Politics for Troubled Times

In September 2021, we will welcome the first cohort of students to our newly-registered bachelor program in Political Science, offered in cooperation with SUNY Empire State College. One could have hardly have expected a better time for a program like this to be launched. We live in a time of what we could call a civilizational crisis. “Crisis” should not be understood as a period of decadence or collapse, but in the original Greek meaning of the term: a moment to take important decisions. Developments in recent years have led to a situation in which we must reflect deeply on what kind of society we want to live in, and to take steps that take us in that direction. The consequences of the economic crisis, the responses to the globalization processes that make our societies more open and diverse, the threat posed by Covid to our style of living, and the environmental problems that endanger our future are examples of the dilemmas that need to be addressed by our generation. This is a time to think about our personal freedoms and our personal duties, about the conflict between individual rights and community interests, about how societies can make decisions in the most effective way, about what a virtuous citizen is in our contemporary world. This is precisely the main aim of a political science program: to help students to think about the complex societies we live in, to be aware of the choices that we, as human communities, make, and to think of the alternatives we have.

 

I have had the privilege to teach the Introduction to Political Science for more than a decade at UNYP. This is a general education course, and in it I have had the chance to meet students from all different majors and with very diverse interests. In the introductory class, I always ask the students about their understanding of the nature of politics, and I ask everyone to complete the sentence “politics is for me…” with just one word, concept or idea. Needless to say that some of the answers cannot be reproduced here, but it is enlightening to hear students discussing what politics is for them, based on their personal experiences. I like to share my answer to that question: I tell them that, in my opinion, politics is the most noble activity that a human being can do. At the end of the day, a citizen that is interested in politics is a citizen that cares not just for himself but for the community he belongs to. It was Aristotle who rightly said in Politics that an individual who is not part of a community “is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the tribeless, lawless, heartless one.” And that is why I am so excited about the contribution that the new bachelor’s program in Political Science can make, precisely in the times when we are so much in need of people who care. With so many young people who care, we know that our future will be brilliant. 

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