It is often said we live in a much smaller world these days: world travel is easy and frequent. Cable and internet news keeps us informed about events that occur in places most people a generation ago never heard of. In the 60’s futurists predicted the 21st century would become a “global village’ or a “world community”. Even though some of those terms are often used, things have not worked out so well. The “world community” of the 21st century is faced with higher levels of chaos than in any other time in human history. Migrations of people, starvations, the debt crisis, wars, revolutions, terrorism, dictatorship, global drug trade, global capitalism, and the trend identified by Amartya Sen of “surplus populations” – people who simply have no place in the political economy of today. Sen notes that about 30% of people on earth will never have a job and have no place to live because their traditional ways of life have been made obsolete by modern technology and their lands and natural resources are needed by the industrial world. Most of the optimism that spread over all of the world with the decolonization movements of the 1950’s and 60’s and the UN Declaration on universal rights and on national sovereignty has now died out. At this moment in history, we are witnessing the extermination of the last vestiges of the social idealism of the 50’s and 60’s post-colonial movements. What we are facing is the re-colonization of the world by the same old European and American powers. We are in the hell described by Samuel Huntington in Clash of Civilizations. One again, Euro-Americans are demanding that only one political economy must prevail over the entire earth.
This class recognizes as Desmond Tutu points out in the comment above that as a human beings we are communal. Our community is now truly the whole world. Most of the clothes Americans wear, their electronic devices, the food they eat, and so on are produced by others –who often are not recognized as part of their community. We live off the labor of others; their poverty makes us wealthy. This class explores world events in the light of the last 50 or 60 years. This course takes primarily “non western’ perspective, a global or a cosmopolitan perspective (to use term proposed by Kwame Anthony Appiah). You can’t be in a community unless you learn to see the world from the perspective of others and can empathize with that point of view.
Many of the readings are by authors, activists, and scholars outside the Euro-American nexus. Its goal will be to bring students up to date on where human development and the progress of societies stand in the 21st century. This class will introduce students to non-western ways of looking at the contemporary world and will also consider the media through which so much of the world is represented and understood.