Sunday, August 21, 2016

Marxism & Freudian Psychology: Toward an Emancipatory Synthesis — A Basic Bibliography

I have a comparatively short bibliography dedicated to the aim of synthesizing Marxism and Freudian psychology, for complementary social scientific and emancipatory reasons: Marxism & Freudian Psychology: Toward an Emancipatory Synthesis. At the end of the list there are links to the much larger, respective compilations for Marxism and Freudian (and post-Freudian) psychology.

Friday, July 22, 2016

“Hear ye, hear ye!”… a new and important book on capitalism

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to bring to your attention notice of a new work by Anwar Shaikh, Professor of Economics at the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School University. Professor Shaikh’s latest book is Capitalism: Competition, Conflict, Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2016) a tome of over 900 pages (‘fifteen years in the making’) that has been well-received by critics both inside and outside the profession of Economics. I first learned of Shaikh’s work from his concise entries in the four volume, The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics (1987), edited by John Eatwell, Murray Milgate and Peter Newman, and newly published in a more accessible series of paperback volumes, one of which is Marxian Economics (W.W. Norton & Co., 1990). And while re-reading an earlier and indispensable book he edited, Globalization and the Myths of Free Trade (Routledge, 2007), I decided to look him up again and learned of this new work. Professor Shaikh had Gary Becker(!) as one of his teachers (in the interview linked to below, Shaikh explains precisely why and how Becker influenced him), and speaks of Joan Robinson, Robert Heilbroner, and Luigi L. Pasinetti as among those who have helped shape his study of economics.

From his personal website, a short summary of the book:

“Competition and conflict are intrinsic features of modern societies, inequality is persistent, and booms and busts are recurrent outcomes throughout capitalist history. State intervention modifies modified these patterns but does not abolish them. My book is an attempt to show that one can explain these and many other observed patterns as results of intrinsic forces that shape and channel outcomes. Social and institutional factors play an important role, but at the same time, the factors are themselves limited by the dominant forces arising from ‘gain-seeking’ behavior, of which the profit motive is the most important.

These dominant elements create an invisible force field that shapes and channels capitalist outcomes. The book’s approach is very different from that of both orthodox economics and the dominant elements in the heterodox tradition. There is no reference whatsoever to an idealized framework rooted in perfect firms, perfect individuals, perfect knowledge, perfectly selfish behavior, rational expectations, and so-called optimal outcomes. Nor is there any need to explain particular observed patterns as departures from this Edenic state arising from ‘imperfections’ of various sorts. The book develops microeconomic and macroeconomic theory from real behavior and real competition, and uses it to explain empirical patterns in microeconomic demand and supply, wage and profits, technological change, relative prices of goods and services, interest rates, bond and equity prices, exchange rates, patterns of international trade, growth, unemployment, inflation, national and personal inequality, and the recurrence of general crises such as the current one which began in 2007-2008.”

See too this informative interview with Marshall Auerback of the Institute for New Economic Thinking on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Should the Left Vote for a Third Party Candidate for President?

“Since there is no national organization around anymore that can set doctrinal boundaries for the left, there is today more room for expressing and acting upon the full range of issue and perspectives that actually constitute the radical, democratic, critical tradition. One can more easily be a Marxist in the morning, a pacifist in the afternoon, an environmentalist at dinner, and a feminist in the evening while going to church on Sunday [or the synagogue on Saturday, the mosque on Friday, the Humanist Society meeting on Wednesday…] and voting Democrat on election day.” — Richard Flacks, Making History: The Radical Tradition in American Life (Columbia University Press, 1988): 221-222.

The upcoming election is a binary choice (i.e., abstention or third party voting is morally and politically irresponsible), and here’s my brief argument as to why:

If one assumes (and it seems a reasonable assumption given what current numbers suggest and ‘experts’ are saying about the upcoming presidential election) that this presidential race will be fairly close and, furthermore, believes that Donald Trump is an immeasurably worse candidate than Hilary Clinton, than it would be politically (and I think morally) irresponsible to vote for a third party candidate of any sort, for that would be tantamount to giving your vote to Trump. If one believes a vote for a third party candidate amounts to a salutary or necessary expression of one’s ideals or acting according to one’s principles and is therefore justified in voting for a third party candidate under these conditions, one is being an idealist in the worst (or at least a pejorative) sense, the sort that ignores the real world consequences of one’s actions (in this case, simply the act of voting).

