Welcome to the New World Order!

Or perhaps I should say New World Disorder . . .


We are at a revolutionary turning point in history.  I don’t make this bold statement lightly.  Nor am I simply referring to the Corona virus.  I mean that we are living at a time when nearly everything we have taken for granted over the past half century is up for grabs. In making this claim, I mean that we are in a period in which multiple crises–in our institutions, values, international ideals, relationship with our earthly home, and even our acceptance of scientific truth–have converged in disturbing and nasty ways.

Revolutions do not occur overnight.  When future historians look back on our times, it’s possible they will say that these crises converged in the United States began around the turn of the twenty-first century. They may also say that our revolution climaxed in 2029 or 2046.  We can’t know because we

Revolutions are also rare.

Those days are long behind us. Now, the contemporary world order as we know it seems to have reached a breaking point. Consider what happened over this past summer alone—Kim Jong-un’s new rocket tests; white supremacy and terrorism in the US; populist governments in Italy and Holland, neo-Nazi marches in Norway; mass demonstrations in Hong Kong and the threat of invasion by the Mainland; the continuing, irrational denial of the scientific consensus on global climate change; Boris Johnson and Brexit, Brexit, Brexit; and growing tensions between the US and Denmark!

All of these developments have one thing in common. They are all manifestations of the ongoing and necessarily conflictual evolution of a novel form of political organization known as the Modern nation-state.

This course is about the Modern nation-state.

By Modernity, I mean a revolution in epistemology, human identity, organization and political reality  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, gender, and athletic–that otherwise divide them.” Modernity and the Nation-state are abstract terms.  But they are useful tools. Like the best tools, they help us make sense of the evolution of global politics.  They also alert us to the fragility of our world and the possibility that we may be the cause of its ruin.

My story  is divided into five interlocking chapters. First, in the segment called ModernPolitics, I introduce you to some basic concepts about modernity and the Modern nation-state.  Second, we travel down the road the West has taken toward a particular form of the 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 fractured Postcolonial world of weak nation-states.  Finally, we return to our starting point to examine the ecstasy and agony of the nation-state in an age of Global Politics.

The study of politics is always interesting. However, much of the world today is experiencing a crisis of political identity.  As citizens, we cannot afford to ignore the fact that the US, as well as most of Europe, is deeply polarized. Fundamental values, such as liberty, equality, and tolerance, are at stake.

Throughout our course, I shall also refer to two themes that I consider particularly troubling:

1) the politicization of facts–and fact-seeking–in democratic politics. If we can’t agree on facts, there can be no democracy.  There is no such thing as an “alternative fact”!

2) the threat to Liberal democracy represented by Populist politics. Populism is not another form of politics.  It is anti-politics. In an extreme form, it can kill democracy.

My pedagogical goals are ambitious and extend far beyond introducing you to the field we call “political science.”  I aspire to:

      • Cultivate your “deep knowing” of politics, rather than “much knowing” (a distinction drawn by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus)
      • Hone your analytical abilities
      • Increase your capacity to defend arguments and persuade others that you are right
      • Encourage you to develop a critical perspective on everything you think you know—especially a perspective that is consonant with your choice to attend Notre Dame (no normal university).

The basic requirements of our course are HERE  You are responsible for knowing all of this information.

I will have a modest personal objective throughout our political travels.   If I can fundamentally change the way you think about world politics, I shall be pleased.


All of the photos in the headers of this syllabus are by my friend, Fr. Slawomir Nowosad, a professor of theology at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland