Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Now online: "Not so Novus an Ordo: Constitutions Without Social Contracts"

The preprint version is available at Political Theory (subscription required).

Social contract theory imagines political societies as resting on a fundamental agreement, adopted at a discrete moment in hypothetical time, that binds individual persons together into a polity and sets fundamental rules regarding that polity's structure and powers. Written constitutions, adopted at real moments in historical time, dictating governmental structures, bounding governmental powers, and entrenching individual rights, look temptingly like social contracts reified. Yet something essential is lost in this slippage between social contract theory and the practice of constitutionalism. Contractarian blinders lead us to look for greater individualism, social unity, and coherence of principles than should be expected. Real constitutional orders appropriate, incorporate, and channel the histories and divisions of the societies they govern. Treating them as social contracts flattens and distorts them, making those engagements with the past or with social plurality appear anomalous and encouraging their minimization. Accordingly this article redirects attention to non-contractarian strands within constitutionalism's intellectual inheritance and lived practice.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leiter on Shaw on Nietzsche

Brian Leiter's review of Tamsin Shaw's Nietzsche's Political Skepticism is excerpted here and posted here.

I rolled my eyes at the fact that, even in the few paragraphs excerpted on his blog, Leiter couldn't resist the following: "Most books by political theorists on Nietzsche are unreadable for philosophers; this book is the exception that proves the rule." Heaven forbid that a thoughtful and serious engagement with a political theorist not be accompanied by a sideswipe at the rest of the field! But it's a very thoughtful review of a very good book; both recommended.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Philosophy of Adam Smith: A conference to commemorate the 250th anniversary of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, January 6-8, 2009, Balliol College, Oxford

The program and schedule are now online, along with paper abstracts. It's a great lineup, and I'm excited that I'll be able to be there for part of it.

Organised by the International Adam Smith Society and The Adam Smith Review
Conference organisers: Vivienne Brown, Editor The Adam Smith Review (v.w.brown@open.ac.uk)
Samuel Fleischacker, President, International Adam Smith Society (fleischert@sbcglobal.net)

Although Adam Smith is better known now for his economics, in his own time it was his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which established his reputation. Just as scholarly work on Smith has challenged the free market appropriation of Smith’s Wealth of Nations, so it has also come to appreciate the importance of Smith’s moral philosophy for his overall intellectual project. This conference, to be held at the college Smith himself attended from 1740-46, and at the beginning of the year marking the 250th anniversary of the publication of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, will provide an opportunity to re-evaluate the significance of Smith’s moral philosophy and moral psychology, the relationship between them and his other writings on economics, politics, jurisprudence, history, and rhetoric and belles lettres, and the relevance of his thought to current research in these areas.

Plenary speakers will include:

Stephen Darwall (Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan), "Smith on Honor and Respect"

Charles Griswold (Professor of Philosophy, Boston University), "Tales of the Self: Adam Smith's Reply to Rousseau"

David Raphael (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Imperial College), "The Virtue of TMS 1759"

Emma Rothschild (Jeremy and Jane Knowles Professor of History, Harvard University, and Director of the Centre for History and Economics, King's College, Cambridge and Harvard University), "TMS and the Inner Life"

Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina), "Is the Impartial Spectator's Vision 20/20?"

ession speakers

Richard van den Berg, "PL Roederer's Reading of Smith's System of Sympathy"
Lauren Brubaker, "Smith's moderate response to Rousseau"
Richard Boyd, "Adam Smith and Nationalism"
Emily Brady, "Nature, Aesthetic Judgment, and Sympathetic Imagination"
Toni Vogel Carey, "Accounting for Moral as for Natural Things"
Maria Alejandra Carrasco, "The forked meaning of self-command"
Sergio Cremaschi, "Adam Smith's post-scepticism and his unwritten doctrines"
Remy Debes, "The Value of Persons in Smith's Moral Philosophy"
Patricio Fernandez and Nicholas Teh, "Smith and McDowell on Moral Objectivity"
Tom Ford, "Reification and Adam Smith's 'as it were'"
Fonna Forman-Barzilai, "The 'humbler department': Smith's anti-cosmopolitanism"
Christel Fricke, "Moral Norms: Conventions or Universal Principles?"
Patrick Frierson, "Smithian Intrinsic Value"
Ryan Hanley, "Smith's Skepticism"
Maureen Harkin, "Smith on Literature,"
Eugene Heath, "Moral Evolution and the Invisible Hand"
Neven Leddy, "Smith's TMS in 1759, 1790 and 1976"
Thornton Lockwood, "Moral Education in Aristotle and Adam Smith"
John McHugh, "Hume and Smith: Sympathy, Utility and the Sociality of the Self"
Alice MacLachlan, "Injustice, Entitlement, and Smithean Resentment"
James McClellan and Karin Brown, "Sophie de Grouchy's Translation of TMS"
Robert Mankin, "Smith and the Art of Dying"
Angelica Nuzzo, "The Standpoint of Morality in Adam Smith and Hegel"
Paul Oslington, "Newton and Smith on Divine Action"
Jonathan Rick, "The Impartial Spectator's Amour-Propre"
Alvaro Santana-Alcuña, "Outside the Self"
Roberto Scazzieri, "Social Mirrors: Rationality under Relational Constraints""
Eric Schliesser, "Adam Smith's Engagement with Plato's Laws"
Arby Siraki, "Adam Smith's theory of tragedy"
Spiros Tegos, "The Problem of Authority in Adam Smith"
Andrew Terjesen, "Imagination or Correspondence in Smith's 'Sympathy'"
Robert Urquhart, "Adam Smith's Problems: Tensions within TMS and WN"
Carola Freilin von Villiez, ""Dimensions of Impartiality"
Gloria Vivenza, "Cicero and Seneca in TMS"
Christopher Williams, "Taste and Testimony in Adam Smith"
Jeffrey Young, "Justice, Property, and Markets"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I'm always a little uncomfortable trying to make Michael Oakeshott's "Rationalism in Politics" seem like a strong, attractive, plausible argument in class-- because however strong its critical bite, its affirmative case seems unavoidably to end up as an endorsement of hereditary political office. Now, I'm willing to be the elegaic Oakeshottean/ Burkean about the old British House of Lords, but at the end of the day I'm an American and our founding fathers dumped tea into the harbor and shot at redcoats when they saw the whites of their eyes and overthrew the mightiest military power in the world in order to stop the pernicious doctrine of hereditary rule and make the world safe for democracy, and it was just to Americans' good fortune that they were able to be without an aristocracy in the first place rather than having to kill theirs off in the streets of Paris, will all the unfortunate consequences that entailed.[*] In 2008 a hereditary aristocracy as a serious political force is just a silly thing to imagine.

My imagination was stunted, I finally realize. Come next year, I'm going to start with the election of Justin Trudeau to Parliament and the immediate talk of his becoming a Liberal leader, recount Michael Ignatieff's genealogy, explain the generations of Bushes and the fact that W was only President because at a crucial moment in the late 1990s some large number of poll respondents thought that he was his father, discuss the Udall family, the Romneys, the Welds, the Chafees, and so on-- then discuss the tendency for arriviste or nouveau or bootstraps-meritocratic leaders promptly establish new family legacies of their own, and point to the Clintons. Widows-and-sons in postcolonial democracies, including the Nehru-Gandhis, and so on. Family politics and legacies run strongly in democratic politics, and while they're occasionally interrupted by a Reagan, a Clinton, a Thatcher, an Obama, even those people unavoidably live in a political world of legislators and officials very many of whom are in a family business which they're learned as an apprenticeship a la Oakeshott. Oakeshott, I think, would tell us not to be surprised, or too dismayed, by this, or too impressed with the occasional poor-kid-turned-Rhodes-Scholar-turned-President.

I guess I'm still dismayed, even after the realization, but I'll try to remember not to be too self-satisfied that we live in a post-Oakeshottian world in which hereditary politics is unthinkable.

Not sure why these musings occurred to me today. I wonder.

*This is a joke. I have more than my fair share of American prejudices, and they are too deep-rooted for me to shake off entirely, but I also know that this is... not an especially accurate reading of the events of 1763-89.

Update: See also: “She’ll be good. It’s in her blood.”

And see this post from Richard Just at TNR. In my gut I agree with all of it-- but it's also exemplary of the defender of technical knowledge, the meritocratic new man who prefers SAT scores to Oakeshott's "two generations to learn".

My colleagues have been doing an excellent job of explaining why it would be a disgrace to appoint Caroline Kennedy to the Senate, but I want to add one other argument to theirs. It has to do with elitism. To make a rough generalization, there are two different kinds of elitism: social elitism and intellectual elitism. Obviously, the two are intertwined in certain respects but they are basically distinct phenomena. (And even where they are closely intertwined, it's possible to see a distinction. Ivy League schools, for instance, have long embodied both strands of the elitist tradition, and still do. But over the past two generations, the relative balance at these institutions has gradually shifted away from social elitism and towards intellectual elitism--with fewer students admitted because their parents are well-connected and more admitted because of their high SAT scores.)

