I’m struggling with how to “introduce” my dissertation, now that it is finally, officially, the end game for writing. Looking through notebooks and old files I found my preparatory work for my Proposal defense. It isn’t quite appropriate for the dissertation itself, but it’s always nice to revisit the clarity with which one thought about a project at its beginnings, as opposed to the layers upon layers of literature that obfuscate at the end of it. Here’s what I had to say, then:
I think it’s worth situating myself in this project, and so please indulge this small bit of autobiography. I was recently speaking with a life long friend of mine, about the bizarre political environment under which our entire university education has taken place. This friend entered university with me on the morning of Monday, September 10th, 2001, where our very first class was spent in a Canadian politics lecture deconstructing the (in)famous Molson “Joe” Canadian commercial. The events of the next morning need no reminding. But what that meant was that I was being introduced to the great works of Political Philosophy under the shadow of a profound introspective questioning of modernity, and introduced to the field of International Relations during the build up to America’s preemptive War and invasion of Iraq. All of this is to say that in the absence of the tragic events and consequences of September 11th, and the Bush Administration’s decision to name military action in Afghanistan OPERATION INFINITE JUSTICE—a name that was subsequently changed—it is very unlikely that the *History* of Thucydides and Aristotle’s famous political psychology in his *On Rhetoric* would have impressed me as much as they did. An impression that was striking precisely because these two authors writing twenty four hundred years ago saw so clearly the problems inherent in the relationship between passion, politics, and political action that had inaugurated the third millennium.
First thing: I’ve been in university for a long time. Second thing: see the first thing. But it is a good question: what would my education have been in the absence of 9/11 and the Iraq War? Would we still be living in the neoliberal utopia of the 1990s? Machiavelli would have been far less interesting to me, I think, but that is a story for another time.