PUBPOL 495 (Policy Seminar) is for students currently enrolled in the Public Policy Undergraduate Program only, no exceptions. Enrollment is by permission only.
The pandemic of 2020 demonstrated that dystopias such as Camus's The Plague or Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, far from being implausible fantasies, offer insights into the nature of human cooperation and the potential for its collapse. Dystopias diagnose our social and political vulnerabilities; they warn us what the imminent future may hold. And so in this class we'll study dystopias from the point of view of policy makers, using the genre the way an epidemiologist uses a microscope to identify the hidden source of future calamity. We'll also study dystopia's imaginative cousin, utopia, and analyze real-world attempts at creating utopias in the U.S., Mexico, India, and/or Syria to determine what utopian principles inspired the projects and analyze these experiments successes and failures. Finally, we'll study several examples to learn how the government should intervene when a real-world utopia for some becomes a dystopia for others, that is, when the rights of utopians in a community are being violated. Course themes will include family and gender politics, censorship, class, race, poverty, and connections between idealism and authoritarianism.