My bibliography on “The Great Depression and The New Deal” is available here.
My bibliography on “The Great Depression and The New Deal” is available here.
Los Angeles Review of Books, September 23, 2015
By Rigoberto González
“When the Library of Congress made the official announcement on June 10 that Juan Felipe Herrera had been selected the next Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Latino to hold the honorary post of ‘consultant in poetry’ since the first appointment in 1937, the news went viral on social media and was met with universal praise. Though the prolific and popular Herrera is by no means an obscure candidate — he is also currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and his new and selected volume Half of the World in Light received the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award — there was something unexpectedly refreshing about his selection. The next Poet Laureate of the United States comes from an ethnic community that’s quickly changing the demographic of the nation. His voice speaks to the Chicano identity, the immigrant experience, and the struggle of the Latino artist. Though the current national climate is fraught with social anxieties and racial tensions that will undoubtedly become part of any presidential candidate’s platform, Herrera’s body of work amplifies a perspective that has been deliberately muted by mainstream media, or rather, clumped into a single talking point: immigration reform. Writing as an insider, as an activist who has journeyed through the second half of the 20th century and into the present, he has remained clear-eyed and committed to his vision: chronicling the historical, cultural and political landscape of his Chicano consciousness. In the following critical review, I highlight five of Herrera’s 16 books of poetry published by two of his loyal publishers, who also published the two selected volumes I have chosen not to include here, but which I highly recommend, particularly for those who want an introduction to the scope of Herrera’s oeuvre. Those books are the aforementioned Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2008) and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 (City Lights Books, 2007). I have written about these titles for other venues.” [….]
An excerpt from a brief biographical sketch of Juan Felipe Herrera, courtesy of the Academy of American Poets:
“Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California, on December 27, 1948. The son of migrant farmers, Herrera moved often, living in trailers or tents along the roads of the San Joaquin Valley in Southern California. As a child, he attended school in a variety of small towns from San Francisco to San Diego. He began drawing cartoons while in middle school, and by high school was playing folk music by Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.
Herrera graduated from San Diego High in 1967, and was one of the first wave of Chicanos to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship to attend UCLA. There, he became immersed in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and began performing in experimental theater, influenced by Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez.
In 1972, Herrera received a BA in Social Anthropology from UCLA. He received a masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford in 1980, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1990.
His interests in indigenous cultures inspired him to lead a formal Chicano trek to Mexican Indian villages, from the rain forest of Chiapas to the mountains of Nayarit. The experience greatly changed him as an artist. His work, which includes video, photography, theater, poetry, prose, and performance, has made Herrera a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience.”
longtime hermano Bob tells me
one of the monks in brown directs us to the deep sink
made of two sinks the hose & the silver table where all
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
wait at the entrance for directions the monk gave me
but he is in there & points me to another sink
made of two sinks & a silver table where all
the spoons & metal tongs are clean
scrub off the rice burned at the bottom
there it is clinging to the sides of the steel
outside working the hole in the earth
three monks in brown stir the blackish pots boiling
four mouths of mud cakes for the new lunar year
the dragon the people the monastery the mountains
one monk stands staring into the nothing
no thoughts around him
the other monk descends through the scaly fog two
children angle an exploded tree limb back & forth
so the sparks play with them to the left
the meditation hall is curved & faces Escondido
down below where my father drove his army truck
& pulled our trailer to a stop on Lincoln Road in ‘54
I watered spidered corn & noticed the deportations
little friends gone the land left to ice alone
lunch is served we go to the line the spoons
and the speckled tongs await by the brown rice
white rice eggplant kim chee & a grey shade pot
pour the seaweed soup we go with our tray & sit
the mud cakes are ribboned in red & gold & green
there is a way to do this
it requires listening & seeing &
silence silence the bell rings
longtime hermano Bob & I at the parking lot
we leave brown cloth brown cloth
naked spoons naked pots
steam rises from the sink & the view
the view with no one in front or in back
—Juan Felipe Herrera (2012)
Herbert Lee & Louis Allen
“Herbert Lee was a 42 year old a dairy farmer and father of nine children in Amite County. He had been a member of the NAACP since the early 1950s. When SNCC voting rights activists started working in Amite and Pike counties in the fall of 1961, Lee, a close friend of the Amite County NAACP branch chairman E.W. Steptoe, became involved, helping to transport the workers and orient them to the locale. In mid-September, Assistant United States Attorney John Doar and others from the Justice Department interviewed several persons in Amite County about infringements of the voting laws. They learned that one E.H. Hurst, a member of the Mississippi state legislature, had been threatening to harm activists in Amite, including Herbert Lee.
On the morning of September 25, E.H. Hurst ran into Herbert Lee at a cotton gin. Lee, who grew up with Hurst, was arriving while Hurst was departing. Hurst cornered Lee on the side of Lee’s pickup truck and shot him dead in front of about a dozen witnesses. Lee’s body remained next to his truck while the sheriff quickly organized a coroner’s jury. Several black witnesses, including Louis Allen, fearing for their own lives, lied to the coroner’s jury and testified that Lee, a small man, threatened Hurst, who stood 6 feet 3 and weighed about 200 pounds, with a tire iron. On the day Lee was slain, the coroner’s jury concluded Hurst shot in self-defense.
After the coroner’s jury ruled the homicide justifiable, there were no further legal proceedings in the Lee murder. However, one witness, Louis Allen, later told FBI investigators that he had been forced to lie to the coroner’s jury. Allen endured beatings and harassment immediately after he came forward to the FBI and, on January 31, 1964, he too was killed in Amite County. There have been no arrests in the Allen murder.”—From the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) at Northeastern University School of Law
* * *
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizer Robert Moses “explains that there is more to the murder of Herbert Lee than what was reported in the paper:
‘On September 25, 1961 Herbert Lee was killed in Amite County…. The Sunday before Lee was killed, I was down at E. W. Steptoe’s with John Doar from the Justice Department and he asked Steptoe was there any danger in that area, who was causing the trouble and who were the people in danger. Steptoe had told him that E. H. Hurst who lived across from him had been threatening people and that specifically he, Steptoe, Herbert Lee, and George Reese were in danger of losing their lives.
We went out, but didn’t see Lee that afternoon. At night, John Doar and the other lawyers from the Justice Department left. The following morning about 12 noon, Doc Anderson came by the Voter Registration office and said a man had been shot in Amite County. I went down to take a look at the body and it was Herbert Lee; there was a bullet hole in the left side of his head just above the ear.
I remember reading very bitterly in the papers the next morning, a little short article on the front page of the McComb Enterprise Journal, said that: “the Negro had been shot in self-defense as he was trying to attack E. H. Hurst.”
That was it. You might have thought he had been a bum. There was no mention that Lee was a farmer, that he had a family, that he had nine kids, beautiful kids, that he had been a farmer all his life in Amite County and that he had been a very substantial citizen. It was as if he had been drunk or something and had gotten into a fight and gotten shot.
Our first job was to try to track down those people who had been at the shooting, who had seen the whole incident. (From Liberation Magazine, 1970)’”—From a page at the Civil Rights Teaching project, a website “provides lessons, handouts, news, and resources for teaching about the role of everyday people in the Civil Rights Movement.” The story of Lee’s murder and the events surrounding it are told in Charles M. Payne’s I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (University of California Press, 1995): 121-124.
(click on image for larger view)
“Humor and kinship among veterans led members of the Rebel Chicano Air Front to adopt the ironic name of the Royal Chicano Air Force after their acronym—RCAF—was misidentified with the Canadian military. Operating out of their Sacramento, California headquarters (the Centro de Artistas Chicanos), they organized community programs, designed murals, and printed posters in support of the United Farm Workers Union. This collaborative spirit shines in Hasta La Victoria Siempre, c/s, a print by Luis (or Louie ‘the Foot’ González), based on his brother Héctor’s photograph of a United Farm Workers pro-labor rally. Interested in concrete poetry, Luis González wove the typed words long live, strike, and tomorrow into a fluid pattern.”
(My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers is here.)
Around the world, between a quarter and half a million children go blind each year as a result of a deficiency in vitamin A and within twelve months, half of them die. Golden Rice was created to tackle this problem, by genetically engineering Vitamin A into the rice grain. It is golden because its vitamin A comes from beta carotene, which also puts the orange in carrots. One of the areas of the world where Golden Rice is designed to be consumed is Asia, where a high proportion of calories are derived from rice consumption, and where vitamin A deficiency is endemic. [….] The technology presents itself as a feel-good solution for politicians who’d rather not face the more profound, persistent and difficult questions of politics and distribution. There’s more than enough vitamin A to go around. Half a carrot contains the recommended dose of vitamin A. The plain fact is that the majority of children in the Global South suffer and die not because there is insufficient food, or because beta-carotene rice is nationally lacking. They are malnourished and undernourished because all their parents can afford to feed them is rice.
The best that crops such as Golden Rice can do is to provide supplement in diets where nutrients are unavailable. And when a balanced diet is unavailable, the cause has more to do with poverty than with anything that can be engineered into the crop. It is absurd to ask a crop to solve the problems of income and food distribution, of course. But since this is precisely the root cause of vitamin A deficiency, the danger of crops such as Golden Rice is not merely that they are ineffective publicity stunts. They actively prevent serious discussions of ways to tackle systemic poverty.—Raj Patel, in Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing, 2008): 136-37.
By Glenn Davis Stone (Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University in St. Louis)
August 28, 2015
“Golden Rice is modified to produce beta carotene in the endosperm, rather than only in the bran as in most rice. Beta carotene is a vitamin A precursor, and the hope was that this invention would mitigate Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), which in extreme cases can cause blindness or death in malnourished children. After appearing on the cover as Time in 2000 as a rice that ‘could save a million kids a year,’ Golden Rice has been a nearly ubiquitous talking point in GMO arguments. As a high-flying GM superfood, it is without peer.
But the battles over Golden Rice have been particularly heated even by the usual standards of GMO bombast. Critics see it as an unproven, expensive, and misguided band aid—a Trojan Horse to open the floodgates of GM crops into the global south (Brooks 2010:76-83; RAFI 2000). Industry spokesmen, impassioned molecular biologists, and partisan journalists charge that children are being left blind by GMO critics having slowed the rice; hired activist Patrick Moore tirelessly (and cartoonishly) blames Greenpeace — which he claims to have founded — for ‘murdering’ children (AllowGoldenRiceNow.org 2015).
Confusingly, other biotechnologists claim that Golden Rice is already in use and that it has ‘helped save many, many lives and improved the quality of life of those who eat it’ (Krock 2009; also see Thomson 2002:1). These claims cause considerable discomfort to the scientists who are actually doing the Golden Rice breeding (Dubock 2014:73).
All the shouting tends to cover up a crucial issue with Golden Rice: who is it for, exactly? Proponents usually discuss it as a vitamin tablet headed for generic underfed children in ‘poor countries’ (Beachy 2003), or ‘developing countries’ (Enserink 2008), or occasionally ‘Asia’ (Dawe and Unnevehr 2007).
But here’s the problem. Golden Rice is not just a vitamin tablet headed for malnourished kids wherever they may be. It’s not a tablet at all; it’s rice, the most widely consumed and arguably the most culturally freighted crop in the world (e.g., Ohnuki-Tierney 1993). And it is headed specifically for the Philippines. Golden Rice got its start in the Philippines (Enserink 2008), and it’s being bred and tested in a research institution in the Philippines, to be approved by the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry, to be sold in Philippine markets to Philippine growers and potentially fed to Filipino children. (Breeders and researchers in Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh are also working with Golden Rice, but release is not on the horizon in any of these countries.) Most discussions of Golden Rice ignore this Philippine context. Even economic analyses purporting to calculate ‘The Cost of Delaying Approval of Golden Rice’ (Wesseler, et al. 2014) make no mention of the Philippines.” [….]
The remainder of Professor Stone’s blog post (including the sources cited) is here.
See too these blog posts by Marion Nestle: “Proponents of food biotechnology are still talking about Golden Rice? Sigh,” and “Retraction of the Golden Rice paper: an issue of ethics.”
I have some titles germane to the discussion in two compilations: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: Toward Agroecology& Food Justice)—A Basic Bibliography, and The Ethics, Economics, and Politics of Global Distributive Justice: A Select Bibliography.
Henrietta Shore, “Artichoke Pickers,” 1936, oil on masonite panel. Described as “one of the most beautiful of all WPA [Works Progress Administration, later renamed the Work Projects Administration] murals in California,” “[i]t depicts people working in a field near the Santa Cruz coastline, where the mural was installed.”
My bibliography on César Chávez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) is here. Two related compilations: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’): A Basic Bibliography, and Workers, the World of Work & Labor Law: A Basic Bibliography.
Yolanda López, “Homenaje a Dolores Huerta,” from Women’s Work Is Never Done series, silkscreen, 1995. Here we find “juxtapose[d] an image of Dolores Huerta as an activist in 1965 with an image take from the 1995 broccoli harvest. To protect their lungs from dust and pesticides, the women in this print wear bandanas, which actually provide little if any protection.”
“We are creatures of history, for every historical epoch has its roots in a preceding epoch. The black militants of today are standing upon the shoulders of the New Negro radicals of my day, the twenties, thirties, and forties. We stood upon the shoulders of the civil rights fighters of the Reconstruction era, and they stood upon the shoulders of the black abolitionists. These are the interconnections of history, and they play their role in the course of development.”—A. Philip Randolph
On this day in August in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) came into existence when 500 porters met in Harlem, renewing their union organizing efforts. “During this meeting, they secretly launched their campaign, choosing [A. Philip] Randolph, not employed by Pullman and thus beyond retaliation, to lead the effort. The union chose a motto to sum up their resentment over the working conditions: ‘Fight or Be Slaves.’”
The following is from the entry, “Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (1925–1978),” written by Daren Salter for BlackPast.org (‘The Online Reference Guide to African American History’):
“The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was a labor union organized by African American employees of the Pullman Company in August 1925 and led by A. Philip Randolph and Milton P. Webster. Over the next twelve years, the BSCP fought a three-front battle against the Pullman Company, the American Federation of Labor, and the anti-union, pro-Pullman sentiments of the majority of the black community. Largely successful on each front, the BCSP is a significant institution in both the labor and civil rights history of the twentieth century United States.
The BSCP faced long odds in 1925. Despite its charismatic leadership, the union attracted only a small number of rank and file workers and at no point before 1937 did it enroll a majority of porters. Most black leaders outside the organization distrusted labor unions and, moreover, viewed George Pullman, whose company provided jobs, relatively high incomes, and a modicum of services to black employees, as an important ally of the black community, a reputation Pullman assiduously exploited in his effort to undermine the nascent union. Meanwhile, while the AFL granted federal-local status to individual BSCP locals, it refused to charter the all-black union as a full-fledged international. [….]
Transforming his newspaper, the Messenger, into a propaganda vehicle for the BSCP and tirelessly campaigning on behalf of the union, over time Randolph convinced black leaders, clergymen, and newspaper editors that Pullman’s paternalism masked what was in fact a servile position for blacks within the company and a subtle recapitulation of the master-slave relationship. In the process, the BSCP became both a vehicle and a symbol of black advancement and, according to one historian, helped facilitate the ‘rise of protest politics in black America.’
On the labor front, the BSCP survived an aborted strike in 1928 and a precipitous drop in membership due to company opposition and the hardship of the Great Depression. A favorable turn in the political climate brought about by the New Deal, combined with the persistence of union leaders and members finally forced the company to recognize the BSCP in 1935. The AFL granted the BSCP an international charter that same year and, after protracted negotiations, the union won its first contract in 1937. Randolph used the BSCP and his own position in the AFL-CIO leadership as a wedge for breaking down racial segregation in the American labor movement. The BSCP also remained a source of inspiration and activism in African American communities, providing a training ground for future civil rights leaders like C.L. Dellums, E.D. Nixon, and of course Randolph himself.” [….]
