The Idea of Utopia: A BPL Library School Series*

finkeneshtian_9“The Idea of Utopia” is a free ten-week class offered as part of BPL’s Library School series taught by Norman Finkelstein.

Humanity is facing unprecedented crises. Whether it be the prospect of climate catastrophe, massive unemployment and underemployment, or endless war, unless we think in big and innovative ways, a dim future awaits us.  However, Bernie Sanders’s candidacy as well as Donald Trump’s victory suggest that Americans are ready for radical change. Although Sanders lost, he came much closer to winning than anyone could have predicted a year ago, and the political Revolution he inspired is bringing more and more people into the streets every day.  Meanwhile, Trump was elected even though Wall Street and the billionaire class opposed him, political elites in the Republican and Democratic party opposed him, and the corporate media opposed him. Even if the outcome might be depressing, the fact is, Trump’s was the first truly democratic election in modern American history: it was the people not the Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum Establishment that decided the winner.  The challenge now is to galvanize the American people with a vision of the future that is both practical and sweeping.

The sociologist Max Weber famously said, “All historical experience confirms the truth that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible.”  In this 10-week class, we will explore the possibilities of the impossible by reading Thomas More’s UTOPIA, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s anti-utopian NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND.  It will not be a lecture class but, instead, will be based on a close, interactive reading and analysis of salient passages in the texts.  The class will hopefully walk away with the belief that a better future is possible, but also cautious about solutions that might create more harm than good.

Students in the course will receive copies of the texts. Registration is limited to 20 students.

Class will meet in the Brooklyn Collection Reserve Room on the 2nd floor on the following Wednesdays (*note the break between March 22nd and April 5th):

March 1st, March 8th, March 15th, March 22nd, April 5th, April 12th, & April 19th

April 26th, May 3rd, and May 10th class site TBD.

Age Group: Adults

*​If someone wants to videotape the class for youtube, contact Finkelstein via this webpage.​

No Free Speech for Fascists? A BPL Library School Series*

finkeneshtian_9“No Free Speech for Fascists?” is a free ten-week class offered as part of BPL’s Library School series taught by Norman Finkelstein.

Few topics on the political left arouse more passion and trigger more discord than free speech. One tradition, tracing back to the 1930s, says, “No free speech for fascists.” Today, it would also silence racists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes, misogynists, lookists, and homophobes.  When protesters at Berkeley prevented a rightwing provocateur from speaking in February of this year, President Trump threatened to cut federal funding of the university.  A second tradition traces back to Karl Marx’s credo, De omnibus dubitandum (To doubt everything). It opposes any silencing of opinion on the grounds that, on the one hand, you can never be certain that you possess truth and, on the other hand, the only way to reach truth is by a “standing invitation to the world” to prove you wrong. The last quoted phrase comes from John Stuart Mill’s classic and unrivaled exposition, ON LIBERTY. This 10-week class will be devoted to Mill’s essay. It will not be a lecture class but, instead, will be based on a close, interactive reading and analysis of salient passages in Mill’s text, as it simultaneously engages current controversies. The instructor, Norman G. Finkelstein, himself got embroiled in a high-profile free speech case exactly a decade ago when he was denied tenure in June 2007. The course promises to be a provocative and inspiring occasion, where the heat it generates will, hopefully, be surpassed by the light it sheds.

Students in the course will receive a copy of the text. Registration is limited to 15 students.

Class will meet at the Central Library on the following Mondays from 7-8:30pm:

  • March 6th: Balcony Conference Room
  • March 13th: Room 216
  • March 20th: Balcony Conference Room
  • March 27th: Room 216
  • April 3rd: Room 216
  • April 10th: Room 216
  • April 17th: Room 214
  • April 24th: Room 214
  • May 1st: Room 214
  • May 8th: Room 214
Age Group: Adults
Norman  Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein’s main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
*​If someone wants to videotape the class for youtube, contact Finkelstein via this webpage.​