Alec Arellano lectures on democracy in Campus Theme series

Occidental College professor to lecture on identity of American democracy

Occidental College political scientist Alec Arellano will visit SOU this week as a guest speaker in the 15th anniversary edition of SOU’s “Campus Theme” lecture series. He will lecture on the identity of American democracy.

Arellano’s lecture, “Continuity and Change: John Dewey on Navigating Democratic Identity,” will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, in Room 124 of the Art Building. It is free and open to the public.

SOU’s Campus Theme lecture series aims to create opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations. Each theme in the annual series – which began in the 2009-10 academic year focuses on a specific concept and addresses big questions, enables deep understanding and broadens the intellectual horizons of participants. This year’s theme is “identity.”

Arellano says that the United States faces a myriad of challenges, many of which go to the core of American democracy’s identity, as the country enters the 21st century’s second decade. The challenges concern the balance between holding fast to custom and tradition on the one hand, and innovating in response to new circumstances on the other.

The philosophy of John Dewey, who characterized democracy as not just a system of formal political institutions but also as a way of life requiring the possession and continual use of certain attitudes, furnishes a resource for thinking through this issue, Arellano says. Though Dewey’s short 1934 book, “A Common Faith,” is on its surface a proposal for a post-Christian spirituality that he wants to inaugurate, it also can be productively read as an account of some of the habits of character he regards as necessary for life in a modern democracy.

The SOU Campus Theme presentation will examine some of Dewey’s strategies for promoting those habits of character and consider their relevance for contemporary life.

Arellano is a political theorist specializing in Ancient Greek political thought, contemporary American political thought, and liberalism and its critics. He teaches courses on constitutional law and society, American politics and political theory in the Department of Politics at Occidental College.

Arellano received his Ph.D. in 2019 from The University of Texas at Austin. His work has been published in top journals in political science, and his current research examines Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill and John Dewey’s views regarding the conditions under which critical, independent thought can be a salutary force for democratic politics. He is also the nephew of Bobby Arellano, a professor in SOU’s Department of Emerging Media and Digital Arts.