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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Political Science: Politics and Psychology"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Eszter Salgo
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 4:30-5:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing

An in-depth treatment of a current area of special concern in the field of Political Science. Topics may vary.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

The purpose of this course is to demonstrate that without reflecting on the imagination, emotions and desires of political actors (leaders and citizens), it is not possible to understand today’s world. While they have always been present throughout the history of politics, the role of feelings and fantasies, myths and charismatic authority has become even more crucial and visible in the twenty-first century. The course aims to investigate how extra-rational factors shape political decision-making and public responses through the lens of psychoanalysis, anthropology and art theory. Its interdisciplinary approach offers students the opportunity to better understand the deeper meanings of charismatic leadership and the causes of the rise (or return) of nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and radicalization. Topics will range from the politics of aesthetics in Fascist Italy and missionary politics in Latin America, to the visual construction of leadership cult in India (and Russia) and the psychology behind Donald Trump’s victory.

This discussion-based course is built on the premise that we need to move beyond the rational actor model and adopt a reflexive-interpretative approach when analysing political events and social phenomena. It seeks to investigate the many ways political programs are emotionalized and dramatized - how political actors (and entities) assume mythological connotations and become the object of a secular cult, faith, loyalty, and reverence. Drawing on social and anthropological theories the first part of the course explores themes such as charisma (Max Weber), “nostalgia for paradise” (Mircea Eliade) political and civic religion (Eric Voegelin, Emilio Gentile, Roger Griffin) “collective effervescence” (Emile Durkheim), “communitas” and politics of performance (Victor Turner), and carnival (Mikhail Bakhtin). It uses Freudian and post-Freudian psychoanalytic insights in order to familiarize students with the idea that one of the driving forces for the formation of political communities might be fantasy. The second part of the course applies these theories to study the (many forms of the) sacralisation of politics, both as a means of legitimization of political power and as a spontaneous product of a social community, in both democratic and authoritarian systems. It covers topics such as the political religion of Fascism and Communism, mythical elements in the European Union’s visual communications strategy, the carnivalesque nature of Italy’s Five-Star Movement, the myth of the Golden Age in contemporary nationalist movements, and Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump’s transformation into heroic figures (in the way they are imagined and desired).


At the end of the course, students will be able to:

a) form a deep understanding of the relationship between politics and the characteristics of human nature; b) show an ability to apply anthropological and psychoanalytical approaches to the study of politics and society; c) understand the sources of charismatic leadership; d) interpret verbal and visual political communication; e) critically assess the role of symbols, rituals and myths in politics; f) appreciate the importance of the aesthetic sources of politics; g) participate in the flourishing interdisciplinary conversation about the deep connections between psychology, aesthetics, anthropology and politics; h) use critical thinking, analytical skills and imagination to propose individual interpretations; i) use research skills (relying both on primary and secondary, verbal and visual sources and j)demonstrate effective written and oral communication skills.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the CitySennettFarrar Straus & Giroux0374200335  
Modernism and CharismaHorvathPalgrave Macmillan1137277858  
Myths, dreams and mysteriesEliadeHarvill Press10: 0060904445   

Class attendance and participation in debatesClass attendance is considered in combination with assessment of students’ active participation in general and specifically during the class debates. Students are not penalized for two absences. If further absences are recorded, grade penalties are applied. From one to four more absences reduce the participation score by 5% for each absence. More than seven total absences result in the overall F.10
Oral presentationStudents will work in pairs and conduct a research project on the theme of charismatic leadership choosing a case study and provide an approximately 10-minute long oral presentation. Oral presentation is graded on ability to use knowledge, critical thinking and creativity, thereby providing an original and convincing analysis, to stimulate others’ thoughts and provide satisfying answers to questions raised in the discussion. 15
Term paperEach pair of students will submit a term paper on the same topic (3000 words). The key to a successful research paper is the student’s ability to draw on and cite correctly a wide range of the good sources (books, scholarly papers, newspaper/magazine articles and visual sources); move beyond descriptive summary raising and produce a well-organized, clearly written, creative and persuasive analytical paper.25
Midterm examThe midterm exams consist of essay questions. Students are graded on their knowledge and creative thinking, on the depth of their analysis and their individual interpretations.20
Final examIn terms of structure and goals, the final exam is similar to the midterm exam. It is cumulative and will cover all topics discussed throughout the semester.30

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Students are not penalized for two absences. If further absences are recorded, grade penalties are applied. From one to four more absences reduce the participation score by 5% for each absence. More than seven total absences result in the overall F.
You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.