By Emily Nagoski, Los Angeles Times (August 23, 2015)
“The drug has many names: flibanserin, Addyi, Ectris, Girosa or, colloquially, ‘pink Viagra.’ Whatever you want to call the long-in-the-making libido pill for women, it recently gained FDA approval despite ‘serious, serious safety concerns’ and benefits that are ‘modest, maybe less than modest.’ But as a science-driven sex educator, I am less troubled by the risk of low blood pressure and fainting than I am by the drug maker’s reinforcement of an outdated, scientifically invalid model of sexual desire. [….]
The FDA’s analysis of the data showed that only about 10% of the research participants taking flibanserin experienced ‘at least minimal improvement,’ while the remaining 90% experienced nothing at all. This is a drug with such potentially serious side effects that the FDA is requiring special training and certification before providers can prescribe it.
And the ‘disorder’ it treats (or, 90% of the time, fails to treat) isn’t a disorder at all but a normal, healthy variation in human sexual response. The pharmaceutical industry has millions — billions? — of dollars riding on all of us, including our doctors, ignoring 21st century science and reverting to a model of sexual desire that made really good sense in 1977. I think women deserve better.”
The entire article in the Los Angeles Times is here.
See too this earlier editorial by Ellen Laan and Leonore Tiefer, also from the Times (no, not that one): “The sham drug idea of the year: ‘pink Viagra’”
“…[E]very human being experiences different types and durations of physical and mental impairments, or different periods of health and illness , and lives for varying lengths of time due to the combined interactions of her internal biological endowments and needs, behaviours, external physical environment and social conditions. [….]
The centrality of human health and longevity to social justice is so patently obvious to some people that they simply take it as a starting point. This is particularly apparent in the remarkable history of physicians becoming social and political reformers, and even armed revolutionaries because of their understanding of manifest injustice in such aspects as the causes, consequences, persistence through generations, or distribution patterns of preventable ill-health and premature mortality in a population. But such an understanding is not limited only to physicians or those who work in the front lines of healthcare and public health. For example, Amartya Sen, the economist and philosopher, begins a lecture by stating, ‘In any discussion of social equity and justice, illness and health must figure as a major concern. I take that as my point of departure.’ He then continues, ‘…and begin by noting that health equity cannot but be a central feature of the justice of social arrangement in general.’ [….]
... John Rawls, perhaps the most renowned modern philosopher of social justice, has seemingly put forward the opposite position. Rawls believed that human health is a ‘natural good’ and subject to random luck over the life course; he sees health not as something significantly or directly socially produced, so it does not even come within the scope of social justice, let alone is central to it.”—Sridhar Venkatapuram, in the Introduction to his impressive and urgent book, Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach (Polity Press, 2011)
Venkatapuram goes on to note that, in his later writings, Rawls at least “came to agree with Norman Daniels that justice produces entitlements to healthcare [emphasis added] in order to keep people above a minimum health threshold.” Of course Daniels himself progressively extends the Rawlsian conception of “justice as fairness” in two books: Just Health Care (Cambridge University Press, 1985), and Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
We will continue to look at Venkatapuram’s book in forthcoming posts in this series.
“We have known for over 150 years than an individual’s chances of life and death are patterned according to social class: the more affluent and better educated people are, the longer and healthier their lives. These patterns persist even when there is universal access to health care—a finding quite surprising to those who think financial access to medical services is the primary determinant of health status. In fact, recent cross-national evidence suggests that the greater the degree of socio-economic inequality that exists within a society, the steeper the gradient of health inequality. As a result, middle-income groups in a more unequal society will have worse health than comparable or even poorer groups in a society with greater equality. Of course, we cannot infer causation from correlation, but there are plausible hypotheses about pathways which link social inequalities to health, and, even if more work remains to be done to clarify the exact mechanisms, it is not unreasonable to talk here [after Michael Marmot] about the social ‘determinants’ of health.”—Norman Daniels, Bruce Kennedy, and Ichiro Kawachi in their book, Is Inequality Bad for Our Health? (Beacon Press, 2000)
Further Reading: Sreenivasan, Gopal, “Justice, Inequality, and Health,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A bibliography on Health: Law, Ethics & Social Justice
“Because of diagnostic inflation, an excessive portion of people have come to rely on antidepressants, antipsychotics, antianxiety agents, sleeping pills, and pain meds. We are becoming a society of pill poppers. [….] Loose diagnosis is causing a national drug overdose of medication. Six percent of [us] are addicted to prescription drugs, and there are now more emergency room visits and deaths due to legal prescription drugs than to illegal street drugs. [….] Since 2005 there has been a remarkable eightfold increase in psychiatric prescriptions among our active duty troops. An incredible 110,000 soldiers are now taking at least one psychotropic drug, many are on more than one, and hundreds die every year from accidental overdoses.
Psychiatric meds are now the star revenue producers for the drug companies—in 2011, over $18 billion for antipsychotics (an amazing 6 percent of all drug sales); $11 billion for ADHD drugs. Expenditure on antipsychotics has tripled, and antidepressant use nearly quadrupled from 1988 to 2008. And the wrong doctors are giving out the pills. Eighty percent of prescriptions are written by primary-care physicians with little training in their proper use, under intense pressure from drug salespeople and misled patients, after rushed seven-minute appointments, with no systemic auditing.
There is also a topsy-turvy misallocation of resources: way too much treatment is given to the normal ‘worried well’ who are harmed by it; far too little help is available for those who are really ill and desperately need it. Two thirds of people with severe depression don’t get treated it, and many suffering with schizophrenia wind up in prisons. The writing is on the wall. ‘Normal’ badly needs saving; sick people desperately require treatment. But DSM-5 seemed to be moving in just the wrong direction, adding new diagnoses that would turn everyday anxiety, eccentricity, forgetting, and bad eating habits into mental disorders. Meanwhile the truly ill would be even more ignored as psychiatry expanded its boundaries to include many who are better considered normal.” —Allen Frances, M.D. in the Preface to his book, Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life (William Morrow, 2013).
* * *
“We like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence and the results of fair tests. In reality, those tests are often profoundly flawed. We like to imagine that doctors are familiar with the research literature, when in reality much of it is hidden from them by drug companies. We like to imagine that doctors are well-educated when in reality much of the education is funded by industry. We like to imagine that regulators let only effective drugs onto to the market, when in reality they approve hopeless drugs, with data on side effects casually withheld from doctors and patients. [….]
Drugs are tested by the people who manufacture them, in poorly designed trials, on hopelessly small numbers of weird, unrepresentative patients, and analysed using techniques which are flawed by design, in such a way that they exaggerate the benefits of treatments. Unsurprisingly, these trials tend to produce that favour the manufacturer. When trials throw up results that companies don’t like, they are perfectly entitled to hide them from doctors and patients, so we only ever see a distorted picture of any drug’s true effects. Regulators see most of the trial data, but only from early on in a drug’s life, and even then they don’t give this data to doctors or patients, or even to other parts of the government. This distorted evidence is then communicated and applied in a distorted fashion. In their forty years of practice after leaving medical school, doctors hear about what works through ad hoc oral traditions, from sales reps, colleagues or journals. But those colleagues can be in the pay of drug companies—often undisclosed—and the journals are too. And so are the patient groups. And finally, academic papers, which everyone thinks of as objective, are often covertly planned and written by people who work directly for the companies, without disclosure. Sometimes whole academic journals are even owned outright by one drug company. Aside from all this, for several of the most important and enduring problems in medicine, we have no idea what the best treatment is, because it’s not in anyone’s financial interest to conduct any trials at all. These are ongoing problems, and although people have claimed to fix many of them, for the most part they have failed; so all these problems persist, but worse than ever, because now people can pretend that everything is fine after all.”—Ben Goldacre, from the Introduction to his book, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients (Faber and Faber, 2013)
Please Note: I have two bibliographies with titles germane to this post: Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology, & Pharmaceutical Reason: A Basic Bibliography and Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences: A Basic Reading Guide (this latter compilation also covers material outside the scope of this post).
“Prosecutors also have tremendous control over witnesses: They can offer incentives—often highly compelling incentives—for suspects to testify. This includes providing sweetheart plea deals to alleged co-conspirators and engineering jail-house encounters between the defendant and known informants. Sometimes they feed snitches non-public information about the crime so that the statements they attribute to the defendant will sound authentic. And, of course, prosecutors can pile on charges so as to make it exceedingly risky for a defendant to go to trial. There are countless ways in which prosecutors can prejudice the fact-finding process and undermine a defendant’s right to a fair trial. [….] [T]here are disturbing indications that a non-trivial number of prosecutors—and sometimes entire prosecutorial offices—engage in misconduct that seriously undermines the fairness of criminal trials. The misconduct ranges from misleading the jury, to outright lying in court and tacitly acquiescing or actively participating in the presentation of false evidence by police.
Prosecutorial misconduct is a particularly difficult problem to deal with because so much of what prosecutors do is secret. If a prosecutor fails to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, who is to know? Or if a prosecutor delays disclosure of evidence helpful to the defense until the defendant has accepted an unfavorable plea bargain, no one will be the wiser. Or if prosecutors rely on the testimony of cops they know to be liars, or if they acquiesce in a police scheme to create inculpatory evidence, it will take an extraordinary degree of luck and persistence to discover it—and in most cases it will never be discovered.”—Alex Kozinski (a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit)
This is an updated and enhanced compilation from a couple of years ago (now with an episode of ‘The Rockford Files’!)
Today is the 50th anniversary (August 6, 1965) of the Voting Rights Act. We’ll mark that anniversary first, by recommending a recent book on the topic, Gary May’s Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Basic Books, 2013). The book came out before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) (the paperback version published by Duke University Press in 2014 has a new preface by May that presumably addresses the case), a decision concerning “the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.” By a 5-to-4 vote, the Court held that “that Section 4(b) is unconstitutional because the coverage formula is based on data over 40 years old, making it no longer responsive to current needs and therefore an impermissible burden on the constitutional principles of federalism and equal sovereignty of the states. The Court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction will be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula.”
Second, in honor of this anniversary, I suggest visiting a page from the Zinn Education Project: The Voting Rights Act: Ten Things You Should Know, an article by Emilye Crosby and Judy Richardson that is a perfect exemplum of historical and political pedagogy (includes a couple of videos and exquisite photographs).
Finally, I’ve assembled a handful of photos by way of acknowledging the struggle to enfranchise Black citizens in this country, a struggle that was of course an integral part of the wider Civil Rights movement and marked by “intensive organizing and activism spearheaded by the Black community.”
Addendum: See too the numerous posts for today (and some earlier archived posts) at Rick Hasen’s Election Law Blog.
“[The] Highlander [Folk School] worked with Esau Jenkins of Johns Island to develop a literacy program for Blacks who were prevented from registering to vote by literacy requirements. The Citizenship Education Schools coordinated by Septima Clark with assistance from Bernice Robinson spread widely throughout the South and helped thousands of Blacks register to vote. Later the program was transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference because the state of Tennessee was threatening to close the school.” Esau Jenkins with Myles Horton (the latter one of the founders of HFS)
SNCC workshop at Highlander
We begin with a small crop of propositions about truth from Michael P. Lynch directly and indirectly germane, in an abstract and philosophical sense, to both science and religion (we might think of these as basic presuppositions and assumptions). For what it’s worth, I believe, with Lynch, that it is important to acknowledge that truth is objective; that it is good to believe what is true; that truth is a goal worthy of human inquiry; and that truth is worth caring about for its own sake. That said, we might also concede the significance of the following and related propositions from Lynch’s analytically cogent philosophical examination of the nature of truth in several works on same (see ‘references and further reading’ below):
‘A theory of truth should make sense of the following metaphysical principle: Truth is One: There is a single property named by “truth” that all and only true propositions share.’ The theory should also be ‘able to make sense of the intuition that drives pluralism about truth, namely, Truth is Many: there is more than one way to be true.’
‘Minimally speaking, a proposition is true in the realist sense when things are as that proposition says they are. Some aspect of objective reality must simply be a certain way. If it is, then the proposition is true; if not, the proposition is false. The truth of the proposition hinges on the world alone, not on our thought about the world. In short, realism about truth minimally implies two commitments: (a) truth is an authentic property that some propositions have and others lack, and (b) the concept of truth is, in Putnam’s words, “radically non-epistemic;” that is, whether a proposition is true (in most cases) does not depend on what I or anyone else believes or knows. [….] According to correspondence accounts of truth, there are three metaphysical aspects to any true proposition: the proposition itself (the truth bearer), its correspondence (the truth relation), and the reality to which it corresponds (the truth marker). [….] In other words, propositions are true when they correspond to the facts.’
‘The content of an assertion is intrinsically related to a conceptual scheme. [….] In effect, propositions, true or false, are implicitly indexed to some conceptual scheme or schemes. [….] Facts are internal to conceptual schemes, or ways of dividing the world into objects, among which there can be equally acceptable alternatives. [….] [S]uch metaphysical pluralism is consistent with realism about truth.’
‘[T]here is no logical incoherence in supposing that facts and propositions are relative to conceptual schemes and that truth is the correspondence of (relative) propositions with (relative) facts.’
‘All truths are relative, yes, but our concept of truth needn’t be a relative concept.’
‘Thinking about why we should care about truth tells us two things about it: first, that truth is, in part, a deeply normative property—it is a value. And second, this is a fact that any adequate theory of truth must account for. In light of this fact, I suggest that truth, like other values, should be understood as depending on, but not reducible to, lower-level properties. Yet which properties truth depends on or supervenes on may change with the type of belief in question. This opens the door to a type of pluralism: truth in ethics may be realized differently than in physics.’
‘…[T]here is more than one property that make beliefs true. Truth…is immanent in those other properties of beliefs. In some domains, what makes a belief true is that it corresponds to reality; in others, beliefs are made true by a form of coherence. [….] [Traditional theories of truth] are not best conceived of as theories of truth itself. They are better seen as theories of the properties that make beliefs true—or manifest truth.’
‘[T]ruth is a single higher-level property whose instantiations across kinds of propositions are determined by a class of other, numerically distinct properties. [….] Truth is many because different properties may manifest truth in distinct domains of inquiry. In those domains they have the truish features [we find in those folk-truisms enumerated above]. Truth is one because there is a single property so manifested, and “truth” rigidly names that property.’
‘Truth is an immanent functional property that is variably manifested.’
* * *
We continue with several philosophical comments from another philosopher, Hilary Putnam, by way of a proposed propaedeutic to any general comparative inquiry into science and religion:
‘…[The] “scientific” is not coextensive with “rational.” There are many perfectly rational beliefs that cannot be tested ‘scientifically.’ But more than that, …there are whole domains of fact with respect to which present-day science tells us nothing at all, not even that the facts in question exist. These domains are not new or strange. Three of them are (1) the domain of objective values; (2) the domain of freedom; (3) the domain of rationality itself.’
‘I think that the idealist “picture” calls our attention to vitally important features of our practice—and what is the point of having “pictures” if we are not interested in seeing how well they represent what we actually think and do? That we do not, in practice, actually construct a unique vision of the world, but only a vast number of versions (not all of them equivalent…) is something that “realism” hides from us.’
* * *
We end our propaedeutic with a passage I’ve had occasion to cite several times over the years at this blog from my dear friend and former teacher, Nandini Iyer:
‘To affirm that there can be several different systems all giving us, at the same time, varying and yet legitimate “true” metaphysical descriptions of the world does not…necessarily entail that there are many realities, that nothing is absolutely real, or, put less dramatically, that there is no such thing as a single, context neutral description or account of the world, that is, as the world really is. It only means that no metaphysical description of it can be outside every possible conceptual framework, but Reality itself is. Nor does it follow that any assertions about this “real” or “true” world beyond all conceptual frameworks, are nonsense. [....] The conceptual frameworks we build in the realm of rational thought are not useless just because they cannot describe Ultimate Reality. Serious examination of, reflection on, these explanatory and interpretive schemes, their differences and overlaps, are crucial to expanding and deepening our understanding of reality, even if these conceptual frameworks (any or all possible combinations and collections of them) cannot bring us the Absolute Truth. If nothing else, they enable us to understand the relativity of conceptual truths and structures, and make us see what Pascal meant when he said that the highest function of reason is to show us the limitations of reason.’
