Rick Eckstein is a Professor of Sociology at Villanova University and an instructor in the University’s Center for Peace and Justice Education — an interdisciplinary program that offers students both a minor and a concentration in issues of “world peace and social justice.”
Eckstein teaches the course “War, Imperialism and Terrorism,” in whose syllabus he makes clear his belief that terrorism stems not from militant Islamic fundamentalism, but rather from inequities born of American capitalism. The syllabus reads:
“In this class we will explore war, imperialism, and terrorism as reflections of national and international social inequality. As the U.S. wages its seemingly endless ‘war against terrorism,’ and its episodic wars on other nation-states, it is increasingly important that we look beyond slogans and good/evil dichotomies to understand why so many people are dying … in the name of peace and freedom. I think of this course as an antidote to our cultural emphasis of reducing complex social phenomena (such as war, imperialism, and terrorism) to moral dichotomies and/or personalities. There is a lot more to these social phenomena [than] ‘good vs. evil’ and crazy people. However, you should be warned that these more complex explanations often indict us as co-conspirators in the institutionalized violence so prevalent in our world.” [emphasis in original]
In this course, Eckstein includes as required readings Lenin’s Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism; Gore Vidal’s Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta; and Noam Chomsky’s polemic, Media Control. None of these remotely resemble a scholarly text. In the course overview, Eckstein states that these readings are “not optional and there are no Cliff Notes to steer you through Lenin’s classic on imperialism.” “During the next several weeks,” he adds, “we will explore the nature of capitalism and how the internal logic of this political economic system makes war, imperialism, and terrorism seem perfectly normal; kind of like economics and politics by other means!”
Eckstein sees Villanova as a political institution that ought to strive to strengthen public opposition to American imperialism. “Institutionally,” he writes, “[Villanova] can make it more comfortable for people to question official policy. They can lend … institutional support to certain student groups, by having a speaker series and bringing in prominent people, who are, if not necessarily against the war, asking questions about the war.”
Eckstein sits on the Arts & Sciences Advisory Board for the Villanova Institute for Teaching and Learning. He co-authored the 2003 book Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle Over Building Sports Stadiums; and he authored the 1997 book Nuclear Power and Social Power. In 2000, Eckstein was awarded Villanova’s Lindback Award for Teaching Excellence.