Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The direct and indirect effects of the eudaimonistic community on the individual: from Godwin to Keynes

On the Facebook page for the group, Union for Radical Political Economics, which I recently joined, I read a wonderful 1930 essay from Keynes: “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” (I’m not sure if this title is from Keynes himself). Keynes asks an uncommon question for members of his profession: “What can we reasonably expect the level of our economic life to be a hundred years hence?” I found his reflections on this question (in part II) pleasantly surprising and it prompted me to entertain the possibility that his membership in the Bloomsbury Group speaks in part to why he summoned the intellectual courage to indulge in such speculation, particularly insofar as it takes us beyond (capitalist) economics. It took some daring if only because, in his words,

“… [T]here is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without a dread. For we have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy. It is a fearful problem for the ordinary person, with no special talents, to occupy himself, especially if he no longer has roots in the soil or in custom or in the beloved conventions of a traditional society. To judge from the behaviour and the achievements of the wealthy classes today in any quarter of the world, the outlook is very depressing! For these are, so to speak, our advance guard – those who are spying out the promised land for the rest of us and pitching their camp there. For they have most of them failed disastrously, so it seems to me – those who have an independent income but no associations or duties or ties – to solve the problem which has been set them.”

Keynes’ essay moved me to think of the possible direct and informal influences on his thought that may have arisen from participation and fellowship in the Bloomsbury Group, a select circle of rather intelligent and creative individuals whose class status and social background provided them a tantalizing taste of what freedom from “economic necessity” (in the capitalist sense) might mean for individual and collective self-realization. Of course axiomatic concern for such freedom earlier motivated Marx’s critique of capitalism, as Jon Elster makes clear in his brilliant essay, “Self-realisation in work and politics: the Marxist conception of the good life.” In other words, membership in the Bloomsbury Group is provocatively emblematic (as both cause and effect) of that which afforded Keynes both the time and inclination to reflect seriously in a utopian key (the phrase used here in a non-pejorative sense*) of life beyond capitalism, to imagine what it means for “man” (anthropologically speaking) to fully (i.e., existentially if not metaphysically) confront and ponder the real possibility of how to use “his freedom from pressing economic cares,” that is, to initiate careful consideration of “how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well,” which I suspect will undermine most of the current claptrap of what we think is involved in the pursuit and attainment of “happiness.” However precipitous its fall from grace and despite the somewhat harsh retrospective judgments by its own members of the Bloomsbury Group’s shortcomings, it’s worth speculating on the memorable praxis of this remarkable group of individuals who, to some significant extent at least, used their privilege, even if unintentionally, to concretely demonstrate what it might mean to live “beyond” or after capitalism.

Indeed, Keynes and the Bloomsbury Group calls to mind an earlier instance of a similar cause and effect relation of such interpersonal group dynamics on the thought of another original thinker, in this case, the anarchist philosopher William Godwin (1756 –1836). It seems Godwin drew inspiration for his model of the plausibility of anarchist society and its conspicuous reliance on sophisticated individual judgment as a vehicle of rationality and benevolence from “the context of the social circles in which he lived, worked and debated.” These radical social circles in turn “were part of a larger middle class community which drew on a range of philosophical and literary traditions in developing critical perspectives on contemporary social and political institutions.” (Mark Philp) To be sure, Godwin drew upon the philosophes and British radicals, as well as the periphery of the early Liberal tradition (e.g., Paine), but especially the “writings, sermons, and traditions of Rational Dissent” when composing An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (first edition, 1793, later editions to 1798), but his belief in the veracity of his critique and vision was grounded in the daily life of the social circles of metropolitan radicalism in which he worked and spent his convivial and leisure activities. While this social and intellectual culture soon succumbed to government repression, it provides the intimate empirical evidence Godwin needed to confirm his belief (shared with Condorcet) in the “perfectibility” (which is distinct from perfectionism) of man and the necessity of an anarchist society as the soil of germination for same. Godwin was not a political activist (although he knew members of radical groups and organizations) but a philosopher, but the radical social circles in which he lived tempers our understanding and seasons our judgment of the more extravagant utopian tendencies of his great work, at the very least they demonstrate radical principles were incarnate in a group praxis, even if Godwin had insufficient appreciation of the greater and deeper socio-economic and political conditions that gave birth to and nourished such radical sentiment: “Given the assumptions and conventions of his background and his social circles” writes Philp, “his position could be rationally defensible.” Godwin’s seemingly naïve faith in the power of private rational judgment received strong empirical or experimental confirmation, in other words, in his experience of these social and intellectual circles. In Philp’s words,

