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:

For more information, please visit the conference website at:
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.