“’Stupid people often accuse Marxists of welcoming the intrusion of politics into art,’ John Berger once wrote, with his customary pugilistic elegance. ‘On the contrary, we protest against the intrusion. The intrusion is most marked in times of crisis and great suffering. But it is pointless to deny such times. They must be understood so that they can be ended: art and men will then be freer.’ Presented in this way, art and artists don’t just have a moral interest in political struggle. Anyone who is interested in art has an interest in struggling for a more equal world because equality is a condition for creativity to realize its full potential in our lives. At this point, however, we begin to transcend the question of artists as a professional group. In fact, we begin to see that making the distinction between art in a narrow sense and art in its broad sense is already political, in that it forces us to interrogate the conditions that create this separation, which confines our aspirations for our creative selves to one particular niche career.”—Ben Davis, from his collection of superb essays, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2013): 181.
Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense). The Party was the handiwork of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, although it has been said that the “first” such party was actually Alabama’s Lowndes County Freedom Organization:
“Jim Crow was a grim reality in Lowndes County, Alabama, at the beginning of 1965. African Americans attended separate and unequal schools, lived in dilapidated and deteriorating housing, and toiled as underpaid and overworked domestics and farm laborers. They were also completely shut out of the voting process. There were five thousand African Americans of voting age in an overwhelmingly black rural county, but not a single one was registered. Most were too scared to even try. Francis Moss, born nearly seventy years earlier, was among those immobilized by an overwhelming fear of white violence. ‘I used to run in the house whenever I saw a white man coming down the road,’ she said. ‘I was afraid I’d be killed. And I wasn’t a baby the, but a grown woman.’
By the end of 1996, however, Jim Crow was crumbling. The most obvious sign of its demise could be found on the voter rolls, which listed the names of nearly three thousand African Americans. In a remarkable display of collective courage, African Americans managed to set aside their fear and act on the powerful impulse to end segregation immediately. ‘Negroes ain’t planning on scaring no more,’ said a black farmer. Their fierce determination to take action also led them to embark on a radical experiment in democracy. With the help of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) [including Stokely Carmichael, ‘one of SNNC’s most experienced field secretaries’], they created the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO), an all-black, independent political party whose ballot symbol was a snarling black panther.* ‘We ain’t backing up,’ said Sidney Logan, Jr., the LCFO candidate for sheriff. ‘We’re looking for power.’ Their bold bid to take over the local government transformed Lowndes County from an unheard of bastion of white supremacy to the center of southern black militancy. [….]
The creation of LCFO was the defining event of the Lowndes movement. It transformed local black political behavior by providing African Americans with a framework for a new kind of political engagement. It inspired black activists and emboldened black radicals nationwide, including Oakland-based organizers Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, who named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense after the LCFO ballot symbol. It also provided SNCC organizers with a new, more radical, organizing program that they famously called Black Power.”—Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt (New York University Press, 2009).
* Jeffries says “the logo was the brainchild of SNCC field secretary Ruth Howard, who patterned it after the panther mascot of Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia” (now Clark Atlanta University), although it is found on a 1936 WPA (Federal Art Project) poster for the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. In any case, as Jeffries explains, the “snarling black panther” was as ballot symbol adopted “to meet the state requirement that every political party have a logo due to the high rate of adult illiteracy.”
* * *
Black Panther Party Platform and Program: “What We Want, What We Believe” (1972) (modified from the original, 1966 version)
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black and oppressed communities. We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
2. We want full employment for our people. We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
3. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalist of our Black and oppressed communities. We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of over fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
4. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings. We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then the housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society. We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
6. We want completely free health care for all Black and oppressed people. We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventative medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide ourselves with proper medical attention and care.
7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of Black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the United States. We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against Black people, other people of color and poor people inside the United States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces, and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self-defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
8. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression. We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desires of the U.S. ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the U.S. government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars that it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
9. We want freedom for all Black and poor oppressed people now held in U.S. federal, state, county, city and military prisons and jails. We want trials by a jury of peers for all persons charged with so-called crimes under the laws of this country. We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in U.S. prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the U.S. military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial that they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trials.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people's community control of modern technology. When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
* Black Panther Intercommunal News Service, May 13, 1972.
My select bibliography for the Black Panther Party is here.
During the Vietnam War on this date in October 1972, there was a “mutiny” or “riot” on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk ostensibly led by African American sailors (‘The ship’s complement consisted of 4,483 sailors, aircrew, and Marines, 302 of whom were black.’) Accounts vary as to what precisely precipitated the mutiny (and various conditions contributed to its proximate causes), one stating it began when Marines attempted to disrupt a protest meeting of black sailors. The meeting had been called in response to what occurred when the warship was in Subic Bay, the night before its scheduled departure:
“…[S]erious fighting erupted at the Subic Bay men’s club, the San Paquito. On the evening of the twelfth, after the first full day of combat in the Tonkin Gulf, the ship’s intelligence investigator exacerbated still smoldering tensions by calling in only black sailors for questioning and possible criminal action related to the brawl at Subic. Outraged at what they considered blatant discrimination, over one hundred blacks gathered for an angry meeting on the mess deck at approximately 8 P.M. The ship’s Marine detachment was summoned to suppress the meeting, and an explosive situation soon developed. Commander Benjamin Cloud, the executive officer and a black man himself, entered the area and attempted to restore calm by ordering the blacks and the Marines to separate ends of the ship. Moments later, however, Captain Marland Townsend, the commanding officer, arrived and issued conflicting orders. As confusion spread, the blacks and the armed Marines encountered each other unexpectedly on the hangar deck, and a bitter clash quickly broke out. The fighting spread rapidly, with bands of blacks and whites marauding throughout the ship’s decks and attacking each other with fists, chains, wrenches, and pipes. [….] Finally, after a 2:30 A.M. meeting in the ship’s forecastle, the fighting subsided. The uprising left forty whites and six blacks injured. Of the twenty-five sailors arrested for the incident, all were black.” (David Cortright)
Twenty-nine sailors–all but three of them black–were eventually charged with crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and 19 were found guilty of at least one charge.
The “mutiny” should be viewed as part of widespread antiwar protests within the US armed forces, in this case, as part of the movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors). H. Bruce Franklin provides the requisite historical context which should preclude us from reducing this incident to solely racial tensions and provocations:
“In 1970 and 1971, ships had been sporadically forced out of action by outbreaks and even sabotage by crew members. Occasional inconspicuous newspaper articles allowed perceptive members of the general public to get inklings of what was happening to the fleet. An early example was the destroyer Richard B. Anderson, which was kept from sailing to Vietnam for eight weeks when crew members deliberately wrecked an engine. Toward the end of 1971, the sailors’ antiwar activities coalesced into a coherent movement called SOS (Stop Our Ships/Support Our Sailors) that emerged on three of the gigantic aircraft carriers crucial to the Tonkin Gulf Strategy [and later, Operation Linebacker]: the USS Constellation, the USS Coral Sea, and the USS Kitty Hawk. (One early act was a petition by 1,500 crew members of the Constellation demanding that Jane Fonda’s antiwar show be allowed to perform on board.) On these three ships alone that fall, thousands of crew members signed antiwar petitions, published onboard antiwar newspapers, and supported the dozens of crew members who refuse to board for Vietnam duty.
In March 1972 the aircraft carrier USS Midway received orders to leave San Francisco Bay for Vietnam. A wave of protests and sabotage swept the ship, hitting the press when dissident crewmen deliberately spilled three thousand gallons of oil into the bay. In June the attack carrier USS Ranger was ordered to sail from San Diego to Vietnam. The Naval Investigative Service reported large-scale clandestine movement among the crew and at least twenty acts of physical sabotage, culminating in the destruction of the main reduction gear of an engine; repairs forced a four-and-a-half month delay in the ship’s sailing. In July the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal was prevented from sailing by a major fire deliberately set by crewmen, which caused millions of dollars of damage to the captain’s and admiral’s quarters of the ship. In September and October the crew of the Corral Sea, which had been publishing the antiwar newspaper We Are Everywhere for a year, staged renewed protests against the war, with over a thousand crewmen signing a petition to “Stop Our Ship.” It was forced to return to San Francisco Bay, where crew members held a national press conference and helped organize rallies and other demonstrations. Almost a hundred crew members, including several officers, refused Vietnam service and jumped ship in California and Hawaii. In September crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga organized their own “Stop It Now” movement, and navy intelligence tried unsuccessfully to break up the SOS movement on the showpiece carrier USS Enterprise, home of the antiwar paper SOS Enterprise Ledger. A bloody September battle between groups of marines on the amphibious landing ship USS Sumter in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam was not made public until the following January.”
Franklin proceeds to note the outbreak that took place on the Kitty Hawk—“where organized antiwar activities (including publication of the antiwar paper Kitty Litter) had continued during its eight-month tour off Vietnam”—only to be followed several days later by fighting on the Kitty Hawk’s oiler, the USS Hassayampa. “The Kitty Hawk was forced to retire to San Diego, whence it sailed to San Francisco in early January, where it underwent a ‘six-month refitting job.’ The sailors’ movement had thus removed this major aircraft carrier from the war.”
That “Black Power” ideology and political praxis was making inroads among African American soldiers in the antiwar movement is evidenced in what is described as the “largest and most significant” of these antiwar protests and rebellions, namely, one that took place aboard the USS Constellation in early November 1972, and “has been aptly described as ‘the first mass mutiny in the history of the U.S. Navy.’”
“In October, during training operations off the Southern California coast, black crew members formed an organization called the ‘Black Fraction,’ with the aim of protecting minority interests in promotion policies and in the administration of military justice. Throughout October the group held several meetings, including one attended by the ship’s executive officer, where programs were developed to defend blacks subjected to court-martial proceedings and to examine the ship’s records for evidence of discrimination in non-judicial punishment. As the organization grew in strength, the command, on November 1, singled out fifteen leading members of Black Fraction as agitators and ordered that six of them be given immediate less-than-honorable discharges. At approximately the same time, a notice appeared in the ship’s plan of the day announcing that 250 additional men were to be administratively discharged. Fearing that most of these punitive releases would be directed at them and angry at the command’s apparent efforts to suppress their activities, over one hundred sailors, including a number of whites, staged a sit-in at the after mess deck on November 3 and demanded that the ship’s commander, Captain J.D. Ward, personally hear their grievances. The captain refused to acknowledge them, however, and the dissidents continued their strike throughout the day and into the early morning hours on November 4, refusing a direct order to report for muster on the flight deck. As tensions aboard the ship mounted, a series of high-level consultations were held among Captain Ward, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Zumwalt in Washington, and other senior naval commanders. To avert another Kitty Hawk, the officials reluctantly decided to cut sea operations short and return the rebels to San Diego as a ‘beach detachment.’ Captain Ward pulled the ship into the harbor on the fourth and allowed more hand one hundred thirty men to go ashore. The Constellation returned a few days later to pick up the dissidents, but the men refused to board ship, and on the morning of November 9 staged a defiant dockside strike—perhaps the largest act of mass defiance in naval history. Despite the seriousness of their action, not one of the one hundred thirty sailors was arrested. Several of the men received early discharges, but most were simply reassigned to shore duty.” (David Cortright)
My select bibliography for the Vietnam War is here.
Everything (well, not everything, but a lot of stuff) you wanted to know about the Islamic World but heretofore (and apart from Wikipedia) did not know where to begin, I have gathered together below. The following resources should suffice by way of an introduction and material for further exploration, research and reading, should you summon the requisite motivation:
“James Forman (October 4, 1928 – January 10, 2005) was an American Civil Rights leader active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, and the International Black Workers Congress.”
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The following is from the Foreword (June 1997) by Julian Bond to James Forman’s The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 ed. [Macmillan, 1972]): xi-xiii.
“James Forman is one of the under-appreciated figures of the modern civil rights movement. His autobiography, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, is a classic.
In a determined voice, Forman describes his life and activism. He doesn’t mince words. Nor is he cautious in his descriptions of those he believes to be enemies of black progress, whether black or white. Revolutionaries is precious because it represents one of the very few autobiographies by a youthful activist. [….]
James Forman had enormous influence on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the civil rights movement, and on me personally. He molded SNCC’s near-anarchic personality into a functioning, if still chaotic, organizational structure, and insured that most of its parts functioned smoothly most of the time. He brought his trained historian’s eye and values to our work, thereby accounting for the large repository of field and other reports, giving SNCC the best detailed records (for its short life) among its contemporary and often competing organizations.
‘Write it all down’ was his constant injunction; because he insisted, the SNCC files contain often lyrical descriptions of exactly how an organizer goes about his or her work. Here one may learn who the real ‘leaders’ are, and how those who aspire to leadership can be helped to develop to their fullest. The SNCC field secretaries’ reports, written at Forman’s insistence and withheld at great peril, offer a day-to-day account of community organizing that cannot be found anywhere else. [….]
Forman’s scholarly bent also guided his selection of SNCC staff; the organization had the best research arm of any civil rights organization before or since. Field secretaries entered the rural, small-town South armed with evidence of who controlled what, and who, in turn, owned them.
‘Power structure’ was no abstract phrase for SNCC’s brand of brothers and sisters, but a real list with real people’s names and addresses and descriptions of assets and interlocking directorships, demonstrating how large interests, ranging from Memphis and New York banks to the Queen of England, might own at least partial control of a plantation in Mississippi’s Delta. Knowledge of who owned what was crucial to SNCC’s strategies. From it, we knew that Southern peonage was no accident, but rather the deliberate result of economic policies determined thousands of miles away from the cotton field. [….]
James Forman was slightly older than most SNCC people, and that age advantage gave him a solemnity and seriousness well suited to the task he undertook. Undoubtedly, his military experience—recounted in frightful detail in these pages—made a great difference, too, for most of us were just old enough to worry about the draft when the movement caught us up and made several of us happily ineligible for military service. Imposing governance on the self-styled revolutionaries was a difficult task, but Forman proved equal to it.
He became SNCC’s Executive Secretary because the field staff wanted firm assurance that they would receive their meager pay on time and, equally as important, that a steady hand was ever present in the Atlanta headquarters to insure that the jailings, beatings, and deaths they expected to occur would not pass by unnoticed.
Forman was a master propagandist. He insisted that SNCC develop a publicity apparatus—called Communications—and that it produce material of the highest quality and unassailable objectivity. In time, we owned a large web-fed offset press, had four staff photographers and a professional-level darkroom, and printed a newspaper, The Student Voice. [….]
