In lecture for Political Theory 101, the topic of “Changes” was discussed in terms of political institutions. The French Revolution elucidates the radical institutional changes that can occur with the mobilization, determination and pressure of the working-class on the governing elite. During the French Revolution (1787-1799) French citizens redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Inspired by the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, the French Revolution was particularly influenced by the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people and its legacies are omnipresent in our daily lives as a democracy. The French Revolution’s enabled a structural transformation of government that more accurately and justly represented the needs of the people. In the United States, our representative democracy is becoming decreasingly representative and increasingly aristocratic and demographically homogenous; thus, making Congress unrepresentative of the rich diversity of ideals and nationalities of their electorate.
Caricature of the Third Estate (peasants and merchants) carrying the Second (nobility) and the Third Estates (clergy)
Some of the many third parties in the U.S.
In her book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein delves deeper into the cause and effect of the ideology and mentality that has brought the world to such an environmentally, politically fragile and unstable state. In chapter 5, “Extractivism”, Klein reveals the dire economic disparities in developing countries that are both caused and aggravated by colonialist pasts and the omnipresent mentality of environmental entitlement.
From Naomi Klein to Edmund Burke…
As I was reading the chapter “Extractivism” in Klein’s book I realized that the effects of anthropogenic climate change and environmental degradation in the 21st century can be traced back to the political ideologies discussed in Political Science lecture, figures like Edmund Burke and classical conservatism, which have helped make these behaviors acceptable and seemingly inescapable. Rachel Carson’s quote reveals that she thinks that this mentality that gave rise to and has continued to propel this territorial, material dominance, or the “control of nature” has been in place since the “…Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man. …” This primitive science, as Carson states, amazingly, and unfortunately, still remains in our psyche; it has been emphasized and propagated throughout human history by justifying this destructive and reckless behavior through religion and politics. Continue reading
“That government is best which governs least” – Henry David Thoreau American essayist, poet, and practical philosopher, leading Transcendentalist and author of the book Walden.
Junior year in high school, I discovered Transcendentalism. Its core beliefs center around the inherent goodness of both people and nature. Transcendentalists believe that society and its institutions—particularly organized religion and political parties—ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. People are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent. The concept of community can only come to full fruition when it is composed of such individuals. I soon became passionately interested in the inspiring and empowering messages of individuality that were promoted. Although Transcendentalism was a religious and philosophical movement led by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the 1830s, it still provides much insight into the continual tension between the individual and an established elected authority. Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau are some of the most important figures in philosophy that established and expanded on this tension. They did so by theorizing about the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual through social contracts. Through these, they expressed what they thought was the responsibility of government and the role of people within a society.
Meanwhile, all three, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, had differing points, especially when it concerned the advantages of state of nature versus the state under social contracts. Transcendentalists and these philosophers alike deal with the same central question:
How can you remain an autonomous individual while having to surrender some of your own will to govern yourself to an elected authority? The role of the individual and how to preserve that individuality and self-determination is always at war with the common good of society in a state governed by social contracts. Continue reading
“Once, power was considered a masculine attribute. In fact, power has no sex.”
– Katharine Graham, the first female Fortune 500 CEO as CEO of the Washington Post company
Over the past week, we have been discussing the difference that gender presents in sports and in society. From Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty’s excerpt, “Being a Woman and other Disabilities”, to the “Either/Or” article on athlete Caster Semenya. Most recently a guest speaker, Suzy, an officer in the U.S. Army came to class and spoke of the inequities of being a woman soldier and the unfair, sometimes incensing treatment she has received based solely on her gender. Needless to say this week has been a fountain of new perspectives of how the experience of being a woman can vary. During Thursday lecture the class had to complete an activity in which we had to submit things that were “seemingly arbitrary gender norms.” The list ranged from girls liking pink to men not crying. And although the list of norms seemed to be silly in some cases, others were very thought-provoking. I rarely think about my identity as a woman. I am a Puerto Rican girl whose identity as a Puerto Rican supersedes that of a female. As an ethnic minority I allow my ethnicity to overpower my gender. It really wasn’t until this week that I started to think about the nuances and the complexity of gender roles. We discussed the often- forgotten difference between the biological category of being a male or female with the social category of being masculine or feminine. Both Caster Semenya and Suzy were females who in some way valued their professions more than their femininity. As women in the 21st century, must we abdicate being feminine in order to be more successful and respected in the professional world? Continue reading
Many of the readings we’ve done so far in our PoliSci class have been about the definition of play. Recently, blogger kellyv posted a very interesting article Social Media As Play drawing parallels between the idea of play and the activity of engaging in social media. While Eric Dunning explores Stone’s argument in his book Sport Histories: Figurational Studies of the Development of Modern Sports that play has been turned into “display”, implying that it is oriented towards the satisfaction of the spectator. And so goes the existence of our cyber-identity: we have become obsessed with “pleasing the crowd” over enjoying the game of life, one move at a time. Our lives have become a continuous strive to display a version of ourselves that conform to the expectations of our spectators. Continue reading