College of Social Studies - Newsletter 1999
Table of Contents:
- A Reader's Guide
- Memorial Minute
- Recollections of Mr. G
- Today's Curriculum
- The Ecological Wall
- Three Colloquia
- Who's Coming?
This, our fifth Newsletter, is devoted to two topics. The first is Gene Golob, his life and the enduring contributions he made to Wesleyan, to the CSS and to hundreds of individual alumni. The intellectual fruit of Gene's efforts--the traditions he and past generations of students and tutors began and nourished--is our second topic. Specifically four current students describe in depth the College curriculum, the chemistry of the colloquia, what they learn. And one Sophomore essay is reproduced in all of its splendor.
Despite continuing strains in the area of faculty staffing, the College is thriving. We have just recruited an incoming-class that, on paper at least, gives promise of being the strongest ever. Under the skillful tutelage of Rich Adelstein, Don Moon, David Morgan, and Nancy Schwartz, not a single student resigned or was rusticated from the Sophomore class--another first. Carl Robichaud obtained one of Wesleyan's two 1999 Watson fellowships, the ninth for the College.
During the course of the year we were fortunate to have five alums return and address the CSS Monday lunch. Both the tutors and students were visibly animated by the return of Ron Fortgang, '87, Rey Koslowski, '83, Eric Oliver, '88, Debra Guss, '87, and Paul Halliday, '83.
Gene Golob died on December 8th of last year, following a four-year illness. He was in his 84th year.
Eugene Owen Golob was born in 1915, the son of a physician--an immigrant from Russia 20 years earlier. Gene was raised in New York City and at the age of 19 earned his Bachelors degree from Columbia University. En route to his Ph.D he taught economic history for two years in the Economics Department at Amherst College and travelled in Europe during the fateful year 1938-39. His dissertation on France's Meline Tariff of 1892 was published by Columbia University Press in 1944.
During the years 1939-46 Gene was an instructor of History at Columbia and an active participant and author in that university's Contemporary Civilization Project.
Gene commenced his 40-year stay at Wesleyan as an Assistant Professor in 1946. His first assignment was the redesign of the freshman history curriculum in the Columbia mold. He went on to work with Louis Mink, then coming from Yale, to construct the highly successful interdisciplinary Freshman Integrated Program. In 1954 he published his second book, a 650-page volume on The Isms: A History and Evaluation--a wide-ranging work dealing with the economic ideology and workings of mercantilism, capitalism, corporatism, and socialism. Most of Gene's later publications, on epistemological matters, appeared in History and Theory.
Gene will be remembered: as a most warm-hearted individual, and a feisty man who loved a good argument. As a staunch supporter of GLSP--in at its founding and a teacher there for 35 years. As a conservative with a religious bent whose intellectual heroes were Edmund Burke, John Henry Newman, R.G. Collingwood and his close friend Louis Mink.
It is, however, with the College of Social Studies that Gene Golob's name will be most remembered. As one component in Victor Butterfield's vision of Wesleyan reconstituted as a federation of 12 interdisciplinary colleges, Gene worked with Gerry Meier, Joe Palamountain and Ken Underwood in putting together a 1958 proposal for a "College of Public Affairs." The CSS and the COL were launched in the Fall of 1959 as experimental programs; they were converted into permanent departments in 1962.
It was in the running of the CSS that Gene made his pivotal contribution. While he always worked in tandem with another--with Gerry Meier, then Louis Mink and later with the likes of David Titus, Don Moon, David Morgan and myself--it was always Gene who was the presiding spirit. With monkish devotion he attended to every detail--academic, social, administrative, and not least of all to correspondence with Admissions Officers in Law Schools and Business Schools across the country, and by virtue of the relations of trust he built up, placed a high proportion of his students in those institutions.
As a teacher he had a singular rapport with all students, but particularly underperforming students. Where the exhortation of other tutors had long been bootless, Gene was, time and again, able to somehow kindle a sense of self-worth and motivation that permitted the individual to ascend to an entirely new plateau of performance. From all of this the College prospered, and the alumni affection that has engendered bodes favorably for CSS's future course.