“…[Godwin’s] membership [in] a literate and intellectual culture which cannot be identified politically, socially or intellectually with either aristocratic privilege or with the potentially violent and disruptive London poor. It is in this group that we find the politically unattached intellectuals and writers who had greeted the French Revolution and who had called for reform at home on intellectual and humanitarian grounds.

[While this group is] “diffuse and made up of heterogeneous social and intellectual currents…there seems to be no doubt that in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, there existed in both London and the provinces significant number of critical, literate, professional men and women who held often very radical views on social, political and religious issues who regularly met together for the purposes of discussion in a number of overlapping social and professional circles. [….] Godwin moves in the company of artists, portrait painters, engravers, grammarians, industrialists, writers, editors, publishers, antiquarians, librarians, actors, theater managers, playwrights, musicians, novelists, poets, classical scholars, scientists, dons, lawyers, mathematicians, doctors, surgeons, and divines—and this list is not exhaustive. We should also recognize that members of these groups sustained a commitment to radical thinking throughout most of the last decade of the century.”

“As both [Roy] Porter and [Marilyn] Butler stress,” the middling class radicalism of these men and women was not simply the product of a Dissenting background, the French Revolution, and the influence of the philosophes, for it required the warp and woof of a cultural experience of that type of sociability that formed the “basic fabric of late-eighteenth century intellectual life:”

“Once he had concluded his morning’s work Godwin’s day was free and he generally spent it in company—talking and debating while eating, drinking and socialising. His peers’ behavior was essentially similar; they lived in a round of debate and discussion in clubs, associations, debating societies, salons, taverns, coffee houses, bookshops, publishing houses, and in the street. And conversation ranged through philosophy, morality, religion, literature and poetry, to the political events of the day. Members of these circles were tied together in the ongoing practice of debate. These men and women were not the isolated heroes and heroines of Romanticism pursuing a lonely course of discovery; they were people who worked out their ideas in company and who articulated the aspirations and fears of their social group. Their consciousness of their group identity was of signal importance….”

It is the daily life of this social round which fleshed out the skeletal structure of Godwin’s anarchist ideal of a natural society that is fundamentally “discursive,” in other words, a society defined by “intellectually active and communicative agents, a society where advances are made through a dialectic of individual reflection and group discussion.” Reason and argument were the lifeblood of the radicalism that flourished in this kind of sociability:

“The rules of debate for this group were simple: no one has a right to go against reason, no one has a right to coerce another’s judgment, and every individual has a right—indeed, a duty—to call to another’s attention his faults and failings. This is a highly democratic discourse, and it is essentially non-individualist: truth progresses through debate and discussion and from each submitting his beliefs and reasoning to the scrutiny of others.”

The values of openness, rationality, and discussion or conversation that distinguished this sociability were likewise suffused with the norms and values that animated the literature of sensibility from this period:

“Sensibility provided a means for exploring new regions of emotional and social experience, and in so doing it helped generate an identity for an emerging social class. Sensibility was not a philosophical perspective based on a withdrawal from the social world and a solipsistic reflection on sensation; rather, it was a celebration of that social world and an appeal to the emerging self-understanding of members of that world. Sociability and sensibility combined with a burgeoning market for literature of all kinds to produce a public realm in which art, literature, science, philosophy, and morality appeared as commodities to be consumed, discussed and improved.  [….] The experiments in the possibilities of experience conducted in the literature of sensibility, the rationalism which with they laid open every dogma to criticism and the deep concern with the arena of politics from which many of this class were debarred by virtue of their religion or their incomes can all be seen as essential components of this socially, intellectually and politically critical and ambitious group. But these ambitions were less individual than group-oriented: it is as a group that they see themselves as the foundation for a new and equitable social order.”