The difference is important because one form of elitism is considerably more valuable to a democratic society than the other. Social elitism is at best worthless, at worst illiberal and dangerous. It runs counter to the notion of equal opportunity that forms the core of the American ideal. More practically, it leads to people doing jobs for which they are not qualified. When those jobs are important ones, the consequences to society can be severe. If there are any positive outcomes that flow from social elitism, I can't think of them.

That isn't true for intellectual elitism. To be sure, this form of elitism carries plenty of downsides. It can lead to hubris (this was the cautionary tale of The Best and the Brightest) and cause people to underestimate the role that luck has played in their own success. But unlike social elitism, intellectual elitism carries clear benefits. It is worthwhile for society to esteem expertise--good for our arts, good for our sciences, and good for our politics. As long as it is tempered by other values, intellectual elitism--a fundamental belief in the worth of intelligence and curiosity--is basically a good thing.

One of the great tricks of the Republican Party in recent years has been to meld these two forms of elitism into a single slur. [...]

The election of Barack Obama suggests that American voters finally saw through this damaging conflation. Obama is probably the most intellectually elite president since Woodrow Wilson--he wrote an acclaimed book, taught at a top law school, and generally evinces a kind of academic disposition toward the world that is rare in politicians--but his entire career is a repudiation of social elitism. He went to the best schools not on the basis of his family connections but on the basis of intellectual merit. In electing Obama, voters were giving a measure of approval to this form of elitism--to expertise and intelligence in government--which is something they have not done in a long time.

And that is why I find the Caroline Kennedy situation so appalling. Just when Democrats have succeeded in decoupling intellectual elitism from social elitism--just when they have succeeded in suggesting that you can be advocates of intelligence and expertise without being advocates of unearned privilege and crude snobbery--along comes the ultimate symbol of social elitism to stake her claim to a powerful place in the Democratic Party. If Kennedy gets the seat, it will be for one reason only: her last name. And the perception that she is close to Obama threatens to meld social elitism and intellectual elitism back together in the minds of voters. That is good news for demagogues like Sarah Palin, and bad news for the country.
NOMOS XLIX: Moral Universalism and Pluralism

Nomos XLIX: Moral Universalism and Pluralism, edited by Melissa S. Williams and Henry Richardson, is now in print. It will soon ship to those who were dues-paying members of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy in 2004.

Book Description

Moral universalism, or the idea that some system of ethics applies to all people regardless of race, color, nationality, religion, or culture, must have a plurality over which to range — a plurality of diverse persons, nations, jurisdictions, or localities over which morality asserts a universal authority. The contributors to Moral Universalism and Pluralism, the latest volume in the NOMOS series, investigate the idea that, far from denying the existence of such pluralities, moral universalism presupposes it. At the same time, the search for universally valid principles of morality is deeply challenged by diversity. The fact of pluralism presses us to explore how universalist principles interact with ethical, political, and social particularisms. These important essays refuse the answer that particularisms should simply be made to conform to universal principles, as if morality were a mold into which the diverse matter of human society and culture could be pressed. Rather, the authors bring philosophical, legal and political perspectives to bear on the core questions: Which forms of pluralism are conceptually compatible with moral universalism, and which ones can be accommodated in a politically stable way? Can pluralism generate innovations in understandings of moral duty? How is convergence on the validity of legal and moral authority possible in circumstances of pluralism? As the contributors to the book demonstrate in a wide variety of ways, these normative, conceptual, and political questions deeply intertwine.

Contributors: Kenneth Baynes, William A. Galston, Barbara Herman, F. M. Kamm, Benedict Kingsbury, Frank I. Michelman, William E. Scheuerman, Gopal Sreenivasan, Daniel Weinstock, and Robin West.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Free Will and Canadian Politics

I make my bloggingheads debut (and obviously need a better-quality webcam if I'm going to keep doing this) on Will Wilkinson's "Free Will" show, discussing recent Canadian politics.

If you're clicking over here from bloggingheads, browse around the Canada, Quebec, or federalism tags to see more about the stuff Will and I discussed. For my academic writing on federalism, Quebec, and ethnocultural loyalties, see especially this article, "Federalism, Liberalism, and the Separation of Loyalties," APSR.

Updates: I think I did not-bad by the standard of people who've only lived in a country for 30 months, but various commentators at Will's blog and at the BHTV link above note some corrections and supplements to things that I said. One faithful reader e-mailed me with several related objections that I'll put in comments below this post.

Friday, December 12, 2008

End of term humor

Professors get punchy around this time.

Final exam, UNIV 1101

Universal grade change form

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Medieval and Renaissance Political Thought

Readings for Political Science 334, Medieval and Renaissance Political Thought, the second semester in McGill's four-semester sequence in the history of political thought.

I've decided that I like having Machiavelli in with the medievals after all; it makes for nice thematic continuity about how to think about the legacy of Rome.

Dante Aligheri, On World Government [De Monarchia], Schneider, Bigongiari, Paolucci, eds., Griffon.

Thomas Aquinas, Political Writings, Dyson, Skinner, and Geuss, eds., Cambridge University Press.

St. Augustine, Political Writings, Fortin, Kries, and Tkacz, eds., Hackett Publishing.

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Skinner and Price eds., Cambridge University Press.

Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Penguin Classics

Cary J. Nederman and Kate Langdon Forhan, eds., Readings in Medieval Political Theory: 1100-1400, Hackett Publishing. [RMPT]

Course pack [CP]

January 6

January 8
Excerpts online from:
Aristotle, The Politics
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: at least Book 2, Book 5, Book 10 ch. 6-9
Justinian, Institutes
Cicero, On Duties; On the Laws; On the Republic Books 3 and 5.
Plato, The Republic,
New Testament: Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Romans 13, Luke 12:1-53, Matthew 22:15-22, Matthew 16:13-28
Nicene Creed

January 13
Augustine, Political Writings, pp. 1-70

January 15
Augustine, Political Writings, pp. 71-129

January 20
Augustine, Political Writings, pp. 130-201

January 22
Augustine, Political Writings, pp. 202-256

January 27
CP: Gratian, Decretals, 1139
RMPT, 21-23, 26-60:
Bernard of Clairvaux, “Letter to Pope Eugenius III,” c. 1146
John of Salisbury, excerpts from Metalogicon and Policratus, both 1159

January 29
Aquinas, Political Writings, pp. 1-75

February 3
Aquinas, Political Writings, pp. 76-157

February 5
Aquinas, Political Writings, pp. 158-219

February 10
Aquinas, Political Writings, pp. 220-278

February 12
CP: Magna Carta 1215
Bracton, The Laws and Customs of England, 1260s

February 17
RMPT, pp. 157-167: John of Paris, On Royal and Papal Power, 1302
Dante, World Government, 1313, complete

February 19
RMPT, pp. 173-199: excerpts from Marsilius of Padua, Defender of the Peace, 1324
CP: additional excerpts

March 3
CP: Accursius, selections from the Great Gloss, 1230
Bartolus of Sassoferrato, "On the Tyrant," c. 1330
Bartolus, excerpts from Commentary Upon Justinian’s Code, published as Bartolus on The Conflict of Laws, c. 1350

March 5
RMPT, 207-220: William of Ockham, “Whether a Ruler Can Accept The Property of Churches For His Own Needs…”, 1337
CP: Ockham, Tyrannical Government, 1341

March 10
CP: Vitoria, Political Writings, pp. 231-92: “On the American Indians,” 1539

March 12
Machiavelli, Discourses
CP: Machiavelli, letter to Vettori

March 17
Machiavelli, Discourses

March 19
Machiavelli, Discourses

March 24
Machiavelli, Discourses

March 26
Machiavelli, The Prince

March 31
Machiavelli, The Prince
And read for comparison: RMPT, pp. 71-96, 149-52

April 2
Machiavelli, The Prince

April 7
Machiavelli, The Prince

April 9

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Today at McGill: the UDHR at 60

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 60 Years Later

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 60 Years Later

A Conference to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December 9, 2008

Stewart Biology Building
1205 Docteur Penfield &
McGill Faculty Club
3450 McTavish

McGill University
Montréal, Québec

9:00 - 9:15 Room S14

Opening Remarks

• Professor Gerald L. Gall, D.C., President, The John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights / Member, Board of Director, Association for Canadian Studies
• Dr. Pierre-Gerlier Forest, President, The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation

9:15-10:45 Room S14

(1) Opening Plenary Session - Global Security, Migration and Human Rights

• Professor François Crépeau, Université de Montréal, Trudeau Fellow 2008
• Emina Tudakovic, First Secretary, The Canadian Permanent Mission of the United Nations & Rapporteur of the Executive Committee
• Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, Trudeau Mentor 2008
• Mel Cappe, President, The Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)
• Emmanuel Kattan, Office of the Secretariat for the Alliance of Civilizations, United Nations