Gene Golob served Wesleyan well.
assembled by Ruth Jaffee, '83
Driving up to Middletown to attend the memorial service in December gave me an opportunity to recollect some wonderful memories of Mr. Golob and to reflect on the lasting impact he made on my life. We each have memories of him and about him, vivid images in our mind's eye: the big brown Olds sedan he drove; the eclectic collection of pictures and cartoons pinned to his office wall; overheard conversations with Anne about the politics and personalities of the College; the seeming "digressions" in the midst of a tutorial or seminar discussion which, in retrospect, were not only relevant but incisive; his patience and confidence in us all; the wry but sharply pointed wit; and the warmth and respect he showed us all.
The more I thought about what lay beneath my own recollections, the more I realized that Mr. G profoundly influenced the way in which I look at and try to understand the world, even though my life today is far from the intellectual realm of the CSS and the academic world generally. While almost 20 years have passed since I first had the experience of a tutorial with Mr. G, and most of the details of what I learned under his tutelage have been long forgotten, I continue to feel a vivid connection to the man and what he taught me. Mr. G taught us to think for ourselves, not only to see ourselves as critical readers and interpreters of this past, but to take these lessons and apply them elsewhere as well. Historical understanding wasn't a parade of events; what happened mattered only in so far as it gave us a means to think about and understand larger questions concerning human experience. For Mr. G, the whole undertaking, Collingwood's philosophy tied up with Cardinal Newman, St. Augustine, and--I think--particle physics, was not simply an academic discipline, but part of his own faith, beliefs, and journey to explore life's meaning and purpose itself.
A large number of people sent their reminisces to John Driscoll at the time of Mr. G's death. For me, reading them brought Mr. G into vivid focus, I hope that by sharing a small portion of them, you too will feel that way.
* * *
He was among the first group of Wesleyan instructors I had, some 40 years ago, in the "Western Civ" part of the old "integrated program" which coordinated courses in Western Civilization, Humanities, and English in the freshman year. He clearly was a most puzzling teacher for our group of naive young students who were eager to receive the pearls of wisdom directly from the mouth of our professor because, as best as I can recall, he never gave a lecture; he taught by indirection, through conversation, engaging the class in discussing works ranging from Augustine to Thucydides. He believed in talking about ideas, and especially ideas about what history is and the way in which events are interpreted and reinterpreted. During the course of that year, he also talked about his plans for the new College of Social Studies which would be inaugurated the following year: How that program would focus on a tutorial method of study, with heavy student responsibility for researching, organizing, and analyzing issues in weekly tutorial papers, and how the substantive scope of the program would embrace history, economics, government, and philosophy in a manner that would transcend artificial subject matter boundaries through the device of a common colloquium series. By the end of the year, he had recruited most of his Western Civ group to seek admission to this new and then rather controversial College of Social Studies experiment.
In my view, Gene Golob's great contribution to the founding of the College of Social Studies was supplying the intangible ingredients that made the program work as a "College." Dr. G had a sense of place. For the CSS to meet his vision, its environs had to facilitate connection between the intellectual work in the formal program and the other interests and activities of the CSS'ers. He saw the College as a place where the intellectual life in the tutorials and colloquia would overflow and infuse the daily life of students and faculty in informal interactions as well as the structured teaching program. For him, it was essential that the CSS be part of the residential life of its students, and he saw to it, through his inimitable personal touch and ubiquitous presence, that the CSS maintained a style or tone of inquiry and interest in ideas and events, an atmosphere encouraged thorough frequent association between students and faculty over coffee and newspapers in the lounge and a rich regimen of weekly luncheons and occasional dinners where CSS members were treated to a variety of visiting speakers. He wanted, I think, the CSS to be an intellectual home where faculty and students could converse and intellectual discussion could flourish outside of the classroom.