I think it profoundly important to consider the indispensable role of “the group,” to tease out and trace the myriad causes and effects of such circles of convivial community and ethically robust sociability that we discover in the life and work of a Godwin or Keynes, particularly when we sit at our solitary desks and computers and imbibe on the more nourishing and exhilarating products of their fertile minds.   

* I introduce the substance and possible parameters of such utopian thought and imagination here and here.

References & Further Reading:
    • Bell, Quinton. Bloomsbury Recalled. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.  
    • Elster, Jon. “Self-realisation in work and politics: the Marxist conception of the good life,” in Jon Elster and Karl Ove Moene, eds. Alternatives to Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.  
    • Nicholson, Virginia. Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living, 1900-1939. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.  
    • Norton, David L. Democracy and Moral Development: A Politics of Virtue. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991. 
    • Philp, Mark. Godwin’s Political Justice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986. 
    • Rosenbaum, S.P., ed. The Bloomsbury Group: A Collection of Memories and Commentary. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, revised ed., 1995.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Indic Traditions & Neurophilosophy: Beyond Reductionism, Physicalism, and Computationalism

    One of our foremost scholars of Indic philosophies, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, has an important guest-post at the Indian Philosophy blog: “On the possibility and nature of neurophilosophical study of Indic traditions.” I happen to be in full agreement on the following proposition: “I am not particularly confident that neuroscience in its current paradigm and practice settles anything about the nature and content of the discourse of these [i.e., Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist] contemplative practices.”
    One of our foremost scholars of Indic philosophies, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, has an important guest-post at the Indian Philosophy blog: “On the possibility and nature of neurophilosophical study of Indic traditions.” I happen to be in full agreement on the following proposition: “I am not particularly confident that neuroscience in its current paradigm and practice settles anything about the nature and content of the discourse of these [i.e., Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist] contemplative practices.” - See more at: of our foremost scholars of Indic philosophies, Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, has an important guest-post at the Indian Philosophy blog: “On the possibility and nature of neurophilosophical study of Indic traditions.” I happen to be in full agreement on the following proposition: “I am not particularly confident that neuroscience in its current paradigm and practice settles anything about the nature and content of the discourse of these [i.e., Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist] contemplative practices.”

    Sunday, August 24, 2014

    Unintentional blogging hiatus

    I apologize to any regular readers who have expectations for posts now and then. I've not been on vacation (indeed, not since our 25th wedding anniversary) but other things have taken up my time of late (in short, blogging comes after lots of other stuff). Should you care, I hope to return shortly, the focus being on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I appreciate your indulgence. Meanwhile, I'm sure there's lots of blogs out there to keep you occupied: 3 Quarks Daily, Indian Philosophy Blog, Crooked Timber, Opinio Juris, Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss,The Arabist, Buddhist Art News, Religious Left Law, Dorf on Law, Informed Comment, U.S. Intellectual History Blog, Animal Blawg, Health: An Interdisciplinary Blog, Warp, Weft and Way: Chinese and Comparative Philosophy, Leiter Reports, New APPS, The Faculty Lounge, Poverty Law, Turtle Talk, Legal Theory blog, Arms Control Law, Jadaliyya, etc., etc. All good wishes, Patrick

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

    Expel Palestinians, populate Gaza with Jews, says Knesset deputy speaker

    I did not have the time to cross-post this today, so please see Religious Left Law.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    A voice from “the generation that failed” speaks on ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Addendum, July 19)

    Raja Shehadeh, a founder of Al-Haq,* proffers advice to the Palestinian leadership in this piece from the London Review of Books, ending with a succinct proposal on how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (i.e., the ongoing conflict, not the recent escalation of violence). I’ve copied some of the article below which, unfortunately, is available online only to subscribers. 

    [….] “After the 1967 war, Israel spread the word that its occupation of Palestinian lands was the most benevolent in history, even if the ungrateful Palestinians refused to accept it. Those who actively resisted were called fedayeen; but Israel’s word for them was mukharebeen, which is what you call a naughty child in Arabic – anta mukhareb, ‘you are a spoiler.’ What, I wondered, were we spoiling? Then I realised that Israel was putting things in order for us and for them and we were spoiling it. Eventually, when George Bush declared the ‘war on terror,’ we graduated to being irhabyeen, ‘terrorists,’ every one of us, without exception. In Israel’s eyes we are all potential terrorists. And we are all here by permission of the Israeli state. Those who have a Palestinian passport are no different: the number on that passport is assigned to us by Israel and recorded in its security files and databases. Israel can on a whim forbid anybody to return home simply by revoking their residency. This is now the status of all Palestinians in the Territories and East Jerusalem. We are all infiltrators living where we aren’t supposed to live.

