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  • Comprised of 18 numbered theses—and several more in Benjamin’s notes—“On the Concept of History” represents the most refined arguments for Benjamin’s methodology regarding history, time, and progress. Even as the work has become one of the most cited and quoted texts in the canon of European Marxist thought, it remains enigmatic and challenging, provoking near endless commentary and application. The work is thoroughly Marxist and yet draws on ideas and imagery from the Bible and the Babylonian Talmud. How can we understand and what can we learn from Benjamin’s theses, as we live through “this storm” that “we call progress”?
  • Macroeconomic policy—from “quantitative easing” to fiscal austerity to basic understandings of growth, interest, inflation, and productivity—impacts everyday lives. It affects one’s job, wage and even political rights and obligations. At the same time, macroeconomic ideas are historically produced, influenced by theories that rise and fade in popularity, and mediated by national and international power relations. What are the elements of macroeconomics? And, how can an understanding of the theories and concepts of mainstream macroeconomics—as well as their limitations and critiques—help us make sense of “the economy” today?
  • Palestine remains a flashpoint in a number of contemporary debates: about war, colonization, and violence, religious and ethnic identity, nationalism and self-determination, modes of resistance, the role of international institutions, diasporic politics, academic freedom, and American foreign policy, among others. This course offers students an opportunity step back from the headlines to explore the modern history of Palestine, from the late Ottoman period to the present. What, if anything, makes the case of Palestine unique? What was Palestine like before the advent of political Zionism? And why does the contemporary conflict between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians appear so intractable?
  • Hegel’s most mature statement of political philosophy, the Elements of the Philosophy of Right is an excoriating critique of social contract theory and liberal individualism. Dismissing the liberal conception of self-willing individuals who freely form governments, Hegel argues that freedom is only realizable in the context of the state and in abiding by its laws. Disorienting to liberal readers, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right electrified its German readership, radicalizing thinkers on both the Right and the Left, and forming, in inverted form, the background to Marxist thought. How can we understand Hegel’s conception of freedom as the ethical obligation to act rightly? And is Hegel’s political philosophy a useful framework for thinking through problems of law, family, and civil society today?
  • Why do we write the lives of individual people? Why do we write them the way we do? In this course, we’ll consider an individual whose life has been written perhaps more than anyone else’s: Moses. Why was Moses’s life written, and why, in the Bible, was it written in the way that it was?

THE BROOKLYN INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH is an interdisciplinary teaching and research institute that offers critical, community-based education in the humanities and social sciences. Working in partnership with local businesses and cultural organizations, we integrate rigorous but accessible scholarly study with the everyday lives of working adults and re-imagine scholarship for the 21st century.

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