10:45 - 11:00 Break

Concurrent Sessions:

11:00 - 12:30 Room S14

(2) Religion and Human Rights

• Professor Pascale Fournier, University of Ottawa, Trudeau Scholar 2003
• Professor Richard Moon, University of Windsor
• Xavier Gravend-Tirole, Université de Montréal / Université de Lausanne, Trudeau Scholar 2008

11:00 - 12:30 Room S13

(3) Rights of Indigenous Peoples

• Jean Teillet, Pape, Salter & Teillet, Vancouver, BC
• Professor Patrick Macklem, University of Toronto

12:30 -1:45 Lunch Ruth W. Messinger, Executive Director,
American Jewish World Services (invited)
McGill Faculty Club and Conference Centre
3450 McTavish Street

Concurrent Sessions:

1:45 – 3:15 Room S13

(4) Language and Human Rights

• Professor Jose Woerhling, Université de Montréal
• Professor Ingride Roy, Université de Sherbrooke
• Professor Pierre Foucher, Université de Ottawa
• Julius Grey, Grey - Casgrain, Montréal, Québec

1:45 -3:15 Room S14

(5) Human Rights and Social Justice

• Professor Fiona Kelly, UBC / Trudeau Scholar 2005
• Laurie Sargent, Justice Canada
• Professor Lucie Lamarche, University of Ottawa
• Professor Peter Leuprecht, UQAM

3:15-3:30 Break

3:30-4:45 Room S14

(6) Closing Plenary Session - Human Rights and Identity

• Professor Kathleen Mahoney, University of Calgary, Trudeau Fellow 2008
• Professor Will Kymlicka, Queens University, Trudeau Fellow 2005
• Professor Deborah Anker, Harvard Law School (invited)
• Professor Roderick Macdonald, McGill University, Trudeau Fellow 2004

Monday, December 08, 2008

Coming soon

In late January, I'll be hosting a symposium on Nancy Rosenblum's important new book, On the Side of Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship. Rosenblum and several respondents will be posting here and responding to one another as well as to posts in comments. There will be material from the book available on the blog, but of course the more people who've had a chance to read the book, the better our conversations will be.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Hiring in IPE

McGILL UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE International Relations The Department of Political Science invites applications for a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level in the area of International Relations, with a specialization in international political economy, broadly understood. The Department seeks applicants whose research is theoretically and empirically informed, who possess strong training in qualitative and/or quantitative and/or formal methods, and who can teach effectively at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An applicant’s record of performance must provide evidence of outstanding research potential. Candidates should have already completed the PhD or be very near completion. Applications should include a curriculum vitae, graduate transcript, three letters of reference, a sample of written work and materials pertinent to teaching skills. The position start date is August 1, 2009. Review of applications will begin in January 2009 and will continue until the position is filled. For more information about the Department and University, visit our web site at www.mcgill.ca/politicalscience/. PLEASE FORWARD SUPPORTING MATERIALS TO: Professor Richard Schultz James McGill Professor and Chair Department of Political Science McGill University 855 Sherbrooke Street West Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2T7

Saturday, December 06, 2008


APSA has posted an official reply to the request to resite next year's Annual Meeting because of concerns about free speech and academic protections in Canada, as well as a report detailing the relevant legislation and cases.

Friday, December 05, 2008


At Lawyers,guns, and Money, djw and commentators discuss the choice of "Bombay" or "Mumbai" as a name, with some reference to some things I wrote about it some time ago. I still do say "Bombay," for the reasons I describe in the passage quoted in djw's post. As John says in the comment thread, "I'd rather side with Rushdie than with Shiv Sena."

But as a usage matter, "Mumbai" has stuck, and now has almost ten more years in use than it had had when I wrote Multiculturalism of Fear. I think I correctly described what happened then, and that the general point I was using the case to illustrate is right, but I do also recognize that in linguistic matters, eventually "long usage is a law sufficient." I'm not sure at what point my resistance to Shiv Sena becomes the cranky old Bircher in the corner saying "Peking" or Grandpa Simpson refusing to recognize Missourah.

I've got nothing else new to add, though of course I was pleased that djw found my discussion of the case useful.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Now available: Montesquieu and His Legacy

Rebecca Kingston, ed., Montesquieu and His Legacy, SUNY Press 2009. [Must have been sent back from the future-- woo!]

Montesquieu (1689-1755) is regarded as one of the most important thinkers of the Enlightenment. His Lettres persanes and L'Esprit des lois have been read by students and scholars throughout the last two centuries. While many have associated Montesquieu with the doctrine of the "separation of powers" in the history of ideas, Rebecca E. Kingston brings together leading international scholars who for the first time present a systematic treatment and discussion of the significance of his ideas more generally for the development of Western political theory and institutions. In particular, Montesquieu and His Legacy supplements the conventional focus on the institutional teachings of Montesquieu with attention to the theme of morals and manners. The contributors provide commentary on the broad legacy of Montesquieu's thought in past times as well as for the contemporary era.

1. What Montesquieu Taught:“Perfection Does Not Concern Men or Things Universally,” Michael Mosher

Part I. Morals and Manners in the Work of Montesquieu

2. Morals and Manners in Montesquieu’s Analysis of the British System of Liberty, Cecil Patrick Courtney

3. Honor, Interest, Virtue: The Affective Foundations of the Political in The Spirit of Laws, Céline Spector

4. On the Proper Use of the Stick: The Spirit of Laws and the Chinese Empire, Catherine Volpilhac-Auger

5. Montesquieu on Power: Beyond Checks and Balances, Brian C.J. Singer

Part II. Montesquieu’s Legacy in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Political Thought

6. Montesquieu’s Constitutional Legacies, Jacob T. Levy

7. Montesquieu’s Humanité and Rousseau’s Pitié, Clifford Orwin

8. Montesquieu and Tocqueville as Philosophical Historians: Liberty, Determinism, and the Prospects for Freedom, David W. Carrithers

9. Montesquieu and the Scottish Enlightenment, James Moore

Part III. Montesquieu and Comparative Constitutional Law

10. Montesquieu and the Renaissance of Comparative Public Law, Ran Hirschl

11. Free Speech and The Spirit of Laws in Canada and the United States: A Test of Montesquieu’s Approach to Comparative Law, Stephan L. Newman

12. Montesquieu’s Persian Letters: A Timely Classic, Fred Dallmayr

13. Montesquieu and Us, Jean Ehrard

14. Montesquieu and the Future of Liberalism, Ronald F. Thiemann

15. Montesquieu and Liberalism: The Question of Pluralism, Catherine Larriere
Graduate Conference Announcement: Political Theory at Princeton

Graduate Conference in Political Theory
Princeton University
April 17-18, 2009

The Committee for the Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University welcomes papers concerning any period, methodological approach, or topic in political theory, political philosophy, or the history of political thought. Approximately eight papers will be accepted.

Each session, led by a discussant from Princeton, will be focused exclusively on one paper and will feature an extensive question and answer period with Princeton faculty and students. Papers will be pre-circulated among conference participants.

The keynote address, "Utopophobia," will be delivered by David Estlund, Professor of Philosophy, Brown University.

Submissions are due via the submission form on the conference website by January 31, 2000. Please limit your paper submission to 7500 words and format it for blind review (the text should include your paper's title but be free of other personal and institutional information). Papers will be refereed by current graduate students in the Department of Politics at Princeton. Acceptance notices will be sent by February 28, 2009.

Lodging and meals will be provided by the committee, which acknowledges the generous support of the Democracy and Human Values Project, University Center for Human Values, Department of Classics, Department of History, and Department of Politics at Princeton University.

All papers should be submitted through the online form. Submissions by mail or email will not be accepted.

Questions and comments can be directed to: polthry@princeton.edu

For more information, please visit the conference website at: https://politicaltheory.princeton.edu/.
Political theory within political science

I may not agree in quite every particular, but in general, Mike Munger is singing the right song.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fun and games continues

The dependence of the proposed coalition government on Bloc support looks like it's becoming the issue on which Conservatives will rely as they try to save their Government. There had been some attempts to use Dion's criticisms of the NDP, and to say that a grave economic crisis was a bad time to bring socialists into government (which, y'know, yeah); but that didn't seem to get much traction. The Bloc issues is where thre Tories will make their stand.
The key attack line from the Tories is that the Liberals are betraying their federalist principles by agreeing to demands from the Bloc.

"This deal that the leader of the Liberal Party has made with the separatists is a betrayal of the voters of this country, a betrayal of the best interests of our economy, a betrayal of the best interests of our country, and we will fight it with every means we have," Harper said in the House of Commons.

"The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if one wants to be prime minister, one gets one's mandate from the Canadian people and not from Quebec separatists."