My favorite Forman memory is of the many youthful whites who trickled into the office, usually convinced that their unique determination and commitment were just what the movement needed, demanding to be put to work leading demonstrations in deepest Mississippi or organizing some other dangerous action elsewhere. Forman’s usual response was to give them a broom and instructions to report back when the office floors were swept. Some left before they finished; those who completed the task were given a second look. He also often swept the floor and cleaned restrooms, believing he ought never [like Mohandas Gandhi] to ask anyone to do task he would not do himself.
‘Forman provided a necessary ingredient in the development of an organizational structure for the southern student movement,’ writes SNCC historian Clayborne Carson. ‘Without a leader like Forman, who was prepared to assume responsibility for fund-raising and directing the activities of a full-time staff, it is unlikely that SNCC could have become a durable organization.’
Carson is right—without Forman, there would have been no SNCC, at least not the one that developed in the early 1960s. Without SNCC, it is doubtful that the movement would have succeeded as well as it did….” [….]
Greg Deal’s Leonard Peltier mural at the Albuquerque, New Mexico Peace and Justice Center, headquarters for the Peltier Defense Committee
“Leonard Peltier (born September 12, 1944) is a Native American activist and member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). In 1977 he was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first degree murder in the shooting of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier’s indictment and conviction have been the subject of much controversy; Amnesty International placed his case under the ‘Unfair Trials’ category of its Annual Report: USA 2010.
Peltier is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida. Peltier’s next scheduled parole hearing will be in July 2024. Barring appeals, parole, or presidential pardon, his projected release date is October 11, 2040.”
Indeed, Peltier is “considered by Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Jesse Jackson, among many others, to be a political prisoner who should be immediately released. [….] Mr. Peltier has been in prison for over  years.”
“According to a new estimate in 2016, there are 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, about 1% of the total U.S. population.” OK, that’s a sufficient “reason” for at least some of us to take an interest in Islamic ethics (as with other ethical traditions, it is both ‘lived’ and, as an ideal, aspirational), about which I suspect there’s abundant ignorance.
Here is a very select list of titles (you’re warmly invited to add more in the comments), in English, on “Islamic ethics.” Of course ethics in Islam cannot be discussed without—at the very least—a corresponding knowledge of Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Still, and for comparative and philosophical reasons, we can make sense of “Islamic ethics” as such, much in the manner we speak of and write about other kinds of religious ethics (e.g., Christian, Buddhist…).
“[f]raming symbols and discourses—rendered in the form of images, platforms and demands—are the most critical aspect of any movement-building effort. At their most effective, they bring political coherence and focus to an activist community, convey meaning and goals to supporters and potential participants, mobilize constituents to action, and equip adherents organizationally to contest for legitimacy (and power). Along these lines, framing discourses can communicate insurgent ideas about what changes are necessary, rather than simply what reforms are deemed possible.”
There are numerous historical exemplifications, some well-known, others less so, of such “framing” by social movements and political groups in the diverse struggles for black freedom and self-determination in this country. The end of legal institution of chattel slavery took place, first, with the Emancipation Proclamation, followed by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude (although the exception that established ‘punishment for crime’ has led to notoriously nefarious consequences for the criminal justice system: ‘From the very beginning, the slave narrative, in both fact and fiction, has shaped America’s approach to crime control and punishment’*). Lang provides us with some historical exemplars by of a vivid and inspiriting backdrop to the attempt by The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) to continue this tradition of “transformative agenda setting:”
“The work of movement framing has been an enduring feature of struggles for black freedom, though each wave of struggle has imagined black freedom in historically specific ways. This history includes the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (1896), which promoted seven ‘Objectives’ for the education, economic welfare and social rights of women and youth during the early years of Jim Crow, and popularized the motto ‘Lifting as We Climb.’ It also encompasses the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s 1920 ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World,’ which globalized a Black Nationalist vision of self-determination in the wreckage of the First World War. Similarly, the ‘Ten-Point Program’ of Oakland’s Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (1966) reflected an anti-colonial consciousness prevalent among urban youth of color. As another example, the ‘Combahee River Collective Statement’ (1977) spoke to a growing intersectional approach to both analyzing and combating oppression on the bases of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Moreover, in its 1998 ‘Freedom Agenda,’ the Black Radical Congress reacted to the retreat from racial equality and economic justice that had occurred during the successive presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton, and offered a politically left alternative to the reactionary black conservatism of the 1995 Million Man March.”
The Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of over 50 groups and organizations that “engaged in a year long process of convening local and national groups to create a United Front,” united so as to articulate its “common aspirations” and formulate a “Platform” statement with “demands,” including the outline of some 30-plus policies. The “Policy Demands” revolve around the following topics: “the war on black people,” “reparations,” “investments and divestments,” “economic justice,” “democratic community control,” and “independent Black political power and Black self-determination.” In Lang’s words,
“On a bigger canvas, these ‘Policy Demands’ speak to the effects of a current neoliberal landscape characterized by, among other things, a denigration of social welfare expenditures and ideas of the public good; an emphasis on fiscal austerity and the punitive functions of the state; the deregulation of capital; widening gaps of wealth and privilege; the reduction of all social relations to private market exchanges; and the resulting atomization of the individual.”
Please read Lang’s post, and click on the links above for the specific policy demands. This is an impressive, timely and radical document that deserves wide circulation, discussion, and endorsement.
* Donald F. Tibbs, From Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012): 181.
Today is the birthday of the philosopher, Alain Locke:
“Alain LeRoy Locke (September 13, 1885 – June 9, 1954) was an American writer, philosopher, educator, and patron of the arts. Distinguished as the first African American Rhodes Scholar in 1907, Locke was the philosophical architect —the acknowledged ‘Dean’— of the Harlem Renaissance.”
The following is from the introduction to the entry on Locke in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Jacoby Adeshei Carter:
“Alain LeRoy Locke is heralded as the ‘Father of the Harlem Renaissance’ for his publication in 1925 of The New Negro—an anthology of poetry, essays, plays, music and portraiture by white and black artists. Locke is best known as a theorist, critic, and interpreter of African-American literature and art. He was also a creative and systematic philosopher who developed theories of value, pluralism and cultural relativism that informed and were reinforced by his work on aesthetics. Locke saw black aesthetics quite differently than some of the leading Negro intellectuals of his day; most notably W. E. B. Du Bois, with whom he disagreed about the appropriate social function of Negro artistic pursuits. Du Bois thought it was a role and responsibility of the Negro artist to offer a representation of the Negro and black experience which might help in the quest for social uplift. Locke criticized this as ‘propaganda’ and argued that the primary responsibility and function of the artist is to express his own individuality, and in doing that to communicate something of universal human appeal.
Locke was a distinguished scholar and educator and during his lifetime an important philosopher of race and culture. Principal among his contributions in these areas was the development of the notion of ‘ethnic race,’ Locke’s conception of race as primarily a matter of social and cultural, rather than biological, heredity. Locke was in contemporary parlance a racial revisionist, and held the somewhat controversial and paradoxical view that it was often in the interests of groups to think and act as members of a ‘race’ even while they consciously worked for the destruction or alteration of pernicious racial categories. Racial designations were for Locke incomprehensible apart from an understanding of the specific cultural and historical contexts in which they grew up. A great deal of Locke’s philosophical thinking and writing in the areas of pluralism, relativism and democracy are aimed at offering a more lucid understanding of cultural or racial differences and prospects for more functional methods of navigating contacts between different races and cultures.
Locke, like Du Bois, is often affiliated with the pragmatist philosophical tradition though somewhat surprisingly—surprising because Locke’s actual views are closer substantively to pragmatist thinkers Like Dewey, James, and Royce than are Du Bois’s—he does not receive as much attention in the writings of contemporary pragmatist philosophers as does Du Bois. Regardless, he is most strongly identified with the pragmatist tradition, but his ‘critical pragmatism’ and most specifically his value theory, is also influenced by Hugo Münsterberg, F.S.C. Schiller, Alexius Meinong, Frantz Brentano, and Christian von Erhenfels. From early on in his education at Harvard University, Locke had an affinity for the pragmatist tradition in philosophy. Locked developed his mature views on axiology well in advance of many leading pragmatists—e.g., Dewey and James. Among pragmatists, Locke has arguably the most developed and systematic philosophy of value, and offers many critical insights concerning democracy.”
The Alain Locke Society was founded by Leonard Harris, with Jacoby Adeshei Carter serving as Executive Director.
A Select Bibliography:
Steve (Stephen Bantu) Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977), “leader of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) and pioneer of the Black Consciousness philosophy, died in police custody at the age of thirty. Biko was arrested in the outskirts of Grahamstown on 18 August 1977. During his detention in a Port Elizabeth police cell he had been chained to a grill at night and left to lie in urine-soaked blankets. He had been stripped naked and kept in leg-irons for 48 hours in his cell. A blow in a scuffle with security police led to him suffering brain damage. Realising to a certain extent the seriousness of his condition, the police decided to transfer him to a prison hospital in Pretoria, which was 1133 km away. He died shortly after his arrival there. His death was confirmed by the commissioner of police, General Gert Prinsloo.”
This following is a small portion of an extract from Biko’s giving of evidence in the SASO/BPC [South African Students’ Organisation/Black People’s Convention] trial (1975-76, almost two full years!) of nine student leaders who “were found guilty under the Terrorism Act and sentenced to periods of imprisonment, three for six years and six for five years. The next day they were driven from Pretoria to Cape Town in the back of a police van, and from there taken to Robben Island.” Biko was queried by the defence lawyer, Advocate David Soggot (assistant counsel for Defence), Mr. L. Attwell, assistant counsel for the Prosecution, and the trial judge, Judge Boshoff.
“We try to get blacks in conscientisation to grapple realistically with their problems, to attempt to find solutions to their problems, to develop what one might call an awareness, a physical awareness of their situation, to be able to analyse it, and to provide answers for themselves. The purpose behind it really being to provide some kind of hope; I think the central theme about black society is that it has got elements of a defeated society, people often look like they have given up on the struggle. Like the man who was telling me that he now lives to work, he has given himself to the idea. Now this sense of defeat is basically what we are fighting against; people must develop a hope, people must develop some form of security to be together to look at their problems, and people must in this way build up their humanity. This is the point about conscientisation and Black Consciousness.”— Steve Biko: I Write What I Like—Selected Writings (University of Chicago Press, 2002; first published in London: The Bowerdean Press, 1978): 114.
“The incident that has erupted here at Attica is not a result of the dastardly bushwacking of the two prisoners Sept. 8, 1971 but of the unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administration network of the prison, throughout the year.
WE are MEN! We are not beasts and do not intend to be beaten or driven as such. The entire prison population has set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United State. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.” – “L.D.” (Elliot James) Barkley, reading aloud from the introductory paragraphs of The Five Demands in the prison’s D-Yard
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the start of the revolt (to reduce it to a ‘riot’ is misleading and tendentious, thus inaccurate) by prisoners of the Attica Correctional Facility. Thirty-nine individuals were killed by corrections officers and state troopers in the armed assault of the prison, nine of which were hostages, one, a civilian, and the remaining twenty-nine persons, inmates (several deaths occurred prior to re-taking control of the prison). As Heather Ann Thompson notes in her new book on the uprising (see below), numerous others were “wounded, maimed, tortured, and scarred” at the prison on September 13, 1971.
The New York Times has an archival page with helpful material covering the various historical, sociological, and political dimensions of the Uprising. See too this interview with Joseph “Jazz” Hayden at Jacobin (first published in the Socialist Worker).
Today is also the date chosen for a nationwide “prison strike” (a ‘Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Work stoppage’): “This September 9, we may witness the largest prison strike in US history. Potentially thousands of inmates across both state and federal prisons in as many as 24 states plan to engage in a coordinated strike and protest in an attempt to bring attention to the daily injustice of their lives. The strikers are calling for an end to ‘slave-like’ working conditions, illegal reprisals, and inhumane living conditions.
Planned for the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison uprising, the actions of September 9 will shed light on the often decrepit conditions suffered by the 2.4 million people in what is the largest carceral system in the world. They will also mark a new point in the fight against mass incarceration, and likely stand as a harbinger for further actions and strikes to come. Malik Washington, an inmate in the H. H. Coffield Unit in Texas and the chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas movement, wrote to me in a letter: ‘Prisoners in Amerikan prisons are sick and tired of being degraded, dehumanized, and exploited.’—From John Washington’s September 7th article in The Nation.
I want to share this extraordinarily profound and eloquent (not ‘eloquent’ in the sense that a Trump supporter on CNN confidently described a recent campaign speech by Trump as ‘eloquent’) passage from Tom Wicker’s book, A Time to Die: The Attica Prison Revolt (Haymarket Books, 2011; first published by Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1975). It comes at a point in the micro-historical narrative of events surrounding the Attica Uprising when “negotiations” with the prisoners in D-yard appear to have ended and Wicker has just gotten off the phone with Governor Nelson Rockefeller in a futile, last minute effort to persuade him to meet with the “Observers Committee” (which consisted of 14 individuals invited by the rebelling inmates and an additional 23 other members) so as to, among other things, buy time in order to enhance the probability that a “massacre,” as an otherwise predictable result of the effort by authorities to re-take control of the prison, would not occur. In short, Wicker was “hoping the governor would become alarmed from his descriptions of the violence he thought impending and would be encouraged by the possibility of reassuring the inmates with his presence:”
“He wondered if the trouble was not, rather, that to the Rockefellers of the world, those institutions, processes, and arrangements by which humans had sought to order their affairs had become, finally, more important than the people who had erected them and sought to live by them.
Perhaps that was why the state for all its good intentions and the system for all its idealistic trappings—democracy and representation and due process—so often produced injustice and myopia and indifference and rigidity. Perhaps that is why men like Tom Wicker [in the Preface, Wicker explains his use of the third person] could perceive the system as basically sound, the state as fundamentally well-meaning, the people as mostly decent—yet stumble time and again on the inequities and callousness and brutalities wrought in the name of society. Perhaps the fault lay not in any system but in men’s profound instinct to establish and maintain, at all costs, an order of things.
