2023 - 2024
ANTH E600/LAW B592/POLS Y673/SPEA P710: INSTITUTIONAL THEORY
- Instructors: Eduardo Brondizio and Dan Cole
- 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday (meets in-person & virtually via Zoom)
The central questions underlying this course are:
- How can fallible human beings achieve and sustain self-governing ways of life and self-governing entities as well as sustaining ecological systems at multiple scales?
- When we state that institutions facilitate or discourage effective problem-solving and innovations, what do we mean by institutions and what other factors affect these processes?
- How do we develop better frameworks and theories to understand behavior that has structure and outcomes at multiple scales (e.g. household use of electricity affecting household budget and health as well as community infrastructure and investments and regional, national, and global structures and outcomes)?
- How can institutional analysis be applied to the analysis of diverse policy areas including urban public goods, water and forestry resources, and healthcare?
Y 673/675 Challenges to Liberal Democracy in the Twenty-First Century
- Instructor: Aurelian Craiutu
- Dates and Times are pending
Although liberalism has brought a major contribution to the making of the modern world, the latter is turning against it today. Scholars and pundits of various ideological persuasions have been busy signing death certificates and offering obituaries for liberal democracy, often without clearly defining what they mean by that term. Some have claimed that liberalism has failed to live up to its own promises. Others have argued that it has become irrelevant precisely because it has succeeded in building a free society on questionable foundations, such as individual autonomy, neutrality with regard to the good life, and free markets. These critics might differ among themselves, but they all seem to agree that liberal principles can no longer solve our deep social, cultural, political and economic problems, and that it has become unsustainable.
This is all the more surprising given liberal democracy’s undeniable successes. If we consider only the last century and a half, we find that global life expectancy has risen from a little under 30 years to over 70. The share of people living below the threshold of extreme poverty has fallen from about 80% to 8% and the absolute number has halved, even as the total living above it has increased from about 100m to over 6.5bn. And literacy rates are up more than fivefold, to over 80%. Civil rights and the rule of law are incomparably more robust than they were only a few decades ago. And it is important to remember that liberal democracy triumphed over the two other most important rivals in the last century: fascism and communism. While countries that embraced them failed, those that embraced liberal principles prospered. In one type or another, liberal democracy came to dominate the West and from there it started to spread around the world.
The purpose of this course is to examine challenges to liberal democracy at the beginning of the twenty-first century. We will start by revisiting a few classic tropes from the history of liberalism and political ideologies before turning to critics of liberalism from both the Left and the Right. We will then explore related themes such as illiberal democracy, populism, polarization, and nationalism as a reaction to globalism. The final section will examine where can we go from our present situation as we are witnessing a tragic war in Ukraine and the unravelling of the fragile post-Cold War consensus and euphoria.
We will read selections from books such as Fareed Zakaria’s Illiberal Democracy (1997), Pierre Manent’s Democracy Without Nations (2008), and Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed (2018). We will also examine representative readings from the Bloomington School of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom and read shorter relevant essays by prominent American and European political theorists, economists, and journalists such as John Gray, Wendy Brown, Thomas Picketty, Francis Fukuyama, and Jonathan Rauch.
Our seminars will provide an opportunity to discuss the readings, work through arguments, and engage in lively exchanges. The goal of the course is to create an intellectually stimulating environment; diversity of opinions will be encouraged as well as lively exchanges of viewpoints. All students will be expected to express their views with courtesy and respect for others’ views.