Monday, December 15, 2014

Diagnosing what ails us

I suspect states of denial, wishful thinking, and self-deception are ubiquitous in our society; combine that with chronic cognitive myopia, an addiction to short-term hedonic gratification, and dispositional tendencies toward such cognitive distortions as the availability heuristic, bandwagon effect, confirmation bias, and a status quo bias, and we have at least a plausibly partial explanation for the widespread indulgence in bread and circuses and the sad reality diagnosed in Erich Fromm’s locution (the idea going back to ancient philosophies), the “pathology of normalcy.

Unfortunately, a symptomatic diagnosis is pretty straightforward (for some of us at any rate), it’s the etiological explanation of the precise social psychological mechanisms and consequent prescription or therapeutic regimen (one whose possible consequences or side-effects don’t outweigh its possible curative value) that present seemingly insurmountable difficulties for the would-be Marxist humanist or Gandhian-like revolutionary.

Speaking of Fromm, I should mention two works essential toward assessing what is living and dead in his corpus (no pun intended): Daniel Burston, The Legacy of Erich Fromm (Harvard University Press, 1991), and Lawrence J. Friedman (assisted by Anke M. Schreiber), The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet (Columbia University Press, 2013). Friedman’s book also recognizes Fromm’s roles as a prominent public intellectual and political activist on the Left. He remains my favorite member of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research (his contributions to which were ‘substantial,’ in later years among its most productive scholars). In stark contrast to Horkheimer and most of his colleagues” who, upon settling in New York, ...continued to perceive themselves as European intellectuals, persisted in writing for a specialized scholarly audience, and preferred to communicate in German,” Fromm proceeded to master English, developing a capacity to write graceful prose...[while working to become] accessible to the general American reading public.”

Monday, December 01, 2014

Advaita Vedānta and bhakti spiritual praxis

Owing to the good graces of Elisa Freschi, I have a short guest post up at the Indian philosophy blog on the role of bhakti spiritual praxis in the Advaita Vedānta tradition. If you’re not familiar with Advaita Vedānta (an important school within the Vedānta tradition generally*), please see here. For a basic introduction to bhakti-yoga (or -mārga), see here. I suspect some of the comments of others are more interesting than the original post.

* This school, in turn, is one of six philosophical schools of Hinduism or a-darśanas: the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Indic philosophy, namely, Navya-Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, Yoga, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta.
If you’re not familiar with Advaita Vedānta (an important school within the Vedānta tradition generally*), please see here. For a basic introduction to bhakti-yoga (or -mārga), see here.
* This school, in turn, is one of six philosophical schools of Hinduism or a-darśanas: the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Indic philosophy, namely, Navya-Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, Yoga, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta.
- See more at: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2014/11/what-is-the-relationship-between-advaita-ved%C4%81nta-and-bhakti-spiritual-praxis.html#sthash.ZgOlnpIQ.dpuf
If you’re not familiar with Advaita Vedānta (an important school within the Vedānta tradition generally*), please see here. For a basic introduction to bhakti-yoga (or -mārga), see here.
* This school, in turn, is one of six philosophical schools of Hinduism or a-darśanas: the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Indic philosophy, namely, Navya-Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, Yoga, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta.
- See more at: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2014/11/what-is-the-relationship-between-advaita-ved%C4%81nta-and-bhakti-spiritual-praxis.html#sthash.ZgOlnpIQ.dpuf
If you’re not familiar with Advaita Vedānta (an important school within the Vedānta tradition generally*), please see here. For a basic introduction to bhakti-yoga (or -mārga), see here.
* This school, in turn, is one of six philosophical schools of Hinduism or a-darśanas: the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Indic philosophy, namely, Navya-Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, Yoga, Pūrva Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta.
- See more at: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2014/11/what-is-the-relationship-between-advaita-ved%C4%81nta-and-bhakti-spiritual-praxis.html#sthash.ZgOlnpIQ.dpuf

Sunday, November 16, 2014

From behavior to belief...or the possible virtues of novel political participation