That's one odd "highest principle," and seems incompatible with the federalist view that Quebec nationalists are "Canadian people." (It's the nationalists who deny that.) But Harper believes that the strength of the no-Bloc taboo may be strong enough to save the government-- and from what I hear about popular responses in the ROC, he may be right.

Of course, this won't help the Bloc be any less anathema to federalist anglos.

Former Parti Québécois leader Jacques Parizeau says he’s delighted and very satisfied with the Bloc Québécois’ decision to join a coalition that could form the next federal government in Ottawa.
And neither will this.
The political crisis in Ottawa is yet another sign that Canada is not governable and the only solution for Quebec is to get out, Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Montreal Political Theory Workshop:
Quelle responsabilité morale? Droit, politique et éthique en débats /
Settling moral accounts: Law, politics and morality

1000-1630 hours
Friday 5 December 2008
Room 16, Old Chancellor Day Hall
3644 Peel Street
McGill University

This workshop is funded by the Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique (GRIPP), and co-hosted by the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.

Panel I: 1000 – 1230 hrs.
Settling Moral Accounts: Ignorance, Forgiveness and Political Responsibility

Chair: Jacob Levy (Political Science, McGill)

Farid Abdel-Nour (Political Science, San Diego State University), 'Citizenship and Political Responsibility in Modern Mass Democracies'

Gaëlle Fiasse (Philosophy and Religious Studies, McGill), 'Should I Merely Excuse the Ignorant but Forgive the Wicked? An Answer to a Contemporary Paradox'

Christiane Wilke (Law, Carleton)

Lunch Break 1230-1400 hrs.

Panel II: 1400 – 1630 hrs.
Settling Moral Accounts: Tragic Narratives, Law and Judgement

Chair: René Provost (Law, McGill)

Christiane Wilke (Law, Carleton University), 'Reconsecrating the Temple of Justice: Invocations of Civilization, Humanity and Justice at the Nuremberg Justice Trial'

Catherine Lu (Political Science, McGill), 'Accounting for Political Catastrophe: A Tragic View'

René Provost (Law, McGill)
Two thoughts...

on the current state of play in Ottawa.

1) This "reversing the verdict of the election/ overturning the popular will" gambit isn't going to fly. The rules of the game in a US Presidential Election are: the one to get a majority in the Electoral College wins. The rules of the game in a newly-elected Parliament are: the one who can put together a government that has the confidence of the House of Commons wins. Harper doesn't represent The General Will. He leads a plurality-but-minority party. The Voice of The People didn't make him Prime Minister and reject Dion; a bunch of people voted for a bunch of different outcomes. Lo and behold, a parliament split among four parties is prone to some ormanipulation by those willing to build coalitions.

That said, it's no doubt weird that this happens now. This coalition was possible any time during the last Parliament. What's changed between then and now is an intervening election wherein Harper increased his party's share of seats and Dion took a drubbing. So, yes, for that to have the upshot "Prime Minister Dion" is unusual. But it doesn't overturn the election-- the three opposition parties were elected to their various numbers of seats, too, and those are real seats in Parliament.

2) Taboos break down. It's interesting to see the Bloc evolve into a party that's taking active responsibility for outcomes in (though not yet for governing) a country it wishes to see taken apart. There's real power that's been sitting there taking up seats year after year, not doing anything. But now-- well, a system of responsible party government makes it awfully hard for a party to refuse responsibility forever. But that's a big step for the Bloc-- it points the way toward being a party of Quebec interests rather than a party of Quebec secession. Could the Bloc someday become Shas-- the perpetual coalition-making swing party, just selling its coalition participation to the highest bidder, where the bids are goodies for Quebec? Doesn't seem impossible to me. The PQ is in a different position-- it doesn't face the same kind of pressure to change its agenda. But for the Bloc to sit in Ottawa year after year not able to do anything has been anomalous.

It's not just the Bloc's taboos getting broken, though. Working with the separatists isn't something the Liberal Party can be happy about at some fundamental level. And many parliamentary systems do effectively have some outcast party that's deemed not to count for purposes of counting heads... until, someday, it does count. Israeli governments always aim for a "Jewish majority;" it's considered unacceptable for a government's survival to depend on the participation of Arab parties. Post-totalitarian parties-- the post-fascists in Italy, the post-Communists in Germany-- are sometimes in the same position. But as I recall the post-fascists finally did count, when Berlusconi needed them to assemble his first right/ center-right coalition (along with the secessionist Northern League!). And the PDS in Germany has been part of some state-level coalitions (IIRC), even if it's still taboo in the Bundestag. The UK hasn't needed a coalition to govern in a very long time, but Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party are both traditionally outside polite Westminster society-- and it would be a very strange thing if some future Lib-Lab coalition depended on, say, the SNP to reach a majority.

The current Spanish government depends on the passive cooperation of the Catalan and Basque nationalist parties-- they abstain from confidence votes, allowing the plurality socialists to retain power.

Update: Mario Dumont, leader of the "autonomist" (but not secessionist) Quebec party ADQ, is trying to make hay in the Quebec election of the Bloc getting into bed with Dion.
Mario Dumont turned his guns on Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois Tuesday, accusing her of working against Quebec’s interests by supporting a plan in Ottawa that would make Stéphane Dion prime minister.

Dumont, leader of the Action démocratique du Québec, charged that Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, supported by Marois, had made “an unbelievable gaffe” in supporting a Liberal-NDP coalition government to replace the Conservative government.

Dumont, campaigning for Monday’s provincial election, called on Marois to force Duceppe to abandon the coalition agreement.

The “Duceppe-Marois gaffe” would lead to either Dion becoming prime minister or a federal election. Quebecers want neither option and both are contrary to Quebec’s interests, he said.

“(Marois) called on Quebecers to vote for the Bloc Québécois, she forgot to tell them they would be getting Stéphane Dion as prime minister a few weeks later,” Dumont said after a speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

[Note to non-locals: the Bloc Quebecois is a party that runs for federal Parliament, the Parti Quebecois is a party that runs for the government of Quebec; they're closely allied but not identical. The ADQ doesn't have any particular federal counterpart, but is broadly more right-wing than the PQ/BQ.]

On occasion Dumont can be very effective with an attack issue. He hasn't found one yet this campaign-- but maybe this is the one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Canada may be on the verge of a constitutional and political showdown, and the secessionist Bloc Quebecois is the kingmaker.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leading a conservative minority government, proposed to abolish government funding for political parties-- a move that would hurt his own part much less than the opposition parties, as the government subsidy makes up most of their budgets.

I've joked several times in this space about the apparent inability of Canadian parties to learn the word "coalition," but mortal threats concentrate the mind wonderfully, and the Liberal and NDP parties finally seemed to reach a willingness to join forces.

Problem: even combined, they have fewer MPs than the Tories. The balance of power is held by the Bloc, which has never entered into coalition or federal government since, after all, its raison d'etre is to free Quebec from the Canadian yoke.

Second problem: if the Tories lose a vote of confidence, the normal response is for the PM to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and hold a new election-- but the last election was a matter of weeks ago.

So one question is: what does the GG do, if the PM is asking for a new election while Stephan Dion asks for the right to form a new government in the existing Parliament? And another question is: to grant Dion's request, what kind of participation would the GG demand from the Bloc? Passive support seems insufficient; active participation would be anathema both to the Bloc and to huge swaths of Liberal Anglophone Canada.

And it's worth noting just how topsy-turvy the world is in which the Bloc makes Stephane Dion Prime Minister. Dion has for two decades been one of the champions of Canadian unity and federalism within the Quebec debate, and has been a hate-figure for nationalists; Bernard Landry called him "le politicien le plus détesté de l'histoire du Québec." It would come as a serious surprise to me if either Bloc voters were happy that the Bloc installed Dion, or if Liberal voters were happy about any collaboration with the Bloc.

Harper has now backed down from the political party subsidy proposal. But the thing about political learning is that newly-learned lessons aren't quickly unlearned. The Liberals and NDP have finally learned, under mortal threat, that a coalition is thinkable-- and then they learned that they could terrify Harper, which they've proven unable to do for years. So they could still decide to vote no-confidence next week and bring the government down-- apparently throwing Canada's immediate political future into the hands of the GG, which is constitutionally unsettling in one way (Governors General, like the British monarch for whom they stand in, aren't really supposed to have political choices to make in our modern constitutional monarchies)-- and into the hands of the Bloc, which is constitutionally unsettling in another way.

A big week ahead. Fruits and votes is my recommendation for a blog on which to follow the action.
Elsewhere: Kirsch on Zizek

"The Deadly Jester," at TNR.

health care.
Despite a shortage of doctors across the province, the Quebec government is planning to issue fewer permits than the actual number of graduates in family medicine next year, The Gazette has learned.

A total of 238 doctors are expected to complete their residencies in family medicine and pass their board exams in 2009. However, the government is counting on issuing 220 permits, according to the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners.

