CC 300 B: Peace and Social Justice

3 Credits

Professor Western
MWF 12:30-1:20 p.m.

Human beings aren’t always good to each other. Human beings don’t always get along. As much as humanity has the capacity to love, to reason, to create great works of art and technology, our history is one of strife, struggle and conflict – against each other, in situations often of our own making. As much as we love, we also know how to hate. As much as we reason, we’re also driven by fear. We’ve turned our creations against each other and denied others what we ourselves are desperate to have. Given the kinds of creatures we are, how can human beings live together? And in a way that’s not mere survival. How do we live together, and live together well? Cries of “peace” and “social justice” are both high-minded and aspirational – if in many ways different – calls for answers to these questions, and this course is at root an exploration of these cries. Across academia, many a Peace Studies class focuses on international conflicts – troubled nations out there in the world. But the starting premise of this class will be that the United States in 2018 doesn’t look that different from places out there deemed “conflict zones.” America has its intolerable violence, its painful power dynamics, its scathing injustices, its intractable conflicts of perception and belief — too many to cover in a mere 14 weeks! And so this course will be anchored in a look at any or all of what Martin Luther King Jr. identified as the three great ills he struggled against: violence, racism and economic disparity. We’ll consider the merits and disadvantages of force, adjudication and mediation in efforts at resolving conflict. We’ll tackle contemporary topics “ripped from today’s headlines” of violence, racism and/or economic disparity in America. We’ll ask how Americans, in our differing beliefs, attitudes, politics and lifestyles, can still talk to each, let alone live in harmonious union. Throughout the course an underlying but key conceptual theme will be the (competing?) roles of power, justice and empathy in human efforts towards peace and social justice. In this course you can expect to read words from figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Cornell West and Donald J. Trump.

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