It is almost a cliché to say the world is facing cataclysmic crises—of governance, of the environment, of inequality in wealth, opportunities, and capacities. Many reformers confront big challenges like these with proposals that essentially tinker at the margins and stop short of exposing deeper causes of the crises or contemplating the real opportunities for a better future. This Focus cluster gives students opportunities to go beyond stale assumptions and engage with theories and practices that promote justice rather than greed and cooperation rather than exclusion—opportunities to think expansively about bold solutions to the crises we face and ultimately how to promote human flourishing on a grand scale.
Today we live in a world dominated by one story—a story of growth, extraction, and exploitation. It is a story, however, that merely represents one of many possibilities for our future as a planet. The Build a Better World Focus cluster investigates ways of thinking and being that both expose and move beyond the singular extractivist logic of modern societies. Working with a rich trove of historical and contemporary knowledge in the worlds of science, the arts, technology, and political economy, our rotating courses explore a wide range of alternative stories, experiences, and visions, ranging from Indigenous practices to the newest findings of post-growth care economies or the work of environmental and racial justice activism. Our courses are discussion-intensive and include deep readings, research opportunities, interactions with the larger community, and—most importantly—thinking in new and exciting ways about the most pressing problems facing our world.
In this Focus cluster, students will ask: what will it take to move the world away from dystopia and towards a future that foregrounds justice, ecological sustainability, and human flourishing?
Dirk Philipsen, Associate Research Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy; Associate Research Professor in the Department of History
What are the roots of the climate crisis or unparalleled inequality? This course explores big ideas that envision a radically different future, one that provides for the common good within our given biophysical limits, including discourses such as post-growth, wellbeing, and care economics; eco-feminism; eco-anarchism; decolonization; ecological justice; and commoning. A reading and discussion intensive course that uses an interdisciplinary approach and includes elements of research, individual and group presentations, as well as a writing requirement.
Wesley Hogan, Research Professor of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute; Research Professor in the Department of History
Immersion in the dangerous and contentious history of youth activism in the US since 2010. Using oral history, archival research methods, and cultural production, students explore methods for researching documenting and creating narratives of youth social activism. Historical and contemporary youth campaigns explored in this course include those to end racial profiling and mass incarceration, prevent environmental destruction, improve public education, advocate for undocumented families, create safe spaces for GLBTQIA youth, and champion reproductive justice. All of these movements have expanded the legal, narrative, and practical understanding of human rights in US and global frameworks.
Nick Carnes, Creed C. Black Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy; Associate Professor of Political Science; Professor of Sociology
Neoliberalism is a philosophical framework so intrinsic to contemporary U.S. politics that it can be difficult for Americans to articulate, contemplate, and critique. In this course, we will define neoliberalism, evaluate its role in U.S. politics and society, and discuss alternative social and political worldviews.