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The world as we know it is falling apart!

What are we to make of “fake news,” Breitbart, Bannon, and Trump, neo-Nazi protests, mass demonstrations in Teheran, Kim Jong-un’s nuclear button, the DACA crisis, the denial of global climate change, Vladimir Putin’s popularity, the DOJ’s investigation of the White House, and the ignominious departure of Matt Lauer?

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

By Modernity, I mean a revolution in societal norms 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 they are useful tools for understanding a complex world.  Here is my money-back guarantee (well, not quite literally):  You’ll see what I mean by these concepts as we proceed through the semester.

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 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 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.  This polarization means that we must address these issues if we are to be good citizens.

For this reason, I intend to refer to two particular thmes throughout our course: 1) the centrality of agreement on facts–and fact seeking– in democratic life; and 2) the threat to Liberal democracy represented by Populist democracy.

For the basic requirements of our course, look closely at this site HERE  You are responsible for knowing all of this information.

My pedagogical goals are ambitious and extend far beyond introducing you to the field we call “political science.”  These are my major objectives:

  • To cultivate your “deep knowing” of social and political phenomena, rather than “much knowing” (a distinction drawn by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus)
  • To refine your analytical abilities
  • To increase your capacity to defend arguments and persuade others that you are right
  • 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 will 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 our class, including laptops, cell phones, tablets, tape recorders, and any other personal digital device.  In this era in which social media streams supreme, my classroom is a tweet-free zone!

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