The gap stems from a 5-year-old permits policy aimed at making sure young doctors start their careers in short-staffed regions across the province. In the past, the government had issued more permits than there were students in the graduating class. This gave doctors more choice about where to practice, and some regions had a hard time recruiting new doctors.

This year, however, the government has decided to keep a tight lid on permits - in particular, limiting those available in Montreal - to make sure that all regions are able to hire new doctors.

But the policy - known as Plans régionaux d'effectifs médicaux or PREMs - has actually backfired and led to an exodus of mostly anglophone, Quebec-trained doctors quitting the province for Ontario and elsewhere, critics say.

"It's absurd," said Mark Roper, a Westmount family physician and chairman of the medical manpower committee of the Regional Department of General Medicine of Montreal.

"It's almost like they're pushing young doctors out of the province."

Most new doctors prefer to practise in Montreal rather than in small rural communities. Quebec has offered doctors financial carrots to work in the Far North, but it has used the stick to get them to practise in the Mauricie, the Outaouais and other regions.

Before the PREMs, new doctors who decided to stay in Montreal were docked 30 per cent of their billings for the first three years of their careers. Most doctors toughed it out, so the government switched to the more restrictive PREM system.

Each year, the Health Department - in co-operation with the federation of GPs - decides on a certain number of positions for the 15 regions of Quebec.

Newly-graduated doctors must then apply for positions in a number of regions. Most apply to work in Montreal as their first choice, and if they don't get accepted, they are more likely to be hired by another region.

For Montreal, the government has decided to issue only 54 permits even though the city has a shortage of about 300 family doctors. If new doctors decide to stay in Montreal without a PREM position, going into solo practice, their billings will be docked by 25 per cent, not for the first three years but their entire careers.

Figures obtained by The Gazette show that recruitment was actually higher before the PREMs system went into effect in every region except Mauricie. So where have all those young doctors gone?

Quebec has been a net exporter of doctors to other provinces in the past five years, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I'm one of the last of the oldline blogluddists who thinks that the decline of civility and decency the blogosphere can be traced to two events, one of which I won't tell you but one of which was the creation of comments sections. In particular, I remember thinking that the opening of comments at Kevin Drum's then-site, CalPundit, changed things rather a lot. Almost every high-traffic site I've been reading since before the introduction of comments seems to me to have suffered on net from the development, except for Crooked Timber.

1) This is a very low-traffic site, compared with my former digs chez Volokh or chez TNR. I'ts far below the traffic of sites with comments sections I really enjoy-- i.e. John and Belle, or PTN.

2) I'm going to be hosting a blogevent in the near future that will require comments, and I figured that I ought to start figuring out how to accommodate a comments section before rather than during that event.

So I'll be opening comments around here, at least temporarily. I hereby incorporate by reference Brad DeLong's comments policy, pending the evolution of relevant local norms. I don't intend to moderate in advance a la Leiter.

So, all twenty of my loyal readers: talk away!


So much for low traffic! Welcome to Kevin Drum's reader's. I invite you to stick around and read a post that's actually about something (e.g.).

And, NB: People generally don't, or shouldn't refer to themselves as luddites about some modern technology without making fun of themselves, and I was certainly trying to do that. It's a silly view that says technology c. 2002-2003 was just right, and that the years since have been a fall from grace. It is true that my experience of blogging and reading blogs came to feel different after comments sections opened, and obviously I've made a deliberate decision to leave comments off until now-- but I'd still ask you not to take my opening paragraph above too seriously. (By the way, saying "one of which I won't tell you" was meant to be more honest than just attributing the whole change to comments sections. I know it looks like I'm trying to be coy or cute but that wasn't the idea.)

Kevin quite reasonably says, "This deserves explication. Does Jacob think that opening a comment section changed my actual blogging? Or did the blogging remain the same but the mere existence of raucous commenters changed things? If the latter, why not just ignore the comments? If the former, how?"

Unfortunately I can't quite disentangle the two. This is a matter of impressionistic memory of events 5-6 years past, and many things change at the same time. With or without comments Kevin's one of the blogosphere's best on a number of dimensions, and I certainly don't mean that he became uncivil-- he continues to stand out for his civility and graciousness. So maybe it's just that I found one of my favorite blogs marred by the raucousness below the posts, that I couldn't quite discipline myself to look away from. And CalPundit probably stands out in my memory partly because the contrast between Kevin's posts and the raucousness below them was so dramatic; if I didn't look away, it meant that my experience of reading the blog changed very suddenly. I think that's mostly where this impression in my memory comes from.

But I also think that comments sections have encouraged intra-blog rather than inter-blog conversations.

As a lecturer, I'm at least somewhat responsive to my audience and their reactions. I do notice when the students' eyes are glazing over, when they seem alert, what makes them ask questions, what puts them to sleep. I don't respond to that in a Pavlovian way-- that way lies the professor-as-standup-comic, and I'm pretty sure that my vocation doesn't lie in that direction even if I wanted to try it. But I do respond, consciously and unconsciously-- speaking to a live audience is interactive in a way that writing an article for future publication is not. I'm sure that makes me a better teacher than if I ignored my audience-- but it also makes my lectures a little bit more homogenous, and a little bit more geared to what I think my students already find interesting or congenial.

Blogging's interactive, too. If nothing else, I suspect that choice of blogging topics gets influenced by the enthusiasm for some topics shown by one's commentators, when comments sections are on. That by itself makes the medium a little bit less idiosyncratically personal; it encourages blogging about hot topics over blogging about one's cat (to take an old CalPundit example)-- whereas as a reader I enjoy the idiosyncratically personal voices.

But there's probably something beyond even that. Comments crowds tend to be more aligned with the blog-author than do other blog-writers. And I think that conversations among blog authors across ideological lines started to fall off after comments sections came into being. Opportunity costs of time kick in-- most blog-authors do read their own comments sections, and that surely changes the overall ideological balance of who they're spending time online reading. The objections one starts to notice to one's own position come from one's loyal readers-- so a center-left blogger will start to encounter primarily objections from the left, and vice-versa. That has an effect of its own. At least for some bloggers, the effect is a predictable echo-chamber one, and the positions become more extreme.

One other thing about all this:

2002-03 of course had more going on in it than blogstuff. I do think that, as the war in Iraq became more likely, and then happened, politics in general became somewhat more polarized and nastier in the US, certainly than it had been for a while after 9/11.

One thing I worry about in my memory is... well, for comparison I think about Andrew Sullivan and Paul Krugman. Sullivan famously called Krugman as a "shrill" critic of Bush, back in the days when Sullivan was broadly supportive of Bush. Now that pretty much everything Krugman said about Bush has proven an understatement, and now that Sullivan is fully on board as a critic, I wonder how he remembers Krugman c. 2000-2003? My guess is that he still remembers them as shrill. Krugman was, from Sullivan's perspective, prematurely anti-Bush-- and like the premature anti-Fascists of 1939 and 1940, those who were prematurely anti-Bush tend not to get much love from the latecomers. (I think that Brad DeLong's long-running "order of the shrill" feature was actually a pretty important device-- it reminded the latecomers that they were coming around to views Krugman had long since put forward, and views that they had once found irritating in him.)

From my perspective as I lived it, some of the left blogosphere was prematurely anti-war. What that means is: they were right and I was wrong. They saw important things before I did. But it's very difficult to change the emotional valence of memory. It's likely that some of my memory is colored by that-- I found off-putting some commentary that was right, but that I didn't agree with then. I don't think that that directly plays very much into my wariness about comments sections, but that's the sort of thing it would be hard to know for sure about oneself. It probably does play into my overall memory of a change in blogspheric tone in that era.

For what it's worth, I don't think that I'm the only one who was struck by Kevin's comments section in the old days; in the post linked to above, Brad DeLong relies on "Kevin Drum's comments section" as a shorthand for something to be avoided: "trolls must be squashed quickly, or the space turns into... Kevin Drum's comment section." I see that Kevin's got moderators these days, and that it makes a difference, but, again, memories are hard to shake.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The "Liberals and Libertarians: Common Ground or Separate Agendas?" panel at Princeton last month is now available in video at the WWS website (scroll down to October 23) or in free audio on iTunes (search for liberals libertarians, or for one or more of the participants-- Paul Starr, John Tomasi, Brink Lindsey, Will Wilkinson, Douglas Massey, Chris Hayes, me.) Yes, I now exist in iTunes-- very exciting, I know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An introduction to referral logs

Dear students,

If you're going to run a google search on an assigned paper topic, which mentions a bunch of readings from your class, don't be shocked if the search at some point directs you toward the professor who thought up the topic in the first place. But following that link leaves a digital trail that your professor can see. Nothing wrong with following the links, of course; it's good to look for ideas! But I just thought you should know.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

When the right hand doesn't know what the headline-writer is doing

Poorly-phrased NYT article:
President-elect Barack Obama has signaled that he will pursue a far more ambitious plan of spending and tax cuts than anything he outlined on the campaign trail — a plan "big enough to deal with the huge problem we face,” a top adviser said Sunday — setting the tone for a recovery effort that could absorb and define much of his term.