Milton R. Schroeder, '62
* * *
"Eugene O. Golob was a radical. Not just in the conservatism of his thinking, but in his belief that he could take a group of average American college students, throw them in the deep end, let 'em loose with ideas but no exams, prod them from time-to-time with a withering wit, a wide grin, and innocent-but-profound questions, and expect to end up with something that could pass for an educated person. He presumed maturity and thereby called it up."
Bob Hunter, '62
* * *
"At first, I had some trouble trying to figure out exactly what Gene Golob was trying to teach us. He never lectured, and he never tried to impose his views on you by the means of the normal professorial frontal attack. He always seemed to be coming at the issue through indirection, challenging your own views rather than articulating his own.... And eventually I gained some understanding of what he really felt about history. In fact, Gene was a High Tory, the Disraeli of the CSS. Scratch really hard, and you might even find a royalist in there. In any event, an iconoclast...the enemy, in his view, was unclear thought; assumptions that cannot be justified; grand theories that somehow turn cruelly wrong when they are put into practice by people who take them too literally...Gene was a true intellectual. He taught me a great deal by teaching me nothing. He asked good questions. I will remember him."
Sibley Reppert, '68
* * *
Endearing images come easily: the ubiquitous thermos; the big brown Oldsmobile that engulfed him; the fan in his office; the suspenders and bow tie; the amazing ability to balance backward in a tutorial chair with his hands folded behind his neck; the wry grin; and always the enthusiasm.
He showed you what an intellectual was and took you along for the ride as his mind danced across time periods and the boundaries of disciplines.
But his greatest gift and legacy was a powerful and encompassing faith. I don't know whether Augustine and Cardinal Newman inspired that deep faith, or whether they confirmed gifts he discovered in himself. The reading from Augustine says, "...the work that we do now is your work done through us. But you, O Lord, are eternally at work and eternally at rest." There was in Dr. G a seemingly endless energy for analyzing and building; his work mattered. And at the same time there was a deep optimism, joy in being and playfulness that drew on some vast goodness that had been revealed to him and for which he was grateful.
Dr. G was religious, a Christian and an Anglican; but his focus extended far beyond theological formulations to the all-pervasive Spirit. He went where it went: nature, beauty, history, inquiry, people, to the mystical Body.... to you and me. He could see the spirit in us and by believing in us he could call forth our own confidence. One of his students said he had an intuitive genius for affirming others' strengths and holding to that conviction until students grew into their own active awareness of it. This faith ran to his core. It lasted when the easier parts of his life faded and the hard years tested him. There was the same grace. Indeed, it was more prominent because other gifts had slowed or were stilled. As the scoliosis worsened and the Parkinson's Disease advanced, his patience deepened.
John Driscoll, '62
* * *
"Gene Golob had a very profound and long lasting affect on my life, perhaps more than any other person other than Bill Francisco. You see, Gene Golob taught me that a person could be an intellectual and a believer at the same time. He started me on a spiritual journey that led me to a very active life in the Episcopal Church."
Bob Craft, '76
* * *
"Within a few days of meeting Mr. Golob, I declared--with all the brashness of a CSS sophomore--that I didn't think much of the study of history. In the first place, I found the idea of historical evidence extremely problematic...Second, it was arrogant of anyone to look back to a particular culture and make generalizations about it...Mr. Golob just smiled the wry grin that we all came to love--the one that led us to call him "Yoda," after the wise and diminutive "Star Wars" character--and said that he agreed with me completely and suggested we all get back to work."
David Rivel, '83
The CSS curriculum has evolved somewhat over the years. As discussed in an earlier Newsletter, fiscal pressures in the 1970s resulted in deletion of Junior tutorials and discontinuance of External Comprehensive examinations. We now have an internal comprehensive exam at the end of the Sophomore year. We reintroduced a second-semester-only Junior tutorial about ten years ago, which, as with the Junior and Senior colloquia, is graded.
One very nice change for the better was a shift in the Sophomore economic syllabus in about 1985 from international trade and development (which was excellent!) to an original-text-based History of Economic thought. By shifting to modern European economic theorists--Hume and Smith through Keynes and Schumpeter--we aligned our syllabus with that of Government, History and Social Theory which cover the same period and continent. The result is a marvelously enriched and coherent Sophomore year, which is the gem of the program, or at least until one arrives at the thesis.
