Feed on

What on earth is going on? Neo-Nazi protests at the University of Virginia. ISIS. Fake news. CNN. Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders. Breitbart News. Immigration. The Fall of Communism. Feudalism. The Protestant Reformation.  The Second Amendment. Global Warming. Vladimir Putin. Taylor Swift.

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

Immigration record of Notre Dame student Augustin Magaña Mendez (1920)

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, gender, and athletic–that otherwise divide them.”  Modernity and the Nation-state are abstract terms, but you’ll see what I mean by them as we proceed through the semester. You have my personal guarantee.

My story is divided into five interlocking chapters. First, in the segment called Modern Politics, 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 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 seeming “Globalization.”

In a course like this, I typically refer to current events and spectacles as they become useful to our journey.  But let’s face it, this is not a typical period in world history. Americans and Europeans, in particular, are undergoing a crisis of political identity. None of us can afford to ignore the fact that our society is deeply polarized and that fundamental values, such as liberty, equality, and tolerance, are at stake.

For this reason, I plan to refer to two particular themes throughout the course: 1) the absolute centrality of agreement on facts in democratic life; and 2) the growing contradictions between Liberal democracy and Populism.

For the basic requirements of the course, look HERE

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
  • To 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.

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


NOTE:  Please do not use electronic devices of any kind during class, including laptops, cell phones, tablets, tape recorders, and any other personal digital device.  My classroom is a tweet-free zone.