Even principled idealists take into consideration what is possible or probable when acting on their principles, and do not proceed come hell or high water (as we say), blissfully ignoring the (possible or, in this instance, likely) results of their actions. Voting “on principle” or according to one’s ideals sans consequentialist considerations may be seen as an act of moral “purity” in some sense (the attempt to ‘wash one's hands’ of this moral mess) when examined solely from the vantage point of the individual, but one’s actions are inevitably and inextricably bound up with the actions of others and contribute to the outcome of those actions. There are myriad other and more morally and politically responsible ways to directly realize or act on one’s ideals and principles: indeed, to vote for a third party candidate in the upcoming election may, over time, serve to thwart (even) the (partial) realization of one’s most cherished principles, values, or ideals.

To vote for a third party candidate under the aforementioned conditions amounts to the vice of “moralism” (what this means is fairly complicated, but for those interested, please see C.A.J. Coady’s brilliant little book, Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics, 2008) which includes acting without “a breadth of understanding of others and of the situations in which she and they find themselves. In addition, or in consequence the moralizer is subject to an often-delusional sense of moral superiority over those coming under his or her judgment.” Lest I be misunderstood, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying that the rational dictates of prudence or consequentialist reckoning in this case trumps acting on moral concerns. Rather, and again in the words of Coady, “Morality should certainly be attentive to circumstances and the way it conditions what is possible.” So, and by way of a conclusion, we are faced in fact with a binary choice if we are to act in a morally and politically responsible manner, in other words, abstention or voting for a third party candidate is succumbing to the vice of moralism and feigning ignorance of the morally significant consequences of such a choice.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Trade, Labor & Human Rights in the Time of (largely) Neoliberal Globalization: A Basic Reading Regimen

This list of titles was put together to help one make sense of the various (existing or prescribed) interrelations between trade, labor, and human rights during this period of (largely, thus not exclusively) neoliberal globalization. Presidential campaign rhetoric in the U.S. that is—understandably yet regrettably—little more than sloganeering sound bites about previous and proposed bilateral, multilateral, and regional trade agreements, prompted me in the first instance to share works by academic and activist intellectuals that might quicken and hone our attempts to understand these rather complex topics. There is no “one point of view” represented here save for the fact that I have, of course, a decidedly Leftist bias, as do most of the titles. Nevertheless (and not surprisingly for those of us long on the Left!), ample disagreement and different perspectives are found in the material that should compel us to come to our own conclusions, make up our own minds, decide for ourselves where “the truth” is more or less to be found, however tentative and provisional that truth turns out to be. Perhaps needless to say, such truth is decidedly more interesting and complicated (if not labyrinthine) than being for or against “globalization.” 
  • Abdelal, Rawi, Mark Blyth, and Craig Parsons, eds. Constructing the International Economy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010. 
  • Appelbaum, Richard P. and William I. Robinson, eds. Critical Globalization Studies. New York: Routledge, 2005.  
  • Archibugi, Daniele, ed. Debating Cosmopolitics. London: Verso, 2001. 
  • Bardhan, Pranab. International Trade, Growth, and Development: Essays. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003. 
  • Bardhan, Pranab, Samuel Bowles and Michael Wallerstein, eds. Globalization and Egalitarian Distribution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press/New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006. 
  • Barry, Brian and Robert E. Goodin, eds. Free Movement: Ethical Issues in the Transnational Migration of People and of Money. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.  
  • Barry, Christian and Thomas W. Pogge, eds. Global Institutions and Responsibilities: Achieving Global Justice. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. 
  • Basu, Kaushik, Henrik Horn, Lisa Román, and Judith Shapiro, eds. International Labor Standards. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.  
  • Bhala, Raj. Trade, Development and Social Justice. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2003. 
  • Chang, Ha-Joon. Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.  
  • Cottier, Thomas, Joost Pauwelyn, and Elisabeth Bürgi, eds. Human Rights and International Trade. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. 
  • Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2nd ed., 2003.  
  • Forsythe, David P. Human Rights in International Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 
  • Gaventa, John and Rajesh Tandon, eds. Globalizing Citizens: New Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion. London: Zed Books, 2010.  
  • Harrod, Jeffrey and Robert O’Brien, eds. Global Unions? Theory and Strategies of Organized Labour in the Global Political Economy. London: Routledge, 2002. 
  • Hepple, Bob. Labour Laws and Global Trade. Oxford, UK: Hart Publishing, 2005.  
  • Hurrell, Andrew and Ngaire Woods, eds. Inequality, Globalization, and World Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 
  • Iriye, Akira. Global Community: The Role of International Organization in the Making of the Contemporary World. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.  
  • Matsushita, Mitsuo, Thomas J. Schoenbaum, and Petros C. Mavroidis. The World Trade Organization: Law, Practice, and Policy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 
  • Moeckli, Daniel, Sangeeta Shah, and Sandesh Sivakumaran, eds. International Human Rights Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.  
  • Moody, Kim. US Labor in Trouble: The Failure of Reform from Above, the Promise of Revival from Below. London: Verso, 2007. 
  • Narlikar, Amrita, Martin Daunton, and Robert N. Stern, eds. The Oxford Handbook on the World Trade Organization. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Santos, Boaventura de Sousa and Cesar A. Rodriguez-Garavito, eds. Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 
  • Shaikh, Anwar, ed. Globalization and the Myths of Free Trade: History, Theory, and Empirical Evidence. New York: Routledge, 2007. 
  • Therborn, Göran. The Killing Fields of Inequality. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2013.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Winston Churchill on European Integration

