we understand it today, acquired new characteristics as it moved from one part of the world to the next and as the reigning conceptions of politics changed over time.  The point is that communism is not a matter of “us versus them,” but instead “us, them, and some other guys.”  Our  challenge in the coming weeks will  be to dissect what this is all about.

  • READ:  Communist Manifesto,Preface and Part I.
  • Richard Pipes, Communism: A History, READ Chapter I.
  • What if you were Karl Marx?  READ


7.  Tuesday, February 4

Discussion:  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto (2)

What is Marx and Engels’ argument?  Why would you want to join their club?

  • READ:  Parts II and IV


8.  Thursday, February 6

The First Great Debate!

 Debate like a champion today.  You have nothing to lose but your chains!



NOTE:  Please turn off and do not use your technology during class.  This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, i-Pads, cell phones, Kindles, video cameras, video games, or other personal digital devices.


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