How to Make a Perfect Society: Lessons from the USSR

Institution: Carleton University (Southam Hall 308)
Category: Faculty of Public Affairs
Language: English

Course Description

Have you ever wondered what running a country takes? Or why governments do what they do? Or even why countries go to war? This course explores questions about how to create, run, and ruin a country using a terrible example - Stalin's Soviet Union. Students will learn about the the October Revolution, Stalin's cult of personality, the GULAG, and the Fatherland War against the Nazis, but this is just a starting point: these topics will be the jumping off point for a number of relevant discussions about how good or bad governments are made, what they need, and how they fall apart. This course uses these first 4 decades of the Soviet Union to explore a number of political questions, including the role of ideology in government, the role of repression in politics, and the ways in which countries interact. Using this approach, students will learn how to study history and politics, and reflect on the ways in which history is implicated in our political discussions. The course will include short lectures on Soviet politics, discussions of how we apply this history to our own political existence, and activities including: making (and fixing) a bad government; making plans on how to take political action, and how to deal with repression; and learning how to recognize propaganda. Throughout the week, students will cultivate academic skills, such as creating a research question, conducting (good) research, constructing an argument, and making a presentation, through the completion of a mini group project that students will work on with help from the instructor. Overall, the course will serve both as an introduction to the field of political science, and as an instructional in how to think critically about the world we live in. Note that this course will cover sensitive topics including political violence and torture.