Analogous to the Pascalian prescription for acting as if one believes and has faith (‘Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness.’), and akin to Confucian insight (at least with regard to the tradition’s concept of li), a contemporary social science description speaks to a (proven?*) strategy for indirectly prompting political actors to eschew a reliance on violent methods to achieve their aims:

“[T]he sustained participation of political actors in new institutional settings can trigger a reflexive and unconscious process of socialization variously described in the literature as ‘role playing,’ ‘mimicking,’ ‘copying,’ and ‘emulating’ prescribed norms of behavior. When political actors enter a new institutional environment, they are under pressure to conform with its established rules of speech and conduct. And once they adapt to such expectations, they must justify this adaptation to themselves and others. As a result, ‘they may later adapt their preferences to these justifications, in this way reducing cognitive dissonance.’ Changes in the behavior of political actors iterated over time, may thus produce changes in their beliefs. As Zürn and Checkel have argued, ‘Acting in accordance with role expectations may lead to an internalization of these expectations,’ a situation in which, to borrow an elegant phrase from Suzanne Hoeber Rudolph, ‘the mask becomes the face.’ As Islamist actors have assumed new roles and responsibilities, it can be theorized that they have developed new competencies and skills and adapted their behavior to the norms and institutions of which they are a part.” – Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement (Princeton University Press, 2013): 11-12. 

This in one reason why, for instance, it was absolute folly to deny Hamas a realistic chance to govern in Gaza after its (democratic) electoral success, and it is sheer madness to repress the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, particularly given its earlier historic avowal of violence and more recent willingness to abide by the democratic rules of the game (such as they were or are in Egypt). 

* See, for example, Omar Ashour, The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements (Routledge, 2009).

Sunday, November 09, 2014

On the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

 For my post on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, please see here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Human Rights: A Bibliography

The latest draft of my bibliography for human rights is here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Democratic Theory bibliography

The latest draft of my bibliography on democratic theory is here.

Torture Bibliography

The latest draft of my bibliography on torture is here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Punishment & Prison: A Bibliography

The latest draft of my bibliography for punishment and prison is available here

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Philosophy of Law & Legal Theory: Select Bibliography

The latest draft of my select bibliography for philosophy of law and legal theory is available here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Frederic (Fred) R. Branfman, March 18, 1942 - September 24, 2014

Lest we forget these egregious war crimes from our recent history: “...[I]nvestigations by Branfman and others showed that 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos from 1965 to 1973 — about one ton for every Laotian man, woman and child — in a relentless campaign to blunt the operations of the North Vietnamese and the allied Pathet Lao.

The planes came like the birds, and bombs fell like the rain,’ Branfman, quoting one of the refugees, wrote in the New York Times in early 1971 after leaving Laos and joining the antiwar movement at home.” 

 Frederic (Fred) R. Branfman, March 18, 1942 - September 24, 2014

[my bibliography for the Vietnam War

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Black Panther Party, 1966-1982: Suggested Reading



According to the Zinn Education Project, today is the anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. What follows is my list of suggested reading toward assessing the radical legacy of the Black Panthers.

