Professor of Political Science
Chapple Family Professor of Citizenship and Democracy
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
410 Maxwell Hall
Syracuse, New York 13244-1090
I have been teaching at Syracuse since 1987. I thoroughly enjoy teaching and see it as my most important professional activity.
As Chapple Professor (since Fall 2015), my responsibilities include coordinating the multidisciplinary Max courses which draw faculty from across the various departments and programs of the Maxwell School. I participated on the team that originally designed Max 132 (Global Community) back in 1993, and have taught in that course as well as Max 123 (Critical Issues for the US) more than two dozen times (at this point I've lost count). These are great courses because students spend 2/3 of their class time in small groups (15 maximum) discussing course material with their professor, and only 1/3 in a big lecture format (lectures are shared by all members of the faculty team). There is no text book, and there are no exams in these courses. Students read a wide variety of materials reflecting on important issues from different perspectives, and they write a series of essays based on this material. These are writing intensive courses for the purposes of the Arts & Sciences Core Curriculum.
I also teach a course on Marxist Theory and the Politics of Class Power (PSC 372) that introduces the fundamentals of Marxian critical theory and applies those concepts to understanding the rise and fall of organized labor in the US, the reconstruction of business hegemony in the late 20th century, and the significance of neoliberalism and racialized right-wing populism for class power in the 21st century.
In the last few years, I've developed a course on Populism and Conspiracy Culture (PSC 321) that I'm very excited about. The course reviews the history of populist discourses and political movements since the late 19th century, and demonstrates the elasticity and political ambiguity of populist political narratives in which virtuous and industrious "ordinary people" are exploited by effete and parasitic "elites". We see how such populist narratives have been used to motivate broadly progressive kinds of political movements such as the industrial union movement of the mid-20th century, as well fundamentally conservative political projects such as the racist backlash politics of the latter half of the last century, the Tea Party insurgency, and the rise of Trump. We develop an understanding of conspiracism as a worldview that is related to populism, but overlays the populist political narrative with a manichean cosmology in which the forces of good and evil are locked in a death struggle, and secretive, sinister groups plot the enslavement of mankind and the ultimate destruction of government, religion, and civilization. We situate the emergence of conspiracy culture in the historical context of the development of a National Security State that has repeatedly engaged in secretive, deceptive and anti-democratic activities. In such a context, popular suspicion of powerful and duplicitous conspirators is not entirely irrational. We distinguish between historically verifiable episodes of actual conspiracy such as these, and worldviews that interpret the most consequential developments in human history in terms of the supposed machinations of incorrigible evil-doers. We also distinguish critiques of relatively enduring structures of social power -- pointing toward structural change as the way to a better world -- from the conspiracist view in which salvation can be attained only by identifying and neutralizing the evil-doers -- which leads ultimately to the dead-ends of scapegoating and eliminationism. Only relatively recently such a course might have been seen as a relatively obscure niche offering but, sadly, it is now directly relevant to dominant forces in American political life.
Along with a number of faculty colleagues, I am participating in community "Teach-Ins" examining various aspects of the Trump phenomenon in contemporary politics, and its implications for our democratic republic. My contribution to this effort focuses on Trump as the spokesman for racialized forms of populism that overlap with white nationalism. My lecture slides, and links to further reading, are available on this page.
I am the author of three books. The first, entitled Producing Hegemony, was published by Cambridge University Press in 1995 and focused on the politics of mass production and American global power in the 20th century.
My second book, Ideologies of Globalization, dealt with the contested political meanings of globalization in the US during the 1990s. It was published by Routledge in 2000.
With co-author Scott Solomon, I wrote a text book called Globalization and International Political Economy, published by Rowman and Littlefield (2006).
My more recent work explores some of the most significant facets of right-wing populism in American politics and culture, from its role in the suppression of radicalism during the 20th century, to its deployment as an alibi for the lost war in Vietnam and as a cultural imperative to "Support the Troops" in America's contemporary military adventures, to the role of the gun lobby and gun rights culture in mediating between corporate neoliberalism and right-wing conspiracism in the present day. These thematically related papers will eventually form the core of another book.
These papers, and some others from earlier phases of my career, are available online at Academia.edu.
In my spare time, I love to mess around with digital photography. Some of my better photos are posted here. I also have an episodic and deeply nerdy photography blog called Mark's Flashcube (remember those space-age gizmos?).
One of my ongoing photographic projects involves documenting expressions of right-wing populism. Perhaps unfortunately, I expect to have plenty of opportunities to do this for the foreseeable future.