Professor Jonathan Goldberg–Hiller

Professor Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller


I completed my BA in political science at Reed College (1979) and my MA and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1991) with emphasis in public law, comparative politics, and Marxist theory. Prior to graduate school, I had the opportunity to live and teach in West Africa, and subsequently I taught at Reed College prior to joining the faculty at UH.

Research Interests

I have recently been studying the ways changing forms of identity, nationalism, political authority and political economy have modulated the mobilization of rights in various contexts. By starting with these dimensions of social life rather than with rights discourses themselves, I have tried to understand how rights are resisted and how they retain relevancy; in this vein I have researched such contemporary phenomena as the conservative reaction against same–sex marriage, opposition to the political recognition of indigenous peoples, and efforts by labor unions to boycott legal regulatory machinery. I am presently embarking on a study of the means by which indigenous peoples in the Pacific have mobilized rights that lack constitutional or jurisdictional authority and how these ideas about rights have traveled across space and time, altering indigenous identities and redirecting political demands.

Courses Taught

American Politics (POLS 385)

This course is intended as an introduction to some major themes of American politics and the several methods and models used by political scientists to understand the problems of political change, conflict and continuity. The course is designed to challenge conventional understandings of politics while providing a forum for you to explore these new ideas. It is a goal of this course to provide some answers to why everyday myths about the American state endure in the face of alternative explanations and realities. This course is roughly subdivided into three sections. In the first section, we take a critical look at the dispersal of power in American society through the critical lens of race relations. We explore the relationship between inequalities in wealth, power, class and race, on the one hand, and government leadership, methods, and the mitigating influence of culture on the other. In the second section, we take a look at American political institutions through another modern enduring conflict: legal abortion. From this controversy we will attempt to examine the nature of political conflict, how institutions are used to further this conflict, and we will explore the limits of legal and other political mechanisms from bringing an end to the abortion controversy. Finally, in the last section we will continue to explore the limits and possibilities of political change.

Public Law and Judicial Behavior II (POLS 376)

This course explores the foundations of American constitutional law through two lenses which it also attempts to make stereoscopically coherent: theories of constitutional interpretation and American political development. It thus seeks to provide a view of how the Supreme Court has created a role for itself, what that role is today, and how that role can best be criticized. This course will use the study of Supreme Court cases along with jurisprudence and legal sociology.

Introduction to Political Science (POLS 110)

“Law, Policy and Power.” How well has law — with its promises of equal justice, constitutional authority, trial by jury, and social regulation through rights — moderated bureaucratic power and social hierarchy in the United States? Is American law and its emphasis on written rules, precedent, and procedure, functionally distinct from politics with its emphasis on democratic accountability, negotiation, and distribution? How does law with its ultimate recourse to pain, imprisonment and death further the aims of democratic government? This course segment addresses these and other questions in order to introduce students to one study of power favored by some political scientists.

Knowledge and the Modern World (Honors 392)

Knowledge, science, and the free exchange of ideas were seen as the gateway to the Enlightenment and a modern world. Despite the rise of science and democracy, the promise of the Enlightenment has till to be realized. Today our ways of knowing are becoming ever more fractured, politicized, and deeply in question. This colloquium explores the obstructions posed by our modern world to our formation and application of knowledge and provides a basis upon which to evaluate the claims of the Enlightenment. Because we now live in a world of intellectual fragmentation, we will begin our exploration from the perspectives of the philosophy of science, sociology, anthropology, political science, history, and economics.

Seminar in Political Theory: Marx (POLS 610) (with Professor S. Krishna)

This course is designed to introduce students to some of the enduring analytical and political themes raised by Karl Marx. We will read important texts by Marx and other 19th and 20th century theorists who debated with Marx and produced an intellectual tradition of Marxism. Emphasis will be on the foundations of the “Western Marxist” tradition.

Public Law and Judicial Systems (POLS 660)

Unstating, Instating and Restating Rights (with Neal Milner) This seminar studies what is happening to rights as communication, political organization, social action, and the regulation of economic trade is increasingly globalized, that is, moved into spaces previously occupied by states and their interstices. In studying the relationship between global change and the meaning of rights, the seminar also seeks to assess the adequacy of extant sociolegal theory for understanding these developments.

Introduction to Public Policy (POLS 670)

Work — its forms, values, ideologies, legal protections, social institutions, political supports, regularity, and remuneration — is rapidly changing with broad repercussions for American public policy. What informs public policy once the American labor movement and Fordist forms of political integration have begun to wane? What is the consequence for race relations and their regulation? How should we now come to critically evaluate the twentieth century legacy and contemporary politics of the welfare state? Without steady jobs and strong economic growth, how have politics and policy begun to refashion themselves? This seminar seeks to highlight these and related questions in an introductory look at the methodological, epistemological, and historical questions surrounding the field of public policy analysis.

Public Policy Seminar (POLS 770)

Social Change and Social Policy This seminar asks the following questions: In a changing economic environment denoted by new forms of production, globalized markets, and the dissolution of labor contract, what possibilities and avenues of collective action emerge? As class loses its most organized form of expression, is there a social terrain for solidarity, common struggle, and social change? What type of theory is most conducive to developing this terrain? What types of political change may we expect, and What can this tell us about the fate of late modernity? This course will introduce some of the literature on social movement development and politics. Using two predominant case studies — the movement toward gay and lesbian rights and the emerging forms of labor organizing — we will examine several key theoretical issues. These will include the post–Marxist reevaluation of class in light of the rise of new social movements, the promise and limits of the post–war labor movement and the problems and possibilities of integrating new and old social movements for furthering social change.

Public Policy Seminar (POLS 770)

“Right Wing Movements” From the Scopes Trail early in the Twentieth Century, to the struggles over gay rights at the Century's end, conservative religious, social and political groups have asserted themselves in debates over citizenship, identity, space, civil rights and sovereign power. This seminar is intended to introduce some themes in the study of right wing movements and to trace the influence of these movements on public policy. Our primary focus will be the United States, but with an emphasis on the globalization of right wing politics and social movements.


Curriculum Vitae (PDF)