Never mind, if so, the intrinsic value of Attica, the ‘institution’ then in question, its palpable responsibility for the injustices and wastage happening within it. The state could sustain Attica, even call it a ‘correctional facility,’ because it was an institution, and official at that, a part of the order of things, serving that order against the frightening possibilities of unruly humanity, undisciplined conduct. Re-opening it, restoring the order, was more important than that many lives might have to be sacrificed to do it. Captain ‘Starry’ Vere could see no higher duty or obligation than maintenance of the King’s established naval code. Indeed, he told his brother officers that ‘in receiving our commissions we in the most important regards ceased to be natural free agents.’ So it was not only they who condemned Billy Budd to death, but only ‘martial law operating through us’—the order of things.
Similarly, neither Rockefeller nor any of his officials wanted to cause loss of life. But the order of things was operating through them. Institutions and processes required of them a way of doing and believing, a system of behavior, to which they gave allegiance, sometimes passionately, sometimes pragmatically, usually without question. ‘Tell me whether or not, occupying the position we do,’ Captain Vere demanded to know, ‘private conscience should not yield to that imperial one formulated in the code under which alone we officially proceed?’ Rockefeller could have put the question to Wicker as dispassionately.
Institutions must not only function, whatever the end result; the order of things must be preserved. The powerful must not be at the beck and call of the powerless even when suddenly the powerless wield momentary power, for the powerful are obliged to meet great responsibilities to the order of things. That order gives them their power and must survive the moment. Governors must not deal as equals with lawbreakers; that would endanger the order of the things. Amnesty must not be granted to offenders; they must pay a debt to the order of things. If policemen and armies, being human, sometimes go too far, use unusual force, that is deplorable, but still they are the necessary enforcers of the order of things, what is the alternative? Only the unimaginable—that the order of things be sacrificed to life.”
William Kunstler at New York City rally protesting the carnage at Attica that led to the deaths of 29 inmates and 10 hostages killed by corrections officers and state troopers (recalling with James Forman, Jr., that ‘[t]he most sadistic crimes took place after state officials had full control of the prison’).
Today is the 21st anniversary of the death of William Kunstler (July 17, 1919 - September 4, 1995), the indefatigable Left-activist (‘cause’) lawyer and WW II U.S. Army veteran. Here is his Wikipedia entry, which is tolerable, all things considered, although it fails to mention that Kunstler was among those asked to negotiate on behalf of the rebelling inmates at Attica Correctional Facility, September 9 -13, 1971. Kunstler’s efforts in solidarity with the prisoners in D-yard is discussed in Tom Wicker’s (also invited by the prisoners to assist in negotiations and a member of the ‘Observers Committee’) A Time to Die: The Attica Prison Revolt (Haymarket Books, 2011; originally published by Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1975) and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon Books, 2016). Kunstler also represented one of the “Central Park Five” defendants, all of whom had their convictions vacated by New York Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Tejada on December 19, 2002 (they had completed their prison sentences at the time of Tejada’s order).*
In 2009, two of his four daughters, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, completed a documentary about their late father, William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe.
* Let’s not forget that Donald Trump, “in early May, 1989, took out a full-page ad in the Daily News to say what he thought he knew about the case.” There is, no doubt, consistency of character here.
This “manifesto” was inspired several years ago by a PrawsBlawg post of Kelly Anders that asked, “If you had to design a model for a ‘people’s law school,’ what would it contain, and how would it compare to schools that already exist?” I’m not prepared to design a model, yet, provoked by her question, I would like to suggest some items: literature, programs, institutions, course material, commitments and so forth that might be essential to the moral perspective, socio-economic and political values, and pedagogical practices of any such enterprise. My menu of items is not meant to be exhaustive but merely illustrative or representative of what should (or at least could) motivate and sustain the creation of a “people’s law school,” one that is unabashedly of Leftist provenance and orientation, its fundamental principles based on the triune motto of the French Revolution: “liberté, égalité, fraternité.” My first post on this topic, “Toward a Manifesto of Inspiration for A People’s Law School,” is here. (Please note that this is intended for anyone with a passionate interest in the law and thus not just for teachers and students in J.D. programs.)
Requisite Books & (a few) Articles:
I have a comparatively short bibliography dedicated to the aim of synthesizing Marxism and Freudian psychology, for complementary social scientific and emancipatory reasons: Marxism & Freudian Psychology: Toward an Emancipatory Synthesis. At the end of the list there are links to the much larger, respective compilations for Marxism and Freudian (and post-Freudian) psychology.
We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to bring to your attention notice of a new work by Anwar Shaikh, Professor of Economics at the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School University. Professor Shaikh’s latest book is Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2016) a tome of over 900 pages (‘fifteen years in the making’) that has been well-received by critics both inside and outside the profession of Economics. I first learned of Shaikh’s work from his concise entries in the four volume, The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics (1987), edited by John Eatwell, Murray Milgate and Peter Newman, and newly published in a more accessible series of paperback volumes, one of which is Marxian Economics (W.W. Norton & Co., 1990). And while re-reading an earlier and indispensable book he edited, Globalization and the Myths of Free Trade (Routledge, 2007), I decided to look him up again and learned of this new work. Professor Shaikh had Gary Becker(!) as one of his teachers (in the interview linked to below, Shaikh explains precisely why and how Becker influenced him), and speaks of Joan Robinson, Robert Heilbroner, and Luigi L. Pasinetti as among those who have helped shape his study of economics.
From his personal website, a short summary of the book:
“Competition and conflict are intrinsic features of modern societies, inequality is persistent, and booms and busts are recurrent outcomes throughout capitalist history. State intervention modifies modified these patterns but does not abolish them. My book is an attempt to show that one can explain these and many other observed patterns as results of intrinsic forces that shape and channel outcomes. Social and institutional factors play an important role, but at the same time, the factors are themselves limited by the dominant forces arising from ‘gain-seeking’ behavior, of which the profit motive is the most important.
These dominant elements create an invisible force field that shapes and channels capitalist outcomes. The book’s approach is very different from that of both orthodox economics and the dominant elements in the heterodox tradition. There is no reference whatsoever to an idealized framework rooted in perfect firms, perfect individuals, perfect knowledge, perfectly selfish behavior, rational expectations, and so-called optimal outcomes. Nor is there any need to explain particular observed patterns as departures from this Edenic state arising from ‘imperfections’ of various sorts. The book develops microeconomic and macroeconomic theory from real behavior and real competition, and uses it to explain empirical patterns in microeconomic demand and supply, wage and profits, technological change, relative prices of goods and services, interest rates, bond and equity prices, exchange rates, patterns of international trade, growth, unemployment, inflation, national and personal inequality, and the recurrence of general crises such as the current one which began in 2007-2008.”
See too this informative interview with Marshall Auerback of the Institute for New Economic Thinking on YouTube.
This list of titles was put together to help one make sense of the various (existing or prescribed) interrelations between trade, labor, and human rights during this period of (largely, thus not exclusively) neoliberal globalization. Presidential campaign rhetoric in the U.S. that is—understandably yet regrettably—little more than sloganeering sound bites about previous and proposed bilateral, multilateral, and regional trade agreements, prompted me in the first instance to share works by academic and activist intellectuals that might quicken and hone our attempts to understand these rather complex topics. There is no “one point of view” represented here save for the fact that I have, of course, a decidedly Leftist bias, as do most of the titles. Nevertheless (and not surprisingly for those of us long on the Left!), ample disagreement and different perspectives are found in the material that should compel us to come to our own conclusions, make up our own minds, decide for ourselves where “the truth” is more or less to be found, however tentative or provisional that truth turns out to be. Perhaps needless to say, such truth is decidedly more interesting and complicated (if not labyrinthine) than being for or against “globalization.”
The following is the final paragraph of a speech by Churchill at Zurich University on September 19, 1946:
“I must now sum up the propositions which are before you. Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of [the United Nations]. Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. The first step is to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the states of Europe are not willing or able to join the union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny. In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia—for then indeed all would be well—must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.”—Winston Churchill
Notice that Churchill seems to exclude Britain from this European project! Yet Churchill’s “efforts eventually led to the Hague Congress of May 1948 and the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949, both milestones in European integration.”*
* Brent F. Nelsen and Alexander Stubb, eds. The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 3rd ed., 2003). See too, Robert Rhodes James, ed. Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963, Vol. 7, 1943-1949 (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974).
From a blog post by Vinay Lal with his characteristically thoughtful and informed reflections upon visiting the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India:
“He may be the ‘Father of the Nation,’ but it is more than his reputation, lately under assault from all the wise ones, that lies in tatters. A plaque at the entrance to the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, where Gandhi was confined for two years after he issued a call to the British to ‘Quit India’ in August 1942, furnishes a brief introduction to this ‘monument of national importance.’
On my visit to this monument in March of this year, I found it in a state of utter dilapidation. This is far from being India’s only ‘national monument’ that has suffered from neglect and indifference; however, its association with Gandhi most likely ensures that it is not likely to see a revival of its fortunes. If the murder of Gandhi was a permissive assassination, one celebrated by those elites who were enraged at the thought that the old man would if alive continue to exert an influence upon the affairs of a young nation-state struggling to find its feet in an evil world, permissive neglect seems to be the modus operandi through which Gandhi is slowly being sent into oblivion. [….]
The hostility to Gandhi among the advocates of Hindu nationalism is palpable. Considerable segments of the RSS have thought nothing of glorifying his assassin, Nathuram Godse, who not coincidentally was born in Pune District. Whatever the culpability, which cannot be doubted, of previous local administrations, neither the present local nor the state government can be expected to have any interest in reviving an institution intended to celebrate the life of a man whom they view as guilty of appeasing the Muslims and weakening the Hindu nation. The Government of Maharashtra is securely in the hands of a BJP-Shiv Sena combine; the Shiv Sena’s former leader, the late Bal Thackeray, was often heard deriding Gandhi as a eunuch. [….]
Nearly ten years ago, I wrote a piece in the Economic and Political Weekly entitled ‘The Gandhi Everyone Loves to Hate,’ arguing that every constituency in India had a grievance with him. In the intervening years, it has become almost obligatory to denounce Gandhi as a sexist and racist; and there are even websites that claim that he raped virgins and should have been jailed as a serial sex offender. Some of his critics had been long been convinced that he had prevented the possibility of a ‘real’ revolution—apparently, unless several million people have not been killed, or the enemy has not been exterminated in a calculated genocide, a genuine upheaval cannot be viewed as having taken place—in India, but lately we have also heard that his empathy for Dalits was nothing but a sham and that he even fortified the British empire in South Africa and India alike. Arundhati Roy is, of course, much too smart and sophisticated to write a book with a title akin to something like ‘The Gandhi You Never Knew,’ but the substance of her critique is effectively the same. And that critique is nothing other than the stupid idea that the ‘real’ Gandhi has been hidden from history. If the state of the exhibits at the Aga Khan Palace suggests anything, it will not be long before Gandhi disappears altogether from public view. Then India can celebrate its ‘real’ independence and manhood.”
The full post, with Lal’s recent photographs, is here.
My bibliography on the life, work, and legacy of Gandhi is here.
In the news:
“Republican Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama is ‘directly responsible’ for the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, because of the rise of the Islamic State group on the president’s watch. But he later issued a statement saying that he ‘misspoke.’
‘I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the president himself,’ McCain said in his statement, issued as his initial comments were drawing heated criticism from Democrats. [….]
‘Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaida went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq,’ a visibly angry McCain said as the Senate debated a spending bill.”
Comment: Senator McCain here displays an appalling measure of historical amnesia in his construction of a compact and fanciful chain of causation and responsibility. Setting aside for now events intrinsic in the first instance to Syria, he’s implausibly forgotten or deliberately ignored the U.S.—dominated coalition’s invasion of Iraq, which of course preceded and eventually led to the need for withdrawal of troops from the country, a withdrawal that had the endorsement of the American electorate. Congress initiated calls for withdrawal of troops, which then began under President Bush, while it was President Obama who, rightly or wrongly, later saw fit to extend the date of withdrawal! As C.A.J. (‘Tony’) Coady reminds us in his book Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics (Clarendon Press, 2008), it was this invasion that brought Iraq close to civil war, as well as “unleashed the religious and tribal enmities that had been subdued by the brutal Hussein regime. It has also given opportunities for hitherto non-existent sub-state terrorism in the country as well as the depredations of criminal gangs, and created resentments and rage against the invaders amongst many in the population at large by the arrogant and often racist treatment meted out to Iraqis by troops made edgy and wary by the constant pressure of insurgent war that shows little sign of abating. Abu Ghraib and reported raping and killing by occupying troops are only the tip of the iceberg of this aspect of the disaster.”
Coady further notes that “It is indeed a good thing that the murderous tyrant Saddam is gone, and that he has no further opportunity to kill and despoil on the massive scale that he did [on occasion, with the assistance and blessings of the U.S., as during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)]. The evil acts of his regime must be acknowledged, and they legitimately had weight in thinking about an international response to Iraq. But the destabilizing of the Middle East, the greatly increased impetus to terrorism, the benefits of power to Iran, and the descent of Iraq into civic chaos are colossal prices to pay. Indeed, according to one reputable estimate, published in 2006, there has been an increase of 655,000 Iraqi deaths directly attributable to the invasion of 2003 and its aftermath. In addition, there has been a massive exodus of Iraqi people to other countries, although recently some refugees have returned.”
In short, McCain’s self-righteous anger is misplaced because misdirected, as it is President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair who should be held primarily responsible for the chain of consequences and “utter failures” he invokes, all of which began under the duplicitous ideological guise of a quest “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” In addition to the arrogance, condescension, and impudent moralism of the messianic complex (or ‘militant humanitarianism’), recall that no such weapons ever existed, nor was there compelling evidence that Hussein consistently or reliably aided or supported terrorism outside Iraq. [Lest the wrong inference be made from the foregoing, I should note that I do not believe ISIS had anything whatsoever to do with the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, save for the subsidiary and fantasized role it played in the severely disturbed mind of Omar Mateen.]
“More than a decade after launching the longest major supermarket strike in the nation’s history, union representatives for Southern California grocery store workers are back at the bargaining table. This time, there’s a third party in the room: a $15 minimum wage.
California’s schedule of steady increases to the wage floor, which will boost that wage to $15 an hour by 2022, is doing some of the work for the seven unions as they seek their fourth contract with the Ralphs and Albertsons chains since the epic 143-day strike that brought the region’s supermarkets to their knees in 2003-2004.
