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Good Playlist: Music to help you find the headspace to teach ▶️

Check out this detailed playlist covering politics around the world.

- March 4, 2024

Playing introductory music can do a great job of setting the mood for that day’s class meeting. But I’ve found that the most important audience for the playlist is me. These are songs that help me get in the headspace I need to lead an effective class session – and a fresh reminder a) why I am still interested in what I do as a political scientist and b) why I think it’s important.

I also try to mix together a few things to diversify students’ experience – knowing that apart from one or two students each term who come to talk about the songs, this low-dose exposure is generally the extent of the pedagogical effect. I include:

  • songs with their own specific place in political history, especially from outside the United States (“L’estaca,” “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” “Stefania,” “Baraye”)
  • songs that might be familiar with from oldies/classic rock radio – but students might not have noticed or paid attention to these as political (“Electric Avenue,” “Heroes,” “Beds are Burning”)
  • songs to evoke a specific era or mood or context (“Letter from America,” “A New Argentina,” “Welterusten Mijnheer de President”)
  • my own idiosyncratic tastes, because I like them and they kind of fit (Daniel Kahn, The Burning Hell)

As a U.S.-based comparativist with expertise in Europe, I’d love to make the list a bit less Eurocentric – something I’m working on in my syllabus simultaneously. But, as Kim Yi Dionne has shown on this site, it’s not for a lack of other good options! 

Here’s my playlist by topic, for this spring’s comparative politics class. 

Introduction
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money – Warren Zevon
  • Fuck the Government, I Love You – The Burning Hell
The state
  • Petit Pays – Gaël Faye
  •  Believe in Your Country – Stompin’ Tom Connors
  • The Patriot’s Dream – Gordon Lightfoot
  • Why We Build the Wall – Hadestown OBC
Ethnicities, identities, and nations
  • Zombie – The Cranberries
  • Le Plat Pays – Jacques Brel / Mijn Vlakke Land – Jannie du Toit
  • Stefania – Kalush Orchestra
  • Blake’s Jerusalem – Billy Bragg
Democracy
  • Common People – Pulp
  • Sangue Nos Mãos – Dead Fish
  • Dear Mr. President – Fitz and the Tantrums
  • Welterusten Mijnheer De President – Boudewijn de Groot
Case study: Germany
  • Pure Vernünft Darft Niemals Siegen – Tocotronic
  • Heroes – David Bowie
  • Major Tom – Peter Schilling
Non-democracies
  • A New Argentina – Evita OBC
  • Inner Emigration – Daniel Kahn
  • If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – Manic Street Preachers
  • Bakschischrepublik – Herbst in Peking
Case study: Russia
  • 1944 Jamala
  • Такого как Путин (English version) – Poyuschie Vmeste
  • Żeby Polska – Jan Pietrzak
Political violence
  • El Derecho de Vivir en Paz – Victor Jara
  • If I Had a Rocket Launcher – Bruce Cockburn
  • Mothers of the Disappeared – U2
  • Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil
Revolutions
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
  • 5 vor 12 – Die Toten Hosen
  • L’estaca – Lluis Llach
  • O, Catalonia! – Dusty the Kid
Case study: Iran
  • Pariya – Dariush
  • Ye Rooze Khoob Miad – Hichkas
  • Baraye – Shervin Hajipour
Political economy
  • Letter from America – The Proclaimers
  • Moneyland – The Del McCoury Band
  • 99% Nayn-und-Nayntzik – Daniel Kahn
  • Electric Avenue – Eddy Grant
Globalization
  • The Hymn of Axciom – Vienna Tang
  • Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher) – Gogol Bordello
  • The Dreamer – Che Apalache
  • Youngstown – Bruce Springsteen
Politics as a vocation
  • The End of the End of the World – The Burning Hell
  • Freedom is a Verb – Daniel Kahn
  •  Anthem – Chess (Live in Concert)

Colin M. Brown is an associate teaching professor of political science at Northeastern University and a local faculty affiliate of Harvard’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies. He studies immigrant political incorporation and citizenship in Europe, as well as doing research on political science pedagogy. He is also the new lead co-author, along with Kelly Bauer, of Cengage’s Introduction to Comparative Politics (9th edition, available July 2024).

Do you have a good playlist with a political science theme? Want someone to make one? Know someone who has one? Send us your suggestions using this form! Please note that we will review all proposals but not all will be published.