Friday, August 08, 2008

In the news

I'm quoted in today's Journal de Montreal as one of several experts approving of the Montreal YMCA's decision to allow a Muslim lifeguard to wear a "burkini," a swimsuit that leaves only her face, hands, and feet exposed.

Interestingly and importantly, the woman is a native-born Quebecoise who converted to Islam, not an immigrant or from an immigrant family. It's worthwhile to emphasize that "reasonable accommodations" help protect the religious liberty of everyone in a jurisdiction, not only immigrants. Because of the possibility of conversion, there's no neat way to divide up religious freedom between Them and Us.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Now online

The special issue of Hypatia "In Honor of Iris Marion Young: Theorist and Practitioner of Justice."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Incipient immortality, part of a continuing series

Via faithful reader and sometime co-consumer Professor J, the New York Times provides this round-up of all the most important recent health news. It's Science, so it must be true.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Available for pre-order...

in time for fall semester courses.

The Broadview Anthology of Social and Political Thought: The Twentieth Century and Beyond , eds. Andrew Bailey, Samantha Brennan, Will Kymlicka, Jacob Levy, Alex Sager, Clark Wolf.


The second volume of this comprehensive anthology covers the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The anthology is broad ranging both in its selection of material by figures traditionally acknowledged as being of central importance, and in the material it presents by a range of other figures. The material in this volume is presented in three sections. The first, "Power and the State," includes selections by such figures as Goldman, Lenin, Weber, Schmitt, and Hayek. Among those included in the "Race, Gender, and Colonialism" section are de Beauvoir, Gandhi, Fanon, and Young. The third and by far the longest section, "Rights-Based Liberalism and its Critics," focuses on the many interrelated directions that social and political philosophy has taken since the publication of John Rawls's ground-breaking A Theory of Justice in 1971.

See the table of contents.

Already available: volume 1: From Plato to Nietzsche.
Onto the reading list

Malcolm M. Feeley and Edward Rubin, Federalism: Political Identity and Tragic Compromise

Federalism refers to a system in which a centralized national government shares power with member states. Beyond this most basic definition, however, scholars debate the applications and implications of the term. Joining the concept of identity from political science with legal principle, Malcolm M. Feeley and Edward Rubin propose a theory of federalism and test the relevance of federalism for the United States today.

Essentially, federalism represents a compromise among groups who refuse to yield autonomy yet acknowledge the benefits of forming a nation. As in the African and Asian nations forged from former colonies, federalism allows the member states---often dominated by ethnic minorities---to remain largely self-governing. In this way, a young nation can avoid secession and civil war while the people within its borders gradually abandon their local identities and come to view themselves as citizens of the nation.

The United States, Feeley and Rubin remind us, faced a similar situation in the eighteenth century as thirteen regionally distinct, ethnically diverse, and highly independent British colonies came together to found a nation. Despite the Civil War and the upheaval of the Civil Rights Movement, the federalist strategy ultimately succeeded. For the United States in the early twenty-first century, thanks to the rise of a strong national identity and a ubiquitous bureaucracy, federalism has become obsolete. This bold argument is certain to provoke controversy.

I'm worried by the apparent nationalist teleology. A multiethnic state may not be a nation in potentia that just happens not to have yet been realized, and it's dangerous to view it that way. There is no law of nature or moral demand that "the people within its borders gradually abandon their local identities and come to view themselves as citizens of the nation." But still, I think Feeley and Rubin are approaching federalism with the right questions in mind, and I've expressed my own related worries about federalism's obsolescence in the U.S. for related reasons.

I read 40 pages or so of this book in proofs form standing in the book room at Law and Society, and recommend it very highly. It's a major and important work.