    By 1987 the number of mukharebeen had greatly increased in the Occupied Territories. Most of us were spoilers. We used every non-violent method and some violent ones to show that we’d had enough of occupation: the First Intifada had begun. Our insistence on a military struggle had brought no results. It was the non-violent uprising of 1987, waged inside the Occupied Territories, that forced Israel to the negotiating table. In 1991, four years after the Intifada began, Israel was persuaded to attend an international peace conference in Madrid, which was followed by negotiations in Washington between the Israelis and a Palestinian delegation. But the leadership outside the Territories failed to recognise the role those of us living under Israeli rule had played in the civil struggle, as I was to discover when I took part in the negotiations as a legal adviser. Incidentally, I remember Edward Said coming to Washington to offer his services to the delegation only to be sent away. He could have played a crucial role, explaining to the American public what these negotiations were about. What sort of leadership refuses an offer like that?

    Throughout the year I spent in Washington, and for some time afterwards, one question kept nagging at me: how did Israel succeed in using more or less the same tactics against the Palestinians and their property in 1967 as they had used in 1948? Why had the Palestinians not learned how to foil those tactics? Israeli military orders dealt with every aspect of life in the Occupied Territories as well as organising relations between the Palestinians – some but not all of them Israeli citizens – and the Jews who’d settled there. It was clear that Israel’s strategy in the negotiations was to hang on to as many of these orders – there were almost a thousand – as possible. Different orders applied to the two groups, discriminating between them in terms of allocation of land, use of natural resources and opportunities for development and growth. Marching in step with the military orders, Israeli laws were imported into the Occupied Territories and applied exclusively to the settlers. There had to be separate and unequal development – apartheid – if the Jewish settlements were to flourish. I had spent a year desperately trying to impress on the Palestinian leadership the need for a legal strategy based on a review of Israeli military orders when instructions to desist arrived from Arafat’s headquarters in Tunis: acknowledging the existence of military orders would only give them legitimacy. I packed my bags and went home.

    After I left Washington I remained intrigued by the Palestinians’ and Israelis’ very different attitudes to the law. I began exploring each side’s legal narrative. A legal narrative – how people tell the story of their rights – is a construction: for it to stand it must have consistency and its own internal logic, as well as external reference points to which others can relate. And it must be communicable. In the Occupied Territories Israel has expressed its narrative mainly in terms of military orders, which it has successfully kept in force. The Palestinian leadership’s thinking on legal matters is characterised by a search for absolutes, apparent in the excessive stress they put on recognition of the PLO, believing that if the Israelis recognised the organisation they would somehow also be recognising its programme of self-determination.

    The thinking is abstract: it takes no account of the shifting legal ground over which negotiations are conducted, and fails to anticipate the other side’s legal case, which makes it unable to respond adequately. At a meeting of the Palestinian National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988, the PLO recognised the need for an international conference whose aims would include ‘the annulment of all measures of annexation and appropriation and the removal of settlements’. But it failed to devise a strategy for achieving this goal. Instead, the 1993 Declaration of Principles and the 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the PLO provided for the military orders to remain in force. Though it remained undeclared, what was in fact being preserved was a system of apartheid.

    To this day Jerusalem demonstrates the inability of Palestinians to fight their cause by legal means, in stark contrast to the Israelis. After 47 years of Israeli rule Jerusalem is organised, run and designed for the sole benefit of Israeli residents, particularly settlers in and around Arab East Jerusalem, with a shrinking ghetto assigned to disenfranchised Palestinian residents. Israel never announced it was annexing the West Bank; as for its incremental control of Jerusalem, it too is discreet, sometimes brutally so. Compare the struggle in 2012 to win nominal recognition at the UN for the state of Palestine, even though the Palestinian Authority has no territorial sovereignty. Israel’s struggle takes the form of persistent, low-level administrative actions; the PLO – and now the Palestinian Authority – have lofty, abstract aims that have great resonance but are almost empty of practical meaning. The wish to entrench its virtual acquisition of a state sometimes manifests itself in physical terms: for example, the construction in Ramallah of a million-dollar presidential palace for visiting dignitaries who come to pay homage to the putative head of a state yet to be born.