* * *
That said, we should be well-disposed to appreciate a review of two books on science and religion by Colin Dickey in The Los Angeles Review of Books: “Two-Way Monologue: How to Get Past Science vs. Religion.” Dickey looks at two recent books on “science and religion,” the first, by Jerry A. Coyne, a biologist: Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible (Viking, 2015) (the tendentious title alone will put off many prospective readers); the other, The Territories of Science and Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2015), by an historian, Peter Harrison, who also edited the The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (2010). It’s an excellent review.
In the spirit of the review (and at the urging of Steve Shiffrin), here is a short list of titles on science and religion (I’ve yet to add the title from Harrison). Other compilations from yours truly related in some way to science (in alphabetical order): Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology and Pharmaceutical Reason: A Basic Bibliography; Ethical Perspectives on the Sciences & Technology: A Basic Bibliography (this was largely derived from a much larger and older list on science and technology); and Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences: A Basic Reading Guide. And of course I have bibliographies on religious worldviews as well at my Academia.edu site.
References & Further Reading:
Image: Interior ceiling of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
What the power of positive thinking may have begun to lose by the late 1990s in terms of political stridency, it gained in terms of biomedical responsibility. More than anything else, this respectability was gained through the increasingly firm identification of positive thinking with the placebo effect. Between 1997 and 2000, there appeared no fewer than five academic books on the placebo effect (one of which I edited)…. The main argument offered by the new literature was that the placebo effect was important above all for what it taught us about self-healing. It was not just a trick; it produced real (physiologically discernible) effects….—Anne Harrington
The placebo effect depends on the art of deception (perhaps even ‘self-deception,’ as suggested in what follows). It’s certainly possible that psychotherapy, in part, relies on this, or at least an analogous process, as Jon Elster argues in Sour Grapes (1983):
“How are we to reconcile the facts—or rather impressions—that (i) there is a great deal of successful therapy, (ii) therapists believe that a good theory is essential for success and (iii) very little of the variance in therapeutic success is explained by the therapist’s choice of one theory rather than another? [I don’t think this necessarily means that ‘anything goes,’ but that’s an argument for another day.] Often the theory tells the therapist to bring about some intermediate state (analogous to the buried treasure [from La Fontaine’s fable of the laborer and his children]) as an indispensable stepping stone to the final goal of mental health (corresponding to wealth in the fable). In psychoanalysis, for instance, it is argued that the intermediate state of insight or ‘Bewusstwerden’ is required for the final goal of ‘Ichwerden’ to be realized. My suggestion is that in therapy the final goal is not realized instrumentally through the intermediate state, but as a by-product of the attempt to bring about that state. Moreover, there may be several, different intermediate states that, if pursued seriously, can lead to this outcome. Crudely put: the therapist must believe in some theory for the therapeutic activity to seem worth while, and it will not be successful unless he thinks it worth while. Therapist and patient are accomplices in a mutually beneficial folie à deux.”
So, should a psychotherapist be persuaded by the above account, can he or she remain a therapist? In other words, would this newly won knowledge undermine her attempt to practice therapy, given that she no longer believes the “right theory” is indispensable to therapeutic success? (See chapter 8, ‘Psychotherapy—The Purest Placebo?,’ in Evans below for an extended discussion of some of the relevant issues.)
We might compare this to an earlier story told by Elster in which a therapist attempts to bring about sleep for the insomniac. Elster describes a technique in which the patient is given instructions for the following night to “note very carefully, every five minutes, all the symptoms of insomnia, such as dizziness, headaches, a dry throat. This, the therapist says, is essential if he is to be able to come up with suggestions for overcoming the insomnia. The patient, naively and obediently, does as instructed, and promptly falls asleep. Sleep has come, but as a by-product—and in this context is it essentially a by-product, since the effect would have been spoiled had the therapist told the patient about the point of the instructions.”
One thing Elster does not discuss, however, is that this “technique” does not seem repeatable: it’s a one-shot strategy, at least with a clever or even halfway intelligent patient, who will soon discover the “real” purpose of the therapist’s instructions.
References & Further Reading:
Date of estimated return from overseas (DEROS) for my soul:
At times when I am calm
that even if you waited for it
nothing came as suddenly
and nothing (not even the Lieutenant)
seemed as stupid
as the silence which followed
At such times I know also
that each of us
who fought in Vietnam
was spiritually captured by it,
and that each remains
of his own war-
It is, therefore, not surprising
that for some (like for me)
the AfterNam emptiness
published no D.e.r.o.s.
for the soul....
Yet, in moments better known to me,
when reason drifts
and whole worlds are illuminated
with Platonic images
dancing against the cave-walls
of my mind,
lit by a single candle
borrowed from a twilight wish,
I take the stairs two-at-a-time
and wait in the second floor window
of my days,
hoping that someday will come next morning
and that I’ll recognize the soul of a much younger me
come diddy-boppin’ down the street,
eating a sky-bar
and hefting a duffle bag
filled with new and more believable myths
that I might live by
(not to mention back pay)
while humming something about
going to San Francisco
and something about a flower in somebody’s hair
Frankly, I don’t know if I’d throw flowers
or run down stairs, meet him at the curb
and beat Hell out of him-
leaving me the way he did!
I mean, it’s not like my damned soul,
dressed up like Jennifer Jones in drag,
and waved farewell with a lace hanky
from the base of a Bon-Sai plant
in a To do Street floral shop
while i woke the next morning and
couldn’t cry anymore
or laugh like before
or give a shit period.
And my soul didn’t go berserk
under the too bright light
of a Government Moon
and go roaring down Highway #1
doing a wheely on a cycle
like James Dean in a steel pot
and flak jacket
laughing Red Baron kind of laugh
and quoting Kipling’s Barrack-Room
My soul just did
what most souls did.
Just disappeared one afternoon
when I was in a firefight
Just “walked away” in the scuffle
like a Dunhill lighter
off the deck of a red-neck bar.
A man can lose his money,
(even his mind)
and still he can come back,
but if he loses his courage
or his pride
it is over.
1. The direction of technological change should be an explicit concern of policy-makers, encouraging innovation in a form that increases the employability of workers, emphasizing the human dimension of service provision.
2. Public policy should aim at a proper balance of power among stakeholders, and to this end should (a) introduce an explicitly distributional dimension into competition policy, (b) ensure a legal framework that allows trade unions to represent workers on level terms, and (c) establish, where it does not already exist, a Social and Economic Council involving the social partners and other nongovernmental bodies.
3. The government should adopt an explicit target for preventing and reducing unemployment and underpin this ambition by offering guaranteed public employment at the minimum wage to those who seek it.
4. There should be a national pay policy, consisting of two elements: a statutory minimum wage set at a living wage, and a code of practice for pay above the minimum, agreed as part of a ‘national conversation’ involving the Social and Economic Council.
5. The government should offer via national savings bond a guaranteed positive real rate of interest on savings, with a maximum holding per person.
6. There should be a capital endowment (minimum inheritance) paid to all at adulthood.
7. A public Investment Authority should be created, operating a sovereign wealth fund with the aim of building up the net worth of the state by holding investments in companies and property.
8. We should return to a more progressive rate structure for the personal income tax, up to a top rate of 65 percent, accompanied by a broadening of the tax base.
9. The government should introduce into the personal income tax an Earned Income Discount, limited to the first band of earnings.
10. Receipts of inheritance and gifts inter vivos should be taxed under a progressive lifetime capital receipts tax.
11. There should be a proportional, or progressive, property tax based on up-to-date assessments.
12. Child Benefit should be paid for all children at a substantial rate and should be taxed as income.
13. A participation income should be introduced at a national level, complementing existing social protection, with prospect of an EU-wide child basic income.
14. (alternative to 13.) There should be a renewal of social insurance, raising the level of benefits and extending their coverage.
15. Rich countries should raise their target for Official Development Assistance to 1 per cent of Gross National Income.
“The proposals are set out in a way that should apply quite widely to different countries, even if some are specifically designed with the UK in mind….”
Alongside the above proposals, Atkinson proffers some specific “ideas to pursue,” such as a minimum tax on corporations and a “thoroughgoing review of the access of households to the credit market for borrowing not secured on housing.”
Among other things, these titles should help us assess Atkinson’s proposals vis-à-vis an understanding of the comparative differences between (or relative strengths and weaknesses of) capitalism and socialism:
“…[T]oward the end of his life [Malcolm X] argued that blacks should put aside religious and philosophical differences and recognize they had a common oppressor. Antiblack racism, he argued, negatively affects all blacks, regardless of faith or party affiliation, and thus blacks should unify to resist racial oppression on nonsectarian and non-ideological grounds. Although he continued to believe in the necessity of autonomous black institutions, he did come to relax his opposition to alliance with progressive whites.
Malcolm X’s ideas of internal colonization, black communal self-determination, skepticism toward the black elite and the Democratic Party, and racially autonomous political organizations influenced a generation of black activists and have had a significant impact on the contemporary political culture of African Americans. As Manning Marable remarked, ‘Dead at the age of 39, Malcolm quickly became the fountainhead of the modern renaissance of black nationalism in the late 1960s.’ Indeed, shortly after his assassination in 1965, many of Malcolm X’s ideas were developed and promoted by several black leaders under the slogan ‘Black Power,’ a phrase popularized by Stokely Carmichael.”—Tommie Shelby.
Painting by Trevor Jenkins
With analytical acuity, Shelby proceeds to examine the “philosophical content and social-theoretic underpinnings” of Black Power nationalism so as to ascertain its contributions to, and thus its contemporary relevance for, a “pragmatic black solidarity” in which “there must be room…for disagreement over the precise content of political action and policy initiatives.” On this account, neither black self-determination nor black nationalism preclude the extension of “solidarity to other racially stigmatized groups and even to committed nonracist whites.” And the ideal of black self-determination, “at least with respect to blacks in America, requires a sharply delimited trans-institutional and decentralized form of black political solidarity.” Shelby insists that “black political solidarity must be noncorporatist,” meaning “[n]o black party, association, or institution can legitimately claim to speak for black people as a whole. Instead, there should be multiple and independent black organizations and advocacy groups that take up particular issues that affect black interests.” This political solidarity nonetheless has principled grounding insofar as it entails joint commitment to particular values and goals, “understood as the faithful adherence to certain political principles, including antiracism, equal educational and employment opportunity, and tolerance for group differences and individuality, and to emancipatory goals, such as achieving substantial racial equality—especially in employment, education, and wealth—and ending ghetto poverty.” Finally, pragmatic black nationalism “is a form of black solidarity that aims, ultimately, to transcend itself.” Please see Shelby’s We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (2005).
The title of this compilation is a mouthful, but its content can be chewed with leisure and is easily digestible. I hope it also proves both nutritious and a gustatory delight.
“This is [an excerpt from the] transcript of a talk [Kenan Malik] gave at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels on 10 May 2015 on ‘The many roots of Christian Europe, the many sources of the Islamic world.’ It was part of a series of talks to accompany an exhibition of ‘The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art’ entitled ‘L’Empire du Sultan.’”
[….] “The translation into Arabic of Aristotle, Plato and other Greek philosophers helped transform Islamic thinking. In particular, it helped create what is sometimes called the Rationalist tradition, a tradition that began with the Mu’tazilites in the eighth century and culminated with the two greatest of Muslim philosophers, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rush’d, some four hundred years later.
The Rationalists saw learning as an ethical duty. They took from the Greeks not just their spirit of rational inquiry but also their faith in the almost boundless power of the human intellect. Most were deeply pious, and accepted the Qur’an as the word of God. But they challenged the idea that religious truths could be accessed only through divine revelation, insisting that reason alone would suffice. Most insisted, too, that all theological arguments must adhere to the principles of rational thought. Even the interpretation of the Qur’an and the Sunna were, in Rationalist eyes, subordinate to human reason.
By the time the greatest of these philosophers, indeed the greatest Muslim philosopher, Ibn Rushd, was publishing his translations of, and commentaries on, Aristotle, the Rationalist tradition was already on the wane. Islam came eventually to define itself not through rationalism, but through mysticism on the one hand – the Sufi traditions – and, on the other, a more literal understanding of Revelation, such as that embodied in the Sunni traditions.
The tradition of Muslim Rationalism is these days barely remembered in the West. Yet its importance and influence, not least on the ‘Judeo-Christian’ tradition, is difficult to overstate. It was through Ibn Rushd that West European philosophers rediscovered their Aristotle, and his commentaries shaped the thinking of a galaxy of thinkers from Moses Maimonides to Thomas Aquinas. And Córdoba, Ibn Rush’d’s home, became a principal meeting point of Islam and Christianity, a centre through which Christian scholars came to access not simply Islamic thinking, but to rediscover Greek philosophy too.
While today we may have forgotten the importance of Muslim philosophers, Christians of the time certainly recognized it. In The Divine Comedy, Dante places Ibn Rushd with the great pagan philosophers whose spirits dwell not in Hell but in Limbo ‘the place that favor owes to fame.’ One of Raphael’s most famous paintings, The School of Athens, is a fresco on the walls of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, depicting the world’s great philosophers. Among the pantheon of celebrated Greek philosophers including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras and Diogenes stands Ibn Rushd.
It was not just Greek philosophers that shaped Islamic thinking. From Persia to India to China, civilizations across the globe became sources for Islamic culture and learning. India, in particular, with the establishment of Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century indelibly shaped Islam. When we think of the Muslim world today, we usually think of the Middle East. But the largest Muslim communities are in Asia – in Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, China – and here Islam draws upon a multitude of cultural and religious sources.
Today, there is a tendency to think of Islam as walled-in, insular, hostile to reason and freethinking. Much of the Islamic world came to be that way. But the fact remains that the scholarship of the golden age of Islamic thinking helped lay the foundations for the European Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Neither happened in the Muslim world. But without the Muslim world, it is possible that neither may have happened, at least in the form they did.” [….]
For the entire transcript of his talk, please see Kenan Malik, “A Cathedral, a Mosque, a Clash of Civilizations,” at Pandaemonium
The respective images (from Malik’s post): Roger Hayward, Watercolor painting of the Hagia Sophia, and 13th century Arabic translation of ‘Material Medica.’
Two important and complementary pieces addressing long-standing housing segregation and the dominant model of urban redevelopment projects that emerged from the 1960s and 1970s: First, “The Building Blocks of Deprivation” by Daniel Pasciuti and Isaac Jilbert at Jacobin and, next, Richard Rothstein of the Economics Policy Institute explains why and how “Baltimore, not at all uniquely, has experienced a century of public policy designed, consciously so, to segregate and impoverish its black population,” in his essay, “From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government-Sponsored Segregation.”
Images (including more inspiring photos) found here.
I had forgotten Robert Goodin’s elegant argument (Goodin himself describes it as ‘undeniably cheeky’) in favor of basic income schemes, having read it over twenty years ago. It runs as follows: “[S]chemes paying everyone an unconditional basic income are less presumptuous than more conditional programs of support [i.e., the two-tiered system—social insurance and social assistance—that characterizes our social security policies generally]. Not only are they less prying and intrusive, less demeaning and debasing…. [t]hey also make fewer assumptions and presumptions about those whom they are aiding. That in turn makes schemes of basic income support more efficient, in one important sense than more conditional schemes of support. [….] [Most conspicuously, basic income schemes are] less prone to sociological error and less vulnerable to social change than are alternative models of social security provision. [….] Efficiency as such is of no independent moral importance to us. So at root the reason we should cherish the target of efficiency of basic income strategies is simply that that guarantees we will, through them, be able to relieve human suffering as best as we can.”—Robert E. Goodin, “Basic Income,” in Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1995): 228-243, reproducing material from “Toward a Minimally Presumptuous Social Welfare Policy,” in Arguing for Basic Income, ed. Philippe Van Parijs (Verso: 1992): 195-214.