The following is the final paragraph of a speech by Churchill at Zurich University on September 19, 1946:

“I must now sum up the propositions which are before you. Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of [the United Nations]. Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. The first step is to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the states of Europe are not willing or able to join the union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny. In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia—for then indeed all would be well—must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.”—Winston Churchill

Notice that Churchill seems to exclude Britain from this European project! Yet Churchill’s “efforts eventually led to the Hague Congress of May 1948 and the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949, both milestones in European integration.”*

* Brent F. Nelsen and Alexander Stubb, eds. The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 3rd ed., 2003). See too, Robert Rhodes James, ed. Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963, Vol. 7, 1943-1949 (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1974).

Further Reading: 
  • Arnull, Anthony and Damian Chalmers, eds. The Oxford Handbook of European Union Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015. 
  • Bomberg, Elizabeth, John Peterson, and Richard Corbett, eds. The European Union: How Does it Work? New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 
  • Corbett, Richard, Francis Jacobs, and Michael Shackleton. The European Parliament. London: John Harper Publishing, 8th ed., 2011. 
  • Jones, Erik, Anand Menon, and Stephen Weatherill, eds. The Oxford Handbook of the European Union. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gandhi at the Aga Khan Palace

From a blog post by Vinay Lal with his characteristically thoughtful and informed reflections upon visiting the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, India:

“He may be the ‘Father of the Nation,’ but it is more than his reputation, lately under assault from all the wise ones, that lies in tatters. A plaque at the entrance to the Aga Khan Palace in Pune, where Gandhi was confined for two years after he issued a call to the British to ‘Quit India’ in August 1942, furnishes a brief introduction to this ‘monument of national importance.’

On my visit to this monument in March of this year, I found it in a state of utter dilapidation. This is far from being India’s only ‘national monument’ that has suffered from neglect and indifference; however, its association with Gandhi most likely ensures that it is not likely to see a revival of its fortunes. If the murder of Gandhi was a permissive assassination, one celebrated by those elites who were enraged at the thought that the old man would if alive continue to exert an influence upon the affairs of a young nation-state struggling to find its feet in an evil world, permissive neglect seems to be the modus operandi through which Gandhi is slowly being sent into oblivion. [….]

The hostility to Gandhi among the advocates of Hindu nationalism is palpable. Considerable segments of the RSS have thought nothing of glorifying his assassin, Nathuram Godse, who not coincidentally was born in Pune District. Whatever the culpability, which cannot be doubted, of previous local administrations, neither the present local nor the state government can be expected to have any interest in reviving an institution intended to celebrate the life of a man whom they view as guilty of appeasing the Muslims and weakening the Hindu nation. The Government of Maharashtra is securely in the hands of a BJP-Shiv Sena combine; the Shiv Sena’s former leader, the late Bal Thackeray, was often heard deriding Gandhi as a eunuch. [….]  

Nearly ten years ago, I wrote a piece in the Economic and Political Weekly entitled ‘The Gandhi Everyone Loves to Hate,’ arguing that every constituency in India had a grievance with him. In the intervening years, it has become almost obligatory to denounce Gandhi as a sexist and racist; and there are even websites that claim that he raped virgins and should have been jailed as a serial sex offender. Some of his critics had been long been convinced that he had prevented the possibility of a ‘real’ revolution—apparently, unless several million people have not been killed, or the enemy has not been exterminated in a calculated genocide, a genuine upheaval cannot be viewed as having taken place—in India, but lately we have also heard that his empathy for Dalits was nothing but a sham and that he even fortified the British empire in South Africa and India alike. Arundhati Roy is, of course, much too smart and sophisticated to write a book with a title akin to something like ‘The Gandhi You Never Knew,’ but the substance of her critique is effectively the same. And that critique is nothing other than the stupid idea that the ‘real’ Gandhi has been hidden from history. If the state of the exhibits at the Aga Khan Palace suggests anything, it will not be long before Gandhi disappears altogether from public view. Then India can celebrate its ‘real’ independence and manhood.”

