Robin Lauermann is Professor of Politics and chair, Department of History, Politics, and International Relations.

(What is From the Field? Read our series welcome post to learn more!)

With the launch of a new academic year, this post introduces a new segment for the series.  As we move to different books across the semester, I will add an editorial post to introduce each of the new pieces.



One of the gifts of teaching at Messiah University is the opportunity to participate in dynamic and relevant conversations about contemporary life.  This year, Messiah has elected to focus on the theme of Reconciliation. For those readers familiar with our school, this theme may seem unsurprising, given that this value is an essential aspect of our educational mission. Though a Christian university, staff and students alike are aware that members of our community come from many different theological traditions; we regularly encounter and need to respond constructively to views that differ from our own.  For all readers, particularly those who are politically interested, the opportunity to engage more deeply with our call to in reconciliation fits well with the needs of our time.

The goal of democracy is to provide a peaceful means by which to make decisions and resolve disputes.  As political theorist, Glenn Tinder notes in Tolerance and Community,[1] “It is part of the true wisdom of democracy that political goals can rarely if ever be reached, as civilized states of being … by shouting – or shooting – down one’s opponents.” (6).  Whether through gridlock, combative rhetoric, or challenges to the processes meant to enhance government accountability, it is clear that we do not always witness – or practice – engagement in politics that allows for reconciliation in the political process.  Yet, such an approach serves a critical requirement to sustain a respect for democracy, as well as promote a better grasp of problems to address them effectively with policy.  Some political scientists, like Stanford’s Hoover Institute Fellow, Dr. Morris Fiorina, argue that these trends have occurred in recent decades because of party sorting, which increases the potential for significant political combat.

Addressing these issues, of course, is far from simple, and requires a willingness to read, listen, reflect and interact.  This fall, in addition to conducting research into an area of interest in the field, juniors and seniors in our capstone are engaging this theme through discussion of several books, wrestling well with a host of related issues.  Posts for this segment of the From the Field series will come from a sample of student analyses of these texts.  This month, the posts will include analyses of Adam Grant’s Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.

Although Grant is an organizational psychologist, this text offers highly relevant connections to the political behavior area of our field; in particular, it provides though-provoking ideas about the roadblocks that affect the development of our own ideas, as well as how we interact with others based on those beliefs. The student posts illuminate why and how our attention to the idea of reconciliation is more than an abstract idea, it is a fundamental means for personal and professional growth, functional relationships and effective collective decision-making.  I am so excited for you to read their thoughts!

[1] Tinder’s book is out of print, despite its citation in several hundred published works.  Rather than linking to a particular used book cite, I have opted to link to a journal that displays a good portion of a book review before requiring payment to scale the paywall.


1 Comment so far

  1. Andrea on April 12, 2024 5:52 am

    Your work serves as a beacon of hope in challenging times.

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