Even-more-badly-phrased headline: "Obama Aides Signal Deeper Cuts in Taxes and Spending."

NB: The article's about the need for a larger stimulus package than anticipated-- that is, more tax cuts and more spending.

"more ambitious plan of spending and tax cuts" misleadingly suggests that spending will be cut; better to write "plan of spending increases and tax cuts" or "plan of tax cuts and spending."

"Deeper Cuts in Taxes and Spending" is even worse; it unambiguously means that spending will be cut, and cut more than had been anticipated, which is the reverse of what's going on.


Update: fixed now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

That's a shame.

I understand perfectly well that the business model no longer makes a lick of sense and that there are probably better uses for the space these days, but I'm still nostalgically sorry to see the end of Harvard Square's Out of Town News. When I was in Cambridge I'd sometimes still buy some newspaper or magazine from some far-distant point, just 'cuz. Undoubtedly I wouldn't been able to find it online, but equally undoubtedly I wouldn't have happened upon it. I liked browsing the headlines of the world.

Montreal's book and magazine retailers seem to operate in an alternate universe in which the internet was never invented. I don't understand how a place like the Renaud-Bray around the corner from me can support what's probably 750 square feet of retail space on the ground floor on the main street of a major commercial district just for magazines-- and how many of the magazines are French reviews of history of the human sciences or philosophy. Little hole-in-the-wall used bookstores abound-- and the one across Mont-Royal from my house has a much larger philosophy section than does the McGill Bookstore. It's a puzzlement, and almost-certainly a temporary anomaly, but I'll enjoy it while I've got it.

Of related interest, I loved this NYT Magazine articleon the challenge to improve Netflix' recommendation software. (Related because of the switch from corner video stores where you might plausibly browse and find new things to an online system with many more choices that will nonetheless be hidden from you unless there's good recommendation software.) I love the list of movies that are proving impossible to predict or correlate: especially Napoleon Dynamite but also “I Heart Huckabees,” “Lost in Translation,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” “Kill Bill: Volume 1” and “Sideways.” Two cheers for unpredictability.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Well, yes and no.

According to the Chronicle, "Bob Jones U. Apologizes for Past Racist Policies." The university has issued this statement:

At Bob Jones University, Scripture is our final authority for faith and practice and it is our intent to have it govern all of our policies. It teaches that God created the human race as one race. History, reality and Scripture affirm that in that act of creation was the potential for great diversity, manifested today by the remarkable racial and cultural diversity of humanity. Scripture also teaches that this beautiful, God-caused and sustained diversity is divinely intended to incline mankind to seek the Lord and depend on Him for salvation from sin (Acts 17:24–28).

The true unity of humanity is found only through faith in Christ alone for salvation from sin—in contrast to the superficial unity found in humanistic philosophies or political points of view. For those made new in Christ, all sinful social, cultural and racial barriers are erased (Colossians 3:11), allowing the beauty of redeemed human unity in diversity to be demonstrated through the Church.

The Christian is set free by Christ’s redeeming grace to love God fully and to love his neighbor as himself, regardless of his neighbor’s race or culture. As believers, we demonstrate our love for others first by presenting Christ our Great Savior to every person, irrespective of race, culture, or national origin. This we do in obedience to Christ’s final command to proclaim the Gospel to all men (Matthew 28:19–20). As believers we are also committed to demonstrating the love of Christ daily in our relationships with others, disregarding the economic, cultural and racial divisions invented by sinful humanity (Luke 10:25–37; James 2:1–13).

Bob Jones University has existed since 1927 as a private Christian institution of higher learning for the purpose of helping young men and women cultivate a biblical worldview, represent Christ and His Gospel to others, and glorify God in every dimension of life.

BJU’s history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.

On national television in March 2000, Bob Jones III, who was the university’s president until 2005, stated that BJU was wrong in not admitting African-American students before 1971, which sadly was a common practice of both public and private universities in the years prior to that time. On the same program, he announced the lifting of the University’s policy against interracial dating.

Emphasis added.

As statements of repentance go, this is... not the greatest.

Bob Jones University didn't admit blacks until 1971-- seven years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and a generation after Brown v. Board. For several years thereafter it admitted only married black students. Once unmarrarried blacks were admitted, it promulgated a strict ban on interracial dating as well as on the advocacy of interracial dating; these policies endured until 2000, 33 years after Loving v Virginia, which itself, after all, represented a forced incorporation of those southern outlier states that still forbade interracial marriage into a then-already-existing national consensus against such bans. In other words, the ban on interracial dating was put in place only after the surrounding culture had rejected such rules as racist. And the university famously fought all the way to the Supreme Court in the 1980s to preserve its tax exemption in the face of an IRS revocation due to its racist policies. It lost the legal fight, paid a million dollars in back taxes, and kept the policies. Now, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for educational institutions in the U.S. is mighty easy to come by. To have it stripped away-- whatever the constitutional merits-- is a pretty clear sign that you're way outside the boundaries of acceptable opinion or behavior in the American political culture.

In short, Bob Jones University did not passively float along on the tide of American racism, and it was not racist only in its "early stages." It was worse on racial questions, longer, than any other university in the country. And it was actively, determinedly, passionately worse. The University did not conform itself to a surrounding ethos. It fought to resist changes to that ethos; it fought hard, at serious institutional cost.

Now, resisting the surrounding culture is something one expects from religiously dissident institutions. Of course a fundamentalist Christian university views itself as being at odds with the surrounding world-- for better and for worse. Passive conformity is no great virtue, and fighting hard for one's beliefs is admirable. But if it turns out that your beliefs were grotesquely, abominably wrong, then it's cowardice to suddenly plead passive conformity. That's a vice of which Bob Jones University has never been guilty-- and the lie that it has been strips its supposed apology of any moral force.

I suspect that someone at BJU really thinks this was a good faith effort to come to terms with the past. It's not. It's a pretend-apology, unworthy of the name, one that deflects all blame to the outside world. Shame on the Chronicle for falling for the pretense.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Settling Moral Accounts: Law, Politics and Morality

Montreal Political Theory Workshop

Settling Moral Accounts: Law, Politics and Morality

0930-1630 hours

Friday 5 December 2008

Room 16, Old Chancellor Day Hall
3644 Peel Street

McGill University

This workshop is funded by the Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique (GRIPP), and co-hosted by the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism.

Panel I: 0930 – 1230 hrs.

Settling Moral Accounts: Conceptual Issues

Chair: Jacob Levy (Political Science, McGill)

Farid Abdel-Nour (Political Science, San Diego State University), “Citizen Responsibility in Democratic States”


Citizens of democratic states are implicated morally when their state’s functionaries bring about bad outcomes on either the domestic or the global political stage. In such states, citizens have at least the right to vote in competitive elections and the right to intervene in public political debates that can potentially alter the available electoral options. At a minimum, elections usually result in the selection of legislators and other decision-making personnel who in turn, through the law or otherwise, are connected to political outcomes. For example, significant aspects of foreign as well as domestic policy are determined by the results of elections. Thus the role that citizens play in elections connects them morally to those political outcomes that are largely determined by the results. Faced with the right to vote, citizens can in most contexts choose whether to vote. And if they do they can choose among limited existing options of how to vote. In this paper I differentiate between three main burdens of political responsibility that citizens bear as a result of this minimal right. There is a burden they bear simply by virtue of participating in elections, no matter how they do so. For by participating, they implicitly agree to own the results, even if with their vote they opposed them. How citizens participate in elections involves another layer of responsibility. For example, those who with their vote further a particular result, bear an additional burden for bad outcomes associated with it. As to those who fail to participate they are not entirely off the hook. Depending on the specificity of the situation, they may end up bearing responsibility for failing to do their part to prevent a bad outcome. Citizenship in democratic societies, even in its most minimal form is a burdensome political role in which ordinary individuals are thrust. It involves a responsibility that they cannot shake off, and serves to make them complicit in the outcomes of state actions on the domestic as well a global political stage.

Gaëlle Fiasse (Philosophy and Religious Studies, McGill), “Should I Merely Excuse the Ignorant but Forgive the Wicked?”


In the debates on forgiveness, contemporary philosophers place too much emphasis on the distinction between forgiving and excusing. Furthermore, they do not make enough effort to explicate the notion of actions done out of ignorance. In this vein, Jankélévitch asserts that “we forgive the wicked but excuse the ignorant”. Derrida goes on to arrive at the paradox that the more an action is intentionally wicked, the more it calls for forgiveness. To counter both claims, I suggest looking at the question of forgiveness, both by 1) revisiting the degrees of evil in moral action within the Aristotelian framework of voluntary and involuntary action, and by 2) making a comparison between love and forgiveness. I show in which sense unintentional actions are not necessarily outside of the field of forgiveness, and why it is false to consider that the worst evil action calls more towards forgiveness than other kinds of wrongdoing. Such a view neglects the distinction between the agent and his action in the process of forgiveness, the role of regret, and the fact that ignorance of what is morally wrong can actually constitute an extreme form of wrongdoing. I thus revisit the “intellectualist” claim that puts too much emphasis on knowledge versus ignorance, while neglecting the role of passions, and, more importantly, the fact that reason itself can have a corrupt goal. Insisting on excusing the ignorant could lead to neglecting the responsibility of wrongdoers who ignore the fact that what they do is bad. Limiting forgiveness to intentional wrongdoing underestimates the many other actions and feelings that might call for forgiveness.