See too the posts on this topic over the last several years at Crooked Timber.
A select bibliography, “On Boxing—Sweet Science & Brutal Agon,” is posted over at the U.S. Intellectual History blog. A downloadable version of the list is here.* This post from the archives highlights several dimensions of the sport.
* The downloadable version has now been considerably expanded from the first draft at the U.S.IH blog.
On this May Day, we’ll introduce some Communist & Socialist Parties in Israel (edited from Wikipedia entries)
“Maki (Hebrew: מק"י, an acronym for HaMiflega HaKomunistit HaYisraelit (Hebrew: המפלגה הקומוניסטית הישראלית), lit. The Israeli Communist Party) was a communist political party in Israel [Founded, 1948, dissolved, July 1973]. It is not the same party as the modern day Maki, which split from it during the 1960s and later assumed its name. Maki was a descendant of the Palestine Communist Party (PCP), which changed its name to MAKEI (the Communist Party of Eretz Yisrael) after endorsing partition in 1947, and then to Maki. Members of the National Liberation League, an Arab party that had split off from the PCP in 1944, rejoined Maki in October 1948, giving the party both Jewish and Israeli Arab members, while the Hebrew Communists also joined the party. It also took over publication of two communist newspapers, Kol HaAm (Hebrew) and Al-Ittihad (Arabic). The party was not Zionist, but recognized Israel, though it denied the link between the state and the Jewish diaspora and asserted the right of Palestinians to form a state in accordance with the United Nations resolution on partition. [….] In 1973 Maki merged with the Blue-Red movement to form Moked, and subsequently disappeared as an independent party. Moked won one seat in the 1973 elections. Later it became part of Left Camp of Israel (in 1977), then Ratz (in 1981).”
* * *
“Maki (political party) an acronym for HaMiflega HaKomunistit HaYisraelit (Hebrew: המפלגה הקומוניסטית הישראלית, Arabic: الحزب الشيوعي الاسرائيلي Al-Ḥizb ash-Shuyū'ī al-'Isrā'īlī, lit. Israeli Communist Party) is a communist political party in Israel and forms part of the political alliance known as Hadash. It was originally known as Rakah (Hebrew: רק"ח), an acronym for Reshima Komunistit Hadasha (Hebrew: רשימה קומוניסטית חדשה, lit. New Communist List), and is not the same party as the original Maki, from which it broke away in the 1960s.
Rakah was formed on 1 September 1965 due to internal disagreements in Maki. Maki, the original Israeli Communist Party, saw a split between a largely Jewish faction led by Moshe Sneh, which recognized Israel’s right to exist and was critical of the Soviet Union’s increasingly anti-Zionist stance, and a largely Arab faction, which was increasingly anti-Zionist. As a result, the pro-Palestinian faction (including Emile Habibi, Tawfik Toubi and Meir Vilner) left Maki to form a new party, Rakah, which the Soviet Union recognised as the ‘official’ Communist Party. It was reported in the Soviet media that the Mikunis-Sneh group defected to the bourgois-nationalist camp.
The 1965 elections saw Rakah party win three seats, comprehensively beating Maki as it slumped to just one. Rakah’s opposition to Zionism and the Six-Day War meant they were excluded from the national unity governments of the sixth Knesset. In the 1969 elections Rakah again won three seats. During the 1973 elections Rakah saw a rise in support as the party picked up four seats. Before the 1977 elections the party joined up with some other marginal left-wing and Arab parties, including some members of the Israeli Black Panthers to form Hadash. Hadash means ‘new’ in Hebrew, a possible reference to Rakah’s name; it is also a Hebrew acronym for The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality. In the meantime, the original Maki had disappeared after merging into Ratz in 1981. In 1989, members of Rakah decided to change the party’s name to Maki to reflect their status as the only official communist party in Israel. The party remains the leading force in Hadash to this day, and owns the Al-Ittihad newspaper.”
* * *
“The Da’am Workers Party (DWP) (Arabic: حزب دعم العمالي, Hebrew: דעם מפלגת פועלים) is a revolutionary socialist Jewish–Arab political party in Israel, where it is commonly known by the acronym Da’am (Arabic: دعم, Hebrew: דע"ם). It calls for political and social revolution in favor of workers’ rights, the nationalization of key industries, Jewish–Arab coexistence, and gender equality. The name…originates from Arabic and is a reverse acronym for the name Organization for Democratic Action (Arabic: منظمة العمل الديمقراطي, munadhamat al-'amal ad-dimoqrati). The name also means ‘support’ in Arabic.
The party was founded in Haifa in 1995 as a breakaway from Maki, the Communist Party of Israel. In the 1999 elections the party won only 2,151 votes (0.06%), well below the electoral threshold of 1.5%. The 2003 elections saw a fall in support to just 1,925 votes, though their percentage (0.06%) remained roughly the same due to a reduced turnout. Nevertheless, they still did not pass the threshold. In the 2006 elections the party more than doubled its support, winning 3,692 votes (0.11%). However, with the raising of the threshold to 2%, they were even further away from obtaining even a single seat in the Knesset. In the 2009 elections they again failed to pass the threshold and did not receive any seats. In the 2013 elections they received 3,374 votes (0.09%) and again did not obtain a seat in the Knesset. The party did not contest the 2015 elections.”
* * *
“Hadash (Hebrew: חד"ש, lit. New), an acronym for HaHazit HaDemokratit LeShalom uLeShivion (Hebrew: החזית הדמוקרטית לשלום ולשוויון, lit. The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality); Arabic: الجبهة الديمقراطية للسلام والمساواة, al-Jabhah ad-Dimuqrāṭiyyah lis-Salām wa'l-Musāwah) is a radical left-wing political coalition in Israel formed by the Israeli Communist Party and other leftist groups. It currently has five members, as part of the Joint List, in the 120-seat Knesset.
The party was formed on 15 March 1977 when the Rakah and Non-Partisans parliamentary group changed its name to Hadash in preparation for the 1977 elections. The non-partisans included some members of the Black Panthers (several others joined the Left Camp of Israel) and other left-wing non-communist groups. Within the Hadash movement, Rakah (which was renamed Maki, a Hebrew acronym for Israeli Communist Party, in 1989) has retained its independent status. [….]
It emphasizes Jewish–Arab cooperation, and its leaders were among the first to support a two-state solution. Its voters are principally middle class and secular Arabs, many from the north and Christian communities. It also draws 6,000–10,000 far-left Jewish voters during national elections.
The party supports evacuation of all Israeli settlements, a complete withdrawal by Israel from all territories occupied as a result of the Six-Day War, and the establishment of a Palestinian state in those territories. It also supports the right of return or compensation for Palestinian refugees. In addition to issues of peace and security, Hadash is also known for being active on social and environmental issues. In keeping with socialist ideals, Hadash’s environmental platform, led by Maki official Dov Khenin, calls for the nationalization of Israel’s gas, mineral, and oil reserves.
Hadash defines itself as a non-Zionist party, originally in keeping with Marxist opposition to nationalism. It calls for recognition of Palestinian Arabs as a national minority within Israel. Despite it Marxist–Leninist roots, Hadash has in recent times included elements of Arab nationalism in its platform.”
At the Arms Control Law blog, Dan Joyner blog provocatively proposes “a walkout from the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] en masse by the members of the NAM [Non-Aligned Movement]”:
[….] “The original idea of the NPT from the superpowers’ perspective, was to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons from spreading outside the five that had already tested at the time. This clearly didn’t work out well. At least five other states have manufactured nuclear weapons since 1968 (I’m counting South Africa), and four of these still have them. And I think one would be hard pressed to show that the NPT itself has actually proven to be a meaningful independent variable in stopping any country from developing nuclear weapons when they wanted to do so. This is going to be a difficult experiment without a control case, of course. But I think the ‘proliferation success stories’ that are usually pointed to, including South Africa and Brazil, would probably have happened in much the same way they did without the NPT in place, but rather simply with an international norm having been expressed in General Assembly resolutions and elsewhere against nuclear weapons proliferation. These success stories, as well as the failure stories (e.g. North Korea), have occurred mostly due to factors outside of any direct influence of the NPT itself. They have occurred because of the particular political, historical, and economic circumstances of the state(s) involved, combined with a general international norm against nuclear proliferation, which as I said earlier could have been accomplished without the conclusion of the NPT. [….]
I would say the current climate of international trade in nuclear materials and technologies doesn’t betray any sort of real meaningful effect of the Article IV right and obligation on supplier states. Nuclear supplier states trade with whomever they want to trade. And if they don’t want to trade with a state, or allow their private parties to trade with that state, they simply won’t, with very little regard for the Article IV(2) obligation that they are presumably under. Trade in nuclear materials and technologies is, again, all about politics and economics. And again, I think that in the absence of the NPT, the landscape of international trade in nuclear technologies would look very much the same as it does now.
And what about Article VI? Well I think it’s pretty clear that no nuclear weapons possessing state has ever been significantly influenced by the obligation in Article VI to move towards disarmament in good faith [rather, they’re engaged in modernizing their nuclear arsenals]. After more than 45 years the nuclear weapons states do just exactly what they want to do with regard to nuclear disarmament [that is, engaging in what has been termed ‘symbolic reductions’] and no more. All of the changes that have been made would, I think, have been made in the absence of the NPT. The Cold War ramp up, the efforts of arms control during and after it, cuts over the past 25 years – none of these would have been any different had the NPT not been in place I suspect.
So if the NPT has failed in the ways I have described, why does every diplomat, from Russia to Nigeria, still pay lip service to the NPT as the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime, and speak of it in hallowed terms? For the nuclear weapons states I think it’s clear why. They still benefit from having a treaty that allows them and no one else to have nuclear weapons, and that doesn’t seriously constrain them in any way. A treaty they can use as a normative cudgel against their enemies, but which carries very few costs for them and their friends.
But what about for developing non-nuclear weapon states? What do they get out of NPT membership? Again, the concessions they wanted out of the NPT have not been granted to them in the systematic and meaningful way they were promised in the NPT. They get nuclear supplies if and when they are on good enough political terms with supplier states. If not, they don’t. And 45+ years of waiting for the nuclear weapon states to disarm has yielded not one disarmed state among the NWS – and in fact it has produced a net addition of four more nuclear armed states outside of the treaty.
And yet in return for these promised but undelivered benefits, NNWS continue to submit to IAEA safeguards on their nuclear facilities, and to hypocritical critiques by nuclear weapon states of their failure to live up to their NPT and IAEA commitments. So I ask again, what are they getting out of NPT membership?” [….]
My bibliography, “Nuclear Weapons: Development, Detonation, Deterrence, and Disarmament,” his here.
[In photo (from left to right): Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein of Egypt, Sukharno of Indonesia, and Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia.]
Charles White, “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep,” 1956
“The roots of the cosmopolitanism I am defending are liberal: and they are responsive to liberalism’s insistence on human dignity. It has never been easy to say what this entails, and indeed, it seems to me that exploring what it might mean is liberalism’s historic project.”—Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity (Princeton University Press, 2005): 267.
“Whether or not the notion that the international legal human rights system is grounded in and serves to affirm the inherent dignity of humans is a central feature of the system, it is surely at least a desideratum for a justification of the system that it can make sense of this notion given its prominence. [….] [T]he relevant notion of dignity can be understood to include two aspects. First, there is the idea that certain conditions of living are beneath the dignity of the sort of being that humans are. [….] Let us call this first aspect of dignity the well-being threshold aspect.
The second aspect of dignity is the interpersonal comparative aspect, the idea that treating people with dignity also requires a public affirmation of the basic equal status of all and, again, that if they are not treated in this way they suffer an injury or wrong. [….] The well-being threshold aspect of dignity concerns whether one is doing well enough for a being of the sort one is; it makes no reference to how one is treated vis-à-vis others. The interpersonal comparative aspect has to do with whether one is being treated as an inferior relative to other people. The point is that one’s dignity can be respected in the well-being threshold aspect and yet may be compromised in the interpersonal comparative aspect.”—Allen Buchanan, The Heart of Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013): 99-100.
I have a guest post up at the U.S. Intellectual History blog (Saturday, April 4) with a short bibliography on Liberalism (introduced with an apologia). I want to thank L.D. Burnett for prompting me to put together this list and the invitation to post it at the blog of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.
Imagine you’re assigned the task of coming up with a list of books—say, for a graduate level seminar— by way of covering or at least suggesting the breadth and depth of both classical and contemporary Liberalism (as a political philosophy or political philosophies). Your list is limited to seven titles. What seven books would you recommend? Your readers are familiar with the more or less canonical writers of the Liberal tradition. Here is my perhaps idiosyncratic compilation:
The latest issue of the “independent socialist” periodical, Monthly Review, has two articles that might interest this blog’s readers: Fred Magdoff’s, “A Rational Agriculture Is Incompatible with Capitalism,” and Michael Friedman’s “GMOs: Capitalism’s Distortion of Biological Processes.” With the “print” icon one can access PDF versions of either article.
Fred Magdoff “is professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and a long-time commentator on political-economic topics. He is co-author, with John Bellamy Foster, of The Great Financial Crisis (2009) and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (2011),” as well as co-editor, with Brian Tokar, of Agriculture and Food in Crisis (2010), all three volumes published by Monthly Review Press.
Michael Friedman “earned his PhD in biology at the Genomics Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History and currently works as an adjunct at City University of New York (CUNY).”
On the nature of “post-academic science,” please see the indispensable characterization and transdisciplinary analysis in John Ziman’s Real Science: What it is, and what it means (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
(cross-posted at the Agricultural Law blog)
Robert C. Hockett and Saule T. Omarova have posted a draft of their important—hence highly recommended—new article, “Public Actors in Private Markets: Toward a Developmental Finance State,” at SSRN, available here. The abstract:
The recent financial crisis brought into sharp relief fundamental questions about the social function and purpose of the financial system, including its relation to the “real” economy. This Article argues that, to answer these questions, we must recapture a distinctively American view of the proper relations among state, financial market, and development. This programmatic vision – captured in what we call a “developmental finance state” – is based on three key propositions: (1) that economic and social development is not an “end-state” but a continuing national policy priority; (2) that the modalities of finance are the most potent means of fueling development; and (3) that the state, as the most potent financial actor, both must and often does pursue its developmental goals by acting endogenously – i.e., as a direct participant in private financial markets. In addition to articulating and elaborating the concept of the developmental finance state, this Article identifies and analyzes the principal modalities through which the modern American developmental finance state operates today. Finally, the Article proposes three broad strategic extensions of the existing modalities, with a view to enabling the emergence of a more ambitiously proactive and effective developmental finance state – and thus rediscovering a truly public-minded finance.
As Hockett and Omarova note,
“our polity never has been strictly ‘command-and-control’ or ‘hands-off’ in relation to our economy. Rather, we have always sought means of proactively fostering and furthering economic development and growth, and have done so through government instrumentalities that act in markets as much as they act on them. Our government is more than merely a market overseer and regulator – it is also a direct market participant, acting not only to correct market failures or to provide vital public goods but also to create, amplify, and guide private markets in ways that enhance these markets’ potential to serve important long-term public interests.”
Intriguingly, they characterize the rhetorical strategy of the argument as one that
“identifies, analyzes, and builds upon the distinctly American mode of mixing polity and economy, in hopes of recovering a policy approach that the nation once had and could use again now, after a major financial crisis. The tradition we seek to recover traces its roots directly to ideas originally formulated by the country’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. We refer to that tradition under the conceptual heading of the ‘developmental finance state.’”
