Saturday, August 02, 2008

You do read...

Piled Higher and Deeper, don't you?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Has anyone...

ever written on the recurrent phrasing of "the pure theory of" in social science and social thought?

It's often used to indicate that a theory is being built up neoclassical economic premises in an ostensibly purely-deductive fashion; but the earliest prominent use of it, Kelsen's "pure theory of law," has no particular relationship to the purity of economics.

Since I would imagine that anyone writing a general account would be unable to resist the title "the pure theory of pure theories," but that phrase generates no hits on google, I'm going to guess that no one's done it. I hereby offer that title up gratis (though an acknowledgment would be nice!) to anyone who can do something clever with it.
Liberal Beginnings

Onto the purchase list and then onto the reading list with this one:

Liberal Beginnings: Making a Republic For the Moderns. by Ira Katznelson and Andreas Kalyvas; 2008, Cambridge University Press.
The book examines the origins and development of the modern liberal tradition and explores the relationship between republicanism and liberalism between 1750 and 1830. The authors consider the diverse settings of Scotland, the American colonies, the new United States, and France and examine the writings of six leading thinkers of this period: Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, Germaine de Staƫl, and Benjamin Constant. The book traces the process by which these thinkers transformed and advanced the republican project, both from within and by introducing new elements from without. Without compromising civic principles or abandoning republican language, they came to see that unrevised, the republican tradition could not grapple successfully with the political problems of their time. By investing new meanings, arguments, and justifications into existing republican ideas and political forms, these innovators fashioned a doctrine for a modern republic, the core of which was surprisingly liberal.

to Leigh Jenco, whose (absolutely first-rate) dissertation "Individuals, Institutions, and Political Change: The Political Theory of Zhang Shizhao" has been awarded APSA's 2008 Leo Strauss prize for the best dissertation in political theory. Jenco has recently taken up a post as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

San Diego Comic Con

My old friend Ali Kokmen, in San Diego for Comic Con, offered up this rousing rally to soldier on through the end of the convention. Go check it out-- really.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Professor Obama

There's been some understandable surprise in the blogosphere at the account in today's NYT of Barack Obama's career at the University of Chicago Law School, which reports that after his loss to Bobby Rush in the 2000 Congressional primary, the Law School was prepared to offer him a tenured professorship despite his lack of scholarly publications. Assuming that the Times has this right, it's at least quite startling. (The position Obama ended up accepting, Senior Lecturer, was one shared by full-time federal judges Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook who also teach and research at the Law School; it's a different kind of position, and one that's appropriate to offer to a practitioner interested in teaching.)

One thing to note, though, is that earlier, as Jason Zengerle reported,
[Then-Appointments Chair Douglas] Baird approached Obama about a teaching job at Chicago during his third and final year as a student at Harvard. "You look at his background--Harvard Law Review president, magna cum laude, and he's African American," Baird says. "This is a no-brainer hiring decision at the entry level of any law school in the country." But Obama wasn't interested. Obama did, however, mention that he was writing a book on voting rights, so Baird arranged for him to become a Law and Government Fellow at the school--a position that provided Obama with an office and a modest stipend he could use in the course of his writing. When Obama came to Baird in the middle of his fellowship to report that his book on voting rights had morphed into the memoir that would become Dreams From My Father, Baird told him not to worry.

In other words, the Law School had in some sense already endorsed Dreams of My Father as a substitute for a scholarly book on voting rights. It may be that that assessment carried over to the willingness to consider a tenured position later on. It was a book the school had supported the writing of in the first place, which would make it odd for the school to later take the position that Obama had no publications.

This is probably a bit beside the point; the underlying rationale was surely something more like "you do whatever it takes to get this brilliant charismatic clearly-destined-for-greatness guy on your faculty for the rest of his life." But I do think that the institutional endorsement of the book is relevant.

[Disclaimer: Despite my own time at the Law School and the fact that I know lots of the people quoted, I have no inside knowledge about any of this.]

Update: Not terribly surprisingly, it appears that the NYT got this wrong.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


to Open University, now defunct and removed from the TNR homepage. A noble effort...
Onto the reading list

Social Philosophy and Policy special issue on freedom of association, including:

Eric R. Claeys
Social Philosophy and Policy, Volume 25, Issue 02, July 2008, pp 201-234

Richard Boyd
Social Philosophy and Policy, Volume 25, Issue 02, July 2008, pp 235-262

Aurelian Craiutu
Social Philosophy and Policy, Volume 25, Issue 02, July 2008, pp 263-287

and a good deal else besides...

Monday, July 28, 2008


I've never before taught the same class in the spring of one academic year and in the fall of the immediately following year. Add in the fact that I was doing strike-disrupted grading until June, and it feels much too soon to be thinking about this course again. But September 3 isn't so terribly far away.

Hm. What to cut, and how to reconfigure?