Catherine Lu (Political Science, McGill), “Accounting for Political Catastrophe”


What is involved in accounting for political catastrophes, including genocide, interstate and civil war, and oppression? One way to think about this question is to focus on the task of settling moral accounts through tribunals, truth commissions or other state-sponsored institutional mechanisms. Such moral accountings focus on the judgement of individual, institutional and social responsibility for political catastrophe. Yet, in contexts of political conflict that have culminated in catastrophe, the authority to judge and settle moral accounts is highly controversial. Typically, the question of authority to settle moral accounts is tied to the question of authority to punish. Judgements about responsibility and punishment, however, do not exhaust the task of accounting for political catastrophe. Recognizing a more pluralistic notion of moral accounting for political catastrophes, including other forms of public narrative and self-reflection, opens room for a pluralistic view of the agents who can engage in the task of accounting for political catastrophes. One implication of a pluralistic view of moral accountants and accountings is that contestations about authority to settle moral accounts are mitigated by an acknowledgement that any accounting for political catastrophe – including judicial judgements – are incomplete, subject to contestation and revision, and will likely remain unsettled. The quest to settle moral accounts once and for all may in fact turn out to be excessively authoritarian and ahistorical, undemocratic or inequitable, and morally as well as politically counterproductive.


Christiane Wilke (Law, Carleton)

Lunch Break 1230-1415 hrs.

Panel II: 1415 – 1630 hrs.

Responsibility for Crimes Against Humanity and International Law

Chair: Catherine Lu (Political Science, McGill)

Kirsten J. Fisher (Political Science, McGill), ‘Individual Responsibility in Collectively Committed Atrocity’

In its aim to answer the question, ‘for what can individual contributors to collectively committed atrocity be held criminally accountable?’, this paper suggests new categories of international charges. It briefly examines what individual responsibility for collective wrongs can mean. Then, in defining necessary distinctions between acts of international criminal behaviour, it recommends the need for new categories of charges. This paper argues that while leaders (planners, instigators, commanders) possess the greatest amount of criminal responsibility, the criminal actions of other perpetrators are both aggravated and mitigated by the fact that they contribute to the greater atrocity. Any reasonable conception of international crime must reflect that contributing actions (murder, rape, etc) of “lesser” offenders require their own distinct category of crime which signifies the mitigating and aggravating circumstances surrounding them. This paper also argues that although leaders must be held responsible for the actions they plan, set in motion and command, the generally accepted policy of command responsibility, by which leaders can be held legally responsible for genocide or crimes against humanity for the actions of their subordinates, risks unfair labeling.

Christiane Wilke (Law, Carleton University), ‘Between Civilization and Humanity:

Visions of Law and Community in the Nuremberg Trial of the Judges’


The 1947 Nuremberg Trial of Nazi Judges is one of the rare occasions in which judges sat in judgment on other (former) judges. Nazi judges and judicial administrators were accused and ultimately convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Yet how did the Nuremberg Court arrive at its judgment? This paper analyzes the function of two overlapping markers in the judgment: “civilization” and “humanity”. The Nuremberg judgments, I argue, are based on the 19th century framework that conceived of international law as tied to a Eurocentric “standard of civilization”. The Nuremberg Court addresses the Nazi judges not simply as human beings but as member of the judiciary of a formerly “civilized” country that committed “barbarous” atrocities. In this imaginary, “law” and “civilization” are seen as mutually constitutive. The paper inquires into the consequences of this mode of thinking. For example, how does the Nuremberg Court construct the difference between its own mode of judgment and the practices of the accused Nazi judges? How does the Court justify the use of novel legal concepts such as “crimes against humanity”? And what is gained and lost in the Court’s insistence on describing Nazi state violence as “lawless” as opposed to organized through law and bureaucracy? These questions have implications for contemporary transitional justice scholarship that too often identifies the task of moving away from state repression with the “return” of the rule of law.


René Provost (Law, McGill)
Book launch: For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War

Wednesday, November 19, 5-7 pm, McGill Bookstore: Book launch for Stephen Saideman and R. William Ayres, For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War, Columbia University Press, 2008.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Machiavelli and Machiavellism


Dr Cesare Cuttica
Luigi Einaudi Foundation, Turin

Thursday, November 13 2008
2:30 p.m.
Arts Building, room 160

Dr.Cesare Cuttica obtained his first degree in Philosophy at the University of Pavia (Italy) and his MA and PhD in History at the European University Institute (Florence) in 2007. He has since been an Associate Tutor at the University of Sussex in Great Britain and Research Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.

Dr. Cuttica is now doing postdoctoral work at the University of Pittsburgh in the History Department and at the European Union Centre of Excellence with a grant provided by the Luigi Einaudi Foundation (Turin).

The lectures in this series have also been made possible through the generosity of the Italian Cultural Institute and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome.
Charles Taylor inaugure un nouveau forum interuniversitaire

I missed this when it came out, but the news office at U de Montreal did a nice write-up of the inaugural GRIPP lecture given by Charles Taylor in September.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

International Political Economy opening, McGill University

International Relations

The Department of Political Science invites applications for a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level in the area of International Relations, with a specialization in international political economy, broadly understood. The Department seeks applicants whose research is theoretically and empirically informed, who possess strong training in qualitative and/or quantitative and/or formal methods, and who can teach effectively at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An applicant’s record of performance must provide evidence of outstanding research potential. Candidates should have already completed the PhD or be very near completion. Applications should include a curriculum vitae, graduate transcript, three letters of reference, a sample of written work and materials pertinent to teaching skills. The position start date is August 1, 2009. Review of applications will begin in January 2009 and will continue until the position is filled. For more information about the Department and University, visit our web site at www.mcgill.ca/politicalscience/.


Professor Richard Schultz
James McGill Professor and Chair
Department of Political Science
McGill University
855 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2T7

All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply; however, in accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, priority will be given to Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada. McGill University is committed to equity in employment and diversity. It welcomes applications from indigenous peoples, visible minorities, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, women, persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities and others who may contribute to further diversification.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Private Law Models for Public Law Concepts

How did I miss this over the summer? An excellent article on a number of intersecting important topics.

Daniel Lee, "Private Law Models for Public Law Concepts: The Roman Law Theory of Dominium in the Monarchomach Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty," The Review of Politics (2008), 70:370-399

The essay traces the juridical origins of the modern doctrine of popular sovereignty as developed by the monarchomach jurists of the late sixteenth century. Particularly, the use of doctrines from the Roman law of property explains the sovereign right of the people to resist and reconstitute the commonwealth. Reviving the civilian concept of dominium during the French Wars of Religion and dynastic royal politics, these radical jurists articulated the claim that the people, not kings, have property rights over the commonwealth. By conceptualizing the people corporately as property-owners in this way, they were able to draw on legal arguments from Roman law to justify popular resistance as an assertion of a corporate property right. In doing so, the monarchomachs expressed an elaborate theory of state and sovereignty within the grammar of the Roman private law.
Public Intellectual 2.0

A new essay by Dan Drezner at the Chronicle on social scientists, bloggers, and declinist narratives about public intellectuals.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hither and yon, warm weather edition: two talks at UCLA

Thursday, November 13, 7 pm, public lecture in 2232 School of Public Affairs: "Freedom and Federalism." More information here.

Friday, November 14, noon, workshop in School of Public Affairs Building room 5391 (Faculty Lounge): "Contra politanism: against the moral teleology of political forms." (Please e-mail in advance for a copy of the paper.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Senior fellowship at CREUM

Thursday, 6 November 2008 in Fellowships, Notices by Martin Blanchard | No comments

The University of Montreal’s Centre de recherche en éthique (CREUM) is proud to announce its senior fellowship grant. We are inviting applications of professor-researchers for residential fellowships which can vary in length according to individual circumstances. Fellowships up to 40,000 $ will be awarded for the academic year 2009-2010.

CREUM’s mission is to contribute to interdisciplinary research and graduate training in the areas of fundamental and applied ethics.

We encourage applications from researchers working in the principal research domains of CRÉUM : fundamental ethics, ethics and politics, ethics and health, ethics and economy, ethics and the environment. We also accept applications from different domains, inasmuch as their research has a direct link with ethics.