In the four pieces that follow, the reader is treated to a Sophomore essay and to descriptions of the three Colloquia--three are written by the individuals who served as Preceptors. The Sophomore economics essay was turned in last year in the third week of the sequence, and is based on the texts of Malthus and Ricardo. While Dan Tobin '00 gave rather less emphasis to the 19th century authors, and rather more to supplementary sources designed to permit a modern test of the Malthusian apocalypse, it seemed nevertheless worthwhile to select this essay as it will vividly remind you what you could accomplish in 3 or 4 days when you were younger and in the excitement of a CSS tutorial paper.
* * *
by Dan Tobin, '00
(Some 25 footnotes have been omitted for reasons of space.)
"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever," Kenneth Boulding has said, "is either a madman or an economist."* One such is the late Julian Simon, of "Natural resources are not finite," fame. For Simon, modern doom and gloom about the state of humanity can be laid at the doorstep of the 19th century British economist, Thomas R. Malthus.
According to Malthus i) the increase of population is limited by the means of subsistence, ii) population increases when the means of subsistence increases, unless prevented by powerful checks, iii) these checks, "which keep the population down to the level of the means of subsistence, are moral restraint, vice, and misery." But Malthus' conclusions are founded on some rather strong assumptions. First, he contends that in any country, the means of subsistence are "just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants." Second, unless limited by famine, disease, or conscious choice, population increases in a geometric ratio. Food production, however, may only increase in an arithmetic ratio, and thus want will always limit population.
Yet, unlike animals, man and woman need not necessarily push themselves to the point of starvation--they are capable of consciously limiting reproduction. When population is too high and an oversupply of labor pushes down wages, parents will have fewer children, perceiving that by giving birth they should emiserate both their children and themselves. But, according to Malthus, cheap wages will eventually inspire employers to hire more labor. And with population now in decline as a result of both natural and preventative checks, the demand for labor will expand against a shrunken supply. Wages will be driven back up, and spurring a return to larger family size, starting the whole cycle of misery anew. Malthus did not rule out technological change precipitating absolute gains in productivity, and thus in population, but his point was that resources were ultimately limited, and misery ultimately unavoidable.
Modern ecologists have embraced the Malthusian model. But, according to Simon, not only is misery unnecessary, but it is also in decline. Malthus' argument fails because its assumptions are empirically false. First, countries do not hover about the subsistence level. Second, agriculture can keep abreast of population. Third, population density does not in the long run glut the labor market, reduce wages, and increase poverty; rather population growth spurs economic expansion which raises the living standards of all. Fourth, since studies (admittedly limited to the United States) find that 85% of children are "intentional," even within conditions of extreme poverty, they must invariably represent an increase in utility to their parents. Finally, resources are not limited because human ingenuity will discover new resources. We shall examine each of these assertions in turn.
Malthus, and David Ricardo after him, postulated that when population increases and less fertile land is brought under the plow, agriculture must be subject to diminishing returns. But as George Grantham has shown, medieval records in France and England demonstrate the fallacy of diminishing returns: "Some regions with fertile soils had relatively modest yields, others whose soils were mediocre had high ones." Neither, according to Grantham, were either of those countries near their population-carrying capacity. Indeed, fertility has historically been significantly lower than it might have been. Grantham's second point is indisputable today--the far larger populations in Western Europe now are not pressing on the means of subsistence; some are actually declining in a period of prosperity, and Western Europe has become a net exporter of grain. But is his first point empirically sustainable? Crop yields are always variable. Indeed, medieval crop yields may have been more variable as a function of disparate technology of production--not only of the fertility of the soil. Today, likewise, yields vary by the technology employed and the availability of fertilizer and irrigation. The relative fertility of the land is less important, ostensibly in refutation of Ricardo. But fertilizers themselves are now subject to diminishing returns. "On the average in 1950, a ton of additional fertilizer used on grain crops produced 46 more tons of grain..[Yet]. The increase in yield earned by applying one more ton of fertilizer to a field in the U.S. corn belt has fallen from 15-20 tons of grain in 1970 to 5-10 tons today." (Paul Ehrlich).
