Faculty & Staff
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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.
CHINESE ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE: DYNAMICS, CHALLENGES.
AND PROSPECTS IN A CHANGING SOCIETY, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
“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.
CHALLENGES FACING CHINESE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT,
(Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), 144-154.
Dr. Joel Kassiola Webpage Update August 2016 – July 2017
The 2016-2017 academic year was extraordinarily active and gratifying. From August when I received notification of the acceptance of my first foray into empirical comparative political science (regarding China’s rural-to-urban migration and the need to develop its rural areas) and the printed version of my article on the role of Confucianism in environmental ethics [see below for citations to both essays] to the invitation to deliver the Keynote Speech at San Francisco State’s Phi Beta Kappa Omicron Chapter’s Initiation in May, 2017 and in July, 2017, notification that my 1990 volume on the need for an environmental political theory, The Death of Industrial Civilization, was published in China in Mandarin, the past year was a highlight in my long career.
Teaching responsibilities had their innovations and successes as well. In the Fall, 2016, semester I continued for the second time to teach Philosophy 470, Environmental Ethics, in the experimental megasection to 250 students in McKenna Theater, the largest auditorium on campus. Having learned some important lessons from the inaugural semester of this challenging course of teaching advanced philosophy to hundreds of students, most of whom never took a course in Philosophy, was much smoother and more successful with the help of 7 wonderful Teaching Assistants who provided excellent conversation partners in the discussion-based course despite the large size of the teaching venue and students enrolled. Student evaluations demonstrated excellent acceptance by students enrolled in this unique class.
Continuing the theme of innovation in the Fall, was the special course based on the 2016 Presidential election, that I innovated way back in the 2004 Presidential election, but this time I had a partner, Professor Marcella Garcia-Castanon who assisted me in choosing participating faculty and in the presentations and introductions each week. With over 40 faculty participating and about 200 students, in-person and online, this year’s version of the Presidential election course was as challenging as the campaign itself between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. With the candidates not addressing the substance of the many issues facing Americans and the world, invited faculty speakers were challenged to present the issues to enrolled students and the public (via online access) and then making connections, where possible, to the two candidates and their respective party platforms. I shall never forget election night where we analyzed the returns from 4 pm until 11 pm (Pacific Coast time) without a break. The awareness of Donald Trump’s victory as the evening wore on was received in shock by the hundreds of students and Staff who came by McKenna Theater to view the results of the election, as they were throughout the United States. We then spent the remaining 4 weeks analyzing the election and looking forward to the new Trump Administration. For me, the highlight of the entire semester was looking down the stage and seeing 6 of my Political Science colleagues the week after the election analyzing why Trump won and hearing the insights about this topic that was on everybody’s mind throughout the world. I was really proud of my Department and its members who participated since the comments were very different and thought-provoking than the ones heard in the mass media.
Spring, 2017 was also quite special in that it was my first time teaching a course on China to undergraduates in the form of the Department’s new seminars; in my case: “China’s Environmental Crisis.” I very much enjoyed discussing this important topic for the world, as well as obviously for the Chinese people, to 28 mostly seniors who were new to learning about China’s environment. I think a highlight of the course was having seminar members give presentations about the readings and discussing them as a group and a two-session viewing of a shocking and moving video “Under the Dome” produced and narrated by a leading tv news anchor in China whose child
became ill from pollution. The video is banned in China but seminar members were able to see vividly the human and environmental costs of China’s severe pollution problems.
Spring semester also included a great honor bestowed on me in being invited to give the Keynote Speech to the University’s Phi Beta Kappa Chapter Initiation in May. As a former President of a chapter of PBK (Brooklyn College), I know that the Keynote Speaker at the Chapter’s Initiation is the highest honor a PBK chapter can bestow on a speaker. Thus, I was truly touched by the invitation, and wrote a speech incorporating my latest thinking about the Humanities and the Liberal Arts, in general, and being optimistic and upbeat for the first time in my life because of the use of robots. The talk is entitled: “Robots and the Renaissance of the University Liberal Arts,” and is attached to this Addendum below. Also in the Spring, I was asked by the publisher of the Series that I edit, Environmental Politics and Theory, Palgrave Macmillan, to write an op-ed essay in reaction to President Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Climate Change Paris Accord. I was delighted to do so and wrote the piece that is now on the webpage of the publisher and attached below as well with the title: “Making Sound Policy for Pittsburgh and Paris,” which is attached below. Comments on these remarks and any of the publications are most welcome.