But the two big chains, which include Safeway, Vons and Pavilions stores, are looking to offset rising pay in other ways. That is likely to be the basis for any new confrontation. ‘They are offsetting the cost of the minimum wage, they are trying to find ways to get around it,’ said Rick Icaza, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770.
The starting wage for a worker at the two chains is $10.10, just over the current state minimum. The companies have proposed a raise of 10 cents per worker over the next three years and cuts to holiday pay; they also want to make it harder for entry-level employees to reach the highest pay grade, union officials said.
On June 20, 47,000 clerks, meatcutters, and merchandise stockers will have the chance to vote on whether to authorize a strike. [….]
Wages for clerks, baggers and everyone in between have actually declined after adjusting for inflation, hitting $28,964 per Los Angeles worker on average, down from about $31,175 per year in 2005.
The food industry, meanwhile, is growing. In 10 Southern California counties — from Imperial and San Diego north to San Luis Obispo and Kern — giant chains and independents are fighting over a market that is more than twice as big as the next largest, the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, Flickinger said. Since the strike was resolved, employment has increased by 25% in Los Angeles locations.
But the new workers are signing up for jobs with fewer perks and dwindling hours. [….] ‘Grocery store jobs look much more like fast-food jobs than they used to,’ said Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. ‘Lower pay, fewer benefits, more people part-time.’” [….]
The full article from the Los Angeles Times is here.
“Republicans cook up plan to cripple consumer agency”
[….] “’Dodd-Frank’s false premise is that an alchemy of Wall Street greed, out-sized private risk and massive Washington deregulation almost blew up the world economy,’ he [i.e., Rep. Jeb Hensarling] said in a speech last week to the Economic Club of New York. ‘It wasn’t deregulation that caused the financial crisis,’ Hensarling said. ‘It was dumb regulation.’
As for greed, he said, ‘When hasn’t there been an element of greed on Wall Street?’ Boys will be boys, right?” [….]
‘He’d gut Dodd-Frank and gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,’ said Deepak Gupta, a Washington lawyer who previously worked as senior counsel for the watchdog agency. ‘Jeb Hensarling is a wholly owned subsidiary of the financial services industry.’
Too harsh? Not when you consider that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hensarling has received more than $5.5 million from financial firms and industry groups since being elected to the House in 2002. The top two contributors to his political endeavors are JPMorgan Chase ($105,000) and the American Bankers Assn. ($85,000).” In the 2014 election cycle, Hensarling was Congress’ No. 1 recipient of cash from payday lenders ($68,000), which are strongly against proposed rules from the CFPB that would rein in their operations. [….]
The full article from the Los Angeles Times by David Lazarus is here.
Both “Kantian moral freedom and the rhetoric of prophetic nationalism emerged from Rousseau’s effort to internalize Hobbesian sovereignty….” This apparently “puzzling feature of Rousseau’s political thought has in fact “inspired two projects that seem different and opposed to one another. John Rawls finds in Rousseau the basic framework for the Kantian-liberal project of constructing a legitimate state around the [hypothetical] consent of morally autonomous individuals united in a conception of public reason. But others find in the same political theory arguments for a more romantic politics in which strong and prerational passions –patriotic and nationalistic—sentiments of belonging—play a central role.”—Bryan Garsten in Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment (Harvard University Press, 2006)
It is the latter interpretation of Rousseau’s “transformation of Hobbesian sovereignty” that Jonathan Israel* attributes to the authoritarian populism (which culminated in ‘the Terror’) of Marat and Robespierre, as it subordinated reason to popular will and the common man’s feelings. This raises a topic broached by one of my former teachers: “It is … one thing to stress the impact of ideas and opinions on policies and actions. It is quite another matter to single out certain thinkers or theories or concepts as responsible for what they could neither have visualized nor intended in all its implications.” In brief, yes, aspects of Rousseau’s thought had a pernicious influence on the likes of Marat and Robespierre, but we cannot place “the entire burden of blame” on Rousseau’s political philosophy for the ruthless repression of Montagnard rule (save the Dantonists), thereby condemning Rousseau by Robespierre, any more than we should condemn Marx by Stalin. It is no doubt true that “Robespierrisme—in religious policy just as in education, in its views on women, black emancipation, constitutional theory, press freedom, and individual rights—everywhere clashed with the Revolution’s essential principles and, above all, the Rights of Man,” but that should not mean we reduce Rousseau’s political thought to its influence on Robespierrisme: “In pleading against the tyrannical and tragic consequence of isms and systems, we may foist too easily the entire burden of blame upon those very thinkers whose theories were most vulnerable to distortion as well as exploitation.”**
* See his “veritable tour de force,” Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the Rights of Man to Robespierre (Princeton University Press, 2014).
** Raghavan Iyer, Utilitarianism and All That (Chatto & Windus, 1960).
“While we repudiated with the greatest energy that tyranny of society over the individual which most Socialistic systems are supposed to involve, we yet looked forward to a time when society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they who do not work shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusively their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to. The social problem of the future we considered to be, how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action, with a common ownership in the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labour. We had not the presumption to suppose that we could already foresee, by what precise form of institutions these objects could most effectually be attained, or at how near or how distant a period they would become practicable. We saw clearly that to render any such social transformation either possible or desirable, an equivalent change of character must take place both in the uncultivated herd who now compose the labouring masses, and in the immense majority of their employers. Both these classes must learn by practice to labour and combine for generous, or at all events for public and social purposes, and not, as hitherto, solely for narrowly interested ones. But the capacity to do this has always existed in mankind, and is not, nor is ever likely to be, extinct. Education, habit, and the cultivation of the sentiments, will make a common man dig or weave for his country, as readily as fight for his country. True enough, it is only by slow degrees, and a system of culture prolonged through successive generations, that men in general can be brought up to this point. But the hindrance is not in the essential constitution of human nature. Interest in the common good is at present so weak a motive in the generality not because it can never be otherwise, but because the mind is not accustomed to dwell on it as it dwells from morning till night on things which tend only to personal advantage. When called into activity, as only self-interest now is, by the daily course of life, and spurred from behind by the love of distinction and the fear of shame, it is capable of producing, even in common men, the most strenuous exertions as well as the most heroic sacrifices. The deep-rooted selfishness which forms the general character of the existing state of society, is so deeply rooted, only because the whole course of existing institutions tends to foster it; and modern institutions in some respects more than ancient, since the occasions on which the individual is called on to do anything for the public without receiving its pay, are far less frequent in modern life, than the smaller commonwealths of antiquity. These considerations did not make us overlook the folly of premature attempts to dispense with the inducements of private interest in social affairs, while no substitute for them has been or can be provided: but we regarded all existing institutions and social arrangements as being (in a phrase I once heard from Austin) ‘merely provisional,’ and we welcomed with the greatest pleasure and interest all socialistic experiments by select individuals (such as the Co-operative Societies), which, whether they succeeded or failed, could not but operate as a most useful education of those who took part in them, by cultivating their capacity of acting upon motives pointing directly to the general good, or making them aware of the defects which render them and others incapable of doing so.”
—From John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography (1873). Part of this passage was quoted at the end of G.A. Cohen’s chapter on “The Incentives Argument,” in his book, Rescuing Justice and Equality (Harvard University Press, 2008). I was reading afresh the section on the “lax” and “strict” interpretations of Rawls’s “difference principle,” which has to do with the incentives of market-maximizing “high fliers” (like doctors in the U.S., say, in contrast with Cuban doctors, a salient comparison highlighted by the fact that Cuba provides ‘more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined’). As Cohen writes in the conclusion to his chapter, “Rawls’s lax application of his difference principle [which is nonetheless justified in some policy contexts] means ‘giving to those who have.’ He presents the incentive policy as a feature of the just society, whereas it is in fact, and as Mill says, just ‘highly expedient’ in society as we know it, a sober ‘compromise with the selfish type of character’ formed by capitalism. Philosophers in search of justice should not be content with an expedient compromise. To call expediency justice goes against the regeneration to which Mill looked forward at the end of this fine passage.” In other words: “high fliers would forgo incentives properly so-called in a full compliance society governed by the difference principle [i.e., on a strict reading thereof] and characterized by fraternity and universal dignity.”
 In one of its formulations, the principle states “that inequalities are just if and only if they are necessary to make the worst off people in society better than they would otherwise be.” Cohen “disagree[s] sharply with Rawls on the matter of which inequalities pass the test for justifying inequality it sets and, therefore, about how much inequality passes the test.” The kernel of Cohen’s critique of Rawls on this score is that he does not apply the difference principle “in censure of the self-seeking choices of high-flying marketeers, choices which induce an inequality that...is harmful to the badly off.” See, in addition to the more thorough treatment in Rescuing Justice and Inequality (2008), the (rhetorically) accessible analysis provided in Cohen’s Gifford Lectures (1996) and published in his book, If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich (Harvard University Press, 2000): 117-133.
 See, for example, John M. Kirk and H. Michael Erisman, Cuban Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution, and Goals (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and Steve Brouwer, “The Cuban Revolutionary Doctor: The Ultimate Weapon of Solidarity,” Monthly Review, January 2009 (Vol. 60, No. 8).
Yes, I know, that is a rather pretentious title, but I believe it to be true (or at least could be true). Here is a list of the bibliographies available at my Academia page. (If you can’t access any of these let me know and I will send a PDF copy or copies to you.) Some, if not many of these will be occasionally updated. I also have published and unpublished writings on motley topics (and some teaching material) there as well if you are interested.
1. Africana & African American Philosophy
2. B.R. Ambedkar
3. American Indian Law
4. Analogy & Metaphor
5. Animal Ethics, Rights, and Law
6. The Arab World: Modern & Post-Modern
7. The Bedouin
9. Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology and Pharmaceutical Reason
10. The Black Panther Party
11. After Slavery & Reconstruction: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights, Freedom, and Equality in the U.S.
12. On Boxing — Sweet Science & Brutal Agon
14. Buddhism & Psychoanalysis
15. Capital Punishment
16. César Chávez & the United Farm Workers
18. Classical Chinese Worldviews
19. Comparative Law
20. Conflict Resolution and Nonviolence
22. The Corporatization of Higher Education
23. Criminal Law
24. Death & Dying
25. Democratic Theory
26. Dreams and Dreaming
27. Ecological & Environmental Politics, Philosophies, and Worldviews
29. Ethical Perspectives on Science & Technology
30. Freudian Psychology
31. The Life, Work, & Legacy of Mohandas K. Gandhi
32. Global Distributive Justice
33. The Great Depression & The New Deal
34. Health: Law, Ethics & Social Justice
36. Human Rights
37. Indic (or Indian) Philosophy
38. International Criminal Law
39. International Law
40. Modern Iran
41. Islamic Studies
42. Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
44. Law and Literature
45. Toward an Understanding of Liberalism
47. Mass Media
48. Nonviolent Resistance in the Middle East (with an emphasis on the Palestinian struggle)
49. Nuclear Weapons
50. Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism, & Black Cosmopolitanism
51. Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory
52. Philosophy, Psychology, & Methodology for the Social Sciences
53. Philosophy & Racism
54. Punishment and Prison
55. Science and Religion
56. Science and Technology
58. Social Security & the Welfare State
59. The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’)
60. Sullied (Natural & Social) Sciences
62. Torture: moral, legal, and political dimensions
63. Transitional Justice
64. Utopian Imagination, Thought & Praxis
65. The Varna & Caste System in India
66. Vietnam War
67. Violent Conflict & the Laws of War
68. Women as Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment
69. The World of Work and Labor Law
70. Zionist Ideologies
I think the philosophical enterprise of developing a “moral theory” of human rights is important, one fine example of which (and there are others) is James Griffin’s On Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2008). And our own Michael J. Perry argues, in turn, for a religious ground of the morality of human rights (owing to the fundamental nature of the notion of inherent human dignity), which I do not believe is necessary to a liberal democratic polity’s constitutional commitment to a sound and persuasive conception of human dignity, as well as the corresponding moral theory of human rights. However, I do think it is important, in the spirit if not letter of Rawls’s notion of an “overlapping consensus,” that members of religious traditions be capable of endorsing this constitutionally entrenched notion of human dignity and the theory of human rights with (more or less) arguments generated from within their respective (theistic and non-theistic) worldviews, so Perry’s book is centrally important to that endeavor (if they cannot, that speaks more to the problematic nature of their religious beliefs than it does to the indispensable value of dignity and human rights). Which brings us back to the question of the relative role of a moral theory of human rights: in which case it may be equally true and perhaps more urgent and significant in consequence that, with Allen Buchanan, we “take into account a crucial fact:”
“International human rights law is central to human rights practice. Therefore, any assessment of the moral status of human rights practice must acknowledge the importance of international human rights law in the practice.”
Of course to do this one must first appreciate the skeptical if not “eliminativist” nonsense incarnate in arguments like that of Jack Goldsmith and Richard Posner in which international human rights law is not law but merely moral exhortation or aspiration, or simply a kind of politics. Posner’s recent book is apropos: The Twilight of Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2014). *
And thus our book of the day: Allen Buchanan, The Heart of Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2013).
* See, for example, Robert Hockett’s critique of such arguments in “Promise against Peril: Of Power, Principle, and Purpose in International Law” as well as his review essay, “The Limits of Their World.”
Claudia Jones leading a demonstration in London against the 1962 Immigration Act
As today is International Women’s Day, I thought I would post these two photos of Claudia Jones (née Claudia Vera Cumberbatch: 21 February 1915 - 24 December 1964) in conjunction with notice of my latest bibliography on Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism, and Black Cosmopolitanism.
There is an absolutely exquisite and powerfully compelling analysis of J.S. Mill’s political pamphlet, The Subjection of Women (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1869) by Nadia Urbinati near the end of her book, Mill on Democracy: From the Athenian Polis to Representative Government (University of Chicago Press, 2002): 175-189. I happen to have a “new impression” of Mill’s text published in 1909 by Longmans, Green and Co. (London, New York, Bombay, and Calcutta!) that I bought many years ago for $2.00 (hence the image from a book that was printed three years prior to mine but is otherwise the same). It has an introduction with a detailed outline of the argument not found in the first edition.
In any case, Urbinati describes it as a political work that goes beyond “liberal politics.” She notes that “since the 1980s,” scholars have in several important respects corrected earlier liberal readings, thereby recovering a “radicalized” feminism, although these later interpretations transformed The Subjection of Women into a “moral text that was a target of his contemporaries.” According to Urbinati, however, while it is indeed a “radical text,” this is “not because it translates gender inequality into a moral issue, but rather because it uses political categories to analyze interpersonal relations that are not intrinsically political. The radicalism of Mill’s feminism is normative because it stems from an analysis of human relations as power relations.”
