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Post-Election America

UTNS 2016 | UTNS 5016 Syllabus

The election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States is rapidly bringing significant change to the American political landscape. New School students from a variety of political perspectives have shown great interest in these developments. What are the implications for immigration, for employment, for race relations and for foreign policy? To what extent are the shifts in the U.S. part of a broader global turn to populism and nationalism?

In response to the demand from students for information, for historical context and for analysis of the election and its possible consequences, the New School is mounting a 14-week series of lectures by New School faculty called “Post-Election America.” Lectures will be led by experts in the topic area and will include sessions on the U.S. constitution, immigration law and policy, populism, illiberalism, political polarization, economic inequality, nationalism, globalization, financialization, deindustrialization, the future of health and pension policy, climate change and environmental politics, race and the political economy of racial identity, gender and class politics, the urban-rural divide and the political economy of the U.S. “rust belt.” The series is open to all members of The New School community.

We are very pleased to collaborate with Public Seminar in order to engage in these conversations with the broader public. Readings for each lecture will be posted on Public Seminar. A very short video summary version of each lecture will be posted on The New School’s YouTube channel.

January 27th:    Introduction: Understanding Elections

February 3rd:    Race, class, and the urban-rural divide (Maya Wiley)

This lecture will address policy decisions historically and in the past decade that have shaped our notions of race, class and identity. This examination will include the demographic shifts and economic insecurities underpinning urban and rural communities, the constructed rise of “post-racialism” in tandem with implicit and explicit bias and the very real impacts of voter suppression and disenfranchisement to better understand the results of the election and its implications for policy formation.

February 10th: U.S. Constitutional law (Andrew Arato)

The lecture will focus on the multiple origins of the U.S. Constitution as it is today, some of its main structural features, along with its mechanisms of potential change, formal and informal. In comparison with several other constitutional traditions, I will explore the implications of the American separation and division of powers for limiting executive power on the one side, and for coherent social policy on the other. In particular I will explore the role of federalism in inhibiting, as well as potentially facilitating the building (or preservation) of a (more) universalist welfare state.

February 17thPolitical polarization and inequality in the U.S. now (David Plotke)

Polarization means that parties and public opinion are sharply divided. The distance between the two parties is very large. Almost all issues, from gun control to climate control to taxes, are pulled into this dynamic. Polarization is real and ongoing. Is it mainly the cause or effect of other political dynamics? Is it permanent? 

February 24thNationalism and Internationalism: the U.S. and international politics in the 2010s (David Plotke)

After the Cold War, the power of the U.S. has been unrivaled, though never unchallenged. Internationalism dominated American politics. The Bush and Obama administrations pursued different internationalist paths. Their policies yielded mixed results and opened space for what advocates propose as a new American nationalism. How new is this program and what are its prospects? Is ‘America First’ good for America?

March 3rd:        U.S. immigration law and policy (Alex Aleinikoff)

This lecture will address policy issues related to immigration and refugees: enforcement at the border, asylum-seekers from Central America, possible changes to the system of legal immigration, DREAMERS and executive authority, the impact on refugee admissions (including proposals for “extreme vetting”), xenophobia.

March 10th:      Gender politics (Natalia Mehlman-Petrzela)

This lecture will focus on the role of gender and sexuality, especially as pertains to the feminist movement, in explaining Trump’s rise to power, and more importantly in contemplating the future. There’s little question that these issues were paramount in the Democratic primaries and the general election that and that they played out in ways that challenged our assumptions about equality and progress. Looking ahead, claims that “the future is female” are bolstered by the experience of the largest march in U.S. history, but also seriously qualified by the intensified precariousness of rights of women and LGBT people domestically and worldwide. We will touch on the realms of rhetoric, policy, and lived experience in attempting to explain and to engage in our unprecedented political moment.

March 17th:      Climate change and environmental politics (Joel Towers)

This talk will begin with a brief review of the science of climate change, what is known, how it is known, and what the implications are for life in the “Anthropocene.”   Given the dire threat a rapidly changing and unstable climate presents, the talk will then explore the complexity of responding to climate change and the human tendency to avoid knotty, multi-scalar, temporally and economically intergenerational problems. In other words, it is a reflection on why responding to climate change feels like it presents such difficult choices politically, economically, and socially. Finally, I will lay out a framework for continued progress on climate change during the Trump administration and beyond.

March 24th:      Spring Break, no class

March 31st:      Globalization’s winners and losers (Will Milberg)

This class will focus on the analysis of international trade, beginning with a history of the world trading system and the theory of international trade. We will then look at indicators of country-level success in international trade, comparing the US, China, Mexico and some others. Next, we will consider more closely the impact of trade liberalization on the US economy, specifically on profits, wages, employment at the national and the state levels. Finally we will turn to the issue of the global governance of trade, and consider the impact of the WTO, the TPP, NAFTA, the general rise of nationalism among industrialized countries, and the likely shifts in international trade and exchange rate policy that may occur with the political change in the US.

April 7th:          The past and future of health and pension policy (Teresa Ghilarducci)

Most of the new Trump administration in positions of power and influence over Medicare, Health care and Social Security strongly support privatization. I will define and discuss privatization of social insurance, who loses, who gains, and what the likely political economy effects will be on the vulnerable and on the economy.

April 14th:        The Political Economy of Racial Identity (Darrick Hamilton)

This lecture will examine the tenuous relationship between racial divisions amongst the working class and racial coalition building to address their collective worsening economic conditions, which may have related to President Donald Trump’s surprise victory; along with a discussion of rising racial disparity with higher levels of education, which is paradoxical to the neoliberal ideology of hard work and education as an anecdote to inequality.

April 21st:        The political economy of the U.S. “rust belt” (Teresa Ghilarducci)

Three midwestern states flipped the Electoral College for Trump in places that voted for Obama for President. What are the economic conditions of those counties and how does the long decline in manufacturing, the rise in globalization, and the decline in unions affected these voters now in the spotlight?

April 28th:        Populism (Federico Finchelstein)

This lecture will address the public impact of populist movements. It will be historically focused on what populism is and it will be especially tuned to contemporary public discourse on populist anti-politics in the context of discrimination against immigrants and minorities in the United States.

May 5th:           Illiberalism (Jessica Pisano)

Worldwide, a growing number of political leaders are using the word “illiberal” to describe their political systems. What is illiberalism? What is its relationship to democracy, to authoritarianism? What do politicians mean when they use this word? And how do ordinary people understand it? Finally, how may it be relevant for understanding contemporary politics in the United States?

May 12th:         Finance and Financialization (Julia Ott)

This lecture will trace how, in recent decades, financial institutions shifted away from funding the production of goods and services towards activities such as consumer lending and trading securities and derivatives. Meanwhile, non-financial corporations increasingly shied away from long-term investments in plant, equipment, and research and development. Instead, they too diverted capital to finance. The results included a surge in investors’ returns, an explosion in the compensation of financiers and corporate executives, and a far more volatile and unequal form of capitalism, periodically besieged by financial crisis. The history of financialization helps us better understand contemporary problems including from inequality, stagnant wages, mass incarceration, and languishing innovation and infrastructure.

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