However refreshing the invocation of Hamilton, I’m not sure how significant or even true it is to view this as a “distinctly American mode of mixing polity and economy,” for in the comparative terms of welfare capitalism or capitalist democracy (keeping in mind that such regimes ‘represent different ways of organizing not only the transfer sector, represented by social welfare policy, but also the productive sector of the capitalist economy’), this seems merely to bring the conventional model of the “liberal welfare regime,” exemplified by the United States, closer to a corporatist or even social-democratic model, an alternative characterization that may not prove as rhetorically pliable to a fair- or open-minded assessment of their proposal. In any case, I believe a move in this direction would portend progress on several fronts, not the least of which would involve movement toward satisfying moral and political values that have been used as criteria for assessing the “real worlds of welfare capitalism,” namely, (1) efficiency (of various economic kinds), (2) reduction of poverty, (3) promotion of equality, (4) promotion of social integration and avoidance of social exclusion, (5) promotion of social stability, and (6) promotion of individual autonomy. On this, please see Robert E. Goodin, et al., eds. The Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
Here is a clear and compelling conceptual outline and working definition of this “developmental finance state:”
“Three propositions form the basis of our argument. First of all, we assert the utmost significance of pursuing socio-economic development as a continuous national project that does not end once a country is sufficiently industrialized and modernized to be considered a ‘developed’ economy. Development is not a particular end-of-history state; it is an inherently dynamic phenomenon. Development is a conscious pursuit of qualitative (not merely quantitative) growth and adaptation to new environments; it is an evolutionary process of national self-definition and reinvention. In today’s world, any ‘developed’ nation that does not strive to develop risks losing its global competitive edge. In this sense, the United States is a developing country, whether or not Americans realize or admit it. We seek to re-introduce this critically important normative concept into the public discourse.
Secondly, we view this conscious pursuit of national development as a fundamentally public-private enterprise. As the ultimate public, collective actor, the federal government is well-positioned to formulate a national developmental strategy. But its successful implementation would require the government to utilize, deliberately and systematically, its ability to participate directly in private market transactions as an endogenous, rather than merely exogenous, actor. Via this explicitly participatory market-actor modality, the government can lead the market from within – thus becoming an integral part of the private market, altering some of the market’s potentially undesirable internal dynamics, and empowering both the market and the nation.
Finally, we deliberately focus on the use of financial techniques and financial instruments as primary methods of the government’s pursuit of developmental goals in its role as a market actor. Finance represents both the lifeblood of the economy and ‘the nerves of the state’ – it is the principal link connecting the state and the market. Finance is a universal productive input; it can be fairly easily moved and re-deployed for a multitude of purposes.
Moreover, the increasing financialization of the American economy in recent decades makes finance a particularly potent lever of economic and political power. Therefore, we view financial markets as the strategic arena in which America’s future developmental trajectory will be decided. These three elements, inspired by and building upon Hamiltonian ideas, define the contours of what we tentatively call here a developmental finance state model. A ‘developmental finance state’ can be defined as a state that pursues specific developmental goals through direct participation in private financial markets as an endogenous market actor.”
I hope this proves sufficient enticement for you to read the article.
“A descendant of the wife of Hong Yen Chang was researching a book about an ancestor when she learned that her great-grand-uncle Chang had received a law degree but never practiced in California. She contacted another relative, who spoke to a historian at the State Bar of California. The California Supreme Court had denied Chang a law license because he was Chinese.
‘The family was troubled that it happened, but we didn't ever imagine there was anything we could do about it,’ said Rachelle Chong, a prominent lawyer and Chang’s great-grand-niece. Twenty five years later, she received a note from a UC Davis law professor. His students were going to try to overturn the decision that denied Chang admission to the California bar.
That reversal finally came Monday, when the California Supreme Court closed a chapter in the state’s history of anti-Chinese laws and decided unanimously to give Chang a posthumous law license. In a nine-page ruling, the state’s highest court repudiated its 1890 decision denying Chang a license because ‘persons of the Mongolian race’ were not entitled to citizenship. ‘More than a century later, the legal and policy underpinnings of our 1890 decision have been discredited,’ the court said in Monday’s unsigned decision. ‘Even if we cannot undo history,’ the ruling said,’ we can acknowledge it and, in so doing, accord a full measure of recognition to Chang’s pathbreaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States.’
The project to award Chang a license posthumously began in 2011 with UC Davis law professor Gabriel Chin, who specializes in the law and race, immigration and criminal law. The 1890 California precedent has long been ‘notorious among Asian American legal scholars,’ Chin said. ‘It is a particularly bitter and shocking decision.’
Chin asked his students try to find a way to address that ignominious ruling. They researched the legal issues and the history and filed a petition with the state bar, which oversees lawyer licensing. The bar was sympathetic but did not have the authority to admit Chang posthumously.
The students bided their time.
When the California Supreme Court decided last year to give a law license to a Mexican immigrant who had no green card, the students’ confidence grew. They also were encouraged by the makeup of the top court. Three of the justices, including the chief justice, are Asian American. One is Latino, another is African American and two are white women. ‘I believed we had a really strong case,’ said Steven Vong, co-president of UC Davis Asian Pacific American Law Students Assn., which brought the case.
The law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson offered to represent the students for free. Jeffrey Bleich and two other San Francisco-based lawyers with the firm filed a motion with the court late last year. As a former president of the state bar, Bleich said he was particularly offended by the treatment of Chang. ‘I thought it was important to start addressing a stain on California’s judicial history and make amends to the Chinese people,’ he said.
The 1890 California ruling had denied Chang a law license under the federal Chinese Exclusion Act, which Congress passed at California’s urging and which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld. It barred citizenship for the ‘Mongolian race’ and imposed a 10-year ban on Chinese immigration.
Because citizenship or eligibility for citizenship was required for a California law license, Chang had to be excluded, the court said in its infamous ruling. ‘Courts are expressly forbidden to issue certificates of naturalization to any native of China,’ the court ruled.” [….]
The entire article from the Los Angeles Times is here.
In an earlier post on this case from last year I discussed posthumous justice for apartheid-era lawyers in South Africa:
[....] Following the 1994 elections in South Africa, a “Restoration of Enrolment of Certain Legal Practitioners Bill” had been in the works, aimed at figures like Bram Fischer, Shun Chetty and Lewis Baker who were disbarred or struck off the roll of attorneys for various reasons that arose out of their activist political opposition to apartheid. On October 28, 2002, the Reinstatement of Enrolment of Certain Deceased Legal Practitioners Act was passed into law by the Parliament and later signed by the President. The Bill reads as follows:
* * * To provide for the reinstatement of the enrolment of certain deceased legal practitioners who were struck off the roll of advocates or attorneys as a result of their opposition to the previous political dispensation of apartheid or their assistance to persons who were opposed to the said apartheid dispensation; and to provide for matters connected therewith. [....]
“The state, largely in the form of the federal government, has had an important background role in providing the environment in which the biotechnology industry could be created. Numerous state interventions made the formation of the biotechnology industry possible. Federal government funding of NIH [National Institutes of Health] and NSF [National Science Foundation] research built the basic scientific knowledge from which commercial biotechnology developed. The entire history of molecular biology is that of federal funding of ‘basic’ research that was meant to create the technical base necessary to understand and cure diseases.” Martin Kenney, Bio-technology: The University-Industrial Complex (Yale University Press, 1986): 241.
“It’s no surprise that Apple’s tremendously successful line of products—iPads, iPhones, and iPods—incorporate twelve key innovations. All twelve (central processing units, dynamic random-access memory, hard-drive disks, liquid-crystal displays, batteries, digital single processing, the Internet, the HTTP and HTML languages, cellular networks, GPS system, and voice-user AI programs) were developed by publicly funded research and development projects.” – From Tony Smith’s article, “Red Innovation,” in the latest issue of Jacobin (Spring 2015). Smith, a professor of philosophy at Iowa State University, is the author of, among other books, Technology and Capital in the Age of Lean Production: A Marxian Critique of the “New Economy” (SUNY Press, 2000).
“Two facts are clear: (1) There is nothing in [seventeenth-century English philosopher John] Locke’s theory that lends an iota of legitimacy to the contemporary institution of slavery in the Americas; and (2) African slavery in the Americas was a reality and Locke himself was implicated with it… [i.e., he ‘invested money personally both in plantation enterprises and in an enterprise (the Royal African Company) that had a monopoly in the slave trade’].”—Waldron, Jeremy. God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations of Locke’s Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2002): 206.
My bibliography on slavery is here.
“Some of the greatest works of literature and social commentary—everything from Don Quixote, to O. Henry’s stories, to Martin Luther King Jr’s, Letter from a Birmingham Jail—were written in whole or in part while their authors were incarcerated. In many prisons and jails today, however, speech is burdened by regulations that make little sense. Examples include the following:
I can’t speak with authority to the proposed solutions, but please see David M. Shapiro, “Lenient in Theory, Dumb in Fact: Prison, Speech, and Scrutiny“ (February 20, 2015). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 15-08: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2568132 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2568132
See too: (1) In a different vein, see this guest post from several years ago at The Faculty Lounge: “The Bard of Avon in Prison.” (2) The Atlantic: “Why Shakespeare Belongs In Prison.” (3) From Louisville, Kentucky, “Shakespeare Behind Bars.” (4) A bibliography on “punishment and prison.”
[….] The overall picture that the documents paint is not of a rogue agency, but of a rogue administration. Yes, the CIA affirmatively proposed to use patently illegal tactics — waterboarding, sleep deprivation, physical assault, and painful stress positions. But at every turn, senior officials and lawyers in the White House and the Department of Justice reassured the agency that it could — and should — go forward. The documents reveal an agency that is extremely sensitive to whether the program is legally authorized and approved by higher-ups — no doubt because it understood that what it was doing was at a minimum controversial, and very possibly illegal. The documents show that the CIA repeatedly raised questions along these lines, and even suspended the program when the OLC was temporarily unwilling to say, without further review, whether the techniques would ‘shock the conscience’ in violation of the Fifth Amendment. But at every point where the White House and the DOJ could have and should have said no to tactics that were patently illegal, they said yes.
From the start, the administration crafted its policies to give the CIA leeway. In February 2002, for example, even before the CIA detainee and interrogation program had formally begun, President Bush issued a memo declaring that while the Geneva Conventions do not apply to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, US Armed Forces would nonetheless as a matter of policy treat detainees humanely. At the time, critics, myself included, focused on Bush’s caveat that ‘military necessity’ might justify inhumane treatment. But one of the documents reveals that the administration also intentionally drafted the memo to exclude the CIA. (To his credit, Marty Lederman may have been the first to identify the significance of the focus on the Armed Forces, but that was not until many years later in January 2005.) A declassified February 2003 memo drafted by CIA General Counsel Scott Muller reports that Justice Department lawyer John Yoo told Muller in January 2003 ‘that the language of the [February 2002] memorandum had been deliberately limited to be binding only on ‘the Armed Forces’ which did not include the CIA.’ Yoo also confirmed that in drafting his memo authorizing the CIA program, he had considered the intent and effect of the February 2002 memo, and concluded that it posed no bar.
The declassified documents also reveal that Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser, and John Bellinger, her lawyer, both of whom many years later sought to restrict use of the CIA’s techniques, were personally and intimately involved in the initial approval of the tactics. In April 2002, shortly after Abu Zubaydah was captured, Bellinger arranged the first meeting on the subject of enhanced interrogation, and told OLC that the State Department should be kept out of the loop. His boss, Rice, gave policy approval to the tactics in July 2002, pending legal sign-off by the Department of Justice, which came one week later, in the now infamous August 1, 2002 memo drafted by Yoo and Bybee. The documents do not reveal what Rice was told by Bellinger, her counsel, about the legality of approving waterboarding, extended sleep deprivation, and the like, but there is no sign that he told her the tactics were illegal. If he had done so, it would have been very difficult for her to approve the tactics in the face of such advice.
In December 2002, Bellinger twice confirmed to CIA General Counsel Muller that ‘use of the type of techniques authorized by the Attorney General had been extensively discussed and was consistent with the President’s …. February Memo.’ On January 13, 2003, in a meeting with Muller, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the Vice-President David Addington, Yoo, and Defense Department General Counsel Jim Haynes, Gonzales and Addington also reaffirmed that the February 2002 memo about humane treatment did not apply to the CIA. And three days later, in a meeting with Rice, Secretary of Defense Dnnald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and Haynes, Muller yet again raised the possible inconsistency between ‘what the CIA was authorized to do and what at least some in the international community might expect in light of the Administration’s public statements about ‘humane treatment’ of detainees.’ According to Muller, ‘Everyone in the room evinced understanding of the issue. CIA’s past and ongoing use of enhanced techniques was reaffirmed…. Rice clearly distinguished between the issues to be addressed by the military and CIA.’
In July 2003, after Jim Haynes wrote a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) contending that US policy “is to treat all detainees and conduct all interrogations, wherever they may occur, in a manner consistent with [the Constitution],” the CIA again raised concerns about whether the administration’s public commitment to humane treatment could be squared with its program – understandably, as its tactics were the very opposite of humane, and would plainly be unconstitutional if applied to anyone protected by the Constitution. Another declassified document shows that CIA Director George Tenet sent a memo to Rice requesting express reaffirmation of the CIA’s program. Later that month, Tenet met with, among others Attorney General Ashcroft, DOJ lawyer Patrick Philbin, Rice, Gonzales, Bellinger, and Cheney to review the program. Ashcroft, backed by a full explication by Philbin, “forcefully reiterated the view of the Department of Justice that the techniques being employed by the CIA were and remain lawful and do not violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment.” When Ashcroft was told that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed had been waterboarded 119 times, Ashcroft replied “that he was fully aware of the facts and that CIA was ‘well within’ the scope of the [OLC] opinion.” Cheney, Rice, and Ashcroft all confirmed that the CIA was “executing Administration policy.”
After the Abu Ghraib photos were released in April 2004, the CIA again sought reaffirmation of its program. In fact, in May 2004, Tenet suspended the interrogation program, and expressly requested the NSC Principals and the Attorney General to approve of the CIA’s tactics yet again. The next month, the Washington Post published the August 2002 OLC memo, the first written approval of the torture tactics, which until then had remained a secret. As soon as that memo became public, then-OLC head Jack Goldsmith withdrew it; what everyone went along with in private was not sustainable once exposed to the light of day. Yet at a meeting in July 2004 with Rice, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Bellinger, and Deputy Attorney General James Comey, Rice said that the CIA’s techniques were in her view humane, and Ashcroft reaffirmed their legality (apart from waterboarding, which the DOJ was then reevaluating). The next month, Daniel Levin, the new head of the OLC, authorized the use of the waterboard for a particular detainee (although the CIA did not ultimately use the waterboard in that instance).
In December 2004, as has been previously reported, Levin issued a new memo on interrogation techniques, to replace the withdrawn August 1, 2002 memo. Its rhetoric was designed to sound more reasonable than the initial memo, but it included a critical footnote, stating that the OLC did not believe any of its conclusions regarding previously approved interrogation techniques would be different under the new standards. In other words, nothing material had changed. The OLC was still saying yes. About six months later, still another OLC head, Stephen Bradbury, wrote two memos opining that none of the CIA’s techniques were cruel, inhuman, or degrading, nor would they violate the Constitution if employed against detainees in the United States.
In short, the declassified documents reveal that the CIA was very nervous about the legal authority for its interrogation program – even after DOJ and White House officials had repeatedly given the program their blessings. It is almost as if the CIA had a guilty conscience; it knew what it was doing was wrong, so it had to be repeatedly reassured that it was okay. Above all, it seems, the agency wanted to make sure it had legal cover.