Urbinati reminds us that Mill’s “political-rhetorical text” “was conceived, written, and published as a pamphlet that addressed a specific audience, not a hypothetical humanity, and not even the république des lettres or a neutral or impartial reader.” Moreover, “[a]lthough he was convinced of the urgency of women’s emancipation, [Mill] waited eight years to publish The Subjection of Women because he thought in 1861, when he wrote it, the political and cultural climate was not ready for his ideas about emancipation. [….] Mill was not an academic, nor was his feminism academic: ‘It is necessary on such subject [women’s equality] to be as far as possible invulnerable.’” Urbinati details Mill’s rhetorical “strategies,” the style being “forensic for deliberative purposes.” And while he “set up his adversarial strategy by stating the liberal principles of equality and liberty up front, he did not limit himself to liberal arguments.” Mill displays a mastery of Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric, invoking liberal principles as self-evident or a priori and widely shared by way of “ground[ing] [his] ‘demonstration of the actual conditions of injustice women suffer, allowing him to challenge his adversaries to justify their biased views publicly and daring them to oppose them with reasoned arguments, rather than ‘preferences’ or dogmatic assumptions. So from the very beginning, Mill presented The Subjection of Women as a text of advocacy.”
Mill’s evidentiary “proofs” were sundry: “psychological, historical, logical, and moral.”
“He vividly described the oppressive character of Victorian marriage laws, and the mental and physical violence women suffered as a consequence of male domination. Drawing on historical examples of women’s excellence, and employing the empirical rule that forbids any evaluation of women’s capabilities until they have been given the chance and instruments to express themselves freely, he refuted the common view of women’s intellectual inferiority. He claimed, finally, that women’s emancipation will lead to moral progress and the general improvement of the whole society, and that such progress is consistent with the institution of representative government which actually assume the existence of and requires independent citizens.”
The rhetorical strategies employed are essential to proper appreciation of the political context and corresponding arguments employed in Mill’s “book,” which have often been insufficiently grasped or ill-understood. Urbinati elaborates:
“It is interesting that the two elements that make The Subjection of Women a rhetorical text—the eclecticism of its arguments and the kind of demonstrations it adduces—have been the main targets of criticism. On the one hand, critics complain that Mill’s book is a ‘mixture’ of different approaches and, as such, a betrayal of theoretical consistency. On the other, they question the evidence he used to justify his claim, that is, the demonstrations he used to capture his audience’s attention and sympathy. Indeed, the most common objection concentrates on the final pages of the second chapter, where Mill tried to assure his Victorian readers that giving women freedom of choice would not necessarily imply destroying the family since, presumably, women would choose to raise children instead of looking for a job.
I believe, though, that it is inappropriate to analyze this argument in terms of its theoretical consistency with the a priori principles of equality and liberty. Clearly, Mill was not trying to build a general theory of justice, but to make a radical principle palatable to an audience that was not radical at all, as the furious reactions to his book show. Like other feminists of his time, he had to be prudent in order to be radical.”
In fine Aristotelian fashion, Mill’s rhetoric is keenly sensitive to “the passions, habits, and tastes of its audience.” Mill had to reassure his readers that the means and ends of the emancipation of women would not tear asunder the social fabric (to stick with the metaphor: it should rather, in time, strengthen its warp and weft). In fairness to Mill,
“to point out that some of Mill’s opinions are weak and moderated is simply to say that, as a political pamphlet, his text is the product of a specific time and place. Nevertheless, its theoretical value does not lie in the kinds of demonstration he uses, but in the core argument of his vindication. It is this argument that makes The Subjection of Women a radical and still powerful text.”
Mill characterizes the institution of marriage in his time and place as one of “despotism,” and thus freedom from subjection and movement toward a society conspicuous for the cooperation of self-dependent citizens (as in the Athenian polis) would not be attained by simply calling upon “arguments for individual free choice,” or invoking the model of “marriage as a contractual relation” [in which case the terms would meet the conditions of an unconscionable adhesion contract*], or merely proposing a “policy of opportunity.” Rather, legal reform would have to be complemented and reinforced by reformation of education, profound changes in social norms and opinions, in the manner and substance of habits and social inculcation generally, and of course in the nature of family life itself. As Urbinati explains, Mill conceived of the ideal marriage alone the lines of a “miniaturized polis,” which implies
“a form of freedom wherein each participates according to competence and character. In the polis, the rule of law allows equal enjoyment of liberty and therefore the expression of individual variety. Whereas despotism generates and requires atomistic homogenous subjects devoid of individuality, the polis is based on individual specificity and voluntary commitment, and fosters civic friendship. Here, equality refers to a condition of reciprocity in power relations, to a plurality of roles and ways to contribute to the common good.”
Finally, it was Mill’s notion of despotism that “allowed [him] to politicize all facets of women’s lives within the family, and gave his feminism a radical twist.” And the lens of radicalism can be said to permit us a vision beyond the social and political geography of liberalism proper (or at least its often dominant libertarian topography):
“The cause of women’s freedom became a cause of freedom for the entire society, just like the cause of the slaves in abolitionist writings and of the working class in Marx’s theory. This represented a decisive break with the normative principle of the directly responsible individual agent that underpins the theory of negative liberty. The marital system, like slavery in America and the capitalist system of production, constituted an objective system of relations that operated independently of the will and the intention of the actors. The husband in Mill’s theory, like the capitalist in Marx’s, was driven, as it were, to act according to the logic of domination. Patriarchal relations shaped and determined his identity just as they did his wife’s. So just as a ‘good’ capitalist could not change the exploitative nature of capitalism, a few ‘good’ and humane husbands couldn’t change the patriarchal nature of marriage. By the same token, a husband’s respect for his wife’s negative freedom could not in itself guarantee her security or recognition as an equal. Mill used the same argument to support women’s enfranchisement.”
* Urbinati proceeds to point out that William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) “castigated the existing marital ‘contract’ as a ‘fraud,’ and the worst of all monopolies, since it institutionalized a relation of slavery,” an argument “anticipated” by the woman he married, Mary Wollstonecraft. It was this English writer, philosopher, and pioneering feminist who “made equality a prerequisite for the dignity of man as well as women: the subjection of women precludes men themselves from achieving recognition as the bearers of the highest human qualities, such as virtue and intelligence.”
“If you’ve got a clothespin handy, you should clip it to your nose. I’m now going to tell you about the 12-hour California Coastal Commission meeting I sat through Wednesday in Morro Bay. When the spectacle was over, members of one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the country had racked up a number of accomplishments.
They fired their staff’s executive director, Charles Lester, who knows more about the 40-year-old voter-approved Coastal Act that protects our 1,100-mile shoreline than anyone in the world.
They devastated and demoralized the agency staff, so much so that some employees wept when the firing was announced.
They infuriated a who’s who of California’s longest-serving stewards of coastal preservation and access, along with hordes of public officials, current and former Coastal Commission staff, and former commissioners and citizens who had traveled from up and down the coast to speak glowingly of Lester’s integrity and diligence.
They accused the media of building a bogus narrative about why Lester’s job was in jeopardy, falsely insisting they were not at liberty to discuss their complaints about his performance in public.
And they spoke of their commitment to accountability and transparency, then refused to conduct their business in public, retreated into privacy, papered over the window and dropped the guillotine on Lester in a 7-5 vote.
‘Disgraceful,’ Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network told me, even as staffers sobbed and embraced a stricken Lester.” [….] Please read the remainder of the article by the smart and indefatigable Steve Lopez for the LA Times here.
* * *
What follows is intended to help us see precisely why the recent California Coastal Commission meeting made a complete mockery and mess of representative democracy, at least in the Millian sense.
As Nadia Urbinati well explains, J.S. Mill (leaving aside the ‘other’ Mill of the East India Co. or the Irish Famine) argued that “the key feature of representative government is that it evaluates all governmental proposals and decisions and ensures that both the people’s decisions and political decisions, get public visibility” [emphasis added]. Indeed, opinion and consent formation, “not decision,” is the “defining feature of representative government, the former exemplified “in the mode of deliberation and the circular relation between institutions and citizens.”
Mill in fact had a keen appreciation of the necessity of democratic deliberation “because it is relevant to both the moral legitimacy of democratic decisions and the character of political action.” Concerning the former activity, its value is owing to the encouragement of citizens and representatives alike “to think of policymaking in terms of what can be publicly justified” [emphasis added]. And representative government generally in a democratic polity, referring both to those who are empowered to act in the public interest or for the common good in judicial, administrative and regulatory bodies and capacities, and legislative bodies, must adhere to the imperatives of “open government,” that is, the principle and practices of visibility and transparency, thereby ensuring at least the indirect participation of citizens in the political order. Such participation allows citizens to make meaningful the notions of consent and dissent, as well as enable them, as individuals (and ‘standing’ participants), to make informed political judgments: “the activity of standing participants (the electors) in a representative democracy is wholly mediated—not only in terms of speech—but along dimensions of time and space as well.” And the vote of standing citizens is both future-oriented: regarding promises and proposals of candidates, and retrospective: assessing the outcome of those they’ve elected to represent them.
Transparency and various rights and freedoms, like free speech and a free press are essential to the what Urbinati terms the deferred democratic dimension of the public realm (in contrast to the simultaneous character of decision making by actual representatives), a dimension that “makes it necessary to develop an articulated public sphere that can create symbolic simultaneity; citizens must feel as if they are standing, deliberating, and deciding simultaneously in the assembly.” This deferred assembly, as it were, is wholly reliant on various forms of civic participation by way of supplementing and monitoring the organs of government, including its bureaucratic and regulatory agencies. On this model, representation is on a continuum with participation, one in which the “space for political discussion beyond governmental institutions” is ever expanding, as “the people” are learning and honing the skills necessary to properly scrutinize political decisions. Civic participation and “monitoring,” in turn, are dependent on an “open government” in the Millian sense, such “visibility” serving “to impede the potential misuse of politics.”
 Nadia Urbinati, Mill on Democracy: From the Athenian Polis to Representative Government (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002): 69-75.
 Mill of course worked as a senior civil servant—colonial administrator—for the East India Company from 1823 until 1858 (when the Company was abolished in favor of direct rule by the British crown over India). For a somewhat sympathetic discussion of his tenure with the East India Company, see chapters 16, “Utilitarianism and Bureaucracy: The Views of J.S. Mill,” and 18, “Bureaucracy, Democracy, Liberty: Some Unanswered Question in Mill’s Politics,” in Alan Ryan’s marvelous volume, The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012). On the historical and ideological context and character of Mill’s work as “the most sophisticated advocate of the ideology of empire,” please see, in no particular order, Raghavan Iyer’s Utilitarianism and All That: The Political Theory of British Imperialism (London: Chatto & Windus, 1960; reprint: Santa Barbara, CA: Institute of World Culture & Concord Grove Press, 1983); Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Edward R. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993); Nick Robins, The Corporation that Changed the World (London: Pluto Press, 2nd ed., 2012); and Partha Chatterjee’s The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012).
On Mill’s response to the Irish Famine, see Henry Farrell’s recent post at Crooked Timber, “Millian Liberalism and the Irish Famine.”
Elizabeth Catlett’s Homage to Black Women Poets, 1984
My latest bibliography, in keeping with Black History Month, is here.
Today is the birthday of C.L.R. James (4 January 1901 – 19 May 1989), the remarkable Marxist humanist and Afro-Trinidadian socialist, historian, journalist, and essayist.
Here are two posts from the archives on James: From “Cricketing in Compton” to the “Cricketing Marxist,” and The Marxist Spirituality of C.L.R. James. And here is a fitting celebratory essay by Christian Høgsbjergon on James’ “magisterial work,” The Black Jacobins (1938, second ed., 1963): “CLR James and the Black Jacobins.”
The following books help illuminate the life and work of C.L.R. James, the “cricketing Marxist” and “urbane revolutionary.”
One might also read two other books that are not about James or Black Marxism as such: first, Tommie Shelby’s We Who are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005) which makes a compelling argument for aiming to “achieve a robust form of black solidarity without a commitment to black identity,” a view I think has much in common with James’ Marxist humanism. And then Michael C. Dawson’s Blacks In and Out of the Left (Harvard University Press, 2013), which is a brief history of black radicalism in the United States toward outlining the elements of a progressive black radicalism for our own time and place. In the words of Shelby, “in the spirit of hope and possibility, it calls for utopian yet pragmatic political thinking that regards independent black political organizing not as a balkanizing force or distraction from the ‘universal’ fight for a democratic society, but as an indispensable element of any viable Left-wing politics.”
From the Institute for Policy Studies—
• America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet — now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.
• The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation’s entire African-American population — plus more than a third of the Latino population — combined.
• The wealthiest 100 households now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States. Among the Forbes 400, just 2 individuals are African American —Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith.
• The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Just five members of the Forbes 400 are Latino including Jorge Perez, Arturo Moreno, and three members of the Santo Domingo family.
• With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.
• The median American family has a net worth of $81,000. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 36 million of these typical American families. That’s as many households in the United States that own cats.
We believe that these statistics actually underestimate our current national levels of wealth concentration. The growing use of offshore tax havens and legal trusts has made the concealing of assets much more widespread than ever before. [The rest of this article is here.]
In a post from roughly five years ago I posed the following (now edited) questions and made several observations pertinent to our focus on inequality:
Is it possible to achieve a globally egalitarian neo-Keynesian Golden Age? Poverty remains recalcitrant in several regions of the world while regional and global inequality is dramatically increasing, economic facts we might grant without in any way denying the historic significance of capitalism for material wealth creation (and thus betterment of standards of living if not quality of life indices). Are we, at last, reaching the structural limits of capitalist economic logic? Have we exhausted the economic—and, yes, moral—virtues of the neo-classical economic worldview? Or, are we merely at the lowest ebb of an economic cycle that will be cured by some fortuitous combination of conventional and creative politico-economic policies crafted by prudent democratic leaders of countries North and South? Is this a propitious time for contemplating and renewing the collective struggle for the dissolution of the “aristocracy of capital” and the “economization of social relations?” Is the time ripe for (re)articulation of the authority of the Good by way of abandoning the capitalist criteria for socio-economic success? Are we prepared to break, once and for all, with the structural socio-economic and political constraints of “capitalist democracy?” Must the welfare and well-being of the masses and their generalizable interests remain subordinate to the welfare of capitalists and their particular or special interests? Are the interests of working people fated to be canalized into the exclusive pursuit of economic advantage (which often deleteriously impacts the nature of ‘discretionary time’)? Must labor markets remain plagued by the material uncertainties and insecurities intrinsic to the private control of investment within the terms of globalized capitalism?