Finally, I was one of three members of the Public Law Search Committee for the Department of Political Science that conducted a nationwide search for a new faculty member in the subfield of Public Law. I worked closely with my two Search Committee members, Professors Francis Neely and Jason McDaniel, to recruit and then carefully select among the applicants to achieve four finalists who were invited to campus for two-day interviews and teaching examples. We were delighted to have extended an invitation to join the Department in this important subfield and have our invitation accepted by Nicholas Conway who will bring both a J.D. (Indiana) and Ph. D. (Texas A & M) to his teaching beginning in the Fall, 2017.
I hope the upcoming academic year, 2017-2918, is as exciting and productive.
July 12, 2017
“Coordinated Rural-Urban Development in China: A New Social Spatial Reorganization Plan for Urbanization, Migration, and Rural Development.”
The Journal of Chinese Political Science. Volume 22, Number 1, 2017, 77-95.
“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. Volume 10, Number 1, 2016, 66-76.
Phi Beta Kappa Initiation Keynote Speech, Omicron Chapter, San Francisco State University, May 11, 2017.
Dr. Joel Kassiola Webpage Update: September 4, 2018
Joel Kassiola has been interested in, conducted research, and taught about the intersection of politics, the environment, and alternative values to modernity since the 1980s. He wrote one of the first books in the new subfield of environmental political theory in 1990: The Death of Industrial Civilization: The Limits to Economic Growth and the Repoliticization of Advanced Industrial Society (SUNY Press). This book was selected as a “leading book in environmental policy” by The American Political Science Association and has been translated into Japanese (2014) and Chinese (2015). He also edited one of the first anthologies in the subfield of environmental political theory: Explorations in Environmental Political Theory: Thinking About What We Value (M.E. Sharpe, 2003).
In 2006, he turned his attention to the environmental crisis in China and to what he termed:“Confucian Green Theory” as a possible alternative to Western modernism and materialism. He co-edited (with his colleague, Sujian Guo) a volume devoted to: China’s Environmental Crisis: Domestic and Global Impacts and Responses (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) as the first book in a Series he edits on “Environmental Politics and Theory” (EPT) for Palgrave Macmillan Publishers. He also co-edited a volume on: Environmental Protection Policy and Experience in the U.S. and China’s Western Regions (with Sujian Guo and Zhang Jijiao) for Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, in 2010.
His most recent publication addresses the historically unprecedented enormous rural-to-urban migration in China and how China’s huge cities can absorb hundreds of millions of rural migrants as well as develop existing under-developed rural areas in the next 10 years. His research on this topic led to the publication of an article: “Coordinated Rural-Urban Development in China: A New Social Spatial Reorganization Plan for Urbanization, Migration, and Rural Development” that appeared in The Journal of Chinese Political Science Volume 22, Number 1, 2017, 77-95.
Current works-in-progress include: a study of an 11th century Chinese Song Dynasty, Neo-Confucian philosopher’s (Zhang Zai) cosmology and how it might be a desirable alternative to Western modernism and create a sustainable social order. He also recently signed two edited book contracts; one will be a co-edited (with Tim Luke) volume, The Palgrave Handbook for Environmental Politics, Activism and Theory that will be published in the Palgrave Macmillan EPT Series to help define the subfield of environmental political theory, and the other will be an edited, reader introductory textbook for classroom us on: Environmental Ethics: Foundational Readings and Critical Responses for use in Philosophy courses on environmental ethics for Cognella Academic Publishers.