    This difference in approach to law and nation-building doesn’t of itself explain the defeat of the PLO in negotiations with Israel. Almost equally important is the fact that the experience of the Palestinian people under occupation meant little to Palestinians living elsewhere, including our leaders in exile. One kind of struggle, that of the glamorous, sometimes desperate fedayeen in the camps, prevailed at the expense of others, but it wasn’t because of a dearth of information from Palestinian organisations in the Occupied Territories. [….] 

    The negotiations that began in July last year between Israeli and Palestinian representatives under American patronage took place behind closed doors and between two hugely unequal sides. There was no prospect of international law being applied. Israel decides most aspects of Palestinian life as well as the very existence of the Palestinian Authority. Were there a powerful third party prepared to invoke the Fourth Geneva Convention and the enforcement mechanisms it provides for, Israel would be forced to withdraw and to reverse the consequences of its illegal occupation. But the third party is biased. Polling shows that most Israelis oppose withdrawal to pre-1967 ceasefire lines, even if land swaps were agreed to accommodate Jewish settlements. A number of observers on both sides have noted that the most any Israeli leader is prepared to offer is less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader could ever accept.

    What can be done to end this conflict? I would argue for a two-pronged approach. Israel must be made to realise that the failure to apply international law will not last forever and that occupation will begin to exact an economic price; but it also needs to see the benefits it can derive from making peace. For the moment the Israelis show no sign of getting over the dangerous euphoria that was a result of their victory in the war of 1967 and continue to believe what Moshe Dayan, the minister of defence, declared at the time: that Israel is now an empire. Why should this empire, the sixth biggest exporter of weapons in the world, submit to international law? For the time being the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement seems to me a necessary tactic. I can’t exaggerate the relief I’ve felt now that it’s clear that I wasn’t criminal, mad or naive when I used to call for the enforcement of international law. Recently, in response to corporate accountability rules, several European banks and the Norwegian government’s pension fund have started to withdraw investments from Israeli companies involved in the settlements while the Norwegian Council on Ethics has recommended excluding Israeli companies ‘due to … serious violations of individual rights in war or conflict through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem.’ Yet high levels of investment in Israel have been the norm for close to half a century, despite the fact that the international law relating to occupation is fundamentally unchanged. Why has Europe only now discovered that Israel is in breach of the law?

    If disinvestment continues, Benjamin Netanyahu will turn out to have been over-confident when he declared in February that world demand for Israeli high-tech goods would enable the country to outflank the boycott. But the boycott is a means, not an end. The objective is to overcome the anger and hatred that fuel exclusion, partition and separation. Once Israel begins to apply international law, the political outcome, whether one state, two states or a confederation with other states in the region, should be resolved by referendum. And once people’s rights are recognised, all kinds of possibility begin to open up.

    In 1993 I realised how quickly things can change. Just before the Oslo deal was signed, young Palestinians were saying that they would fight Israel to the last day of their lives. But once the deal was signed and began to offer a glimmer of hope the tone changed. You heard them say: Yikhribbeit el hjar, ‘to hell with stone-throwing.’ Reminded of their earlier position they said in their defence that they wanted a better future and a chance to live in peace with the Israelis. Prominent among those who went through this transformation and put their faith in the peace process was the Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, in his early thirties at the time, who is now serving several life sentences for allegedly leading attacks against Israel. It is a mistake to hold the young to the values we were proud of during the First Intifada, the golden time of struggle. To them we are the generation that failed.”

    * Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in Ramallah, West Bank that was established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The organization has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. 

    Further reading: My bibliography for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is here. I have related bibliographies on “the Modern and Post-Modern Arab World,” “the Bedouin,” and “Zionist ideologies.” 

    Image found here.  