But Grantham does not stop with yields. He argues that although population growth by itself is not a spur to agricultural improvement, high population density in cities, far from a source of misery, of few jobs and low wages for the poor, rather, with the growth of the new market the new concentrated population represents, is precisely a boon. Mary Tiffen and Michael Mortimore have demonstrated this principle in the Machakos District of Kenya. Increased population density lead to reduced interaction (market finding and transportation) costs, which lead to social infrastructure jobs, rising demand for agricultural products and thus to more agricultural jobs, swifter technological change (more people with more ideas), and--incredibly--to greater conservation. Simon, similarly, argues that density improves economic growth. From 1950-83, although the communist countries began with less dense populations than the capitalist West (E. Germany's 171/sq. km to W. Germany's 201; N. Korea's 76 to S. Korea's 212; China's 57 to Taiwan's 212 etc.), the capitalists experienced greater economic growth.
There is a certain fallacy to this last argument. Simon himself later asserts that China's (at that time) slow growth was the result of bad government, not bad economics, and thus a believer in low density could argue that the communist system's acute inefficiency more than compensated for the gains to low density. The "economic miracles" of Hong Kong and Singapore, however, bolster Simon's argument that density does not necessitate misery, but under the right conditions can mitigate it more swiftly. Simon admits that the short term consequences of growing density--a glutted labor market and the ensuing poverty--are bad, but he insists that the long run consequences--measured in half centuries are good. Yet given the diminishing returns, at least to agriculture, the question is not whether some increase in density is good, but whether it can be sustained indefinitely.
Paul Ehrlich in The Population Bomb (1968) predicted that "before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity." It has not come to pass. Indeed, Ehrlich bet Simon $1,000 that the price of five specific commodities would rise in the next ten years. Simon won. Population has increased, and the absolute quantities of the five commodities (all metals) have fallen, but technological change has reduced their necessity, and thus their value. That is precisely Simon's point. For Simon, resources are valuable only for the "services" they provide, and when a resource becomes scarce, the free market will spur technological innovation which will discover a new cheaper resource. Resources are not finite, because the resources we exploit are perpetually changing.
But Simon's argument does not--literally--hold water. The supply of fresh water, according to the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organization, is rapidly being depleted. "By the year 2000, six out of seven East African countries and all five North African countries bordering the Mediterranean will face acute water shortages." And there are limits to substitution. What does Simon suggest we exchange for water? Ehrlich & Ehrlich describe the depletion of aquifers, and the cavalier attitude of U.S. engineers: "We can always decide to build more water irrigation projects." The problem is that they cannot do so indefinitely, and that the costs of pumping a supply which, is in California San Joaquin Valley is already being pumped "at a rate that exceeds recharge by more than 500 billion gallons annually" will outpace technological innovation. Since 1940, global water withdrawals have risen by an average 2.5 percent per year, a rate more swift than population growth. For Terry Anderson, this is not a problem of supply but of distribution, which could be solved by price rationing.
But the example of fresh water illuminates a general problem with the mainstream economic analysis of resources. Anderson admits that local water shortages exist because elsewhere water is treated as virtually "free." Put another way, natural resources, which are actually a form of capital, are often treated and "spent" as income. But the capital (particularly non-renewable resources) are limited, and unless we return to spending only income, we are headed for bankruptcy. Even renewable resources are being depleted faster than the ecosystem replenishes them. Although the real price of metals has fallen, those of fishmeal, logs, and plywood have risen since 1961 [See figure 1]. And although wheat (not shown) has remained relatively stable, the erosion of topsoil may change that in the near future. Each year, according to Lester Brown, "farmers have to grow food for 95 million more people, using some 26 billion less tons of topsoil--a loss about equal to the amount of topsoil that covers Australia's wheatlands." With the diminishing returns to fertilizer, this should soon prove well-nigh impossible.