The distorted and artificial needs and the individually and socially harmful desires either directly generated or indirectly encouraged or facilitated by hyper-industrialized turbo- and finance capitalism finds the masses in a state in which they feel an overwhelming desire to be psychologically indemnified by conspicuous consumption of both goods and (status) “signs,” a logic causally implicated in the persistence of absolute and relative poverty. Capitalist democracy remains committed to the aristocracy of Capital, meaning that, in the end, the special interests of capitalists trump generalizable interests tied to the common good, while economic insecurity compels workers to channel their (now myopic) interests in the struggle for higher wages or short-term material gain. The aristocracy of Capital finds workers dehumanized insofar as they’re indemnified by the false promises of conspicuous consumption and irresponsible (in part, because environmentally devastating) affluence, utterly distorting the pursuit of happiness (or eudaimonia, or what might be called ‘existential sophrosyne’) and the potential of individuals for uniquely and jointly realizing and manifesting both values and virtues.
Can we, instead, accord socio-economic primacy to creating the necessary (and thus not necessarily sufficient) conditions for generalizing psychological and moral individuation or self-realization? Assuming the capacity to meet basic material human needs, can we resort to open-ended formulations of moral and psychological if not spiritual criteria associated with the either the recognition or (some measure of) fulfillment of our moral and spiritual aspirations by way of regulating economic life, thereby both integrating and subordinating the economic realm in a manner conductive to generalizing the pursuit of self-actualization or self-realization? In overcoming the freedom-inhibiting effects of inequality can we at the same time enhance and generalize an innate motivation (heretofore often repressed or suppressed) toward worthy living, in other words—and within the constraints of dignity and self-respect—generalize the capacity for the appreciation and realization of what it means to live a worthy and self-fulfilling life?
We conclude with a short list of fundamental works for mapping the sundry (i.e., historical, sociological, descriptive, normative, and evaluative) dimensions of socio-economic and political inequality as it bears upon (1) the constriction of basic capabilities and functionings, (2) the diminution of positive freedom, and (3) the failure to generalize the conditions of and potential for human fulfillment (i.e., the freedom of individuals as incarnate in their capacity to engage in active self-realization*). In short, our beliefs about and concern for in/equality is at one with our concern for freedom, that is, with “human empowerment and the quest for emancipation.”
* On “active self-realization,” see Jon Elster’s essay, “Self-realisation in work and politics: the Marxist conception of the good life,” in Jon Elster and Karl Ove Moene, eds. Alternatives to Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 1989): 127-158.
In the course of reading and research for a bibliography on “philosophy, psychology, and methodology for the social sciences,” I came across an intriguing discussion of a book by Jeffery M. Paige, Agrarian Revolution: Social Movements and Export Agriculture in the Underdeveloped World (New York: Free Press, 1975). Paige’s study is invoked by Harold Kincaid in Philosophical Foundations of the Social Sciences: Analyzing Controversies in Social Research (Cambridge University Press, 1996) as “an exemplary piece of social science research.”* I was particularly intrigued owing to my professional (such as it is, being an adjunct instructor) and political interest—to put it blandly—in (among other things) Marxism, for Paige is motivated by a Marxist sociological orientation in ascertaining “the primary causes of agrarian behavior, particularly in developing countries,” yet his study is not simply a predictable or banal academic exercise of “doctrinaire Marxism.” As Kincaid proceeds to show us, Paige “modifies the Marxist view at many places” while producing a “sophisticated statistical cross-national study of agrarian revolutions, revolts, and reform movements.”
The research, hypothesis and conclusion of Agrarian Revolution well demonstrates how good social science (or good natural science, for that matter) is not constrained by “formalized theories with tight deductive structures” in producing well-confirmed explanations, in this instance, “large-scale macrosociological claims being “backed up with lower-level mechanisms.” In brief, “good [natural and social] science can proceed without theories,” at least “theory” as understood by positivists, including most post-positivists. Kincaid helps us appreciate precisely why we should be perfectly content with “batches of particular causal explanations” sans any formal theoretical edifice. He provides a number of reasons why the absence of theory should not be construed as a fatal flaw, only one of which I cite:
“Confirmation and explanation can proceed without theories. Obviously even singular causal claims can be confirmed without us having access to any very elaborate theory, for we do so constantly in everyday life when we see the rock broke the window or the nail puncture the tire. Moreover, the low-level generalizations that make up much social science do have numerous epistemic ties to other generalizations, specific facts, and so on. Such ties fall short of a deductively closed, axiomatized system, but they nonetheless provide room for cross tests, fair tests, and independent tests—as indicated by the fact that much testing in natural science depends on skills that may not be explicitly described or describable, on piecemeal knowledge, and the like, as Kuhn pointed out. Finally…[as argued earlier], universality and unification are not essential to explanation, hence one main motivation for demanding highly developed theories is misplaced. So the causal accounts produced by the social sciences can provide well-confirmed explanations without providing extensive theories.”
Paige’s primary hypothesis—perhaps not surprising given his sociological background in Marxism—is that “class structure largely determines political behavior in developing countries.” The preface to Agrarian Revolution, however, puts this hypothesis in socio-economic and political context and proffers several reasons why it’s worthy of social scientific examination and “testing.” For many if not most of Paige’s reading public, the specific subject matter is not one they’ll be intimately familiar with, for it focuses
“on the politics of people who draw their living from the land, both those who perform the physical labor of cultivation in the fields and plantations of the underdeveloped world and those share the proceeds of this labor in the form of rent, profits, interest, and taxes. It is also a book about conflict over the wealth produced by the land, the control of the land itself, the political power that makes that control possible, and, in many cases, the survival of one class or another. This conflict is frequently a matter of small bargains and local compromises, but from time to time it explodes into revolutionary movements which engulf whole societies, and it is these agrarian revolutions in the export economies of the underdeveloped world in general and in the cases of Peru, Angola, and Vietnam in particular which are the principal concerns of this book. Although these rural social movements involve extraordinary rather than ordinary political happenings, the politics of revolutionary change, like the politics of everyday life, is shaped by the relationship between upper and lower classes in rural areas. The nature of this conflict and political choices open to both classes are limited by the irreducible role of land in agriculture and by the compelling force of the international market in agricultural commodities. If conflicts between cultivators and noncultivators so often lead to hard choices between repression and revolution, it is because the control of landed property and the exigencies of efficient production leave them with few other alternatives. Both upper and lower agrarian classes use force in economic conflicts not because they have not carefully considered all possible alternatives, but because they have. There is a calculus of force just as orderly and rational in its way as the principles of economics, and despite the passions which surround this violence, it is important to realize that men risk their lives only with the greatest reluctance; when, in Peru, Angola, or Vietnam, they do so, it is usually because their opponents have left them with no other choice.”
Relatedly, we should recall with Paige the geo-political dynamics of the period in question, especially as they involve U.S. foreign policy (as well the behavior of transnational corporations and capitalist investors) in the various regions of the “underdeveloped” world:
“…[I]t is important to note at the outset that this book grows out of the fundamental questions raised by United States involvement in revolutionary movements in the underdeveloped world in general and Vietnam in particular. In Peru, Angola, Vietnam, and many other areas of the underdeveloped world the United States has chosen to side with the landlords and plantation owners against the peasants, sharecroppers, and agricultural laborers who took up arms against them. American military alliances, American trained officers, American military aid and equipment, and, finally, American armed forces have been used either singly or in combination, against the peasants of the Peruvian sierra, the contract laborers of northern Angola, and the tenant farmers of the Mekong delta of Vietnam. [….] At minimum, then, this book attempts to raise the question of whether most of us, had we been in the selva of Peru, the jungles of Angola, or the rice paddies of Vietnam, would have supported the landlords or the laborers.”
The historical, socio-economic, and political scene in place, we’ll let Kincaid introduce the specific agrarian economic systems that form the backbone of both Paige’s principal and ancillary hypotheses:
“The social classes in agrarian systems are of two basic kinds, depending on whether they are composed of cultivators or non-cultivators. Cultivators include sharecroppers, resident wage laborers, peasants with small holdings, and usufructuaries; noncultivators are the landed aristocracy and agricultural corporations. These cultivators and noncultivators in turn fall into different classes depending on the source of their income, in particular on whether their income comes primarily from land, capital, or wages.
Four basic agrarian class systems are thus possible. In the first type of system, both cultivators and non-cultivators draw their income primarily from rights to the land than from capital or wages. The most common system of this type is the commercial hacienda or manor. It is an individually owned enterprise which does not depend essentially on power-driven processing machinery or other similar capital investments; its workers typically receive compensation by rights to cultivate small plots of land. In the second type of system, non-cultivators draw their income from the land and workers are paid in wages. Usually these systems involve large estates with little or no power-driven machinery and workers who are either sharecroppers or migratory wage laborers. In the third type, non-cultivators draw their income in large part from capital investments and workers are paid in wages. Plantations owned by a commercial cooperation typify this sort of system. Crops are processed on site by power-drive machinery and workers are more or less permanent residents who are paid in money-wages. In the fourth type, non-cultivators depend primarily on capital and the cultivators depend primarily on land. Prime examples include small family farms or small-holding peasants producing a cash crop and sold to a large agricultural corporation.
Paige predicts that these different economic systems will produce different types of political behavior. To derive these specific hypotheses, Paige looks at how income source affects cultivators and non-cultivators separately. Using those hypotheses he then predicts what happens when those separate behaviors are combined in the four basic class systems.”
For reasons of length and wanting to avoid testing the reader’s patience, we’ll omit the specific hypotheses as they pertain to cultivating and non-cultivating classes and behavior and share the conclusion he draws from them that permits Page “to predict how different class systems affect agrarian political behavior.”
[1.] “When owners depend upon capital and cultivators on wages (as in large plantations), Paige predicts that cultivators will engage in collective action, but action limited to economic issues such as wages and working conditions and action that ends in compromise settlements. Because of their laboring conditions, cultivators will act collectively over economic issues. Owners, however, are economically strong and generally have an increasing pie to divide; moreover, owners are not seriously dependent on political protection by the state, and their workers can legally act collectively over economic issues. Disputes over will thus not be naturally transformed into disputes over political power, and compromise will be the name of the game. (Paige thus argues against Marx here.)
[2.] The small holding system will likewise produce limited challenges to political authority. Cultivators will draw income from the land and sell products in the market. They will thus be risk averse and divided between rich and poor, reducing the prospects for collective action. If collective action over economic issues occurs, it will not involve challenges to political authority nor be long-lived. The commercial class, which owns the factories processing the products from small-holders, does not depend on political protection and is not involved in a zero-sum game. Moreover, the market mediates its relation to small holders, thus minimizing conflict. So small holding systems should result in limited protests over credit, market prices, and the like—what Paige calls a reform commodity movement.
[3.] When both cultivators and non-cultivators get their income from the land, we can expect a more severe conflict. Owners are economically weak, dependent upon the state for protection, and unable to compromise by sharing gains in productivity with cultivators. Cultivators are typically without political rights. This combination of factors means economic disputes cannot easily be settled and will naturally spread to issues about land ownership and property redistribution. However, the cultivators are subject to all the factors that undercut collective action. So cultivator movements should not become revolutionary movements, unless other forces like urban political parties intervene to introduce organization from the outside. So, in Paige’s terminology, ‘revolts’ may occur, but sustained support for thoroughgoing political revolution should be rare.
[4.] Finally, upper-class land income and cultivator income in wages make for the most explosive situation. The upper class is economically pressed, weak, unable to compromise through sharing productivity gains, and dependent on state protection. Cultivators typically are not divided along income lines and have no property to lose in collective action. So economic disputes should be frequent and should quickly become disputes over political authority, since the upper class depends upon political force to maintain itself. Revolutionary movements should thus be most frequent when this class system predominates.”
Kincaid’s succinct discussion of Paige’s evidence, in other words, its “previous research, mostly case studies…; a world study looking primarily for correlations between economic systems and political behavior; case studies of Peru, Angola and Vietnam;” his hypotheses and their ceteris paribus qualification; and the ability to explain away “the most obvious exceptions to his hypothesis” [e.g., Malayan agricultural wage earners who worked on rubber estates and became involved in revolutionary movements], concludes that this compelling (informal) theory of agrarian movements displays the traits of good science: “It exhibits the evidential virtues summarized by independent, fair, and cross tests. Though its laws are qualified ceteris paribus, it confirms those claims by applying testing methods common in the natural sciences. Paige’s theory also seems to have explanatory virtues: it explains by providing relevant causal generalizations. Those causal generalizations, of course, describe tendencies or partial causal factors. Yet Paige’s testing procedures provide good evidence that those tendencies are actually operative.”
* Kincaid misspells Paige’s first name—as Jeffrey—in both the body of the text and in the bibliography.
• Miller, Richard W. Fact and Method: Explanation, Confirmation and Reality in the Natural and the Social Sciences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.
• Paige, Jeffery M. Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Cross-posted at the Agricultural Law blog.
At the beginning of the year I posted a “reading guide” on Red-Green (or ‘Eco-’) Socialism. This is an expanded version of that list with more links (still, it is far from exhaustive). It represents what I’m acquainted with by way of the attempt to integrate Marxism (and the Left in general) with ecological and environmental worldviews (I make some further, more specific recommendations in the note appended below):
See too the many works of the Marxist geographer, David Harvey, especially the earlier stuff. I think it’s also interesting to examine “conflicts on the ground” as it were between the Left and Green movement parties to the extent the latter finds little or nothing of value in the Marxist tradition (e.g., the early conflicts between the ‘Realos’ and ‘Fundis’ in West Germany and the ‘deep ecologists’ and largely Bookchin-led and inspired ‘social ecologists’ in the US). On the Left, André Gorz (1923 – 2007), pen name of Gérard Horst (born Gerhart Hirsch, also known by his pen name Michel Bosquet) was a New Left theorist who early on developed an “ecological politics.” By way of prioritizing (especially with regard to readings of Marx) and without intending to slight the other titles, I suggest beginning with these authors: Burkett, Foster, O’Connor, Postone, and Smith. Rudolf Bahro famously moved from Red to Green, eventually developing something like a “deep ecology” spiritual environmentalism that largely left Marx behind (at least rhetorically and strategically). Should you want to venture beyond the literature above for any reason, see the bibliographies on Marxism, “environmental and ecological politics, philosophies, and worldviews,” and “the sullied science & political economy of hyper-industrialized agriculture (or, ‘toward agroecology and food justice’),” found at my Academia page.
