Thoughts from Day 1

Thank you to everyone for showing up. I hope today’s class was pleasantly surprising.

Here are the themes that were written on the board as potential areas of inquiry:

– It was noted that we wanted to use this class as a way of encountering ideas that we normally would not have a chance to meet. I think what this will require is that we become very skeptical of the political and social categories that prevail in contemporary life. For example, as I mentioned in class, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are probably not helpful for framing political debate — indeed, they may be part of the problem.

– Alternative approaches to justice (i.e., how do different societies, past and present, approach questions of justice in ways that differ from our own?)

– Tensions that arise between the ideas of peace, law, and justice themselves? When I think of this, I hear the slogan “No Justice, No Peace!”. This slogan points toward the possibility of a situation that looks peaceful on the surface, is lawful (in the sense that people are behaving in accordance with the established laws), and yet is unjust.

– Globalization/Neoliberalism. I described “neoliberalism” as the peeling back of the State to its militaristic and policing functions, while stripping away its social welfare functions through market “deregulation.” Put another way: cutting social services in order to increase “economic growth,” and then dealing with the social consequences of those cuts by locking people up. I described the State as a site of conflict between policing/military functions and social welfare/redistributive functions. Neoliberalism emphasizes the former and criticizes the latter as destructive of “liberty.”

– Money. We noted that, on the one hand, we all know that money is not what human life is about, and, on the other hand, money seems necessary in this society in order to care for those we love and pursue the things that life is about. I suggested that we may want to read something about the origin of money and about non-monetary societies in order to gain some intellectual distance from the thing that seems to determine our whole lives (including, for many of us, our participation in this class!).

If I’ve missed anything or if you want to add anything else, feel free to do so in the comments section.


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