Brexit. ISIS. The 2016 U. S. Presidential election. The Internet. Immigration. The Fall of Communism. The Protestant Revolution. The Second Amendment. Global Warming.
All of these political phenomena have one thing in common. They are all manifestations of the story of a novel form of political organization known as the modern nation-state. By “modernity,” I mean a revolution in social development that is based upon skeptical attitudes, individualistic identities, formal routines, and distinct social realms. By “nation-state,” I mean a “symbolic community to which people voluntarily devote their primary political loyalties despite the many particularistic loyalties–religious, cultural, ethnic, political, social, economic, and athletic–that otherwise divide them.” These are abstract terms, but you’ll see what I mean by them as we proceed through the semester.
My story is divided into five interlocking chapters. First, in the segment called “Modernity,” I introduce you to some basic concepts about the modern nation-state. Second, we travel down the road the West has taken toward a particular form of nation-state: “Liberalism.” Third, we consider an initially credible but ultimately failed path: “Leninism.” Fourth, we confront the pathos and anger of people living in the “Postcolonial” world of weak nation-states. Finally, we return to our starting point to examine the fortunes of the nation-state in an age of seeming “Globalization.”
For the basic requirements of the course, look HERE. As the semester develops, I will refer to whatever current events and spectacles seem useful to our journey. Will Fidel Castro make it through the semester (he just reached 90)? Will the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant cease to exist? Will Scotland exit the United Kingdom? In my world, everything and everyone is fair game!
I have four pedagogical goals:
- To cultivate your “deep knowing” of social and political phenomena, rather than “much knowing”
- To refine your analytical abilities
- To increase your capacity to defend arguments and persuade others
- And, to encourage you to develop a critical perspective on everything you think you know.
Finally, I have a modest personal objective. If I can fundamentally change the way you think about world politics, I shall be pleased.
PLEASE NOTE: Please do not use electronic devices of any kind, including laptops, cell phones, and personal digital devices during class. My classroom is a Pokémon-free zone.