Office: 1350 SocSci
OH: Wed, 1:00-3:00pm
Contemporary Political Thought
Violence, Sexuality, Money, and Race
Contemporary Political Thought:
Violence, Sexuality, Money and Race
thought of the 20
century (and primarily the post-WWII period).
A century marked by the ethical and
political challenges of the Holocaust, the 20
century finds itself perenially troubled by the question of
“what is to be done?”
Despite the settlement of political institutions in Western democracies, political
community finds itself faced with the extraordinary challenges of an everyday living-together.
course has two aims.
, our task will be to analyze three prominent models for politics offered by
contemporary thinkers, who respectively conceive of a politics of liberties, a politics of discipline, and a
politics of dialogue and recognition.
Cognizant of the challenges and anxieties of the contemporary
world, each of these models offers a different “way in” to theorizing democratic politics so as to highlight
its hopes while underscoring its risks.
, having analyzed these three models, this course will move
to interrogate four issue areas that continue to define and beset contemporary politics: political and social
violence; sexuality and gender; money and class; race and power.
These themes and issues are not
exclusive of one another — they intersect in one another in puzzling, intricate, and compelling ways.
final weeks of the course, as a result, will treat all four themes in their complexity.
Foundations and world-making
Taking the two World Wars, and especially the Holocaust, as a sobering point of reference,
contemporary politics finds itself confronted with the challenge of “thinking without banisters.”
century struggles to define and defend its political, ethical, and cultural ideals and principles in
the absence of certain convictions offered by appeals to religion, custom, tradition, and nature. Without
the certainty of these doctrines, contemporary thinkers must seek alternate grounds or “foundations” on
which to defend and elaborate their conceptions of political engagement and ethical commitment.
will ask, in reference to what principles and which ideals might political and ethical action be articulated
How stable a foundation do these principles provide — and at what costs and with which
Are stable foundations available to political community?
And if not, if contemporary
politics is defined by responsibility — both individual and collective — in the face of hard choices and
uncertain outcomes, then what might serve as a guide or touchstone through these political moments?
Politics as activity