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        Politics Student Handbook

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    • Courses in the Department of Politics combine a theoretical framework of political ideas with real-world implications. These interdisciplinary courses help students attain a better and more complete understanding of how politics operates and why policies work. In these courses, students discuss the personal, national, and global implications of these questions.

      Please consult the New School Course Catalog for a full list of courses. Spring 2021 courses include:

      • Peripheries, Frontiers and Outsides of Historical Capitalism, GPOL 5353
        Aaron Jakes, Assistant Professor of History

        Any argument that capitalism is historically specific implies that this complex object—whether construed as a mode of production, a form of life, or an institutionalized social order—has some kind of boundaries in both time and space. Ever since social theorists began to suggest that capitalism “has a history,” they have been arguing about when it began and about what lies beyond the edges of the capitalist world. Those debates about its historical and geographic “outsides” have, in turn, proven crucial to critical analysis of capitalism itself. This reading-intensive course will cover a range of classic works that represent distinctive positions on these questions of periodization, transition, and bounding as well as more recent scholarship that seeks to reframe these questions from the standpoint of our own crisis-ridden historical present. Readings will include texts by Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, Robert Brenner, Immanuel Wallerstein, Frank Perlin, Giovanni Arrighi, Robert Brenner, David Harvey, Maria Mies, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Vinay Gidwani, Timothy Mitchell, Nancy Fraser, and Jason Moore.

      • Historical Methods and Sources, GPOL 6134
        Jeremy Varon, Professor of History 

        Historical Methods and Sources offers theoretical perspectives on and practical training in historical research, writing, and representation. We begin by exploring debates surrounding what history is: as mode of narrative, form of textuality, and as a set of relationships to the past. The remainder of the course provides hands-on training in what historians do: identify archives; locate, choose, and interpret primary sources; place research in its relevant intellectual and scholarly contexts; assess the existing literature; review books; design research; and intervene in historiographic debates by crafting original arguments. Individual projects will be tailored toward students' research interests, building toward (or enhancing) work on their MA theses. 

      • Political Theory of Decolonization, GPOL 6215
        Sandipto Dasgupta, Assistant Professor of Politics

        European colonialism, the struggle against it by the colonized, and its continuing legacies have been one of the most significant political phenomenon of the twentieth century. However, the ideals and debates generated by this history continue to be at the margins of political theory. In this course, we would carefully read some of the most significant texts that engaged with the colonialism, decolonization, and postcolonial futures, and reconstruct and engage with the arguments that they advance. Decolonization here is broadly conceived to include not just the prototypical examples of Asian and African colonization, but settler or domestic colonialism directed against indigenous populations. We would read texts by political actors and scholars engaged with decolonization (group A), as well as more recent scholarly works (Group B). The goal of the course is to invite graduate students to think through the ways in which the political thought generated by decolonization could make us revisit some of the familiar concepts of political theory, as well as suggest new lines of scholarly inquiry.

      • Life and Death in International Society, GPOL 6250
        Quentin Bruneau, Assistant Professor of Politics

        What determines whether states and other polities survive and thrive or whither and die? Just as individuals’ life prospects within a given society are determined by a variety of factors (e.g.race, class), so are polities’ prospects within international society (sometimes also referred to as the society of states). This course is an attempt to analyse how those determining factors have changed over the last five hundred years. The end goal is to shed light on the specificity of contemporary international society. The course is divided in three parts. The first deals with preliminary conceptual questions, using Max Weber’s sociological notion of ‘life chances’ as a starting point. The second part of the course focuses on the early modern period, around which so many theories of world politics emphasising the importance of war and military force are built. By contrast, the course seeks to tone down the role of these factors. The third section examines the period from the French Revolution to the present and is particularly concerned with understanding why a large number of previously independent polities were literally extinguished during that timeframe. Readings for this course will draw on scholarship in a variety of disciplines, including work by Charles Alexandrowicz, Lauren Benton, Tanisha Fazal, Mamadou Hébié, Edward Keene, and Jason Sharman.

      • Oligarchy: The Politics of the Few, GPOL 6423
        Andreas Kalyvas, Associate Professor of Politics

        This course examines the political theory and conceptual history of oligarchy from Greek and Roman antiquity to Western modernity and the age of capitalist globalization. We will treat oligarchy as a central yet evolving political concept through which we can explore and interrogate the relationship between wealth and power, private property and public authority, state and social classes, legal rights and economic inequalities, capitalism and democracy in an attempt to elucidate and reconstruct the broader paradigm of politics that became associated with this concept. The course also focuses on the different forms and modalities of the politics of the few rich, their source of legitimacy, their claims to rulership, and their hierarchies, entitlements, and exclusions. Respectively, we will critically investigate how oligarchy, which in the long tradition of political thought, has been defined in tension with democracy, has in the last two centuries gradually fused with it giving birth to new political forms such as the representative governments of liberal competitive oligarchies.