Another book I recently read in conjunction with the bibliography on “philosophy, psychology and methodology for the social sciences” was the late Martin Hollis’s Reason in Action: Essays in the philosophy of social science (Cambridge University Press, 1996). While the directed reading regimen was intentional, it turned out to be serendipitous:
California is of course in a severe drought (to be sure, more rain than usual is expected this year, but I’ll believe it when I can’t ride my bike to school), and our household and condo. association have taken action in conjunction with the city’s quite reasonable requirements and recommendations on this score. And then I pick up Hollis’s book, the first chapter of which is a prologue and apologia, while the second chapter is titled “Three men in a drought” and opens as follows: “Water was short in the torrid summer of 1976 and there were soon calls for restraint. Where I live, the Anglian Water Authority quickly threatened to ban garden hoses if the calls went unheeded.” The first person narrative is used, along with a “realist” hypothetical or thought experiment to introduce and illustrate questions regarding collective goods and the nature of rational action, and those, in turn, in the light of important topics in epistemology and ethics. Much of it calls to mind the myriad and passionate—albeit far less rational—arguments I’ve read and heard during our drought, the principal arguments now sifted by the efforts of a creative, sensitive, and keen philosopher.
One more wonderful—and this time moving—piece from this collection is prefaced by a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, part of which is the chapter title: “A death of one’s own.”* The words are those of Rilke’s character Malte from his only prose work, The Notes of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910): “The wish to have a death of one’s own is growing ever rarer. Only a while yet and it will be just as rare to have a death of one’s own as it is already to have a life of one’s own.”
In the course of this essay, Hollis treats with analytical acuity and intellectual charity if not generosity principles and values found in Liberalism, several ethical traditions (e.g., duty-based and consequentialist), as well as approaches common to bioethics. As Hollis well demonstrates, “Where policy meets patient, the doctor has moral choices to make which no code of medical ethics can reduce to routine.” While medical ethics is often be characterized by a “top down” approach, for example when it broadly aims to “maximize welfare subject to constraints of justice” (a goal he neither dismisses nor derides), Hollis suggests we complement such an orientation with a “bottom up” approach that focuses finely on—and thus can be empathetically sensitive to—the peculiarities of the patient as an individual person: her needs, wishes, beliefs, values, worldview. This invariably becomes a node of friction insofar as it is where “the system meets the patient.” I can vouch for that, albeit second hand, as my dear wife often brings home stories from the hospital that pivot around such points of friction (the parties in question remaining anonymous). The stories are sad, tragic, amusing, unsettling, disconcerting, and even frightening in an uncomfortably intimate way (perhaps because I am close in age to many of the patients who are the protagonists of these stories).
Hollis describes the doctor-patient relationship as “more than a bricolage of morally untidy choices but less than a systematic application of moral philosophy” (the latter route often preferred in bioethics). In his hypothetical sketch, based on all-too-real-life cases, the doctor, Henry, is overseeing George’s treatment and possible discharge from the hospital. The former’s decisions and judgments invariably involve others in subsidiary sundry ways, largely other professionals or bureaucrats (in a non-pejorative sense) of one kind or another. George of course is only one of the patients Henry is temporarily responsible for, while Henry is George’s only doctor and thus the person who decides to what degree George’s own wishes and desires will be granted a degree of deference, in other words, how much say, such as it is, George will have over the remainder of his life.
We’ll let Hollis fill out this hypothetical a bit more with regard to who George is, at least as it pertains to his stay at the hospital or who he has come to be (hence we can only make the slightest gesture in the direction of who George is as a person, with a biographical narrative, a life story, nearing its end):
“George is an old man, a widower, in hospital after a stroke. Although fairly well recovered, he still is fragile and has poor balance. But he is clear-headed, especially about his wish to go home. He says firmly that he could manage on his own; and so he probably could, if he had enough support. Otherwise there is a real danger of his falling, fracturing a leg and being unable to summon help. There is risk of hypothermia. He may easily become dirty, unkempt, emaciated and dehydrated, since it is not plain that he can dress, toilet and feed himself for long. He may not manage to comply with his medication. He might perhaps become a risk to others by leaving his fire unattended or causing a gas leak. None of this would be worrying, if there was a supporting cast. But his house is not suited to his condition. His only relative is a daughter, living elsewhere, with her own job and family and not willing to take George on [such a scenario is more common than we like to imagine]. His neighbors are unfriendly. Social services can offer something—perhaps home help, meals on wheels, a laundry service, day care, an alarm service. But this does not truly cover nights and weekends and, anyway, George is liable not to eat the meals and not to accept the day care. Meanwhile the advice from Social Services is that he should stay in hospital. It is good advice for the further reason that there will be no second chance. Often one can allow a patient a try at looking after himself, known that he can be scooped up and returned to hospital, if necessary. But George is too fragile and too alone for this to be a promising option. Yet he is in no doubt that he wants to go home and denies that he needs any of the missing support.”
Questions of self-determination (or ‘autonomy’ in the literature) and professional responsibility can be addressed, as Hollis suggests, in the context of George’s point of view, from the “bottom up,” which at some point confront questions of medical ethics posed from the “top down.” I will not attempt to catalogue or even summarize all of the lessons learned (or those one might learn) and the insights gleaned from this exquisite philosophical examination of topics within the scope of both bioethics and medical humanities, an examination at once incisive, humane, sophisticated but accessible, an artful combination of wisdom and compassion. Hollis endeavors to show “that patient centredness is not a clear guide to action and then that, even when it is, it may not be a good guide.” And he asks all the right questions, including some unexpected ones: “How much responsibility does Henry shoulder if he colludes with George’s wishes? The question is incomplete: how much responsibility to whom?” Hollis reminds us that “Henry is answerable for more people than George and to more people than George.” In brief, “Henry’s best efforts for George have a price paid elsewhere. ‘Patient-centred’ starts with George but cannot mean simply ‘George-centred’ and gives no guidance on where to stop.” An “intricate set of questions” that address Henry’s ethical and professional duties make vivid the fact that questions surrounding the possible scenarios that will likely determine the nature and cause of George’s death (at home or in the hospital) are not sufficiently faced if viewed solely and simply in the terms of the proper exercise of personal sovereignty or wholesale deference to George’s capacity for psychological and moral (or ‘rational’) “autonomy.”
In the end, Henry must decide, as a doctor and a person (his integrity hinging on the extent to which these indissolubly fuse together), whether or not George goes home, a decision that “varies with George’s insight” (which may not be constant) into his condition, situation, prospects—his life. In due course, Hollis explains why this insight cannot, or at any rate should not, be trumped by decisions and proclamations made by George’s earlier…and healthier “self.” Hollis concludes as follows:
“I imagine that most doctors will think it best to let George go, and will find this responsibility easier to shoulder. Indeed, I think they must, as more people live longer into a fragile and confused old age. But responsibility is not here lessened on the ground that letting die is not killing. Having learnt to postpone death, we have set ourselves problems of when to cut short the losses of an extended life. We have a collective responsibility for what Henry decides but Henry is responsible for his decision. Although he can cover his back by recording a clinical judgment that George’s insight and prospects were adequate, he knows that there is more to the moral question than clinical judgment.
At any rate, George goes home. He remains on his doctor’s conscience as he is carried out a month later to a forgotten grave. But so he would have done also, languishing on in a hospital bed. Without hoping to make it easier to see in the twilight, let me end with a patient-centered prayer, also from Rilke:
O Herr, gib jedem seinen eignen Tod,
Das Sterben, das aus jedem Leben geht,
Darin er Liebe hatte, Sinn und Not.
[O Lord, grant everyone a proper end,
a passing that arises from a life
that full of love and sense and need was spent.]
* This essay originally appeared in an edited volume by M. Bell and S. Mendus, Philosophy and Medical Welfare (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
Further Reading (for the second Hollis essay discussed above):
A Facebook friend asked me this morning, “Do you think the brownshirts may be coming?” Herewith my reply (composed before my first cup of tea):
They’re already here (indeed, they’ve been here for some time), although they’re of uniform mind not costume (apart from white hoods and robes). And now they’re leaving footprints in the muck and mire. They’re willing to render themselves more visible to the rest of us because social and mass media has both deliberately (owing to its uncritical fawning deference to any sort of fame or celebrity) and inadvertently fanned the flames of demagogic fascist leadership, exemplified most egregiously in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Their individual and collectively shameless motivational structures having been awakened, xenophobic nationalism and fascism finds sufficient fuel in the ever-increasing number of immature and developmentally distorted character-types. With ample ideological sanction from above, as it were, the unconscious libidinal and aggressive forces are now strong enough to thwart any potential for or tendency toward developmental individuation (i.e., the moral and psychological autonomy that makes for true sociality and humane fellowship or the kind of communities that foster and require the mutual cultivation and creative eudaimonistic expression of myriad and interdependent values): the insider-group trumps the individual (pun intended). The kind of social psychological soil being tilled in the current political climate provides propitious conditions for the emergence of harmful and deadly social-psychological bacteria: illusion and delusion, including individual and collective states of denial and self-deception, as well as passions untethered from moral reason and unconscious forces or drives incapable of sublimation.
At this juncture, an impartial and thus objective observer of our society will diagnose symptoms if not forms of widespread incipient and actual shared mental illness. At the very least, we discover the authoritarian (patriarchal?) character structures and proto-fascist and fascist tendencies among motley individuals and groups, not a few of whom were heretofore ostensibly “conservative” or “moderate,” perhaps even liberal in manifest orientation and outlook. And these tendencies are exhibited among several social classes, not just the so-called lumpenproletariat. Members of these classes respect, admire and envy those assuming or holding various types of power (apparent or actual: in word or deed).
Compassion toward, let alone solidarity or identification with strangers, the out-group, the weak or vulnerable, and so forth is suspect if not dangerous for these individuals, as it is perceived as an immediate threat to their fragile and artificial sense of individual and collective identity. Such identity is shorn of viable notions of human dignity and self-respect, or what it is to be a human person, in other words, we’re left with individuals incapable of incarnating all that is “bright and beautiful” or understanding what is sweetness and light in the Arnoldian sense. These psychologically stunted (in a developmental sense) and morally defective individuals evidence insufficient appreciation of the developmental processes of human nature that make for “perfectibility” in a Godwinian sense, either unable or unwilling to self-actualize or even attain moments of self-transcendence or human fulfillment in the deepest sense (this need not mean, nor in fact should we blame them or hold them fully responsible for this state of affairs). Such individuals are dispositionally or constitutionally afflicted with feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt if not impotence, and anxiety, a noxious brew that gives rise to identification with those who display power and aggression, a will to dominate, hurt and humiliate or control members of out-groups, thereby exhibiting the darkest traits of heteronomous and authoritarian character.
In short, the current political climate makes for what Fromm termed “the pathology of normalcy” (a locution that, conceptually speaking, has long-standing religious and philosophical pedigree), or the consensus, conformity and false consciousness that provide the necessary if not sufficient conditions for fascism.
My latest bibliography, on “Philosophy, Psychology, & Methodology for the Social Sciences,” is here. If you cannot access it, drop me a note and I will send a PDF version through cyberspace.
In a previous post, I promised we would examine Sridhar Venkatapuram’s “impressive and urgent book,” Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach (Polity Press, 2011). I’m not prepared to do that quite yet, but I do want to share with you something from him on the limitations of the “bio-medical” model of health and the corresponding need to change the prevailing epidemiological paradigm in modern medicine, which is “substantively linked to the notion of disease.” The “bio-statistical theory of health” ensconced in this epidemiology “is the informational engine of medical care and public health.” Venkatapuram’s “capability approach” to health and health justice (which entails a ‘conception of health as a meta-capability to achieve a cluster of basic capabilities and functionings’) endeavors to transcend (thus not eliminate) the “dominant biomedical and risk factor model of disease causation and distribution” in its role as the overarching theory that, in turn, governs this epidemiology. In his words,
“…as it currently stands, the dominant explanatory model in epidemiology is significantly constrained even in explaining diseases. It is not able to explain fully the causation and distribution of diseases most prevalent in developed economies, namely chronic and degenerative conditions. The current paradigm is not providing satisfactory explanation for all the observable facts of disease and its social distribution patterns. [….]
Three specific limitations of the prevailing model of disease aetiology are often at the centre of debates about the ‘paradigm crisis’ in epidemiology. These include its level of analysis, its inability to recognize distribution patterns, and its partially informed recommendations for policy. The current model, which evolved from the late-nineteenth-century germ theory of disease, recognizes three categories of causal factors. These factors include biological endowments, behaviours and external exposures to harmful substances or ‘agents.’ The resulting limitation of this model is that it operates only a single level, at the individual level, and expresses a form of explanatory individualism. Short causal pathways confined to the human body are studied, while the model precludes recognizing and supra-individual level factors or social processes as part of the longer causal chain in the production of disease. As a result, the model studies individuals in a vacuum and disconnected from other individuals; it is only focused on what happens on and within the skin of individuals.”
The significance of the “level” of causal analysis, in this case, as “supra-individual level factors or social processes,” was in fact appreciated in some quarters in the early nineteenth century. In doing research for my latest bibliography on “philosophy, psychology and methodology for the social sciences,” I came across the following passage from Richard W. Miller’s unduly neglected or under-appreciated work (inferred from the comparatively few references found in the literature), Fact and Method: Explanation, Confirmation and Reality in the Natural and Social Sciences (Princeton University Press, 1987).
