I'd like to schedule a weekly 3- or 4-session class reading and discussing Richard Sennetts latest publication TOGETHER, The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation, published this year (2012).
"Living with people who differ—racially, ethnically, religiously, or economically—is the most urgent challenge facing civil society today. We tend socially to avoid engaging with people unlike ourselves, and modern politics encourages the politics of the tribe rather than of the city. In this thought-provoking book, Richard Sennett discusses why this has happened and what might be done about it.
Sennett contends that cooperation is a craft, and the foundations for skillful cooperation lie in learning to listen well and discuss rather than debate. In Together he explores how people can cooperate online, on street corners, in schools, at work, and in local politics. He traces the evolution of cooperative rituals from medieval times to today, and in situations as diverse as slave communities, socialist groups in Paris, and workers on Wall Street. Divided into three parts, the book addresses the nature of cooperation, why it has become weak, and how it could be strengthened. The author warns that we must learn the craft of cooperation if we are to make our complex society prosper, yet he reassures us that we can do this, for the capacity for cooperation is embedded in human nature."
"Cooperation can be defined...as an exchange in which the participants benefit from the encounter." Given that, what are the impacts of trends that reduce cooperation, such as class segregation in income and locales, temporary jobs in place of lifelong careers, and the "tribal" political divide? Citing current and historical sources, as well as providing numerous examples and anecdotes, NYU and London School of Economics sociology professor Sennett (The Craftsman) explores the origins of cooperation, the myriad factors that have led (and lead) to its erosion—making it "less open, less dialogic"—and its impact on society. Sennet argues that changes in the "social triangle...of earned authority, mutual respect and cooperation during a crisis," have resulted in an uncooperative character type who is becoming more common in modern society, one who—in search of "reassuring solidarity amid economic insecurity"—acts according to the "brutally simple" paradigm of "us-against-them coupled with you-are-on-your-own." Sennett concludes with skills that can enhance cooperation and community, citing a "repair" workshop as a useful metaphor for a cooperative society. Although Sennett's writing is engaging and he provides an interesting perspective on modern society, his final call for a commitment to community is a weak ending to an otherwise compelling study" — Publishers Weekly vol. 259 iss. 08 p (c) 02/20/2012
For the first session we could start with the introduction and the work ourselves trough the 3 main parts of the book: Cooperation Shaped, Cooperation Weakened and Cooperation Strengthened.
Richard Sennett's works include The Craftsman and The Culture of the New Capitalism, both published by Yale University Press. He founded and served as first director of the New York Institute of the Humanities and is now a professor of sociology at both New York University and the London School of Economics."