"Why to obey" and "how to rule" should be disentangled in Part I of the syllabus. Social contract theory should be moved out of the liberalism-conservatism-socialism part of the course and back to the "why to obey" section.

On the one hand, maybe all the ancient material should be dropped; it's an intro to "modern political thought," after all. On the other hand, maybe what should be dropped is most of Parts II and III, with Part I plus social contract theory plus some case studies, stretched out over the semester.

Possibly add some Foucault, Discipline, alongside Hayek and Dewey on governance and knowledge.

More Bentham. But possibly drop Mill altogether? That would be strange, but it may be the right answer.


The idea that books need to be ordered soon is most distressing.


Political Science 232: Modern Political Thought, Fall 2008, PRELIMINARY DRAFT syllabus.

1.September 3: Introduction

Part I. Ethics and Politics

2. September 5:
Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” [appearing under the modern title “Civil Disobedience”]
Excerpt from Martin Luther King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

3. September 8:
CP: Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation,” in Gerth and Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Oxford University Press, 1958 [1919] pp. 77-128

4. September 10:
Sophocles, Antigone, entire

5. September 12:
Plato, “Crito” and “The Apology”

6. September 15-17
Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. 8-26

September 17-19: Conferences begin

7. September 22:
CP: Michael Walzer, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 2, No. 2. (Winter, 1973), pp. 160-180.
Stable URL:

8. September 24-26:
CP: Bernard Williams, “A Critique of Utilitarianism,” in Smart & Williams, Utilitarianism, for and against, Cambridge University Press, pp. 93-118.
Williams, “Politics and Moral Character,” and Thomas Nagel, “Ruthlessness in Public Life,” in Stuart Hampshire, ed., Public and Private Morality, Cambridge University Press, pp. 56-73 and 75-91

9. September 29:
CP: Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 19-38
Thucydides, “The Melian Dialogue,” from History of the Peloponnesian War

10. October 1-3:
CP: Robert Nozick, “The Tale of the Slave,” from Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 290-2.
Robert Paul Wolff, In Defense of Anarchism, University of California Press, 1970, pp. 3-19

Aristotle, The Politics, Everson ed., Cambridge University Press, pp. 65-8 and 170-1

11. October 6:
CP: F. A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” The American Economic Review, Vol. 35, No. 4. (Sep., 1945), pp. 519-530.
Stable URL:
John Dewey, The Political Writings, Hackett, pp. 158-60, 169-72

12. October 8-10:
CP: Michael Oakeshott, “Rationalism in Politics,” in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, Liberty Fund, pp. 5-43
Jeremy Bentham, Bentham’s Handbook of Anarchical Fallacies, pp. 43-51, 131-5, 193-205

Part II. Liberty

October 13: NO CLASS

13. October 15-17.
CP: Plato, The Republic, Allan Bloom trans., pp. 235-242 (557a-564a), 251-60 (571a-579e)

14. October 20.
CP: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, in Gourevitch,ed., The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings, Cambridge University Press, pp. 49-54, 59-64, 121-2 (I.6-8, II.3-4, IV.1)
Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns,” in Biancamaria Fontana, ed., Constant: Political Writings, Cambridge University Press, pp. 309-28

15. October 22-24.
CP: Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” in Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford University Press, pp. 119-54

16. October 27.
CP: Berlin, “Two Concepts,” pp. 154-72.
Charles Taylor, “What’s Wrong With Negative Liberty,” in Philosophical Papers vol 2: Philosophy and the Human Sciences, pp. 211-29

Part III. Ideas, ideals, and ideologies: what shall we do?

19. October 29-31:
CP: John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government, Cambridge University Press, pp. 269-78, 330-63, ch. 2, 8-11
Declaration of American Independence


21. November 3:
CP: David Hume, “Of the Original Contract,” in Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, Liberty Fund, pp. 465-88
Hume, Political Writings, Hackett, pp. 51-73 [Treatise of Human Nature III.8-10]
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Conservative,” in Essays & Lectures, Library of America, pp. 173-89

22. November 5-7:
CP: Oakeshott, “On Being Conservative,” in Rationalism in Politics, pp. 407-37

23. November 10:
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, ch. 1-2

24. November 12-14:
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, ch. 3-5

25. November 17:
CP: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 3-33 and 54-65

26. November 19:

No conferences the week of November 17.

27. November 26.
CP: Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question,” in Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 26-52
“The Communist Manifesto,” sections 1 and 2, pp. 469-91

28. November 28-30.
CP: Publius, The Federalist Papers, Rossiter ed., Signet, pp. 66-79, 297-322 (#s 9-10, 47-51
And review: Rousseau reading from February 14-16
Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

29. December 1:
John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, ch. 16, “Of Nationality.”

30. December 2:
CP: Isaiah Berlin, “The Pursuit of the Ideal,” in The Crooked Timber of Humanity, Vintage, pp. 1-19
George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” in The Orwell Reader, Harvest, pp. 355-66