    Addendum: The following is a reply to the first comment by Anonymous:   

    It’s important to remain anonymous when posting absurd comments of this sort. As Lisa Hajjar reminds us, 

    “the Gaza Strip is still occupied. Despite official Israeli remonstrations that the unilateral disengagement of 2005, which removed Israeli military bases and Jewish settlers, transformed Gaza into ‘no longer occupied territory,’ neither those changes nor anything that has transpired since has ended the occupation.

    ‘Occupation’ is a legal designation of an international nature. Israel’s occupation of Gaza continues to the present day because (a) Israel continues to exercise ‘effective control’ over this area, (b) the conflict that produced the occupation has not ended, and (c) an occupying state cannot unilaterally (and without international/diplomatic agreement) transform the international status of occupied territory except, perhaps, if that unilateral action terminates all manner of effective control.”

    Second, to the extent Gaza is a hellhole, it is because Israel (and to varying degrees, Egypt, the U.S., and some European powers, the latter two in particular after Hamas won democratic elections in 2006) has done everything in its power to make it so, assuring its effective “ghettoization,” beginning in 1994. It is Israel that has consistently acted to assure that Gazans “live under conditions of strangulation, isolation, starvation and economic collapse.”  

    The description of the Hamas leadership as simply “Islamist fanatics” is unhelpful because it does not allow us to see how Hamas has historically evolved as a social movement and political organization, nor how its politics and policies differ from far more radical Salafist groups (loosely integrated into the Jaljalat group) which have undermined ceasefires in the region with rocket and mortar attacks as part of their efforts to challenge the authority of Hamas. Analytically, the term “Islamic fanatics” prevent us from appreciating the following important facts:

    1. Respected researchers in and outside Israel have thoroughly documented and explained how “Hamas is neither anti-modern or anti-democratic, nor inherently anti-Western.”
    2. Hamas recognizes the significance and relative authority of popular mandates.
    3. Like other rational collective actors, Hamas has historically been open and responsive to contractualist or quid pro quo bargaining and negotiations with the state of Israel, to which Israel has repeatedly responded with disdain and dismissal, topped off with an ongoing assassination campaign of its key leaders.
    4. Hamas’ ability to inflict violence is an important source of its political authority (recall that States are frequently defined by their de jure or de facto monopoly on the means of violence and that Hamas is fighting for recognition of a right to collective self-determination which, in our time and place, takes the form of a State). “While this capacity for violence provides important symbolic capital for Hamas as a whole, the majority of its political leaders derive the bulk of their authority from other sources—increasing the possibility of a transformation away from violence if Hamas members believe their basic security will be guaranteed through different means.”
    5. With regard to democratic and especially electoral politics (e.g., the municipal and legislative elections of 2004-2006), Hamas has made cross-ideological alliances and the bulk of its “election manifesto reads like that of any ‘secular’ political party.” As part of their decision to participate in electoral politics Hamas fielded “candidates with political and administrative, rather than paramilitary experience, [which] suggests that it recognizes that political capital in the domestic arena is derived from having non-violent, administrative skills and professional expertise than from a career in the resistance.”
    6. Hamas has repeatedly demonstrated a “readiness to make alliances, even with those who support a two-state solution and co-existence with Israel,” a fact that “further underlines that Hamas is not fanatical and incapable of compromise, but pragmatic.”
    7. Hamas leaders, notably Khalid Misha’al, have repeatedly stated they would not object to a two-state solution were the terms favorable to the “will of the people” (‘During the 2006 election campaign, senior Hamas legislative candidates Hasan Yousef and Muhammad Abu Tair categorized negotiations with Israel concerning a two-state solution as legitimate if they were both “in the interest of the people” and “presented to the new parliament,” the embodiment of the popular will.’) and their willingness to abide by a long-term hudna or truce (several decades, the terms of which would be renewable), evidences a de facto recognition of the state of Israel. Hamas is hardly prepared to pronounce a de jure-like or principled recognition until such time as Israel is willing to grant the collective right of self-determination to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (note again the logic of reciprocity).

    Wednesday, July 09, 2014

    Modern Iran: A Basic Bibliography

    My latest compilation is Modern Iran: A Basic Bibliography.

