Faculty & Staff

Joel Kassiola

Joel Kassiola


E-mail: kassiola@sfsu.edu
Phone: (415) 338-3463
Office: Humanities (HUM) 539

Office Hours:

Mondays and Wednesdays 4:45-5:30PM

Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:00-5:30PM

& By appointment

Dr. Joel J. Kassiola received his B.A. with Honors in Political Science and election to PHI BETA KAPPA from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Political Philosophy Program at Princeton University. He was selected an American Council of Education Fellow and served this position at Haverford College in Haverford, PA. He has been Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Brooklyn College for 3 years and Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences for 11 years at San Francisco State University.

His research program after several publications in various political theory themes: the conduct of normative inquiry, politics and literature, the justification for affirmative action, political violence, turned to the intersection of the environmental crisis, political theory and modernity about 25 years ago. He published one of the first books in the emerging field of environmental political theory in 1990: THE DEATH OF INDUSTRIAL CIVILIZATION (SUNY Press), and more recently, edited EXPLORATIONS IN ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICAL THEORY (M.E.Sharpe, 2003). His book The Death of Industrial Civilization is to be published in Japanese in 2013. He has published several articles on the nature of environmental political theory and environmental ethics. Most recently, he has had accepted for publication an article in the flagship political science journal published by the American Political Science Association on the teaching of Introductory Political Theory courses, and an article on the need for M.A. Universities to have their faculty conduct research in order to be excellent teachers in the 21st century. 

His most recent research has turned to China's political thought and development pertaining to green political theory, environmental policy, and China's development. His article titled "The Dilemma of Western Industrial Civilization and China's Path in the 21st Century" is published in Challenges Facing Chinese Political Development (Rowman & Littlefield-Lexington, 2007), pp. 144-153. In June 2007, he was invited to visit Peking University and Central Party School and delivered a public speech titled "Confucianizing Modernity and Modernizing Confucianism: China's Development and Green Political Theory." The paper flowing from the speech will be presented at Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting in March 2008, and then submitted to a journal for consideration of publication.


Dr. Joel Kassiola Webpage Update:  July, 2016

Since the last submission to my webpage, I have continued my research on China’s environmental crisis and Confucian Green Theory (see list of publications at end of this statement). In addition, I taught for the first time a new graduate course on “China’s Environmental Crisis” and plan to offer this topic as one of the Department’s new senior seminars in the Spring of 2017.

I have two projects that I am working on currently. One is a new empirical-based subject for me revolving around urbanization, rural migration to urban areas, and rural development in China today.  In the paper that resulted from reflecting on these pressing topics in contemporary China, I try to apply social spatial analysis and emphasize the need for coordination between urbanization and rural development. My main recommendation is for China to divide up the country into huge “super-municipalities” including upwards of 40 million people for the best environmental and quality-of-life results for all inhabitants, both urban and rural. The tentative title of the work is:  “Coordinated Rural-Urban Development in China:  A New Social Spatial Reorganization Plan for Urbanization, Migration, and Rural Development.” I plan to give a version of the paper at the Association of Chinese Political Science’s Annual Meeting this October, 2016 held at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in Monterey, CA.

For the past year I have been reading more deeply into Confucian thought, specifically the important 11th century school of scholars of Confucianism known as Neo-Confucianism, especially the theorist Chang Tsai. I hope to use Chang’s cosmology centering on the vital Chinese metaphysical concept of ch’i and its dual forms of yin and yang to provide an alternative theory of the universe to Western anthropocentrism, or the domination of nature by humanity for the latter’s interest.

My goal is to show that both China and the rest of the world need an alternative to the hegemonic anthropocentrism in order to avoid environmental disasters, and that it is important to conduct our thinking on the cosmological level which makes Neo-Confucianism, and Chang’s theory of ch’i perfectly suited.  