      • Graduate Seminar: Migration and Mobilities, GPOL 6572
        Victoria Hattam, Professor of Politics

        This seminar will situate contemporary debates over migration and border politics within the larger frame of mobility. Border walls are appearing at a rapid pace; how should we understand their emergence and how might we challenge the nationalist impulse that fuels them. Generally, texts will be drawn works on the US-Mexico border, but some materials will consider bordering and mobility politics in other locations. In addition, students are encouraged draw on other sites when writing their papers. Topics covered will include, but are not limited to: mobility data, border walls, trade agreements, cross-border production, free trade and expediting zones, finance, trash, pollution, waterways, and ecological concerns. Readings will be drawn from across a range of disciplines and students will have the option of writing visual essays as well as more traditional social science papers. Two 10-12 papers will be required.

      • Founding and Refounding America, GPOL 6592
        David Plotke, Professor of Politics

        Serious and intense arguments about American history help to shape political choices and views of possible futures. Political and cultural forces link claims about the origins and redefinition of ‘America’ and the ‘United States’ with accounts of of democracy, citizenship, and policies. This course examines founding moments and their presence today. These moments have shaped American politics and society. They also provide compelling frameworks of understanding for efforts to shape politics now and into the future. Crucial dates signal key beginnings or transformations as well as major arguments about how we should view these changes. We will consider these junctures: 1492 (Columbus in the ‘New World’); 1565 & 1619 (enslaved Africans in Florida and Virginia); 1620 & 1630 (Puritans in New England); 1776 & 1780’s (American Revolution and Constitution); 1860-65 (Civil War and constitutional amendments); 1930s (New Deal); 1945 (Allied victory in World War II); 1963- 65 (Civil Rights movement and Civil Rights Act); and 1989 (end of the Cold War). This course engages major debates about the meanings of American foundings and reconstructions.

      • Politics and Inequality in Advanced Market Countries, GPOL 6593
        David Plotke, Professor of Politics

        Why have inequalities become so politically contentious in the United States and other OECD countries? Economic inequality has long been present. In many countries, racial inequality has been durably important. Have these (and other) inequalities become sites of sharp political contention because they have not diminished or even grown? Are other factors at work? Why has economic inequality increased so much? Some accounts emphasize economic factors (the power of corporations, or returns to skills and education). Others center on social relations, such as changing family structures and immigration. Yet others claim that political institutions and policies play the crucial role. Competing accounts also address racial and ethnic inequality, in terms of economic dynamics, efforts to retain power by racial and ethnic majorities, and social and cultural hierarchies. We examine the sources and dynamics of inequalities. We also assess the sharp political and social conflicts about them. When is inequality unfair? When does it violate norms about justice, opportunity, and inclusion?

      • Decolonizing Politics in Eastern Europe: Concepts and Theoretical Frameworks, GPOL 6594
        Jessica Pisano, Associate Professor of Politics

      • Populism: In History and Theory, GPOL 6595
        Andrew Arato, Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor of Political and Social Theory

        In the most general sense populism, critical claim-making on behalf of the norm of popular sovereignty, is as old as liberal or representative democracy. It is fueled by what has been rightly called the democracy deficits of existing political regimes. Yet the consequences of populist politics have been not only anti liberal, but repeatedly, if not invariably, authoritarian and anti-democratic. Populism has existed in the form of intellectual critique, movements, governments and, more controversially, regimes. Each phase has had a different relationship to democratic norms, representative as well as participatory. The course will first attempt to define populism, using the method of the “immanent critique” of its best theoretical representatives, e.g. Ernesto Laclau. We will examine the relationship of each component of the definition to democratic norms. Next, we will go on to compare the earliest historical cases, notably the Russian Narodnichestvo, American populisms, East European agrarian populisms, and Argentine Peronism. We will consider the types of “host ideologies” that could serve populist protest and government, specifically nationalism, socialism and participatory democracy, and examine the differences between left and right populisms. Concurrently with the 14 sessions of regular classes, we will have several outside lectures by scholars expert in the subject, who will help reconstruct either contemporary country cases, or examine and critique recent important theoretical and comparative assessments. Each student in the course will be responsible for a developed paper either on a case, or on a scholarly reconstruction.

      • Research Studio: Between the Silos, GPOL 6596
        Anthony Dunne, University Professor of Design and Social Inquiry, Victoria Hattam, Professor of Politics, and Fiona Raby, University Professor of Design and Social Inquiry

        Scholarship is often distinguished from creative work: real versus fiction. Yet imagination plays a role in scholarship, just as research plays a role in creative work. This seminar begins from the premise that fresh work is being created by refusing the arbitrary siloing of art and design on the one hand and social research on the other. How might we reconnect these polymorphous worlds that have been artificially separated through existing educational norms and institutional structures? How might we begin in “the middle,” as it were – rummaging in between the silos - in ways that allow us to draw on both imagination and empirical research? Throughout the term, students will be encouraged to push the boundaries of their work via a mix of short exercises and long term project development: crits, guest lectures, virtual studio visits, and exposure to a variety of readings (fiction and non) and other creative works all will be used to expand the research studio repertoire. Ideally, students should come to class with a project in mind that they wish to work on during the term; projects might include things begun in previous classes that you wish to deepen.

      • PhD Seminar, GPOL 7300
        Anne McNevin, Associate Professor and Chair of Politics

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