Interview with Dr. Marjorie Jeffrey

Interview with Dr. Marjorie Jeffrey

We are are excited to announce that Dr. Marjorie Jeffrey has joined the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. She is the Associate Director of the Lyceum Scholars Program and a Clinical Assitant Professor of Political Science. We sat down with Dr. Jeffrey and asked her about her background and what she is working on here at the Institute.

CISC: Where are you from?

MJ: I was born in Georgia but grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. That’s one of the reasons I’m so glad to be here at Clemson—there’s no state in which I’d rather be.

CISC: What did you study and where?

MJ: I studied political philosophy at Baylor University. I’m grateful to have received a broad education in American political thought and international relations theory there as well. I received my undergraduate degree in Government from Wofford College.

CISC: What did you write your dissertation on?

MJ: The title of my dissertation is “The Wars of Peoples: Science, Democracy, and International Politics in the Thought of Winston Churchill.” I began with a question: why and how did Churchill know that, as he said (before World War I), “the wars of peoples will be more terrible than the wars of kings”? What I argue in my dissertation is that Churchill thought the awful nature of modern warfare has to do with the relationship between science and democracy, and the combination of the scientific age with the democratic age. In order to show this I primarily examine some of Churchill’s major volumes of war history, in which he offers historical lessons to his readers in order to educate future generations of political leaders.

CISC: What did you find fascinating about the topic?

MJ: I have always been intrigued by what Aristotle called “the great-souled man;” there is something vividly attractive about those select few human beings in the history of the world who still capture our imagination today by virtue of their great deeds and exploits—the sort of men than a Hegelian might call “world historical” persons. I think it is inarguable that Churchill was such a person, but unlike some other figures one might point to as “great” by virtue of their actions alone, Churchill also wrote a great deal. I do not claim that Churchill was a philosopher, though some have called him a philosophic statesman. But Churchill wrote about 28 volumes of history, and so can certainly be categorized as a statesman-historian. My “ahah” moment for the dissertation came after a careful study of Thucydides with one of my professors at Baylor, when I realized that one could read Churchill’s histories of the First and Second World Wars the way that political theorists read Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

CISC: What are you working on now?

JP: In the long-term, I’m working on trying to convert my dissertation into a book on Churchill’s political thought on war and diplomacy.

In the shorter term, I’m working on an article on Walker Percy’s novel, The Moviegoer, which has long been one of my favorites. It’s been encouraging to see that Percy’s work is undergoing a renaissance in political theory scholarship.

I’m also working on an article on Winston Churchill’s nearly life-long concern with the question of Russia’s relationship to the rest of Europe and to the West in general, and what parts of his counsel can be useful in how we approach foreign relations with Russia today.

CISC: What are you teaching this semester?

MJ: I’m teaching Introduction to Political Theory.

CISC: What has your experience thus far been teaching Clemson students?

MJ: The Clemson students I have encountered so far have been overwhelmingly spirited and intelligent. I have been pleasantly surprised at how, not only receptive, but downright excited some of them seem to be about studying political philosophy. That makes it tremendously fun for me to walk into every class, knowing that the conversation will be lively and dynamic. And that’s the dream—that’s what you wish for teaching to be.