This week begins a new school year in which I’ll be playing a small part in teaching an introductory course on conflict in our world at George Mason University. I’m not the lead instructor, and I’ll mostly be listening and learning, looking for material to use in the textbook I’m writing with Doug Irvin-Erickson, who is the actual instructor. Still, I can’t NOT worry about the challenges and responsibilities that come with teaching about peace and conflict studies now that we are almost two years into the Trump administration. Some of the questions I ask are the same ones that have been around since I was on the other side of the professorial desk in the 1960s. Some of them are new.
A Republic, If We Can Keep It Last week, I was lucky to be invited to a conference, A Republic If We Can Keep It organized by Cornell University’s Center for the Study of Inequality and the New America Foundation. There were only about fifty people in the room at any one time, so we had plenty of time to discuss many of the tough issues that some think are putting American democracy in danger. And, we had quite a crew, including some top academics, journalists, and some anti-Trump republicans. The organizers hoped that adding insights from comparative politics experts could help Americanists understand our turbulent times, which is why I was invited. But, as we dug into [...]
Peacebuilding and Democracy Until last Thursday afternoon, I was planning to write about what comparative politics research can do to help peacebuilders. Then, I ran into my friend Jim Pfiffner of George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government. Jim is a scholar of the presidency who has written books on judging the character of our chief executive--among many other things. Jim is also one of the most thoughtful people I know. And since we hadn't seen each other in ages and since we are both political scientists, our discussion immediately turned to the Trump presidency--even before we mentioned our grandkids. I had just finished reviewing Steven Levitsky and Danie Ziblatt's How Democracies Die. As we discussed [...]