On the teaching front, last Fall, 2015, I taught a section of “Environmental Ethics” for the Philosophy Department (Philosophy 470) in McKenna Theater. It was the first time any course in the Philosophy was taught in the “megasection” format. The course enrolled 300 students and I had five outstanding graduate students serving as Teaching Assistants. This was the first time I had ever taught in such a large setting to so many students. While full of doubts about the possibility of success at the outset, the experience turned out to be truly extraordinary and one of the best teaching experiences of my career; and, by student evaluations, the students in the course appreciated it as well. I thoroughly enjoyed working the TA’s and discussing all the decisions we needed to make collectively about how to structure and deliver the course. The most important, I think, was to have the TA’s sit on the stage and to have me roam around the seated students in the theater. In this way, I was able to converse with students face-to-face that is so important for philosophical dialogue. In addition, not using the standard Powerpoint presentations freed up the large screen for other uses. We decided to have a TA keep running notes on the screen

about the conversations regarding the readings and we then posted them on our

iLearn page for students to use to review and prepare for quizzes. Overall, it was a wonderful pedagogical experience that I shall repeat this Fall, 2016 except with seven TA’s that should make it even more dynamic and interesting for class discussion and exchanges between the graduate students and myself.

I continue to teach Political Science 354, “Politics, the Environment and Social Change,” and Political Science 355, “Politics and the Ethics of the Consumer Society,”

that are always greatly rewarding. And last Spring, 2015, I added another advanced elective, Political Science 356, “The Political Theories of Neoliberalism.” It was the first time in my teaching career that I taught three advanced electives in the same semester; it was challenging but fun giving different groups of students the experience of thinking about politics theoretically.

Finally, last year, 2015-2016, I spent the year preparing for the fourth version of the Presidential Election Lecture Series course, now numbered, Political Science 216. Given the great interest and enthusiasm about the Presidential primaries during the Spring, I expect a truly unique experience for the election course this fall. This time

I was greatly helped by my new co-organizer of this unique course, my colleague in the Political Science Department, Professor Marcela Garcia-Castanon. We both look forward to a wonderful experience trying to educate hundreds of SF State students

and the general public (through our publicly accessible website through the Department of Political Science webpage) about the many urgent issues facing the American voter and candidates in 2016.

Recent Publications on China’s Environmental Crisis and Confucian Green Theory

“Transferring the Debate over the Nature of Environmental Ethics to

Confucianism with Similar Misguided Results,” THE JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF RELIGION, NATURE AND CULTURE. Forthcoming.


“Confucius: How Non-Western Political Theory Contributes Understanding the

Environmental Crisis, in Peter F. Cannavo and Joseph H. Lane, Jr. eds. ENGAGING NATURE:  ENVIRONMENTALISM AND THE POLITICAL THEORY CANON, (Cambridge, MA:  The MIT Press, 2014), 271-286.


“China’s Environmental Crisis and Confucianism:  Proposing a Confucian Green Theory to Save the Environment,” in Bingqiang Ren and Huisheng Shou, eds.



2013), 227-242.


“Introduction:  China’s Environmental Crisis—A Global Crisis with Chinese Characteristics:  From Confucius to Cell Phones,” (with Sujian Guo),

in Kassiola and Guo, eds. CHINA’S ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS, 1-10.


“Confucianizing Modernity and ‘Modernizing’ Confucianism:  Environmentalism

and the Need for a Confucian Positive Argument for Social Change,” in

Kassiola and Guo, eds. CHINA’S ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS, 195-218.


“Introduction:  Ecological and Environmental Challenges in China’s Western Regions,” (with Shiyuan Hao), in Guo, Kassiola, and Zhang, eds. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION POLICY AND EXPERIENCE IN THE U.S. AND CHINA’S WESTERN REGIONS, 2010, 1-6.


“The Dilemma of Western Industrial Civilization and China’s Path in the

21st Century,” (with Xiaohang Liu), in Sujian Guo and Baogang Guo, eds.


(Lanham, MD:  Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), 144-154.