Week 1

- Introduction

- The meaning of charisma


Weber (1946) Discipline and charisma In Essays in Sociology, Oxford University Press and Iván Szelényi’s Yale Lecture “Weber on Charismatic Authority”

Week 2

- The meaning of political charisma

- Modernity and disenchantment

HE. Jentges (2014) Political Charisma as Performance and Projection Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research and A. Horvath (2013) Modernism and Charisma, Chapter 2

Jeffrey E. Green, Two meanings of disenchantment: sociological condition vs.philosophical act – reassessing Max Weber’s thesis of the disenchantment of the world Green Philosophy & Theology 17, 1 & 2 51

Week 3

-   Modernity and enchantment

-   Politics as religion

Roger Griffin (2008) Modernity, modernism and Fascism, 15:1, pp 9-24 and Linda C. Raeder (2013), Voegelin on Gnosticism, Modernity, and the Balance of Consciousness, The Political Science Reviewer 344-370

Gentile (2006) Politics as Religion, New York: Princeton University Press Chapter 1;

Week 4


-   The anthropology of joy

-   Nostalgia for paradise

Tim Olaveson (2001) Collective effervescence and communitas: processual models of ritual and society in Emile Durkheim and Victor Turner, Dialectical anthropology 26: 89-124 and M.M. Bakhtin (1968) Rabelais and His World. Trans. H. Iswolsky. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Introduction

Eliade, M. (1956) The sacred and the profane: the nature of religion and Eliade, M. (1960) Myths, dreams and mysteries, Chapter 1

Week 5

 Myth politics

-   Image politics

Salgó, E. (2014) Psychoanalytic Reflections on Politics. Fatherlands in Mothers’ Hands, London, New York: Routledge, Chapter 2

Peter Burk (2001) Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence, Introduction and Chapter 4 

Week 6

-   Aesthetics and politics  

-   Image politics

R. Griffin (1994) Staging the Nation's Rebirth: the Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies, Fascism and Theatre: The Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Era of Fascism, ed. Günter Berghaus, Berg, Oxford, pp. 11-29. Gentile, E. (1990) Fascism as political religion. In: “Journal of Contemporary History”, 25(2/3): pp.229-251.;

Individual research

Week 7

-   Review

-   Midterm exam

Week 8

-    Constructing charisma in Russia and in China

-    The politics of trauma and triumph: populism in Hungary

Lee Myers, S. (2015) The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. New York: Penguin/Random House.; Lu, X and Soboleva, E. (2014) Personality Cults in Modern Politics: Cases from Russia and China, CGP Working Paper Series 01/2014 and J. A. Cassiday and E. D. Johnson (2010) Putin, Putiniana and the Question of a Post-Soviet Cult of Personality, The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 88, No. 4, pp. 681-707

Salgó, E. (2014) Psychoanalytic Reflections on Politics. Fatherlands in Mothers’ Hands, London, New York: Routledge. Chapter 3

Week 9

-    Nostalgia for the Golden Age in Turkey

Narendra Modi's sacred gaze

Danforth, D. (2015) Exhuming Turkey's Past Ottoman Revivalism, Then and Now In “Foreign Affairs”, March 11 and  Charlotte Joppien (2018) How painful is an Ottoman Slap? Some Thoughts on Turkish Political Culture

Appadurai, Arjun (1990) Topographies of the Self: Praise and Emotion in Hindu India. In Language and the Politics of Emotion, edited by Catherine Lutz & Lila Abu-Lughod. pp. 92–112. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Week 10

-   Mourning of charismatic leaders

-  Mythical elements in the European Union's identity politics

Individual research

Salgò, E. (2017) Images from Paradise. The European Union’s Politics of Transcendence. New York: Berghahn Books, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3

Week 11

 ISIS and the politics of magic

The politics of playfulness. In between Winnicott and Lacan

Dauber C. E. and Robinson, M. (2015) ISIS and the Hollywood Visual Style, Retrieved from http://jihadology.net/2015/07/06/guest-post-isis-and-the-hollywood-visual-style/

Salgó, E. (2014) Psychoanalytic Reflections on Politics. Fatherlands in Mothers’ Hands, London, New York: Routledge. Chapter 1

Week 12

-   Oral presentations

-   Oral presentations

Week 13

-    Performative democracy

-  The politics of carnival

Matynia E. (2009a) Performative democracy, New Haven: The Yale Cultural Sociology Series. Introduction and Chapter 1 and P. Dossi (2011) Democracy, art and the promise of liberty in Declining Democracy, Palazzo Strozzi

M. Lane Brune (2005) Carnivalesque Protest and the Humorless State Text and Performance Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 2, April 2005, pp. 136–155, Claire Tancons (2011) Occupy Wall Street: Carnival Against Capital? Carnivalesque as Protest Sensibility,  E-Flux Journal 30 and on The carnivalesque nature of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement See Salgó, E. (2014) Psychoanalytic Reflections on Politics. Fatherlands in Mothers’ Hands, London, New York: Routledge. Chapter 4

Week 14

Open cities, open societies

- Review

Richard Sennett (2018) Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City, Introduction and Chapter 1