Stumbled across this interesting article about Daniel A. Bell teaching Political Theory in Beijing, China. This is what he writes about his course:
At Tsinghua, I teach a graduate seminar on “Just and Unjust War.” The “realist paradigm”—the idea that states are motivated by nothing other than self-interest in international affairs and that morality is not and should not be used to judge the international behavior of states—seems to be dominant in China. I think there’s a need to consider theories that allow for moral evaluation of wars, especially as China becomes a more dominant power in the international arena. After the first class, the same student from the party school stayed behind to ask if he could audit that class too. I agreed.
The auditing student’s involvement in his class leads to some interesting insights and a final excursion…I will not spoil the reading for you, but its quite a turn-around.
Bell also comments on the student-teacher interaction:
The students also raise questions in class. They are no slouches: it’s probably harder to be admitted, statistically speaking, into Tsinghua and Beijing University than into leading American universities. My students are supposed to be leaders of society: I’m told that the Communist Party student members at Tsinghua prepare the educational curriculum for all the young Communists in China. They are intellectually confident and often well versed in the Chinese and Anglo-American (if not French and German) philosophical traditions. Nonetheless, they often communicate their most critical comments via e-mail, not in the classroom. Of course, the e-mails are cordial, but the substance is often harshly critical of what I’ve said in class.
This text raises some questions: What style of student-teacher interaction do we have in Ghana? Does it matter what country the instructor comes from? What are some of the issues of teaching Social/Political theory in our context, if any?
Thanks all for following this class in the classroom, in discussions or on the web.
Required Reading for Monday, 26th April 2010:
Founder of Social Rights Newsletter Pambazuka, Firoze Manji wrote this Review of Development as Freedom which summarizes Amartya Sen’s book Development as Freedom, its claims and importance (of course I’d prefer it if we could have read a few chapters from the actual book, but time makes that impossible – however, let me stress this is a very relevant book I think you all should read).
Read Manji’s review, and possibly also other sources, to be able to understand Sen’s main points.
Be prepared to discuss!
Remember how we talked about how Social Democracy is dependent on taxes for its rich social benefits?
In UK, elections are coming up and the Labour party (social democrats) statnd against the conservative Tory party, led my Mr Cameron. In a column, Harry Potter’s mother J.K Rawling support the social democratic model and explains why.
The 2010 election campaign, more than any other, has underscored the continuing gulf between Tory values and my own.
What do you think? Should society be obliged to help the poor? And how?
See the trailer of the 90 minute TV film “Animal Farm” we are watching on Friday’s class here:
Find below a summary by Sydney Oduro (word document here) from the lecture on economic theory.
Adam Smith, a moral philosopher and economist, was born in the year 1723, in Kirkcaldy in Scotland. Adam Smith was a son to a very successful lawyer also named Adam Smith. He was admitted into Glasgow University at the young age of 14 years. Adam Smith was a capitalist and had two major works which he was famous for; the Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations (With the Wealth of Nations being more popular). Adam Smith was a student of David Hume (another philosopher) and he was a great influence in Adam’s Wealth of Nations book. The Theory of Moral Sentiments was published in the year 1759 whilst the Wealth of Nations was published in the year 1776. He was a great supporter of the Laissez-Faire economic system.
The Theory of Moral sentiments was a book deeply influenced by Hume and it was said to be a theory of moral attitudes. The Wealth of Nations on the other hand was a book that revealed how selfish intensions could be transformed by the invisible hand (free market) into social harmony and public benefit producing the wealth of nations in the best possible way. The Wealth of Nations took Smith almost ten years to write, and he wrote this with the intention of showing how nations should be run. He also stated that Division of labor and free trade were the keys to economic growth and that state intervention should be kept to a minimum. This book is regarded as the main foundation of the science of economics.
Adam Smith also argues that Individual self-interest plays a decisive role. He also did not believe in good intensions, but that selfish intensions could lead to public goods. Smith was a liberalist as well as a capitalist and developed neo-liberalism.