Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Play and Politics Paper

My paper "Play and Politics" has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Political Science Education. The abstract:

Political scientists have much to learn from the biology of play. The most important political activities of democracy, like discussion and debate, gathering new information, and even voting and elections, are perhaps best understood as forms of play. Play has both intrinsic attraction and a developmental function (i.e. it promotes skill acquisition). As such, democratic political activity can be conceived of as social and imaginative explorative play. This robust understanding of democracy and political behavior coheres with the American pragmatist John Dewey’s (1916) conception of democracy as a “mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience”. In this paper I detail how the “politics as play” analogy can help enhance the study and pedagogy of political science.

Getting this paper in print will be particularly satisfying for me as it pretty much embodies my "teaching philosophy". A sample:

The “politics as play” analogy is something that I have found, as an instructor, useful in helping me think about pedagogy in my own field of political theory. Conceived as a form of imaginative play, teaching politics well means expanding (not narrowing) the cognitive toolbox of my students. The readings, lecture material and forms of assessment I utilize in my courses are chosen because I believe they (a) can foster the intellectual virtues (e.g. adaptability of intellect, sensitivity to details, insight into problems, etc.), and (b) ensure there is a continuation of the desire to better understand the determinants of good governance and the good life. And I believe these can confer important, tangible societal benefits. A student that can transcend their geography or time, and contemplate, for example, the importance of sanitation for developing countries, or why Hobbes placed so much importance on the stability of the state during a period of civil war, can then better appreciate the complexities of their own situation and society. They might better understand the importance of global health priorities or how our moral and political sensibilities can be swayed by perceptions of risk and uncertainty.

A few years back I posted the video below, which was an early expression of the ideas I developed into this forthcoming paper.