    Saturday, June 28, 2014

    Baseball Haiku

    summer afternoon
    the long fly ball to center field
    takes its time

    changing pitchers
    the runner on first looks up
    at a passing cloud

    after the grand slam
    the umpire busy
    with his whisk broom
    —Cor van den Heuvel (b. 1931) 

    Van den Heuvel “discovered haiku in San Francisco in 1958 when he heard Gary Snyder talking about short poems at a Sunday gathering of the Robert Duncan/Jack Spicer poetry group in North Beach.” He “was known as ‘Dutchy’ when he played catcher in the late 1940s for the Comets, a sandlot team in Dover, New Hampshire.” From a volume of baseball haiku edited by Van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007). 

    I could not resist drawing attention to poetry that so skillfully joins a fondness for both baseball and haiku. And it seems this might be considered serendipitous, as haiku is a combination of two words: haikai (literally, ‘comic,’ ‘unorthodox’) and hokku, the latter a three line stanza and the former meaning “sportive” or “playful.” Bashō, a haikai master, sought to exemplify in his poetry both comic playfulness and spiritual depth, an uncommon blend of the vita contemplativa, which he practiced on his own terms, with the vita activa, evidenced in his willingness to take seriously “the ordinary, everyday lives of commoners,” portraying such figures as the beggar, the traveler and the farmer. 

    The first “baseball haiku” (1890) issues from the brush of the first modern haiku poet, Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), whose “writings on baseball later helped to popularize the game throughout Japan.”

    spring breeze
    this grassy field makes me
    want to play catch
    —Masaoka Shiki
    On the origins of haiku, see “A Note on Haikai, Hokku, and Haiku,” appended to Robert Hass, ed., The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bashō, Buson, and Issa (Hopewell, NJ: The Ecco Press, 1994). 

    Images: Painting by Kadir Nelson found here. Picture of Shiki found here

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Buddhism & Psychoanalysis

    The latest draft of “Buddhism & Psychoanalysis: a basic reading guide,” is available here. As noted at the link, I have related compilations on “Buddhism,” “the Emotions,” and secondary literature on “Freudian and Post-Freudian Psychology.”
    “Modern  neuroscience is validating observations about the mind that Buddhists have known for thousands of years. When I first began to study Buddhism, it was common to hear put-downs of Western psychology and...psychotherapy in major Buddhist centers. There was a widespread belief that meditation would answer everyone’s problems, and if you were a really good Zen or Vipassana or Vajrayana practitioner, you wouldn’t need therapy. Now I could give you the names of abbots of those same centers who are themselves seeing therapiststhey have realized there’s a complementarity between meditation and the interpersonal skills of Western psychology.Jack Kornfield, in a forum discussion, “Is Western Psychology Redefining Buddhism?,Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, Summer 2014 (Vol. 12, No. 4). 

    The image above is found here.

    Wednesday, June 04, 2014

    Paul Robeson & The Struggle Against Apartheid

    Highly recommended: Penelope Andrews, “A Champion for African Freedom: Paul Robeson and the Struggle Against Apartheid” (May 28, 2014). Albany Law Review, Vol. 77, No. 1, 2014.

    From Part V, “Paul Robeson and Contemporary South Africa:”
    “If Paul Robeson was around today, what might he say about the ‘rainbow nation’ and its transformative constitutional project? He might join in the chorus of applause about the text of South Africa’s constitution, the formal imprimatur of rights, and the mostly impressive series of judgments handed down by the Constitutional Court. He would no doubt celebrate the peaceful transition in South Africa from apartheid and authoritarianism to democracy, and particularly the significant role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
    But he might pause and ponder the dissonance between the fine constitutional text and its accompanying court decisions, and the limited signs of a human rights culture, as evidenced by widespread violence, particularly against women, African migrants, and homosexual South Africans. He might wonder why the Mandela government and its successors have openly embraced the ‘Washington consensus’ and a form of unregulated capitalism that has resulted in great wealth for some and the persistent impoverishment of others? He might wonder why the kind of crony capitalism euphemistically labeled ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ empowers and enriches only so few, and continues to fan the flame of black resentment—but now leveled against their black compatriots.
    Paul Robeson would no doubt be shocked at the specter of black miners being shot by police officers in a manner reminiscent of Sharpeville and the dark days of apartheid. He might wonder what happened to that wonderful African concept of dignity—ubuntu—and why it often seems in such short supply.
    Paul Robeson would no doubt ponder the bundle of contradictions that make up South Africa: first world and third world; contemporary and traditional; great wealth and extreme poverty; hope and despair.
    And he would no doubt wonder why the promise of dignity, equality, and rights for women, including the right of security in the public and private domain, still eludes so many South African women, particularly those who are poor.
    Yes—Paul Robeson may have celebrated and he may have lamented—but his legacy has shown that even as one struggle ends, new ones surface. And that the project of justice, human dignity, and equality requires ongoing vigilance and continuous struggle.”
    A note regarding the aforementioned “peaceful transition in South Africa from apartheid and authoritarianism to democracy:”
    Although the transition in South Africa was perhaps “peaceful” in broad historical and comparative terms, there was in fact a considerable amount of violence, the bulk of which was not committed by the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto weSwize (‘Spear of the Nation,’ or ‘MK’ as it was commonly known). From February 1990 to April 1994, roughly 14,000-15,000 people died as a result of such violence. In fact, as Janet Cherry points out, “more people died in the four-year transition, after MK had suspended its armed struggle, than in the preceding three decades.” 

