About

Overview

Civic Studies is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on critical reflection, ethical thinking, and action for social change, within and between societies. People who think and act together to improve society must address problems of collective action (how to get members to work together) and deliberation (how to reason together about contested values). They must also:

  • Understand how power is organized and how it operates within and between societies.
  • Grapple with social conflict, violence, and other obstacles to peaceful cooperation.
  • Consider questions of justice and fairness when social tensions arise.
  • Confront questions about appropriate relationships to outsiders of all types.
  • Examine alternative ethical, political, and theological frameworks to encourage comparative reflection about different ways in which people live together in society.

 
The focus on civil society includes the study of collective action in social spheres that, while organized, may not be institutionalized or otherwise sanctioned by the state. It highlights the perspective of both individual and group agents.

Civic studies considers phenomena that are central to other disciplines—governments, law, markets, societies, cultures, and networks—but from the distinctive perspective of civic agents, i.e. individuals and groups who think together and act cooperatively. It includes principles and vantage points civic agents may use to evaluate existing social norms, institutions, governments, and ideologies. In these and other ways, Civic Studies brings critical scrutiny to status quo norms of social order.

Civic Studies engages with the importance of a society's criteria of membership, as well as the logic and dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, hierarchy and subordination, across social groups. Using empirical study and normative evaluation, it aims to understand how to challenge unjust inequalities and to enhance just forms of social inclusion.

Civic Studies brings together normative reflection, ethical analysis, empirical understanding, historical perspective, and the development of practical skills to deepen our understanding of social criticism and action for social change, as well as the circumstances that give rise to a need for it.

The major in Civic Studies has the following core commitments:

  • A combination of classroom-based and experiential learning.
  • Normative analysis and critical scrutiny of claims about justice.
  • An explicit focus on conflict and possibilities for resolving it.
  • The development of skills useful in nonprofits, governments, community groups, and social movements.

 
Peace and Justice Studies

A Peace and Justice Studies track within the Civic Studies major provides a special focus within Civic Studies for learning about the causes and effects of violence, and for developing nonviolent strategies for conflict resolution and just social transformation. A minor in Peace and Justice Studies is also available to students who are particularly interested in studying violence and alternatives to it.