Simon and others have questioned her figures, or the notion that topsoil can be lost, rather than "blown onto the neighbor's field." But even they acknowledge the problem of chemical runoff from over-use of fertilizers and pesticides contaminating water resources. The means of subsistence is not Malthus' only natural check to population, there is also disease, or in a more modern formulation, there is an ecological check.
Simon insists that the ecological situation is improving, that pollution is in decline because life expectancy is up as a result of improved sanitation and medical advances. He avoids the issue of rising pollution by aggregating it with disease, an area in which progress has been made. Thus, pollution will not be a problem until it increases the death rate to such an extent that the gains from disease control are nullified. He is then justified in downplaying the entire host of ecological crises until they become acute.
But there are ecological limits. Air and water pollution is in decline in the industrial Western countries, but increasing in most industrializing countries. This is not the result of relative progress along the industrial "path," however, but of the shifting of heavily polluting industries to the Third World.
Simon was right about China's potential for growth as government impediments are removed. By 1992, China was growing 13% per year. And China has some of the most polluted cities in the world. But China's use of resources is also expanding. According to Ehrlich and Ehrlich, China plans to more than double its use of coal by the year 2000. And even if consumption only doubles, that is, if China's population does not increase, the increased CO2 emissions under current technology would offset the reduction in emissions should the United States abandon coal entirely. The story is the same throughout the developing world. Ehrlich, who regrets his early bet with Simon, announced his willingness in 1994 to bet Simon that 15 environmental indicators will be worse in 2004.
And those indicators will be worse as a consequence of rising population. Simon's argument that rising population, if highly concentrated, is a positive gain, and moreover, represents a utility gain for the individual parent is, for Ehrlich and Ehrlich, immaterial. First, "Density is generally irrelevant to questions of population." Simon's argument that the United States is underpopulated as compared with Denmark, or Japan is not cogent because the areas of high density are only sustainable because other areas produce more than enough to feed their population. "In short, the people of the Netherlands didn't build their prosperity on the bounty of the Netherlands, and they aren't living on it now." Denmark's density is not sustainable over the entire globe. Second, Stanley Lebergott's argument that, by revealed preference, children are a utility gain for their parents--he postulates that they must be worth at least the yearly compensation foster parents receive (in the U.S. about $4,500 per year in 1980)--ignores externalities. He is correct to argue that per capita income is an illogical measure of welfare because although children cause per capita income to fall, children cannot be a net utility loss to their parents. He is also correct that if parent's post natal purchases change from entertainment to children's necessities, this does not necessarily represent loss of utility to the parents, (if perhaps a loss in material welfare) that economists often assume it does. The problem is the fallacy of the harmony of interests. Children can be a boon to parents, and a tax on society.
One indication of trouble, according to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, is that although agricultural yields have continued to rise in absolute terms, "the rates of growth have been declining since the early 1980's." Yet population, despite declining birthrates in some of the most industrialized countries, is still projected to double by 2050. And absolute gains in food production obscure long term problems directly linked to those gains. Much of the increase has been purchased at the cost of over-use of chemical pesticides and herbicides which have severely degraded some 300 million (?) hectares of farmland and moderately degraded another 1.2 billion hectares worldwide. Moreover, most of the gains have been contingent upon irrigation, and further improvements will be constricted by the depletion of fresh water resources faster than they can replenish themselves, an affair which is already proceeding in the U.S., former Soviet Union, India, Mexico, and China.
None of this is definitive proof that doom is at hand. Resource management, scarcity prices, and technological innovation may confound generations of doomsayers. But the cornucopian argument that after two centuries the Malthusian disaster has yet to strike, is, as Paul Ehrlich has said, "Like the guy who jumps off the Empire State Building, and says how great things are so far, as he passes the 10th floor." Thomas Malthus, if proved incorrect in the specific, may unhappily yet be proved correct in the aggregate.
