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11-14-2016

Clarkson University Prof. Christopher Robinson Edits Book on Political Theorist John Gunnell

Christopher C. Robinson, associate professor of political science at Clarkson University, has just published a book that connects him to his graduate training in political theory, but has some bearing on contemporary political life.

Christopher C. RobinsonRobinson has published works in the fields of contemporary political theory, the philosophy of language, and environmental political thought. This new book -- John G. Gunnell, History, Discourses and Disciplines -- is a collection of Gunnell's works that Robinson edited.

“I studied with him as a graduate student,” says Robinson, who has stayed in touch with Gunnell. “I hope the book displays his intellectual range. Editing it was a wonderful chance for me to reread his works. The book includes an interview I conducted with him over a series of three weeks. It was an amazing learning experience for me and it was great touching base with him.”

Robinson's first book was on Wittgenstein and political theory. It is a novel approach to how Wittgenstein’s remarks on language and perception reveal dimensions of the activity of theorizing politics and the uncanniness of political life. “There's not a sentence in the book I hadn't argued over with John Gunnell. His critical eye improves my work, and reveals how much I still need to do as a scholar,” Robinson adds.

A member of the Clarkson faculty since 1998, Robinson sparks intellectual inquiry among his students, and says it's a pleasure to see the science and engineering majors read texts by Plato, Machiavelli and Marx so seriously.

“All my research is tied integrally to what I do in the classroom,” he notes. “I love my field and have been fascinated by political theory since I was a senior in high school. Questions about the 'just life' and what is a 'good citizen' thrilled me as a teenager. They're still a great interest. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to rethink my relationship to political theory and social inquiry.”

Why the study of political theory is so important in the contemporary world is because it offers us a critical vocabulary for understanding what is happening, powerful examples for criticizing these conditions, and a moral compulsion to imagine a more just society. The irrationalities of political life -- fear, hatred, racism, sexism, etc. -- are illuminated by the philosophical slowness and vision of political theory.

“Political language and symbolism are important to me. Questions such as 'how do you create democracy' and 'how do you heal a world torn apart by distrust and violence' resonate with this election,” he says.

For more on John Gunnell and Robinson's book, see https://www.routledge.com/John-G-Gunnell-History-Discourses-and-Disciplines/Robinson/p/book/9781138910720. The publisher's note there says, "Gunnell has engaged and challenged colleagues in political theory, political science and the philosophy of social science on a range of issues from political action, time, pluralism, ideology, concepts, conventions, 'the political' and democracy to the roles of philosophy, science, literary theory, cognitive science, mind, and history on the enterprise of theorizing today."

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/crobinson.jpg.]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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