But the documents also underscore an equally important point, one not sufficiently emphasized by the SSCI Report and the coverage of it: the CIA was only one part of this conspiracy to commit war crimes. The scheme had the participation and express or tacit assent of many others, from President Bush and Vice-President Cheney and the NSC Principals on down to Justice Department lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Patrick Philbin, Daniel Levin, Stephen Bradbury, DOD General Counsel Jim Haynes, Counsel to the Vice-President David Addington, and Counsel to the National Security Adviser John Bellinger. Not one of these people said no. Had any one of them done so, the program might well have been stopped in its tracks. Yet most of them have gone on to lucrative, prestigious, and/or powerful positions in private practice, the academy, or other government positions. Where is the accountability for their part in the CIA’s grievous wrong?
* * *
And here’s a link to my bibliography, Torture: Moral, Legal, and Political Dimensions.
I’m saddened by the death of Monroe Freedman.
“For 42 years as a professor and dean at Hofstra Law, Monroe instilled in thousands of students the responsibility of lawyers to zealously represent their clients and also to stand for social justice.
Nationally he was known as the father of modern legal ethics for his successful effort to introduce the field into the mainstream of the legal academy. For this, he received the American Bar Association’s highest award for professionalism, in recognition of ‘a lifetime of original and influential scholarship in the field of lawyers’ ethics,’ and his peers have called him ‘the conscience of our profession.’”
From today’s obituary notice in the The Washington Post:
[….] Mr. Freedman became a nationally renowned expert on civil liberties while serving as a law professor at George Washington University from 1958 to 1973 and later at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
He became even better known for his contributions to the emerging field of ethics, in which he addressed the sometimes conflicting responsibilities of a lawyer toward clients and toward the court.
‘He was a towering figure in the legal academy and especially in legal ethics,’ Georgetown University law professor Abbe Smith, who taught alongside Mr. Freedman and published books with him, said in an interview. ‘He was universally regarded as the founder of modern legal ethics as an academic field.’
Mr. Freedman wrote textbooks on the subject, and his landmark 1966 article, “The Three Hardest Questions,” remains a mainstay of the study of legal ethics to this day.
The article, which appeared in the Michigan Law Review, outlined three central obligations that every defense lawyer is bound to uphold: understanding all the facts of a case; preserving the confidentiality of a client; and being candid and forthcoming to the court.
There are times, however, when these legal principles can be in conflict, producing what Mr. Freedman called a ‘trilemma.’ The trust between a lawyer and client, he argued, is a fundamental cornerstone of the legal system and is essential to discovering the truth. But what is the lawyer’s responsibility if a client says he will not testify honestly on the witness stand?
Which legal obligation is more important — confidentiality or candor? Mr. Freedman suggested that a defense lawyer’s primary duty is to be his client’s best advocate. The judicial system, after all, rests on the presumption that defendants are innocent unless the prosecution can prove otherwise. A defense attorney’s first responsibility, in other words, is to maintain the confidence of his client’s private discussions, not to declare the client guilty.
Lawyers have wrestled with such thorny questions for centuries, Smith said, but until Mr. Freedman’s groundbreaking study, ‘no one sat down and thought about these things and wrote them out.’ [….]
While teaching at GWU’s law school in the early 1960s, Mr. Freedman chaired the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, advised civil rights groups and was an early champion of women’s rights. He was the volunteer counsel to the Mattachine Society, one of the country’s first gay-rights organizations.
… Mr. Freedman sometimes adopted other unpopular stances. He participated in antiwar protests during the Vietnam War, raised questions about the fairness of federal juries and even challenged civil rights leaders to expand their views of liberty beyond the issue of race. ‘When a man fights for civil rights only when he is directly involved,’ he said in a speech at Howard University in 1963, ‘his real concern is himself, and not the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or his fellow man. Negro civil-rights leaders, like everyone else, should be civil libertarians, regardless of race or color.’
In 1973, Mr. Freedman became the law school dean at Hofstra, only to resign four years later in a dispute with the university’s leadership. He remained on the faculty, however, and lectured widely throughout the country. He was the first executive director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, from 1980 to 1982.” [….] For the entire article, see here.
I was fortunate to have occasionally corresponded with Monroe on a variety of topics. At the Legal Ethics Forum we had a few spirited debates related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that was perhaps the only issue on which we did not, more or less, see eye-to-eye. When Monroe was once scheduled to give a lecture abroad he wrote to inquire what I knew about the differences between the adversary and inquisitorial legal systems (not very much), so I sent him some articles I thought he could tackle in a short span of time. But that was not representative of our cyberspace relationship, as it was more often yours truly on the learning end, especially with regard to our criminal justice system: the legal right to counsel, the abuse of prosecutorial discretion and the inordinate power of the American prosecutor generally, and, relatedly, the “elusive quest for poor people’s justice” (the subtitle of Karen Houppert’s 2013 book, Chasing Gideon). And I was honored to be among those who routinely received Monroe’s articles by post. Finally, I’m blessed to count among my law books a copy of his text on lawyers’ ethics (co-authored with Abbe Smith), as well as his co-edited work, How Can You Represent Those People? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Inside the latter, Monroe penned a very kind and supportive note that is a fitting memorial token of all the reasons I will sorely miss this remarkable human being.
We’re paying tribute to Monroe over at the Legal Ethics Forum, where he was a blogger. And at Dorf on Law, Professor James Sample shares a personal remembrance of his colleague. Update: Also at LEF: Abbe Smith delivered this moving tribute at Monroe’s memorial....
An interview with Paul Robeson on KPFA (thanks to Michael Duff for the link).
In honor of Black History Month:
“Faulkner and Desegregation”
By James Baldwin
Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or thought one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges. All men have gone through this, go through it, each according to his degree, throughout their lives. It is one of the irreducible facts of life. And remembering this, especially since I am a Negro, affords me almost my only means of understanding what is happening in the minds and hearts of white Southerners today.
For the arguments with which the bulk of relatively articulate white Southerners of goodwill have met the necessity of desegregation have no value whatever as arguments, being almost entirely and helplessly dishonest, when not, indeed, insane. After more than two hundred years in slavery and ninety years of quasi-freedom, it is hard to think very highly of William Faulkner’s advice to “go slow.” “They don’t mean go slow,” Thurgood Marshall is reported to have said, “they mean don’t go.” Nor is the squire of Oxford very persuasive when he suggests that white Southerners, left to their own devices, will realize that their own social structure looks silly to the rest of the world and correct it of their own accord. It has looked silly, to use Faulkner’s rather strange adjective, for a long time; so far from trying to correct it, Southerners, who seem to be characterized by a species of defiance most perverse when it is most despairing, have clung to it, at incalculable cost to themselves, as the only conceivable and as an absolutely sacrosanct way of life. They have never seriously conceded that their social structure was mad. They have insisted, on the contrary, that everyone who criticized it was mad.
Faulkner goes further. He concedes the madness and moral wrongness of the South but at the same time he raises it to the level of a mystique which makes it somehow unjust to discuss Southern society in the same terms in which one would discuss any other society. “Our position is wrong and untenable,” says Faulkner, “but it is not wise to keep an emotional people off balance.” This, if it means anything, can only mean that this “emotional people” have been swept “off balance” by the pressure of recent events, that is, the Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation. When the pressure is taken off—and not an instant before—this “emotional people” will presumably find themselves once again on balance and will then be able to free themselves of an “obsolescence in [their] own land” in their own way and, of course, in their own time. The question left begging is what, in their history to date, affords any evidence that they have any desire, or capacity to do this. And it is, I suppose, impertinent to ask just what Negroes are supposed to do while the South works out what, in Faulkner’s rhetoric, becomes something very closely resembling a high and noble tragedy
The sad truth is that whatever modifications have been effected in the social structure of the South since the Reconstruction, and any alleviations of the Negro’s lot within it, are due to great and incessant pressure, very little of it indeed from within the South. That the North has been guilty of Pharisaism in its dealing with the South does not negate the fact that much of this pressure has come from the North. That some—not nearly as many as Faulkner would like to believe—Southern Negroes prefer, or are afraid of changing the status quo does not negate the fact that it is the Southern Negro himself who, year upon year, and generation upon generation, has kept the Southern waters troubled. As far as the Negro’s life in the South is concerned, the NAACP is the only organization which has struggled, with admirable single–mindedness and skill, to raise him to the level of a citizen. For this reason alone, and quite apart from the individual heroism of many of its Southern members, it cannot be equated, as Faulkner equates it, with the pathological Citizen’s Council. One organization is working within the law and the other is working against, and outside it. Faulkner’s threat to leave the “middle of the road” where he has, presumably, all these years, been working for the benefit of Negroes, reduces itself to a more or less up-to-date version of the Southern threat to secede from the Union.
Faulkner—among so many others!—is so plaintive concerning this “middle of the road” from which “extremist” elements of both races are driving him that it does not seem unfair to ask just what he has been doing there until now. Where is the evidence of the struggle he has been carrying on there on behalf of the Negro? Why, if he and his enlightened confreres in the South have been boring from within to destroy segregation, do they react with such panic when the walls show any signs of falling? Why—and how—does one move from the middle of the road where one was aiding Negroes into the streets to shoot them?
Now it is easy enough to state flatly that Faulkner’s middle of the road does not—cannot—exist and that he is guilty of great emotional and intellectual dishonesty in pretending that it does. I think this is why he clings to his fantasy. It is easy enough to accuse him of hypocrisy when he speaks of man being “indestructible because of his simple will to freedom.” But he is not being hypocritical; he means it. It is only that Man is one thing—a rather unlucky abstraction in this case—and the Negroes he has always known, so fatally tied up in his mind with his grandfather’s slaves, are quite another. He is at his best, and is perfectly sincere when he declares, in Harpers: “To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow. We have already got snow. And as with the Alaskan, merely to live in armistice with it is not enough. Like the Alaskan, we had better use it.” And though this seems to be flatly opposed to his statement (in an interview printed in The Reporter) that, if it came to a contest between the Federal government and Mississippi, he would fight for Mississippi, “even if it meant going out into the streets and shooting Negroes,” he means that, too. Faulkner means everything he says, means them all at once, and with very nearly the same intensity. This is why his statements demand our attention. He has perhaps never before more concretely expressed what it means to be a Southerner.
What seems to define the Southerner, in his own mind at any rate, is his relationship to the North, that is, to the rest of the Republic, a relationship which can at the very best be described as uneasy. It is apparently very difficult to be at once a Southerner and an American; so difficult that many of the South’s most independent minds are forced into the American exile; which is not, of course, without its aggravating, circular effect on the interior and public life of the South. A Bostonian, say, who leaves Boston is not regarded by the citizenry he has abandoned with the same venomous distrust as is the Southerner who leaves the South. The citizenry of Boston do not consider that they have been abandoned, much less betrayed. It is only the American Southerner who seems to be fighting, in his own entrails, a peculiar, ghastly, and perpetual war with all the rest of the country. (‘Didn’t you say,’ demanded a Southern woman of Robert Penn Warren, ‘that you was born down here, used to live right near here?’ And when he agreed that this was so: ‘Yes . . . but you never said where you living now!’)
The difficulty, perhaps, is that the Southerner clings to two entirely antithetical doctrines, two legends, two histories. Like all other Americans, he must subscribe, and is to some extent controlled by the beliefs and the principles expressed in the Constitution; at the same time, these beliefs and principles seem determined to destroy the South. He is, on the one hand, the proud citizen of a free society and, on the other, is committed to a society which has not yet dared to free itself of the necessity of naked and brutal oppression. He is part of a country which boasts that it has never lost a war; but he is also the representative of a conquered nation. I have not seen a single statement of Faulkner’s concerning desegregation which does not inform us that his family has lived in the same part of Mississippi for generations, that his great-grandfather owned slaves, and that his ancestors fought and died in the Civil War. And so compelling is the image of ruin, gallantry and death thus evoked that it demands a positive effort of the imagination to remember that slaveholding Southerners were not the only people who perished in that war. Negroes and Northerners were also blown to bits. American history, as opposed to Southern history, proves that Southerners were not the only slaveholders, Negroes were not even the only slaves. And the segregation which Faulkner sanctifies by references to Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Gettysburg does not extend back that far, is, in fact, scarcely as old as the century. The “racial condition” which Faulkner will not have changed by “mere force of law or economic threat” was imposed by precisely these means. The Southern tradition, which is, after all, all that Faulkner is talking about, is not a tradition at all: when Faulkner evokes it, he is simply evoking a legend which contains an accusation. And that accusation, stated far more simply than it should be, is that the North, in winning the war, left the South only one means of asserting its identity and that means was the Negro.
“My people owned slaves,” says Faulkner, “and the very obligation we have to take care of these people is morally bad.” “This problem is ... far beyond the moral one it is and still was a hundred years ago, in 1860, when many Southerners, including Robert Lee, recognized it as a moral one at the very instant they in turn elected to champion the underdog because that underdog was blood and kin and home.” But the North escaped scot-free. For one thing, in freeing the slave, it established a moral superiority over the South which the South has not learned to live with until today; and this despite—or possibly because of—the fact that this moral superiority was bought, after all, rather cheaply. The North was no better prepared than the South, as it turned out, to make citizens of former slaves, but it was able, as the South was not, to wash its hands of the matter. Men who knew that slavery was wrong were forced, nevertheless, to fight to perpetuate it because they were unable to turn against “blood and kin and home.” And when blood and kin and home were defeated, they found themselves, more than ever, committed: committed, in effect, to a way of life which was as unjust and crippling as it was inescapable. In sum, the North, by freeing the slaves of their masters, robbed the masters of any possibility of freeing themselves of the slaves.
When Faulkner speaks, then, of the “middle of the road,” he is simply speaking of the hope—which was always unrealistic and is now all but smashed—that the white Southerner, with no coercion from the rest of the nation, will lift himself above his ancient, crippling bitterness and refuse to add to his already intolerable burden of blood-guiltiness. But this hope would seem to be absolutely dependent on a social and psychological stasis which simply does not exist. “Things have been getting better,” Faulkner tells us, “for a long time. Only six Negroes were killed by whites in Mississippi last year, according to police figures.” Faulkner surely knows how little consolation this offers a Negro and he also knows something about “police figures” in the Deep South. And he knows, too, that murder is not the worst thing that can happen to a man, black or white. But murder may be the worst thing a man can do. Faulkner is not trying to save Negroes, who are, in his view, already saved; who, having refused to be destroyed by terror, are far stronger than the terrified white populace; and who have, moreover, fatally, from his point of view, the weight of the Federal government behind them. He is trying to save “whatever good remains in those white people.” The time he pleads for is the time in which the Southerner will come to terms with himself, will cease fleeing from his conscience, and achieve, in the words of Robert Penn Warren, “moral identity.” And he surely believes, with Warren, that “Then in a country where moral identity is hard to come by, the South, because it has had to deal concretely with a moral problem, may offer some leadership. And we need any we can get. If we are to break out of the national rhythm, the rhythm between complacency and panic.”
But the time Faulkner asks for does not exist—and he is not the only Southerner who knows it. There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.
The avowed humanist spirituality*—or beauty, goodness, and dignity—in the work of the Black artist, Charles Wilbert White (April 2, 1918 – October 3, 1979):
“…The main point is that what really I’ve always tried to do, …which I think most artists have to do, is that I try to deal with truth as truth may be in my personal interpretation of truth and truth in a very spiritual sense—not ‘spiritual’ meaning religiously spiritual, but ‘spiritual’ in the sense of the inner-man, so to speak. I try to deal with beauty, and beauty again as I see it in my… interpretation of it, the beauty in man, the beauty in life, the beauty, the most precious possession that man has is life itself. And that essentially I feel that man is basically good. I have to start from this premise in all my work because I’m almost psychologically and emotionally incapable of doing any meaningful work which has to do with something I hate. I’ve tried it. There’s been a number of tragedies in my life, in my family’s life. My people on my mother’s side come from Mississippi and we’ve had five lynchings in my family, two uncles and three cousins over a long span of years. I’ve lived in the South, have had unpleasant personal experiences, been beaten up a couple of times, once in New Orleans and once in Virginia. My people all lived in rural sections mostly, were all farmers, so, and yet, at the same time I still maintain in spite of, again, my experiences, my family’s experience, tragedies, I still feel that man is basically good.
