Seminars

As a political sociologist, former university professor, and long-time leader in various grassroots political organizations, I offer 1-2 hour seminars to organizations and groups interested in how Americans think, politics and polarization, the dynamics of citizen (dis-)engagement, fixing democracy, citizen diplomacy in a changing world, and inequality in Washington DC.

For pricing, please contact me at paul@paullachelier.info.               

How Americans Think: For better or worse, Americans constitute at once the most voracious consumers, some of the most productive workers, and the electors of arguably still the most powerful and far-reaching government in the world.  This makes what Americans think and do important in many ways. Based on a university course I taught by the same name, this seminar offers a crash course on how Americans think by focusing not on their opinions on passing issues, but on the underlying, more enduring values and frames which structure those opinions.  We will discuss American concepts of individualism, freedom and equality as well as fundamental issues like the relationship between the individual and community, freedom and equality, citizen and government. The seminar explores Americans’ commonalities and differences as well as how Americans compare with other peoples.    

Politics and Polarization in America: Are Americans becoming more divided?  If so, what is causing the growing divide, and what can we do about it?  In some ways, perceptions of polarization correspond with reality, and in some ways they do not.  Drawing on research in social and political science, this seminar examines those perceptions and realities with an eye to national trends as well as consequential tendencies in human behavior.    

Dynamics of Citizen Political (Dis-)Engagement in America: Why do some Americans love politics, and most hate it?  Who participates in politics, who doesn’t, and why does that matter?  Love it or hate it, politics is a regular and inescapable feature of any properly functioning democracy, yet Americans participate highly unequally in politics, with big consequences.  This seminar examines the dynamics and demographics of political participation, presents a gladiators’ metaphor for understanding citizen engagement, and reveals some of the surprising tendencies of American public opinion, partisans vs. independents, and deliberators vs. activists.     

What Can We Do to Fix American Democracy?  There is a lot of concern these days about the condition of American democracy, but far less discussion of the many interesting proposals for how to fix it.  This seminar discusses some of the common and uncommon proposals to save and strengthen democracy in America, with a focus on some of the more interesting and less discussed ideas.  The discussion should leave you with a wider sense of the possibilities, and perhaps more hope than despair.

Power, Democracy and Diplomacy in a Changing World: Our world is growing more interconnected yet also seems more and more insecure, divided, and dangerous.   Improving incomes, transportation and communication have spurred international travel, trade and collaboration but also job flight, piracy, climate change, disease and terrorism, among other problems.  Despite the uncertainties these developments bring, one thing is certain: international affairs increasingly impact us all, from the air we breathe, to the prices we pay, to the jobs we get. In such context, this seminar examines changes in the nature of power and international relations, makes a qualified case for democratizing diplomacy, and looks at the growing range of citizen diplomacies.    

The Other DC: Like many cities throughout the world, Washington DC is highly segregated and unequal, with significant consequences for the lives of fortunate and unfortunate residents living sometimes just blocks apart.  This seminar lays out some of the jarring differences between the richest and poorest wards of Washington DC, then reveals some of what social science tells us about the wide-ranging and far-reaching consequences of segregation.  In this seminar, I divulge some of my poignant experiences as a sociologist who lived and works directly with lower-income children and families in Southeast DC, a fascinating part the city most tourists never see. Note: This seminar is also available as an in-person, guided walking tour (with standard safety measures during Covid) of key parts of Washington DC’s Southeast neighborhood of Anacostia for individuals and groups of two to fifteen people.