Colloquium: Social Theory
Jonah Dickstein, '00
So long as they get through the first reading of their CSS careers, sophomores should have no trouble recognizing the issues to be faced in the ensuing year. It's all in Thomas Hobbes, the man for whom religion is superstition publicly accepted (to the benefit of those in power) and "the value or worth of a man, as with all other things, is his price." Hobbes' discussion of the operation of social institutions opens up the century-spanning philosophical debates to which CSS sophomore Colloquium students will find themselves party.
John Locke works from Hobbes' ideal of monarchy toward a liberal property-based form of government, in which individuals agree to disagree, and enforce that "social contract" themselves. Developing another side of Hobbes' thought, Jeremy Bentham puts forth a systematic method and justification for utilitarianism, a principle closely linked to Hobbes' "price is the worth of a man" thesis, and one that will come to underlie economic analysis generally.
But not Marxist economic analysis. According to Marx, other thinkers, owing to their "commodity fetishism," erroneously compare labor power with the products of labor power, as if the two could be placed on the same scale and related in their value. Ever the radical, Marx even questions other theorists' basis to contribute to an objective understanding of social dynamics--thinkers merely speak for their class interests. Backed up by Rousseau's historically-informed work, which moves along the discussion of the operation of power in society, Marx's familiar materialist critique holds that physical implements define human relations. The modes and content of communication are simply associated with a particular way of life; whether a philosopher or not, the rule holds for all. By the way, if you get a chance to ask Professor Moon how Marx justifies the value of his own work, expect to enter the discourse of one of the great riddles of the modern age.
Post-Marx, social theory never again will be quite the same. Any thinker worth their salt has just got to have an historical approach. Sociologists Émile Durkheim and Max Weber point toward the changing character of professional and religious institutions, and relationship between these cultural fixtures. These thinkers step into the twentieth century by supporting their analyses with extended statistical and textual methods, informing social theory with demographic and even literary analysis.
Finally, we cannot forget the peppery mind of Friedrich Nietzsche, who by characterizing classical liberalism and democracy as ignoble, has mystified many a CSS sophomore. But we can be excused for forgetting Freud, whose fate it is to rarely appear in our writings or discussions. Perhaps it is "weak" or "egotistical," but students tend to find Nietzsche and Freud difficult to apply to social development.
And so, if you got the joke in the last sentence, then you are back up to speed with CSS social theory.
* * *
Junior Colloquium: Philosophy and Social
Andrew M. Tipson, '00
This colloquium endeavored to explode what Professor Fay termed "pernicious dualisms." We noticed early on how most philosophical and sociological debates tended to polarize: pitting advocates for social construction against those for individual agency, mind vs. body, rational self-interest vs. normative self-control. Yet, neither position seemed to adequately answer the questions posed by its antithesis. Was there really no basis by which members of distinct cultures could criticize, or even relate with, another? If all action was motivated by rational self-interest, was there really any room for human agency or expression? The consensus of the class seemed to be that we needed to find systems of thought that explained both.
Our primary readings tended to concentrate on authors who attempted to transcend these problems, often by integrating them into a higher order. Oliver Sacks' "A Leg to Stand On," for instance, used the author's experience of physical debilitation to explore the strange and "musical" coalition between bodily sensation and mental ability. As Sacks attempted to recuperate from his leg injury, he found that the will, disconnected from his body, was severely limited--unable to integrate a multitude of isolated intentions into a cohesive whole. He consequently reflected that this sense of rhythmical harmony between mind and body must be the central component in the experience of the self.
In "Time, Narrative, and History," David Carr argued that narrative form of history was not simply imposed after the fact, nor was it simply experienced. Instead, he suggested that we as individuals were only able to relate to our own actions and selves by narrating them in time. Like Sacks, Carr's project required him to construct a theory of action that emphasized an integration of action and will--his example was of a single tennis swing, which is impossible without both the context of the tennis game, or the continuum of minute decisions about the swing itself. Carr, however, was also faced with demonstrating how this individual narrative could be expanded to social experiences, and thus justify references to a "social history." His example was of a crowd of strangers "witnessing a car accident, who are later able to recall that "we saw" and "we ran to get help."
