Teaching Global Society

By Peet, Richard | Radical Teacher, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview
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Teaching Global Society

Peet, Richard, Radical Teacher

I teach "Global Society" to first-year students in the International Studies Stream (ISS) at Clark University, a liberal arts college located in Worcester, Massachusetts. Clark attracts middle class students mainly from New England and the New York area, with a few coming from Texas, the Southwest and California, and a good number of Latin American and other Third World students. The ISS is selected by between 60 and 100 entering students each year. Some students in the past entered the stream as prelude to an international business degree. But increasingly students in the course are young, activist Americans, concerned about global issues. My experience has been that many students enter liberal

arts colleges imbued with moral concern for others less fortunate than themselves. With the possible exception of a few dismal years in the 1980s, I have noticed little difference in the level of students' political morality over the last 30 years. However, globalization has increased the geographical scope of this c oncern. Students now feel intimately connected with peasants and workers the world over. They can access information about distant others far more easily. Their sense of community is more worldly. They are willing to become involved in political practices that benefit people they will never physically meet, but feel that they know quite well. Globalization has a number of contradictory consequences, not the least of which is global connectivity between activist First World students and Third World workers.



This is the main introductory course for the International Studies Stream (ISS). We assume that you are concerned about your relationship to the global society in which you increasingly live. The purpose of the course is to inform you about the nature, history and present characteristics of the global system. We rake theoretical, historical and critical approaches that stress the development of globalism and its effects on economies, peoples, cultures, polities and environments. We try to give stimulating lectures, assign readings that keep you engaged, and employ experienced reaching assistants capable of leading interesting discussions, helping with readings and assignments, and maintaining direct contacts with you. The university expends a lot of resources on this course. What do we expect in return? Only your intense interest, your dedicated responsibility, your hard work, your beautiful thoughts and your most eloquent writings.


There are two required books:

Eric Wolf, Europe and the People Without History (University of California Press). This 500-page book covers the history of relations between Europe and the "people without history"- that is, the people who the Europeans "discovered."

William Greider, One World, Ready or Not (Touchstone Books). This book, dealing with the contemporary global economy, is read in the middle of the course.


Part I: Key Themes

Globalization and Space; Theory as Legitimation; Theory as Critique; Civilizations; Development and Underdevelopment; Globalization and Western Hegemony

(1) Introduction: Globalization- Matrix of Modernity (One Lecture)

(2) Three Western Ideas that shook the World: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber (Three Lectures)

(3) An Eastern Alternative: Confucius (One Lecture)

(4) History of the World Part I: Early Societies (Two lectures)

(5) History of the World Part II: Rise of the West (Three Lectures)

(6) Geography of the Global Capitalist System: Theories (Two Lectures)

Part II: Key Themes

Global corporations; commodification; hyper-urbanization; environmental destruction; political turmoil and cultural change

(7) Global Society (Six Lectures)

(8) Regions in Crisis (Three Lectures)

(9) Globalism as Catastrophe?

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