Politics and the political
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Politics and “the political” Pol Sci 110DA PS 110DA Tracy Strong, Office hours: W 10-12 (in SSB 374) or by appointment at [email protected] , or by accident Rick Barrett, Office hours New Requirements Paper as per syllabus On May 27 a one hour written exam in class

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PS 110DA

  • Tracy Strong, Office hours:

  • W 10-12 (in SSB 374) or by appointment at [email protected], or by accident

  • Rick Barrett, Office hours


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New Requirements

  • Paper as per syllabus

  • On May 27 a one hour written exam in class

  • Instead of the final exam, a final paper on topics to be handed out, due anytime before the date of the exam (June 12 at 7pm)


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PS 110DA - Introductory

  • Fundamental question: how is one to understand the relation between what an individual is as an individual and what an individual is as a member of a polity (i.e. a citizen). A conversation is political when a statement made in the first person singular constitutes a claim on another person, i.e. on a first person plural, a we.

  • Before getting into specifics, let us consider the question analytically. Let us look at political and non-political conversations:


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Conversation I – not political

A. “Eavesdropping on private conversations without a warrant is un-American.”

B. “How can you say that? The country is in danger from terrorists.”

A. “Well, that is what I feel.”


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Conversation: political

A. “Eavesdropping on private conversations without a warrant is un-American.”

B. “How can you say that? The country is in danger from terrorists.”

A. “The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution clearly forbids it.


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Further political conversation

A. “Eavesdropping on private conversations without a warrant is un-American.”

B. “How can you say that? The country is in danger from terrorists.”

A. “The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution clearly forbids it.

B. “In cases like this one the President can make an exception. Lincoln did it during the Civil War.


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Contrast with compulsion

A. 2 + 2 = 4.

B. I think it is 22.

A. No – that is a “plus” sign, not some symbol for association.

B. Oh, of course! You are right.


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Economic conversation

A. I would like to buy that car.

B. It really too expensive for you, given your income.

A. Nevertheless, I am going to – I really want it. [Or: Damn! I guess you are right.]


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Political / Economic

A. Eavesdropping on private conversations without a warrant is un-American.

B. Perhaps so, but that is a small price to pay given the danger.


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What is wrong here?

  • LEAR [To GONERIL]

  • I'll go with thee:Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty,And thou art twice her love.

  • GONERIL

  • Hear me, my lord;What need you five and twenty, ten, or five,To follow in a house where twice so manyHave a command to tend you?

  • REGAN

  • What need one?

  • KING LEAR

  • O, reason not the need: our basest beggarsAre in the poorest thing superfluous:Allow not nature more than nature needs,Man's life's as cheap as beast's:…

  • Act II, sc. 4


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With whom do I associate myself? (citizenship)

When matters are political, the consent I have given speaks not only for myself but also speaks for – makes a claim on -- others. I speak for – I claim to speak for -- the others with whom I associate myself. Likewise they speak for and claim to speak for me.


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“I cannot for an instant recognize . . . as my government [that] which is the slave's government also.”


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The political and contingency

If the political is for these reasons more extensive – that I speak not only for myself but my words must carry the claim to speak for others – the political is also for that reason perhaps the most fragile of human activities. I can speak for myself in other realms but in politics the judgment of others – and the possibility of being refused – is ever immediately present. Others may want to silence it; I may even not note or know that I am silenced – there are so many others speaking. If the political depends on the possibility of acknowledgement of a claim that I make as a claim about us, if my claim falls on deaf ears and fallow ground, then I cannot act politically. Note that I do not mean that others must accept what I say: the political requires only that they acknowledge it as a claim.


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The Triumph of the Will

  • 1933, Hitler is chosen Chancellor after his Party (NSDAP = Nazis) received over 30% of vote as largest party in Germany.

  • 1934. There are two major factions to the NSDAP (the SA and the SS). The SA is the more “populist” and radical, against large capital.

  • Hitler needs the support of large business and the army and eliminates the leadership of the SA (“Night of the Long Knives” June, 1934)


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Triumph of the Will

  • September 1934: Huge Rally of the Party in the town of Nuremberg. This is filmed by Leni Riefenstahl, whose film shows the appeal of the “we” that Hitler offered and is considered perhaps the greatest film of its kind ever made.

  • Not so much politics as spectacle but perhaps spectacle as politics (what technology can do).


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Riefenstahl later says:

  • "If you see this film again today you ascertain that it doesn't contain a single reconstructed scene. Everything in it is true. And it contains no tendentious commentary at all. It is history. A pure historical film… it is film-vérité. It reflects the truth that was then in 1934, history. It is therefore a documentary. Not a propaganda film. Oh! I know very well what propaganda is. That consists of recreating events in order to illustrate a thesis, or, in the face of certain events, to let one thing go in order to accentuate another. I found myself, me, at the heart of an event which was the reality of a certain time and a certain place. My film is composed of what stemmed from that."


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