    Friday, May 30, 2014

    Natural Law "Externalism" v. Law as "Moral Aspiration"

    Here is a link to a just revised paper (from 2011): “Natural Law ‘Externalism’ v. Law as Moral Aspiration.” It makes an argument against Thom Brooks characterization of the natural law tradition’s concept of justice as “external” to the law, in contrast with Hegel’s peculiar “internalist” conception of natural law. I’m not so much interested in Brooks’ interpretation of Hegel on this score as his rendering of the concept and conceptions of justice and law as found generally in natural law traditions and formulations. 

    “As it turns out, Marx himself, at least in his early years, recognized the relationship between the rule of law and substantive equality. In 1842, Marx criticized the Prussian censorship laws in rule of law terms, claiming that such ‘laws without objective norms are laws of terrorism, such as those created by Robespierre’ and ‘positive sanctions of lawlessness.’ Going on, he criticizes the law as ‘an insult to the honor of the citizen’ and ‘a mockery directed against my existence,’ in virtue of the fact that it is ‘not a law of the state for the citizenry, but a law of a party against another party’ which ‘cancels the equality of citizens before the law.’”

    “One law for the lion and for the ox is indeed oppression, if that law requires everyone to eat meat or to grow a mane. And in a world where some people have a lot, and others are destitute, treating people how equals ought to be treated means taking from the former and giving to the latter. As it turns out, this is the correct interpretation not just of the ideal of distributive justice, but of the proposition that all are to be equal under the law. And this is a valuable discovery independent of distributive justice theory.”

    “The rule of law is both an unqualified human good and a tool in the fight against social injustice.”—Paul Gowder

    These quotes from a recent paper by Paul Gowder, “Equal Law in an Unequal World,” while not about natural law theory proper, suggest if not capture that type of natural law reasoning about the moral ideal of the rule of law and justice found in the natural law tradition and thus help illustrate how notions of justice and morality are not, pace Thom Brooks, extrinsic to the rule of law.  
    Please note: The SSRN link I provide to Brooks’ paper in my essay no longer allows its download (only the abstract), apparently because it is now part of a collection of essays in a volume edited by Brooks: Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012): 167-179.

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    Poetry & Islam: An Introduction

    Strictly speaking, this is outside the scope of Ratio Juris but temerity finds me giving notice of it regardless. Here is a link to my essay, “Poetry & Islam: An Introduction,” an earlier—and shorterdraft of which was published in CrossCurrents (March 2011). Correction: This version is virtually identical to the published piece, save for a few revisions. I had not looked at the published version for some time and confused a shorter draft I saved with the final draft. 

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    Online Bibliographies at Ratio Juris

    Dear Reader:

    For some years now (well, since 2008), Jim Chen has been kindly formatting my bibliographies for posting here at Ratio Juris. With an site, I’m now able to format and post these compilations myself (along with some papers on motley topics), relieving Jim of a task for which I have been and remain most grateful (perhaps needless to say, I’m grateful to Jim for quite a few things). I will continue to post notice of new bibliographies here, as well as any substantial updates to existing lists. 

    Photo by Budapest-born photographer André Kertész (image found here)