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More questions on Havel

Some more food for thought:

  1. In Section X, Havel credits a rock band with the atmosphere for the building of Charter 77. A trial against the band demonstrated lack of political freedom and expression nationwide. Although their music provided no political agenda, do you agree with Havel’s philosophy regarding political movements growing out of everyday experiences, like music? Why are average sectors of life more effective in mobilizing change than traditional political protests?
  2. Keeping in mind the example of the brewery supervisor, “small-scale work” can become a detrimental to one’s sense of responsibility and creates “dissidents”. However, at the end of this section, Havel directly states he does not condemn those who do not become “dissidents”. Therefore, are there times that it is best to maintain a level of ignorance regarding the “right” thing to do in order to sustain stability?
  3. Havel discusses the importance behind the role of the dissidents and the potential that the powerless have. In the reading and during the interview we viewed on Wednesday, Havel expressed the the need to stick to ideals regardless of immediate success. Do you agree or disagree with this statement and do you find as much power in the powerless as Havel did?
  4. Havel says that there is a profound difference between his system and what is traditionally understood by dictatorship. He defines it as a “post-totalitarian” system and explains that it means that the system is still totalitarian, but different from classical dictatorships. How does his new totalitarian system differ from classical dictatorships?

Havel, Day 1

Food for thought from Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”:

  1. Havel talks about a “post-totalitarian” society.  What does he mean by this? How is the dictatorship that he is talking about dissimilar to a classic dictatorship? Are these differences significant? Why or why not?
  2. Havel uses the example of the greengrocer and the sign in his window that says, “workers of the world, unite!” Why is this sign so significant even if no one necessarily stops to read it? What does Havel say will happen if the sign is not up in the store window?

Marx, *Communist Manifesto*, sections III-IV

Food for thought:

  • In section IV, Marx states the ultimate goal of the Communist Party is to dissolve the existing political and social order of things and that this can only happen via the forcible overthrow of the current social order. Do you agree with Marx’s statement that the only way to achieve such goals is using force?
  • What are some possible implications of dissolving all existing social and political order? Would the lack of classes within society cause harmony, or could it possibly lead to unrest or even chaos?

Class today, Wednesday, 9 April

I’m not doing too well this morning, so we won’t have class. As I look ahead at the calendar, I see we’re actually fine; we had one more day for Marx than we really needed. So please finish the reading from Marx for Monday, and read Boyer’s article for next Wednesday. That will have us right where we should be when we come back from the Easter break.

Marx, *Communist Manifesto*, Sections I-II

Food for thought:

  1. In the Communist Manifesto, modern laborers are described as being unable to rise in industry and instead sink deeper into their own class. They are unable to outgrow class and achieve wealth. Can the same be said for laborers in today’s society? Are there too many obstacles for those in the working class? Do these obstacles prevent them from having a better paying job and more appealing role in society?
  2. The Communist Manifesto describes political power as “nothing more than organized power of one class for oppressing another.” It goes on to say that once class distinctions disappear a vast association forms where the development of an individual adds to the development of the nation as a whole. If class distinctions did disappear would citizens really work to form a society where everyone benefits from rewards of individuals or will there always be a fight for individual power and status?
  3. Is money just as powerful or more powerful than military might? Is there a real difference? What right do we have to our own money and why?
  4. What drives people throughout history, is it class struggle like the reading says? Is money what truly drives the world? Where does the middle class fall in this grand idea? Is property the most important form of ownership?

An update on your work

Just a quick update: I didn’t get quite as far with the grading over the weekend as I expected to, though I’m getting close. If you submitted an annotated bibliography entry this time around, it’s done and you can check your school Google account for a comment sheet. If you submitted an article review, please be patient and hold on for another day or two.

Essay #2

The assignment sheet for Essay #2 is now available to you, both from the link in this post and in your Google Drive accounts.

According to the calendar, the essay is due by class time on Wednesday, April 16, but I will accept it until class time on Wednesday, April 23. Don’t hesitate to devise your own topic if you don’t like the ones I’ve suggested!

Questions for Rousseau, *On the Social Contract*, Book IV

Food for thought:

  1. Do the elections by lot and by choice seem fair and reasonable ways of electing leaders? Why or why not? Why does Rousseau believe that the only law that requires unanimous consent is social compact- is that truly the only unanimous consent we actually need, or do we need more? Is it just to have to obey laws one does not consent to?
  2. Is it ever possible for a Christian to truly be devoted to their religion and state? Rousseau claims that “a society of true Christians would form the most perfect society”, yet “a society of true Christians would no longer be a society of men,” do you agree? Why or why not?  Would a state be better off with religion as part of its government, or to leave religion to be practiced by citizens outside of government?