“In the organized pursuit of explanation, practical concerns may…dictate choice of a standard causal pattern. In the early nineteenth century, many investigators had come to explain the prevalence of certain diseases in certain places as due to filth and overcrowding. For example, the prevalence of tuberculosis in urban slums was understood this way. In these explanations, the microbial agent was not, of course, described. But the causal factors mentioned were actual causes of the prevalence of some of those diseases. If Manchester had not been filthy and overcrowded, tuberculosis would not have been prevalent. On the purely scientific dimension, acceptance of accurate environmental explanations probably did not encourage as many causal ascriptions as would a standard requiring explanation of why some victims of filth and overcrowding became tubercular, some not. Those who pressed the latter question were to lead the great advances of the germ theory. But in a practical way, the environmental explanations did a superior job, encouraging more important causal accounts. Guided by those accounts, sanitary measures produced dramatic reductions in tuberculosis and other diseases, more dramatic, in fact, than the germ theory has yielded. A perspicacious investigator might have argued, ‘We know that some specific and varied accompaniment of filth and overcrowding is crucial, since not every child in the Manchester slums is tubercular. But we should accept explanations of the prevalence of disease which appeal to living conditions. For they accurately, if vaguely, describe relevant causal factors, and give us the means to control the prevalence of disease.’” [emphasis added]
Incidentally, Paul Thagard’s fairly sophisticated model of “disease explanation” as “causal network instantiation,” elaborated in his book How Scientists Explain Disease (Princeton University Press, 1999), includes a possible causal role for environmental factors, but the concept and meaning of health as such is not addressed, the implication being that disease (along with illness or, socially speaking, sickness) is simply the converse of health, namely, “ill-health” (understood as an instance of a clinically identifiable biological pathology). As we will see at a later date, Venkatapuram’s capabilities approach to health spells out a normatively robust conception of health and well-being that is more than the mere converse of “ill-health,” however important that life condition remains indicative of a considerably significant social achievement.
Jon Elster on “qualitative social science”:
“I believe the best training for any social scientist is to read widely and deeply in history, choosing works for the intrinsic quality of the argument rather than the importance or relevance of the subject matter. Here are some models: James Fitzgerald Stephen, A History of the Criminal Law of England; E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class; G.E.M de Ste Croix, The Class Struggles in the Ancient Greek World; Joseph Levenson, Confucian China and Its Modern Fate; Paul Veyne, Le pain et le cirque; G. Lefebvre, La grande peur; Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic…. What these writers and others of their stature have in common is that they combine utter authority in factual matters with an eye both for potential generalizations and for potential counterexamples to generalizations. By virtue of their knowledge they can pick out ‘telling detail’ as well as ‘robust anomaly,’ thus providing both stimulus and reality check for would-be generalists.
The same is true for authors of ‘case studies,’ among which one of the greatest remains Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Although it does not fit neatly into the category, I would also include Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. A seemingly eccentric but, I believe, compelling candidate is Arthur Young’s Travels in France, covering the years 1787, 1788, and 1780. These are ‘character portraits’ of whole societies or regimes, all of them with a comparative perspective. Marc Bloch, La société féodale, also belongs here.” [….]
* * *
“…[T]he classics are not obsolete. I would find it hard to take seriously someone who claimed that classical works are not worth taking seriously today because their findings, when accurate, are fully incorporated into current thinking. They have much more than antiquarian interest. I do not claim, though, that a dialogue with past masters is the only or the best way of generating new insights. Thomas Schelling, for instance, does not seem, in any obvious way at least, to have been standing on anyone’s shoulders. Kenneth Arrow may have rediscovered and generalized Condorcet’s insight, but he was not influenced by him. The work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky was as far as I know not generated by knowledge of any precursors. When I once had the occasion to point out to Tversky that one of his distinctions (between the ‘endowment effect’ and the ‘contrast effect’) had been anticipated by Montaigne and by Hume, he replied only that he was happy to be in such good company. Since the scholars I have just named are responsible for what were arguably the most decisive advances in social science over the last fifty years, one obviously cannot argue that the dialogue with the past is the only road to new insight. [….]
This being said, the dialogue with the past can be immensely fruitful, if only to identify the positions one has to refute. It is hard to imagine that non-Marxists such as Weber or Schumpeter could have written what they did if they had not read Marx closely. Direct or positive influence is also common, of course. It seems likely that some recent theories of the evolution of property systems were directly influenced by David Hume, rather than simply claiming him as a precursor. Paul Veyne’s work on the psychology of tyranny in antiquity owes much to Hegel’s analysis of the master-slave relation. George Ainslie, who has done much to render one of Freud’s basic insights analytically persuasive, might not have arrived at his ideas but for Freud’s earlier, inchoate version. I suspect that Bentham’s Political Tactics is still insufficiently mined. In these cases…the ideas inspired by the classics have to stand on their own once arrived at. The good use of the classics does not include an argument from authority.” — From Elster’s indispensable volume, Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences (Cambridge University Press, 2007): 447-48 and 454-55 respectively.
I am preparing a bibliography on “Philosophy, Psychology, & Methodology for the Social Sciences,” and came across the above from my notes and thought to share it.
“Enough is as good as a feast.”—Sir Thomas Malory (d.1471)
“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.”—John Heywood (c.1497-1580)
“Since we cannot get what we like, let us like what we can get.”—of Spanish provenance
“When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”—of Vietnamese provenance
“ ‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”—Alice Walker
“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”—William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”—William Arthur Ward
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”—Marcel Proust
“Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”—Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821 – 1881)
“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”—Johannes Gaertner (1912 – 1996)
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”—Cynthia Ozick (b. 1928)
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”—Cicero
“Gratitude is the moral memory of mankind.”—Georg Simmel
“Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.”—John Henry Jowett
“Gratitude,” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
In the words of Gilbert Achcar (see below), “Maxime Rodinson (1915-2004) was the last survivor of an exceptional group of French Orientalists—in the pre-Saidian non-pejorative meaning of this term, i.e. scholars of Islam and the Arab world—who lived through most of the twentieth century and rose to fame in the 1960s, a decade that saw the emergence of an impressive contingent of French thinkers whose names loom large in the social sciences of our time. The group of brilliant Orientalists to which Rodinson belonged, and which included other luminaries such as Jacque Berque and Claude Cahen, reclaimed the field of Arab and Islamic studies with impeccable erudition, scientific rigour, and a critical solidarity with the peoples they studies that made their writings largely free from the deficiencies of the colonial ‘Orientalism’ of yesteryear and their own time.”
I happen to be reading Maxime Rodinson’s work afresh after many years, having first been introduced to him by Professor Juan Campo when I was an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara. While I still have several of his works in English from that time, I recently picked up a new edition (Zed Books, 2015) of Marxism and the Muslim World (Foreword by Gilbert Achcar), originally published in 1979 (French ed., 1972). I thought some of (the younger among) you not familiar with his work might appreciate this list of books in English by Rodinson (most of these titles were published earlier in French):
The Wikipedia entry on Rodinson is here. An interview from Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) conducted by Joan Mandell and Joe Stork in 1986 is here (as noted in the interview, his parents died at Auschwitz in 1943).
On the various species of “Orientalism,” pre-Saidian and otherwise (including its role in ‘postcolonial’ and ‘subaltern’ studies), please see:
By way of distinguishing brains from minds (including the unique and irreducible properties of consciousness), AI (artificial intelligence) from human intelligence,* and human (animal) nature from animal nature simpliciter, I proffer the following titles:
• Bennett, M.R. and P.M.S. Hacker. Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.
• Bennett, Maxwell, Daniel Dennett, Peter Hacker, John Searle, and Daniel Robinson. Neuroscience and Philosophy: Brain, Mind and Language. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. (I prefer the arguments of Bennett, Hacker, and Robinson over Dennett and Searle.)
• Descombes, Vincent (Stephen Adam Schwartz, tr.). The Mind’s Provisions: A Critique of Cognitivism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.
• Finkelstein, David H. Expression and the Inner. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.
• Gillett, Grant. Subjectivity and Being Somebody: Human Identity and Neuroethics. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2008.
• Gillett, Grant. The Mind and Its Discontents. New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., 2009.
• Hacker, P.M.S. Human Nature: The Categorial Framework. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.
• Hacker, P.M.S. The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
• Hodgson, David. The Mind Matters: Consciousness and Choice in a Quantum World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
• Horst, Steven. Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.
• Hutto, Daniel D. The Presence of Mind. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1999.
• Hutto, Daniel D. Beyond Physicalism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2000.
• Hutto, Daniel D. Folk Psychological Narratives: The Sociocultural Basis of Understanding. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.
• Pardo, Michael S. and Dennis Patterson. Minds, Brains, and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
• Robinson, Daniel N. Consciousness and Mental Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
• Tallis, Raymond. The Explicit Animal: A Defence of Human Consciousness. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999 ed.
• Tallis, Raymond. Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Durham, England: Acumen, 2011.
• Travis, Charles. Unshadowed Thought: Representation in Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.
* The provocative and important notions of “distributed” and “collective” intelligence blur these boundaries, indeed, they make artificial and human intelligence in several respects complementary; nevertheless, the former remains parasitic on the latter, much as conceptions of distributed and collective intelligence derive their meaning and referential power in the first instance from the concept of individual intelligence (which, in any case, is not ‘located’ in the brain), granted the superior “problem solving” (in the widest sense) capacity of distributed and collective intelligence (or collective wisdom). Moreover, acknowledging the power and significance of distributed and collective intelligence for, say, epistemic deliberative models of democratic theory and praxis, need not mean we abandon the explanatory tenets of methodological individualism for, as Hélène Landemore notes, “it can be argued that these notions lend themselves to explanations in terms of individual choices and actions, in the same way that collective-action problems can be accounted for by the analytical tools and individualist methodology of social choice theory.”
Addendum: I am linking to the post at New APPS that moved me, in turn, to share the above list. It is representative of the sort of stuff at the permeable boundaries between and the interstices of science and philosophy that rubs me the wrong way (hopefully, for the right reasons). Generally, I think it is emblematic of “scientism” in philosophy, as captured in this remark by Professor Carrie Figdor: “Basically, I think psychological concepts are transitioning to scientifically determined standards for proper use, leaving behind the ideal-rational-human, anthropocentric standards we now have.” In short, I would argue that “no, neurons do not have preferences” (and we can critique various metaphysical and philosophy of mind theories without resorting to ‘mental state verbs’ to describe or refer to processes that in the natural world, be it within or outside our bodies). Indeed, this particular use of psychological concepts strikes me as a crude employment of anthropomorphic language! Please see Eric Schwitzgebel’s post, “Do Neurons Literally Have Preferences?”
The following is a draft of a revised entry on “Democracy” for a new edition of an encyclopedia on Islam (it is the only one of my entries I’m revising). The format is slightly different than the actual submission but the content is identical: “Democracy & Islam.”
An indispensable work on both (a few of) the causes and (some of) the effects of the political and cultural orientation of the “paperback generation” [i.e., ‘baby boomers’] is Loren Glass’s Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde (Stanford University Press, 2013). First, the Wikipedia introduction to Grove Press:
“Grove Press is an American publishing imprint that was founded in 1951. Imprints include: Black Cat, Evergreen, Venus Library, and Zebra. Barney Rosset purchased the company in 1951 and turned it into an alternative book press in the United States. He partnered with Richard Seaver to bring French literature to the United States. The Atlantic Monthly Press, under the aegis of its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, merged with Grove Press in 1991. Grove is now an imprint of the publisher Grove/Atlantic, Inc.”
And now a provocative snippet from Glass’s Counterculture Colophon:
“On the one hand, individual ownership was one component of this [i.e., the boomers’] generation’s relationship to print, and in some ways a misleading one, since paperbacks were frequently shared as a form of collective property. On the other hand, assigned reading lists were only one delivery system whereby these books got into the hands of college students, whose loyalty to Grove Press nurtured a whole common culture of revolutionary reading in the 1960s. [….] [P]rivate reading and public life were powerfully stitched together in the 1960s; to be in the Movement meant, at least partly, to be reading certain books, and many, if not most, of those books were published by Grove Press.”
On the aforementioned “common culture of revolutionary reading:”
“…[I]n the second half of the 1960s, Grove expanded and enhanced both the investigative reporting and radical rhetoric of the Evergreen Review, publishing double agent Ken Philby’s revelations about British and American intelligence; Ho Chi Minh’s prison poems; extensive reports on urban riots and ghetto activism; eyewitness accounts of the events of May 1968, the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the trial of the ‘Chicago 8’; interviews with My Lai veterans and other exposés on the Vietnam War; and numerous articles by and about the New Left, Weather Underground, Black Panthers, and other revolutionary movements throughout the world. In these efforts, Grove sought to merge literary and political understandings of the term ‘avant-garde’ in the belief that reading radical literature could instill both the practical knowledge and psychological transformation necessary to precipitate a revolution.”
“The philosophical convergence between both embattled /materialist and detached idealist philosophers is captured in a short poem by René Char (14 June 1907 – 19 February 1988): ‘Towards your frontier, you humiliated, I walk at last with confidence, warned that truth does not necessarily precede action.’ This poetical aphorism opens two windows on the eternal dialectics between truth and action, theory and practice, philosophy and politics, as I see them unfolding in the Middle East convulsions of the early twenty-first century.
Let me paraphrase the great French poet. The first part says: ‘Toward the frontier of humiliated life, in the long night of the modern Middle East age of ruthless dictators, the men and women of the revolution walk with the certainty of truth.’ In this first window into the Middle East revolution, marching is physical action, and the marching operates with confidence and inevitability in its self-consciousness. The nexus between action and philosophy, more precisely the nexus of action to truth, philosophy’s meta-object, is therefore far more intimate than both engage or detached philosophers may be ready to concede.
There is more to the poem than reckoning the revelation of truth in historic changes of mass proportions that we call revolutions. Opening the second vista, Char writes that ‘la vérité ne précède pas obligatoirement l’action’ (Truth does not necessarily come before action). Necessarily, obligatoirement, is the key qualifier of the poem. Action is sometimes forced to precede truth. Sometimes truth comes before action; sometimes it does not. Philosophical truth faces deadlocks and impasses, aporia that action resolves, sometimes. In a world where the individual is always overtaken by forces far beyond his or her practical reach, the reach itself provides and answer to the impasse. Shorn of philosophy, however, that reach misses its most important resonance in world-historic terms. Truth is also in action, which sometimes precedes philosophy.”—From Chibli Mallat’s Philosophy of Nonviolence: Revolution, Constitutionalism, and Justice Beyond the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2015)
Further Reading: Nonviolent Resistance in the Middle East: A Basic Bibliography.
My bibliography on “The Great Depression and The New Deal” is available here.