Charles White, Trenton Six (1949)
The other thing I try to deal with, the third point, is dignity. And I think that once man is robbed of his dignity he is nothing. And I try to take the sense, well I deal with Negro people primarily in terms of image I try to give it the meaning of universality to it. I don’t address myself primarily to the Negro people. They certainly are key, you know, and a major part of the audience that I address myself to, but generally I use an image in a more formal, universal sense than is sometimes understood by critics or people who see it.”
— Excerpt from an oral interview with White conducted by Betty Hoag for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, March 9, 1965, in Los Angeles, California.
* For an introductory outline of this spirituality, please see here.
As one might infer from several recent posts, I’ve been learning as much as I can of late about one of the best known (and rightly so) African-American painters, Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000). As it happens to be Sunday, I thought to share one of Lawrence’s later series of paintings (gouache on paper), Eight Studies for the Book of Genesis (1989) (below: ‘Genesis Creation Sermon’ series). In part, I’m also compensating for the fact that, teaching a course on “world religions” in a philosophy department, I have precious little opportunity to discuss (let alone show examples of) religious art (exceptions being a few words on Eastern Orthodox icons owing to the debate between iconodules and iconoclasts; Islamic calligraphy; and Buddhist stupas). The images here are courtesy of the “The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art” at The SCAD Museum of Art, associated with The Savannah College of Art and Design. What follows is their introduction to the series (hyperlinks added) and the paintings, in numerical order, with captions.
“Based on biblical texts and his own memory of the Sunday sermons of the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem [where Lawrence was baptized], New York, Jacob Lawrence’s ‘Genesis Creation Sermon’ series delivers a richly personal interpretation. Inspired by realism and details of iconography, Lawrence’s ‘Genesis Creation Sermon’ series also reveals his interest in references from art history. The bright colors and expressive, monumental preacher figure that stands central in each work reflect the artist’s affinity for action and resonance given in the sermon. The gestural movements of the preacher figure engage the viewer in the immediate foreground while also leading to a middle ground containing parish members watching in awe. In the background, four arched windows exhibit an exterior scene beyond the church that encompasses the theme of each Genesis Creation panel. Together, the ‘Genesis Creation Sermon’ series depicts a unique narrative universally celebrated and one that is unique to American art.”
3. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth the grass, trees, fruits, and herbs.”
4. And God created the day and the night, and God created and put the stars in the sky.
I’m reading Kimberley Brownlee’s Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 2012) by way of taking a brief break from Jonathan Israel (!) and so as to say some halfway intelligent or at least provocative things in a forthcoming blog post about civil disobedience. I think the book is quite good (‘thank God’ for ceteris paribus clauses and universal pro tanto moral judgments). Here’s a taste: In her analysis of “sincere moral conviction” by way of the “communicative principle of conscientiousness,” Brownlee claims four conditions for acceptance and proper appreciation of this principle, in short: consistency, universality, non-evasion, and dialogic. In a discussion of the “non-evasion” condition, she states that
“It requires that we bear the risk of honouring our convictions, which means that we do not seek to evade the consequences and, in some cases, take positive action to support our convictions. It is through our consistent non-evasion of the costs that we signal we are neither inconstant nor hypocritical. This condition is, of course, broadly context sensitive. It is often important to stand up for our beliefs in a public forum. But, for reasons of respect or sympathy [or, as we used to say, good manners!], it’s not usually important to stand up for our beliefs when we’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner.”
Image: Wallace Shawn and André Previn in My Dinner with Andre (1981)
In support of assumptions regarding the “alterability (and redeemability) of people” in her philosophically important book, Conscience and Conviction: The Case for Civil Disobedience (2012), Kimberley Brownlee quotes a passage from Avishai Margalit (The Decent Society, 1996) in a footnote: ‘Even if there are noticeable differences among people to change, they are deserving of respect for the very possibility of changing. Even the worst criminals are worthy of basic human respect for the very possibility that they may radically evaluate their past lives and, if they are given the opportunity, may live the rest of their lives in a worthy manner….’ There is always a chance, writes Margalit , ‘no matter how small, that she will repent.’
I agree with Margalit—and Brownlee—on this score, and further believe that this possibility is an assumption or presupposition (perhaps ‘buried’ in the form of an unrecognized or under-appreciated premise) of some human rights norms and intrinsic to or an implication that follows from, some conceptions of human dignity, as a moral principle enshrined in various municipal and international legal instruments (e.g., human rights documents or constitutions). It may also be an assumption or premise of some fundamental propositions in criminal law. In any case, and however formally recognized in principle and occasionally evidenced in practice, I suspect most people do not actually subscribe to this belief. In other words, their thoughts on human nature, such as they are, lead them to deny the possibility, in principle, of repentance or redemption (for Christians, ‘conversion’ may be a condition for same) for those otherwise labeled “evil,” morally repugnant, chronically or heinously criminal, and so forth. I suspect this is one and perhaps the most significant reason that few people outside of some moral philosophers, cranks (in a non-pejorative sense), and legal practitioners, especially defense attorneys (in particular ‘cause lawyers’) express little (let alone an abiding) concern for clear violations of due process (a pillar of many domestic legal systems), which includes but need not be limited to, habeas corpus (and more widely if not deeply, procedural justice), be it, for example, in criminal procedures and proceedings involving terrorist suspects, or criminal suspects of a certain “race” or class accused of horrific crimes. A basic criminal law proposition, the presumption of innocence, already poorly understood and often ignored, has taken an Orwellian turn as a result of the national security state’s war on terror: guilty until proven innocent. And to make matters worse, there are no standards or clear means whereby one might even go about doing that (i.e., prove one’s innocence)!
Images: Two panels (sans captions), nos. 14 and 22 respectively, from Jacob Lawrence’s series, The Migration of the Negro (1940-41).
Harriet and the Promised Land, No. 10 (1967)
I like to think I’ve expanded my interest to include not just the Negro theme but man generally and maybe if this speaks through the Negro I think this is valid also…. I would like to think of it as dealing with all people, the struggle of man to always better his condition and to move forward…. I think all people aspire, all people strive towards a better human condition, a better mental condition generally.—Jacob Lawrence
“Lawrence is one of the first American artists trained in and by the black community in Harlem, and it is from the people of Harlem that he initially obtained professional recognition. He was also the first African American artist to receive sustained support from mainstream art museums and patronage outside of the black community during an era of legalized and institutionalized segregation. [….]
…Lawrence developed a philosophy regarding art and the role that it can play addressing social issues, particularly as they pertain to race. Though much of his career coincides with a period in which artists attempted to strip all narrative and literary references from their work, he has always maintained that art, as one of the highest forms of human endeavor, is too significant a communicative medium to be simply reduced to formal experimentation. For over sixty years and with intentionally limited means (water-based paints on boards or paper), he has harnessed the seductive power of semi-abstract forms to address many of the great social and philosophical themes of the twentieth century, especially at they pertain to the lives and histories of African Americans: migration, manual labor, war, family values, education, mental health, and creativity. He made visible a side of American history that includes the contributions of African Americans; has presented scenes of daily life that provide a compassionate counterpoint to stereotypical images of African Americans; and painted poignant social commentary on the effects of racism and bigotry in American culture. His ability to distill the essence of these subjects into elemental shapes is unparalleled and one of the defining aspects of his work.”
 On the role of intentional constraints (‘intentionally limited means’) in art, see Jon Elster, “Less is More: Creativity and Constraint in the Arts,” in his book, Ulysses Unbound: Studies in Rationality, Precommitment, and Constraints (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000): 175-269.
 Peter T. Nesbett and Michelle DuBois, eds., Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, in association with Jacob Lawrence Catalogue Raisonné Project, 2000): 11.
References & Further Reading:
I thought it should go without saying, but the attempt at explanation of why someone behaves a certain way (at the individual level, what motivates action) is not equivalent in any way to a defense of the proposed reasons that motivate an actor and that are part of said explanation, nor does it amount to any sort of apology (or ‘excuse’) for the behavior under examination. Rather, it helps those on the outside looking in, as it were, to make sense—insofar as we can make sense—of such behavior (along the lines of ‘nothing human is foreign to me’). So, for example, when a FB friend linked to a speech by Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi calling for a “revolution” within Islam, I wrote the following: He’s a tyrant, in large measure responsible for crushing the Revolution (such as it was) in Egypt, evidencing no respect for legal due procedure or basic human rights. His indiscriminate crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood or other—more avowedly—radical Islamists (in addition to members of the Left) only serves to plant the seeds for radicalization of young Muslims, alienating them from their own society. He’s speaking more for the benefit of a “Western” audience (especially the elite decision makers at the helm of its most powerful countries) so as to blunt criticisms of his regime (in particular, its growing catalogue of egregious human rights violations). I am not thereby endorsing the political program of the Muslim Brotherhood (in fact, there is no one such program insofar as there are well-known conflicting positions and tendencies within the group), nor attempting to excuse the behavior of radical Islamists or self-identifying “jihadists” that Sisi is ruthlessly crushing in Egypt. I am interested in what makes these radical Islamists “tick” (no pun intended), what makes the actions they decide in favor of, in their minds, palatable or otherwise indispensable to achieving their aims (some of which may be irrational or repugnant) or living out their commitment to (their understanding of) an Islamic worldview. I am also interested in why discrimination against and the ruthless suppression of such groups only tends to backfire, in other words, prepares the political and social psychological soil propitious for sowing the seeds of further radicalization among a new generation of Muslims.
It’s not so much a “revolution” in Islam that is needed (after all, the vast majority of Muslims around the world are perfectly reasonable and peaceful*), but an understanding of the social-psychological and political conditions that make radical Islamist ideology or “jihadist” Islamist ideology an attractive or compelling “option” for some Muslims. For an exemplary illustration of this, see Scott Atran’s book (as well as several of his articles), Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values, and What It Means to Be Human (Allen Lane, 2010). As for the political variables that help account for abandoning the reliance on violent if not terrorist methods among these radical Islamists, see Omar Ashour’s The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements (Routledge, 2009). Nothing said here amounts to a defense of or an apology for how these radical Islamists behave (they still need to be held legally and morally accountable for their actions), but is rather part of an endeavor to understand why they in fact find the choice of indiscriminate or terrorist violence a viable option (i.e., why does it appear ‘rational,’ in an instrumental sense, for them). Another work that exemplifies this “sense-making” endeavor is the aptly titled volume edited by Diego Gambetta, Making Sense of Suicide Missions (Oxford University Press, 2006). Jon Elster reminds us, “It is usually easier to change people’s circumstances and opportunities than to change their minds.” In the first instance, this is no doubt true, and I would only add, for our purposes, that a change in circumstances and opportunities may indeed serve as a necessary condition for the sort of change in mind (with regard to interests, passions, beliefs, values) that prompts a favorable change in behavior.
Another FB friend who happens to exemplify the virtues of “cause lawyering,” expressed frustration if not incomprehension in a comment thread on the recent terrorist events in France when someone attempted to articulate (more or less) the conceptual and practical difference between social scientific explanation and moral-political and legal defense or justification (what was defensively termed ‘excuses’ by those who disagreed with him). So, for instance, if one knows something about the life of recent Muslim immigrants in France (or other European countries for that matter), about the history of colonialism and post-colonialism, and so forth and so on, facts and events that might serve as background variables (part of the set of real, felt or imagined constraints, i.e., the ‘opportunity set’) central to any such social scientific explanation, one is heading down a slippery slope of rationalization or excuse-mongering. If one further attempts to combine an appreciation of this opportunity set with a peak (so to speak) into the mind of a person who is willing to or actually does commit terrorist acts, this is not tantamount to an endorsement of the putative or proposed individual motivational (hence causal) reasons (for the actor: desires and beliefs as interests, passions, commitments, etc.) that make for the proposed explanation and thus enhanced understanding (bearing in mind that a causal explanation of mechanisms has a finite number of links). Our lawyer appears to understand such causal explanations on the order of “necessitation,” in other words, in our endeavor to explain the causal mechanisms of behavior we are at the same time saying the actor in question had no choice in the matter, he or she was forced or compelled by circumstances or situation to act as described in our hypothetical or suggested explanation, and so we are, in effect, offering an apologia, an excuse, a (moral or political or legal) rationalization for the behavior in question. But that is a blatant non sequitur.
The endeavor to explain and understand in such cases is not unlike what Erich Fromm tried to do in his pioneering study of the Weimar working class, a project in which he and his colleagues tried to explain (in particular, as a species of a ‘social psychological’ explanation) why an ostensible identification with “the Left” was swiftly abandoned in favor of an ascendant populist fascist ideology. This, in turn, is related to the larger political concerns and psychoanalytic praxis of Freudian psychoanalysts in post-WW I Europe as told in Elizabeth Ann Danto’s important book, Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918-1938 (Columbia University Press, 2005). The Viennese psychoanalysts of the 1920s and early 1930s justifiably believed that “psychoanalysis had an implicit political mission.” In sum, an understanding of history, situations, circumstances, and psychology is essential to the long-term struggle to undercut the causal variables that create the social psychological conditions necessary for the cultivation of fanaticism and extremist ideologies, ideologies like those of jihadist Islamists who believe they possess sufficient justification for their resort to indiscriminate violence.
* I take this piece on Muslims in Germany to be fairly representative of Muslims in Europe and North America: “Despite rising racism, European Muslims embrace democratic values.” As for Muslims around the rest of the world, they may not all be “democrats,” but the vast majority of them clearly do not subscribe to the sorts of radical Islamist ideologies that legitimate indiscriminate or terrorist violence.
“In a world which recognized the phenomenological truth of the body, the existential truth of freedom, the Marxist truth of exploitation, and the human truth of the bond, the derogatory category of the Other would be eradicated. Neither the aged nor women, nor anyone by virtue of their race, class, ethnicity or religion would find themselves rendered inessential. Beauvoir knows that it is too much to hope for such a world. She understands the lures of domination and violence. Throughout her career, however, she used philosophical and literary tools to reveal the possibilities of such a world and appealed to us to work for it.”—Debra Bergoffen, at the conclusion of her entry on Beauvoir in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Today is the birthday of Simone de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986), so I wanted to share something from the archives of Ratio Juris I posted several years ago. I realize Beauvoir was not in any standard sense “religious,” although I believe her existentialist worldview and ethical commitments were, in important respects, “spiritual”*
Below are a few snippets from Simone de Beauvoir’s (1908-1986) diary that detailed her thoughts and feelings upon venturing into Harlem during a visit to America. Beauvoir came to the States in January of 1947, keeping a fairly “detailed diary of her observations which was published in France in 1948 as L’Amérique au jour le jour” and to little notice several years later in England, and in English, as America Day by Day. The book was published (by the University of California Press) yet again with a new translation by Carol Cosman in 1999 and an inviting foreword by one of our nation’s best and more prolific historians, Douglas Brinkley (which first appeared in the New York Times Book Review in 1996). Beauvoir was by now a well-known existentialist philosopher and writer with a public identity as a cosmopolitan French intellectual tied to yet distinct from her lifelong companion, Jean-Paul Sartre. She is also rightly regarded as one of the seminal theorists of contemporary feminism.
Brinkley writes that,
“with the passage of time, America Day by Day emerges as a supremely erudite American road book—that distinctive subgenre based on flight of fancy rather than flights from economic hardship, as in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. In broader sociological terms, her critique outpaces William Least-Heat Moon’s Blue Highways: A Journey into America . In the realm of pure prose style, it easily transcends Henry Miller’s The Air-Conditioned Nightmare . And, for my money, in the field of European highbrow loathing of the cruder aspects of our democratic experiment, it is preferable to Charles Dickens’s haughty American Notes for General Circulation . [….]