Class discussion of these works was quite free-roaming, with Professor Fay posing questions and expanding on our ideas and challenging our convictions. Contributions ran the gamut from personal anecdotes to heated arguments to wild theoretical examples--from the bewildering definition of "cool" to the mechanistic fallacies of Descartes. Yet, no matter how open-ended the discussion was, each topic seemed to neatly imply the next: for we found that we could not really discuss cultural integrity without understanding how social norms come to be, nor norms without some understanding of how individual agents relate to their societies, and so on. Our short papers forced us to focus our vague ideas and suppositions from class into the carefully argued space of a few dense paragraphs. Professor Fay encouraged us to avoid any reference to philosopher's opinions, forcing us to experiment with their ideas directly rather than their authority as thinkers.
Ultimately, Professor Fay equipped us with a new toolbox of philosophical forms and critiques with which to launch a rigorous assault upon the material of our junior tutorials and senior thesis projects.
* * *
Senior Colloquium: Democracy
Billy Brown, '99
Last Spring Professor Don Moon approached our class with a novel idea. For the past four years the Senior Seminar had been about democracy and the problems it faces. Previous instructors had each shaped the syllabus according to their own interests. Professor Moon offered to let us help plan the syllabus. We took him up on it, and circulated ideas through e-mail until we had reached a consensus on such topics as the environment, race and identity, human rights, and the media. We also helped plan the format. It was based on student presentations, for which a group of students would lead discussion each week and decide on texts to supplement the syllabus.
On the whole it worked pretty well. Professor Moon was worried the course would be like a cocktail party where you eat a lot of hors d'oeuvres but walk away wishing you had had a main course. The students didn't seem to be bothered by the lack of a central focus though, and the main complaint was that the student groups weren't as good at teaching as Professor Moon. Still though, most of us valued the chance to practice our speaking skills and realized quickly that giving a presentation is far more than just reading a paper.
Everyone seemed to like the actual substance of the course as well. We began with Robert Dahl and moved on to critics of American democracy like Neil Postman (in a section on the media) and Robert Putnam. The environment weeks dealt largely with why or why not, based on theories of democracy, we should care about the environment, seeing that the beliefs that guide democracy deal with relationships among human beings and generally do not mention trees, whales, or frogs. We spent a lot of time examining issues of group versus individual representation in a democracy and questioning to what degree individualist liberal democracy is culture and gender biased, and treats disadvantaged groups in society poorly. We started this section with Charles Taylor's "Politics of Recognition," and worked in sources ranging from works by Orlando Patterson, Jürgen Habermas, and Franz Fanon to the recent movie Swingers. We finished by turning to the international arena and issues such as the Asian values debate, and if and how our responsibilities to people outside our country differ from those to our fellow citizens.
The re-union this year will be the weekend of June 3 to June 6. As usual the CSS will have a two-hour reception on Saturday afternoon. It will be held in the CSS's "new quarters" on the 4th floor of the PAC from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
One is sometimes a little hesitant to revisit the past--yes the joys of one's youth, but also some wonder if they may be assaulted, at some subterranean level, by reflections of age and the good fortune of others. But with the knowledge that our friends from that epoch will be there, such narcissistic doubts instantly evaporate. Hopefully you will find some of your friends in the list below. These alumni have indicated they will be coming and would like to be joined by their friends.
1964 Richard H. Colton
1964 Gary M. Cook
1964 Stephen H. Oleskey
1974 Karla L. Bell
1974 Michael L. Brody
1974 Scott F. Burson
1974 Lawrence G. Green
1974 Eddie J. Jordan, Jr.
1974 Richard A. Simpson
1978 George B. Raymond, Jr.
1979 Nils "Eric" Berg
1979 Joy M. D'Amore
1979 Lincoln Frank
1979 Isadore Katz
1979 Benno Kurch
1979 Helen Mayer
1979 Philip O'Connell
1979 Peter Sanders
1979 Brian L. Schorr
1979 Jennifer Young
1994 Carl B. Byers
1994 Carlos J. De Bourbon De Parma
1994 Douglas R. Dohan
1994 Jiyoung Lim