Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Comparative thinking

Beverley Clinch, who is now teaching at the American Nicaraguan School, sent me a link to this TED talk. In this 20-minute lecture, Eric X Li, a venture capitalist and political scientist, argues that the universality of the claims of Western democratic systems is going to be "morally challenged" by China.

It is a fantastic demonstration of comparative thinking.

I can imagine interrupting Li's talk every time he makes an assertion and asking students to explain and assess it. I didn't count, but I think there are at least half a dozen of those assertions in the presentation.

And don't neglect the question session at the end. Li makes another assertion in answer to a question. He claims that civil society in China is very unlike civil society in the West. He says that Westerners probably can't even recognize Chinese civil society. That's a topic worthy (if you teach the course second semester) of a post-exam class research project.

A Tale of two political systems
It's a standard assumption in the West: As a society progresses, it eventually becomes a capitalist, multi-party democracy. Right?

Eric X. Li, a Chinese investor and political scientist, begs to differ. In this provocative, boundary-pushing talk, he asks his audience to consider that there's more than one way to run a successful modern nation.

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