A reader is struck not only by the meticulous descriptive passages on American history and geography but also by Beauvoir’s ability to encapsulate our national psyche (‘Optimism is necessary for the country’s social peace and economic prosperity’) and to comment so deftly on its shortcomings (‘even people of goodwill…refuse to articulate clearly the current conflict between justice and freedom, and the necessity of devising a compromise between these two ideas; they prefer to deny injustice and the lack of freedom’). [….]
Clearly a voyeur of America’s transient underbelly, Beauvoir’s able, like George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London , to penetrate the haze and blue smoke of our nation’s tenderloin districts deeply enough to offer detached insights into desolation row. In Chicago with [Nelson] Algren as her guide, she learns firsthand about the world of morphine addicts and petty thieves, murderous gangsters, and midnight cops. ‘America is a box full of surprises,’ she writes, intoxicated by her walks on the wild side. [….]
Beauvoir’s peripatetic journey by automobile, train, and Greyhound bus took her from coast to coast and back, and illuminating sections of the memoir are devoted to Hollywood, the Grand Canyon, Reno, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and San Antonio. Always amused and exhilarated by the lapdog friendliness of urban and rural folk alike, she is also flabbergasted that these same good-natured people embody the volatile, schizophrenic mixture of ‘strictness and hypocritical license.’ An eternal rebel, she has an uncanny eye for the shallow extravagances of American culture and an abolitionist’s rage at the evil of segregation south of the Mason-Dixon line. While San Francisco and Chicago are celebrated in America Day by Day, other cities get scorched: ‘Williamsburg is one of the sorriest shams to which I’ve ever fallen victim,’ or ‘I dearly hope I’m never fated to live in Rochester.’ [….]
For women, and men, who want to experience vicariously Jack Kerouac’s open road with less machismo romanticism and more existential savvy, America Day by Day, hidden from us for nearly fifty years, comes to the reader like a dusty bottle of vintage French cognac, asking only to be uncorked.”
From American Day by Day:
“Of course, I want to get to know Harlem. It’s not the only black neighborhood in New York. There’s an important black community in Brooklyn, three or four areas in the Bronx, another called Jamaica in Queens, and few more on the city’s outskirts. In New York itself one finds neighborhoods here and there where black families live. Until 1900, other than the one in Brooklyn, the most important black community in New York was situated near West Fifty-seventh Street. Harlem’s apartment buildings were originally built for white tenants, but transportation was inadequate at the beginning of the century, and landlords had difficulty renting apartments in the eastern end of the district. At the suggestion of a black man, Philip A. Payton, who was involved in the rental business, blacks were offered the apartments on 134th Street. Two buildings were filled this way, and soon more. At first, the whites didn’t perceive this invasion of black people; when they tried to stop it, it was too late. Blacks gradually rented all the available apartments and began to buy the private houses that were going up between Lenox and Seventh Avenue. Whites then felt justified in moving; as soon as one black family was spotted in a block of buildings, all the whites fled as if they were running from the plague. The blacks soon took over the whole district. Social and civic centers were formed; a black community took shape. Harlem expanded spectacularly after 1914.
Those among the French who get down on their knees to worship all-powerful America adopt all its prejudices even more obsequiously than Americans do. One of them says to me, ‘If you like, we’ll go through Harlem by car; you can go through Harlem by car, but you must never go on foot.’ A bolder Frenchman declares, ‘If you’re determined to see Harlem, in any case stick to the larger avenues. If something happens, you can always take shelter in the subway. But above all avoid the small side streets.’ And someone else tells me with a shiver that at dawn some whites were found in the gutter with their throats cut. In the course of my life, I’ve already come across so many places where right-thinking people declare you could not go that I’m not too impressed. I deliberately walked toward Harlem.
I walk toward Harlem, but my footsteps are not quite as carefree as usual; this isn’t just a walk but a kind of adventure. A force pulls me back, a force that emanates from the borders of the black city and drives me back—fear. Not mine but that of others—the fear of all those whites who never take the risk of going to Harlem, who feel the presence of a vast, mysterious, and forbidden zone in the northern part of their city, where they are transformed into the enemy. I turn the corner of one avenue and I feel my heart stop; in the blink of an eye, the landscape is transformed. I was also told, ‘There’s nothing to see in Harlem. It’s a corner of New York where people have black skin.’ And on 125th Street I indeed discover the movie houses, drugstores, stores, bars, and restaurants of Forty-second or Fourteenth Street; but the atmosphere is as different as if I had crossed a chain of mountains or the sea. Suddenly, there’s a swarm of black children dressed in bright shirts of red-and-green plaid, students with frizzed hair and brown legs chattering on the sidewalks. Blacks sit daydreaming on the doorsteps, and others stroll with their hands in their pockets. The open faces do not seem fixed on some invisible point in the future but reflect the world as it is given at that moment, under this sky. There is nothing frightening in all this, and I even feel a new kind of relaxed gaiety that New York hasn’t yet given me. If I suddenly came upon Canebière [in southern France] at the corner of rue de Lille or Lyon, I would have the same pleasure. But the shift from my usual surroundings is not the only vivid aspect. Nothing is frightening, but the fear is there; it weighs on this great popular festivity. Crossing the street is, for me, like crossing through layers and layers of fear filling those bright-eyed children, those schoolgirls, those men in light suits, and those leisurely women.
One Hundred Twenty-fifth Street is a border—there are still few whites in evidence. But on Lenox Avenue, not a face that isn’t brown or black. No one seems to pay attention to me. It’s the same scenery as on the avenues of [downtown] Manhattan, and these people, with all their indolence and gaiety, seem no more unlike the inhabitants of Lexington Avenue than the people of Marseilles seem unlike the residents of Lille. Yes, one can walk on Lenox Avenue. I even wonder what it would take to make me flee, screaming, toward the protective entrance of the subway. It seems to me I would have as much difficulty provoking such an attack as I would provoking murder or rape in the middle of Columbus Circle in broad daylight. There must be some image of orgies going on in the heads of right-thinking people; for me, this broad, peaceful cheerful boulevard does not encourage my imagination. I glance at the small side streets: just a few children, turning on their roller skates, disturb the lower-middle class calm. They don’t look dangerous.
I walk on the big avenues and in the small side streets; when I’m tired, I sit in the squares. The truth is, nothing can happen to me. And if I don’t feel entirely secure, it’s because of that fear in the hearts of people who are the same color as I am. It’s natural for a wealthy bourgeois to be afraid if he ventures into neighborhoods where people go hungry: he’s strolling in a universe that rejects his and will one day defeat it. But Harlem is a whole society, with its bourgeois and its proletariat, its rich and its poor, who are not bound together in revolutionary action. They wan to become part of America—they have no interest in destroying it. These blacks are not suddenly going to surge toward Wall Street, they constitute no immediate threat. The irrational fear they inspire can only be the reverse of hatred and a kind of remorse. Planted in the heart of New York, Harlem weighs on the conscience of whites like original sin on a Christian. Among men of his own race, the American embraces a dream of good humor, benevolence, and friendship. He even puts his virtues into practice. But they die on the borders of Harlem. The average American, so concerned with being in harmony with the world and himself, knows that beyond these borders he takes on the hated face of the oppressor, the enemy. It’s this face that frightens him. He feels hated; he knows he is hateful. This thorn in his conciliatory heart is more intolerable than a specific external danger. There are fewer crimes in Harlem than on the Bowery; these crimes are only symbolic—not symbolic of what might happen but of what is happening, what has happened. Minute by minute the men here are the enemies of other men. And all whites who do not have the courage to desire brotherhood try to deny this rupture in the heart of their own city; they try to deny Harlem, to forget it. It’s not a threat to the future; it’s a wound in the present, a cursed city, the city where they are cursed. It’s themselves they’re afraid to meet on the street corners. And because I’m white, whatever I think and say and do, this curse weighs on me as well. I dare not smile at the children in the squares; I don’t feel I have the right to stroll in the streets where the color of my eyes signifies injustice, arrogance, and hatred.
It’s because of this moral discomfort, not timidity, that I’m happy to be escorted this evening to the Savoy by Richard Wright; I’ll feel less suspect. He comes to fetch me at the hotel, and I observe that in the lobby he attracts untoward notice. If he asked for a room here, he would surely be refused. We go eat in a Chinese restaurant because it’s very likely that they wouldn’t serve us in the uptown restaurants. Wright lives in Greenwich Village with his wife, a white woman from Brooklyn, and she tells me that every day that when she walks in the neighborhood with her little girl, she hears the most unpleasant comments. And what’s more, while we are looking for a taxi, men dart hostile looks at this black man with two white women. There are drivers who deliberately refuse to stop for us. After this, how could I claim to mingle peacefully in the life of Harlem? I feel myself stiffen with a bad conscience. While Wright buys tickets at the door of the Savoy, two sailors speak to Ellen and me, the way all sailors the world over speak to women at the doors of dance halls. But I’m more embarrassed than I’ve ever been before. I’ll have to be offensive or ambiguous—my very presence here is equivocal. With a word, a smile, Wright sets everything in order. A white man couldn’t have found just this world, this smile, and I know that his intervention, so simple and natural, will only aggravate my embarrassment. But I climb the stairs with a light heart: this evening Richard Wright’s friendship, his presence at my side, is a kind of absolution.”
* As John Cottingham explains, “at the richer end of the spectrum [of meanings of ‘spirituality’], we find the term used in connection with activities and attitudes which command widespread appeal, irrespective of metaphysical commitments or doctrinal allegiance. Even the most convinced atheist may be prepared to avow in interest in the ‘spiritual’ dimension of human existence, if that dimension is taken to cover forms of life that put a premium on certain kinds of intensely focused moral and aesthetic response, or on the search for deeper reflective awareness of the meaning of our lives and of our relationship to others and the natural world.” Thus defined, among contemporary philosophers who could be said to exemplify this non-religious spirituality I would count, among others, Owen Flanagan, Mary Midgley, Raymond Tallis, Grant R. Gillett, and Kwame Anthony Appiah. Among public intellectuals, albeit no less conversant in philosophy, I would cite the self-described “writer, lecturer and broadcaster,” Kenan Malik. Finally, some readers might recall my reference to the “Marxist Spirituality of C.L.R. James.”
“In Marx’s analysis, the growing destruction of nature under capitalism is not simply a function of nature having become an object for humanity; rather, it is primarily a result of the sort of object that nature has become. Raw materials and products, according to Marx, are bearers of value in capitalism, in addition to being constituent elements of material wealth. Capital produces material wealth as a means of creating value. Hence, it consumes material wealth not only as the stuff of material wealth but also as a means of fueling its own self-expansion—that is, as a means of effecting the extraction and absorption of as much surplus labor time from the working population as possible. Ever increasing amounts of raw materials must be consumed even though the result is not a corresponding increase in the social form of surplus wealth (surplus value). The relation of humans and nature mediated by the labor process becomes a one-way process of consumption, rather than a cyclical interaction.”—Moishe Postone
“The problem with capital accumulation, then, is not only that it is unbalanced and crisis-ridden, but also that its underlying form of growth [emphasis added] as marked by runaway productivity that neither is controlled by the producers nor functions directly to their benefit. This particular sort of growth is intrinsic to a society based on value; it cannot be explained in terms of misdirected views and false priorities alone. Although the productivist critiques of capitalism have focused only on the possible barriers to economic growth inherent in capital accumulation, it is clear that Marx criticized both the accelerating boundlessness of ‘growth’ under capitalism as well as its crisis-ridden character. Indeed, he demonstrates that these two characteristics should be analyzed as intrinsically related.”—Moishe Postone
“…[A]ny attempt to respond fundamentally, within the framework of capitalist society, to growing environmental destruction by restraining this society’s mode of expansion would probably be ineffective on a long-term basis—not only because of the interests of capitalists or state managers, but because failure to expand surplus value would indeed result in severe economic difficulties with great social costs. In Marx’s analysis, the necessary accumulation of capital and the creation of capitalist society’s wealth are intrinsically related. Moreover, …because labor is determined as a necessary means of individual reproduction in capitalist society, wage laborers remain dependent on capital’s ‘growth,’ even when the consequences of their labor, ecological and otherwise, are detrimental to themselves and others. The tension between the exigencies of the commodity form and ecological requirements becomes more severe as productivity increases and, particularly during economic crises and periods of high unemployment, poses a sever dilemma. The dilemma and the tension in which it is rooted are immanent to capitalism; their ultimate resolution will be hindered so long as value remains the determining form of social wealth. [….] The particular relation between increases in productivity and the expansion of surplus value shapes the underlying trajectory of growth in capitalism. This trajectory cannot be explained adequately in terms of the market and private property, which suggests that, even in their absence, economic growth would necessarily assume the form marked by increases in productivity much greater than the increases in social wealth they effect—as long as social wealth ultimately remains a function of labor time expenditure. Planning in such a situation, however successful or unsuccessful, would signify a conscious response to the compulsions exerted by the alienated form of social relations expressed by value and capital; it would not, however, overcome them.”—Moishe Postone
“For me Marxism is a quarry.”—Rudolph Bahro
“There has to be a change in our whole system of production, for technology in the present-day world carries the capitalist mode of production within itself.”—Rudolph Bahro
“More important than the quality or quantity of consumer goods, in my view, is the need for a new consumption pattern geared to the qualitative development of the individual, so that the length of young people’s education, for example, becomes a higher priority than the addition of one more piece of clothing to my wardrobe. [….] [W]e have not yet succeeded in breaking through the horizon of capitalist civilization to reach the vision of a world-wide alternative. It is true that the peoples of the world are at different levels of development, but one has to make use of the concrete possibilities where the civilization is not so overdetermined. [….] The point of the concept of cultural revolution is that man has to rise above the level of capitalist reproduction process for the satisfaction of life’s necessities. We cannot wait until we are sated with material goods. A level of basic needs has to be defined, and a standard of living may be achieved in underdeveloped countries that may be more rational than our own.”—Rudolph Bahro
My latest bibliography on “sullied (natural and social) sciences” is here.
From the introduction: This compilation endeavors to help us appreciate where, when, how, and (especially if only hopefully) why the practice of science has gone (or is in danger of going) awry, egregiously failing to modestly conform to or at least sufficiently approach our ideal or best conceptions or models of what constitutes science as a form of intellectual inquiry and field of knowledge praxis. Not unrelated to this aim, is the desire to provide titles that enable one to better understand the pitfalls of “scientism,” as well as arrive at a nuanced if not sophisticated grasp of the methodological distinctions between the natural and social sciences (without assuming the former are ‘hard’ and the latter are ‘soft,’ in effect, failing to properly emulate the most putative exemplar of the former, namely, physics). I share the late John Ziman’s belief that “In less than a generation we have witnessed a radical, irreversible, worldwide transformation in the way that science is organized, managed and performed.”
Yet more vintage Elster:
“…[W]ith respect to an important subset of the emotions we can learn more from moralists, novelists, and playwrights than from the cumulative findings of scientific psychology. These emotions include regret, relief, hope, disappointment, shame, guilt, pridefulness, pride,* hybris, envy, jealousy, malice, pity, indignation, wrath, hatred, contempt, joy, grief, and romantic love. By contrast, the scientific study of the emotions can teach us a great deal about anger, fear, disgust, parental love, and sexual desire (if we count the last two as emotions). [….]
I believe…that prescientific insights into the emotion are not simply superseded by modern psychology in the way that natural philosophy has been superseded by physics. Some men and women in the past have been superb students of human nature, with more wide-ranging personal experience, better powers of observation, and deeper intuitions than almost any psychologist I can think of. This is only what we should expect: There is no reason why one century out of twenty-five should have a privilege in wisdom an understanding. In the case of physics, this argument does not apply.”—Jon Elster, Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions (Cambridge University Press, 1999): 48-50
* Elster defines “pride” as an emotion triggered by a belief about one’s own action and “pridefulness” as triggered by a belief about another’s character.