Suggested Reading: 
  • Alkebulan, Paul. Survival Pending Revolution: The History of the Black Panther Party. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2007. 
  • Austin, Curtis J. Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party. Fayetteville, AK: University of Arkansas Press, 2006. 
  • Bloom, Joshua and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013. 
  • Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992. 
  • Carmichael, Stokely. Stokely Speaks: Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism. New York: Vintage Books, 1971. 
  • Carmichael, Stokely and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. New York: Random House, 1967. 
  • Churchill, Ward and Vander Wall, Jim. Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret War Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. Boston, MA: South End Press, 2002 (1988). 
  • Cleaver, Kathleen and George Katsiaficas, eds. Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party. New York: Routledge, 2001. 
  • Davenport, Christian. Media Bias, Perspective, and State Repression: The Black Panther Party. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 
  • Dawson, Michael C. Blacks In and Out of the Left. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 
  • Foner, Philip S., ed. The Black Panthers Speak. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995 ed. 
  • Forman, James. The Making of Black Revolutionaries (Illustrated Edition). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997. 
  • Hilliard, David, ed. The Black Panther Party: Service to the People Programs (The Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundations). Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 2008. 
  • Jeffries, Judson L., ed. On the Ground: The Black Panther Party in Communities across America. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010. 
  • Joseph, Peniel E. Stokely: A Life. New York: Basic Civitas, 2014. 
  • Kelley, Robin D.G. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2002. 
  • Lazerow, Jama and Yohuru Williams, eds. In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. 
  • Marable, Manning. Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1990. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1991. 
  • Murch, Donna Jean. Living for the City: Migration, Education, and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. 
  • Nelson, Alondra. Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 
  • Ogbar, Jeffrey O.G. Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. 
  • O’Reilly, Kenneth. “Racial Matters: The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989. 
  • Rhodes, Jane. Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon. New York: The New Press, 2007. 
  • Shelby, Tommie. We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
  • Tibbs, Donald F. From Black Power to Prison Power: The Making of Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 
  • Williams, Yohuru. Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Black Panthers in New Haven. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008 (Brandywine Press, 2000).
 Image found here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Constraints, Structures, History...and the Reality of Freedom

From Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophical Writings (Edited by Margaret A. Simons, with Marybeth Timmons and Mary Beth Mader). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2004. I thought I’d share a small snippet from one of the essays, “Moral Idealism and Political Realism” (1945): 

…[U]pon closer examination, the lines separating utopianism from realism are less distinct than they may have appeared at first. In fact, we can prove that squaring the circle and perpetual motion are impossible, but man is not what he is in the way a circle is, whose radii remain invariably equal. He is what he makes himself be, what he chooses to be. Whatever the given situation, it never necessarily implies one future or another since man’s reaction to his situation is free. How can he decide in advance that peace, war, revolution, justice, happiness, defeat, or victory are impossible? When Lenin was preparing in Switzerland for the coming of a new order, he could have been taken for a great dreamer; and if no one had been so bold as to want the Russian Revolution, if Lenin and all the revolutionaries had thought of themselves as insane, they would indeed have been so, for the revolution would not have happened.

That is why, when reform is suggested, the first reaction of the political conservative is always to declare it impossible, because he knows that by declaring it impossible, he contributes to making it so. It was, no doubt, not enough, as French pacifists imagined it was, simply to declare ‘There will be no war’ for it not to happen. However, it is also true that the impulse through which we accept the advent of a certain future contributes to its formation. We therefore do not accept the collaborators’ excuse of having been victims of a simple intellectual error. They argue that they believed Germany’s defeat to be impossible. This means that they consented to her victory. In reality, they opted for the German supremacy that they claimed merely to have recognized. Furthermore, the word ‘recognition’ is itself ambiguous, because when we recognize a government, we make it exist as such. Gaining an awareness is never a purely contemplative process; it is engagement, support or rejection. In 1940 some Frenchmen accepted collaboration with Germany in the name of realism. But they are striking proof of the weakness of an attitude that mutilates and distorts the very reality on which it claims to base itself, since it refuses to make the fact of human freedom an integral part of this reality. If all nations had resigned themselves to accept Hitler’s triumph, Hitler would have indeed triumphed; but they could refuse and they did. It is this refusal that the collaborator was unable [or refused] to see. Anxious to give up his own freedom, he wished to be carried along on the great current of history, forgetting that history is made by men. To be sure, the occupation of France by Germany was a reality. But it was equally real that the French remained free to give the event the meaning they chose. If everyone had collaborated, Germany would have become an ally. If they resisted, she would remain an adversary. [….] The first mistake of the political realist is to underestimate the existence and weight of his own reality. This reality is not given. It is what he decides to be. The lucid political man who truly has a hold of things is also conscious of the power of freedom in him and in others.

Image: A group of French resistants at the time of their joining forces with the Canadian army at Boulogne in September 1944. Accessed at the Wikipedia entry on the French Resistance.