The University of Montreal is a francophone institution. Applicants are expected to have at least a working knowledge of French.

The CREUM will offer to its senior fellow :

- A research grant up to 40 000 $ ;
- An individual office ;
- Access to the services of the University of Montreal (libraries, sports center, etc.) ;
- Assistance for material organisation of the stay.

In return, the fellow will be expected :

- To pursue the research project submitted in their application ;
- To participate in the Center’s activities (conferences, seminars, lectures) ;
- To present their work in progress in the context of Center’s seminars and workshops.

Applications will be judged according :

- To the significance of their proposed research and its relevance to CREUM’s mission ;
- To the quality of candidates’ previous research and their ability to benefit from the activities of the Center.
Applicants must submit all of the following to the CREUM by December 31, 2008 :

- A curriculum vitae ;
- One scholarly paper or publication written in the course of the last three years ;
- A statement (1 500 words or less) describing the proposed research project ;
- Two letters of reference (sent directly to the Center before the deadline) ;

Postmark deadline is December 31, 2008. Send applications to :

Daniel M. Weinstock, director
Centre de recherche en éthique (CREUM)
University of Montreal
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-Ville
Montreal (Quebec)
Canada H3C 3J7
Quote of the day, special 1L edition

"Oh, I don't believe in hypothetical situations, Mr Donaghy. That's like lying to your brain." Kenneth, 30 Rock, November 6 2008.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Remember, remember...

when, a year ago, Ron Paul raised a whole lotta money on Guy Fawkes Day? It's forever ago in political time, and hard to remember that it seemed particularly interesting interesting. But my post about Ron Paul, Guy Fawkes, and V for Vendetta was one of the most-read things I've ever written, oddly enough. And I still think that the migration from the defense of the British state through Alan Moore's anti-Thatcherism to Ron Paul, the fact that a traditional British celebration of the defeat of the enemies of the state could end up animating an agenda of radical anti-statism, is one of the stranger things I've ever seen in political symbolism. So, for this year's Guy Fawkes Day, a link to look backward at.
Do Libertarians Fit in a Liberal World?

Todd Seavey has written an article for Reason about the liberalism and libertarianism conference at Princeton a coupleof weeks ago.
The challenge is structuring inter-faith dialogue: Indonesia in comparative perspective

Today at McGill: The challenge is structuring inter-faith dialogue: Indonesia in comparative perspective

Thursday, 6 November 2008
9:00 am ― 2:00 pm
Thomson House
3650 McTavish Street

Co-sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia; Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia; McGill University’s IAIN Indonesia Social Equity Project and the Centre for Developing-Area Studies.

9:00 am. – Introduction: Professor Phil Buckley (McGill University, IISEP);

-Welcome from McGill University: Prof. Christopher Manfredi, Dean, Faculty of Arts
-Opening comments: His Excellency Djoko Hardono, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Canada

-Opening comments: Bpk Andri Hadi, Director-General for Information and Public Diplomacy, Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia

9:30: Framing the question of Inter-faith dialogue
Prof Patrice Brodeur, Canada Research Chair on Islam, Pluralism, and Globalization at the Faculty of Theology and the Science of Religions, University of Montreal
Professor Phil Oxhorn (CDAS, McGill University)

10:20-12:00 Panel 1 (Moderator: Professor Jamil Ragep, McGill University)

1. Prof. Franz Magnis Suseno: Pluralism and Relations Between Religions: The Focus on Indonesia (25 minutes)

2. Prof Wayan Wita : Some Concepts of Local Genius and Culture for Universal Interfaith, Hinduism Perspectives (25 minutes)

Responses: Professor Davesh Soneji; Professor Jacob Levy

12:20-2:00: Panel II (Moderator: Professor Erik Kuhonta, McGill University)
1. Prof. Dr. Bahtiar Effendy: “Interfaith Dialogue: The Indonesian Perspective.”
2. Dr. Arif Zamhari Rohman PhD

Respondents: Professor Ellen Aitken; Mr. Jaime F. Opazo Sáez

2:00pm: Closing remarks

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Now online

The special issue of Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy devoted to a symposium on David Miller's National Responsibility and Global Justice, including my National and statist responsibility,among many other pieces. (Institutional subscriptions likely necessary.)
Readings for the day after

Fabio Rojas, "why i admire the obama i know and fear for the obama that is to come"

Franklin Foer, "Hail to the chief, any chief"

Todd Seavey, "Time for Obama Honeymoon to End" (NB: in parliamentary procedure, the time to reconsider something that's just happened isn't until a member of the previous majority says so!)

David Bernstein, "The end of white supremacy"

Mike Potemra at the Corner, "The View From Harlem, worth quoting:
Why was I, a John McCain voter, there [at the Obama celebration in Harlem]? A bit of personal history. I was born in 1964, and on the day I was born the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Prince Edward County in Virginia had to reopen its public schools. The county had closed the schools because they decided it was better to have no public schools at all than to have to admit black kids into them. Here we are, just 44 years later, with an African-American president, a president elected with the electoral votes of that very same Commonwealth of Virginia.

I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

[Update:] Will Wilkinson, "One night of romance"

Scattered thoughts on the day after:

I keep seeing the phrase "record turnout" thrown around. It's not true. I don't think turnout is an end in itself, and don't think that lower turnout signals an unhealthier democracy. But those who disagree shouldn't then take it on faith that an inspirational candidate automatically translated into higher turnout. It appears that turnout will be lower both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the electorate than in 2004. McCain got about 7 million fewer votes than Bush; Obama got about 3 million more than Kerry. The disspiritedness and disillusionment of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents mattered, a lot. A Republican base, faced with the catastrophic failure of a presidency they had rooted for and the nomination of a candidate they'd always disliked, stayed home-- not in droves but not in trickles either. [Update: This Politico story is claiming turnout of 130 million, but I don't see how to square that with any other reported numbers.]

Ted Stevens is winning? That's repulsive. And it's a very bad omen for the rebuilding of a sane, honest, principled Republican Party that a smart decent guy like John Sununu got thumped while Ted Stevens got reelected. More broadly, the extinction of New England Republicanism seems to me a bad thing-- the GOP that is the regional party of the resentful South is a particularly unattractive opposition party. On the other hand, it's a wonderful thing that (apparently) three states of the Confederacy voted for Obama.

Yay for the marijuana referenda, boo for the marriage referenda-- and I really hope that California Prop 8 isn't construed retroactively so as to annul existing marriages.

The Bob Barr campaign was a mess, and by any reasonable measure the enterprise of trying to advance libertarian ideas with third-party presidential candidates seems overdue for retirement. (The teenage LP activist who still lives in my memory is very angry at me for writing that sentence.) But I can't help it-- I'm pleased to see Barr's vote exceed the two-party gap in an important state that then tilted Democratic, North Carolina. (And southern Libertarians are traditionally more likely to be Republican voters otherwise, so it's very plausible that Barr tipped the state.) That does at least send a tiny little but audible signal to the Republicans that the big-spending, trade-undermining, civil-liberties-attacking path of the Bush years cost them some small-government voters who they can't take for granted.

Twenty years ago I hadn't heard of Barack Obama, so I don't have twenty years worth of belief that he could never be president to overcome. Twenty years ago I very much had heard of Joe Biden, and watching the scene in Grant Park on TV my brain kept skipping a beat at seeing him up there. I have twenty years worth of accumulated belief that he was never rising above his Senate seat, and changing that belief is taking some work.

While I think Obama will be more purely his own man and less the product of competing pressure groups on his staff than any president since, well, let's say LBJ, I'm still very happy to hear of the Rahm Emanuel invitation. It's good news for the fight to save NAFTA from Obama's Ohio primary rhetoric, since Emanuel was one of the champions of NAFTA ratification in 1993.

I hear a lot of commentary about Obama seeming subdued last night, all of it at least mildly negative but noting that it's understandable less than 24 hours after the death of his grandmother. I have to say that I liked it; I like it when he's serious and sober and professorial, which is a lot of the time. (I didn't understand "professorial" being used as a term of abuse after the third debate.) Though it's hard to rank Obama and Bill Clinton as political orators, I enjoy listening to Obama more, in large part because of his calm seriousness. When Clinton feels someone's pain, he increases mine. His smile and warmth can occasionally be infectious but often strike me as flippant or self-satisfied. I loved Clinton's 2004 convention address, but always hated watching his State of the Union talks and eventually just quit doing so; and in presidential debates he always left me feeling like I was being lied to even when I wasn't. (All of this is totally compatible with the praise I sometimes heap on the Clinton presidency, the Clinton years, and the Clinton brand of New Democratic politics, by the way.) The happiness of the sneaky kid who's getting away with something never seemed far from him-- except when he exploded in anger at not getting away with something. The contrast between Clinton's heat and Obama's cool is already a commonplace, but it's true, and I'm much more at ease with Obama's style.

Moreover, to be sober about the duties and responsibilities that are now his seems entirely in order.