The full post, with Lal's recent photographs, is here. My bibliography on the life, work and legacy of Gandhi, is here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Senator McCain’s batshit crazy account of historical and political causation (hence, responsibility)

In the news: 
“Republican Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama is ‘directly responsible’ for the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, because of the rise of the Islamic State group on the president’s watch. But he later issued a statement saying that he ‘misspoke.’

‘I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the president himself,’ McCain said in his statement, issued as his initial comments were drawing heated criticism from Democrats. [….]

‘Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaida went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq,’ a visibly angry McCain said as the Senate debated a spending bill.” 

Senator McCain here displays an appalling measure of historical amnesia in his construction of a compact and fanciful chain of causation and responsibility. Setting aside for now events intrinsic in the first instance to Syria, he’s implausibly forgotten or deliberately ignored the U.S.—dominated coalition’s invasion of Iraq, which of course preceded and eventually led to the need for withdrawal of troops from the country, a withdrawal that had the endorsement of the American electorate. Congress initiated calls for withdrawal of troops, which then began under President Bush, while it was President Obama who, rightly or wrongly, later saw fit to extend the date of withdrawal! As C.A.J. (‘Tony’) Coady reminds us in his book Messy Morality: The Challenge of Politics (Clarendon Press, 2008), it was this invasion that brought Iraq close to civil war, as well as “unleashed the religious and tribal enmities that had been subdued by the brutal Hussein regime. It has also given opportunities for hitherto non-existent sub-state terrorism in the country as well as the depredations of criminal gangs, and created resentments and rage against the invaders amongst many in the population at large by the arrogant and often racist treatment meted out to Iraqis by troops made edgy and wary by the constant pressure of insurgent war that shows little sign of abating. Abu Ghraib and reported raping and killing by occupying troops are only the tip of the iceberg of this aspect of the disaster.”

Coady further notes that “It is indeed a good thing that the murderous tyrant Saddam is gone, and that he has no further opportunity to kill and despoil on the massive scale that he did [on occasion, with the assistance and blessings of the U.S., as during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88)]. The evil acts of his regime must be acknowledged, and they legitimately had weight in thinking about an international response to Iraq. But the destabilizing of the Middle East, the greatly increased impetus to terrorism, the benefits of power to Iran, and the descent of Iraq into civic chaos are colossal prices to pay. Indeed, according to one reputable estimate, published in 2006, there has been an increase of 655,000 Iraqi deaths directly attributable to the invasion of 2003 and its aftermath. In addition, there has been a massive exodus of Iraqi people to other countries, although recently some refugees have returned.”

In short, McCain’s self-righteous anger is misplaced because misdirected, as it is President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair who should be held primarily responsible for the chain of consequences and “utter failures” he invokes, all of which began under the duplicitous ideological guise of a quest “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” In addition to the arrogance, condescension, and impudent moralism of the messianic complex (or militant humanitarianism’), recall that no such weapons ever existed, nor was there compelling evidence that Hussein consistently or reliably aided or supported terrorism outside Iraq. [Lest the wrong inference be made from the foregoing, I should note that I do not believe ISIS had anything whatsoever to do with the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, save for the subsidiary and fantasized role it played in the severely disturbed mind of Omar Mateen.]

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Light and Shadow Cast by Philosophy on Political Praxis (revolutionary or otherwise)

Both “Kantian moral freedom and the rhetoric of prophetic nationalism emerged from Rousseau’s effort to internalize Hobbesian sovereignty….” This apparently “puzzling feature of Rousseau’s political thought has in fact “inspired two projects that seem different and opposed to one another. John Rawls finds in Rousseau the basic framework for the Kantian-liberal project of constructing a legitimate state around the [hypothetical] consent of morally autonomous individuals united in a conception of public reason. But others find in the same political theory arguments for a more romantic politics in which strong and prerational passions –patriotic and nationalistic—sentiments of belonging—play a central role.” — Bryan Garsten in Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment (Harvard University Press, 2006)

It is the latter interpretation of Rousseau’s “transformation of Hobbesian sovereignty” that Jonathan Israel* attributes to the authoritarian populism (which culminated in ‘the Terror’) of Marat and Robespierre, as it subordinated reason to popular will and the common man’s feelings. This raises a topic broached by one of my former teachers: “It is … one thing to stress the impact of ideas and opinions on policies and actions. It is quite another matter to single out certain thinkers or theories or concepts as responsible for what they could neither have visualized nor intended in all its implications.” In brief, yes, aspects of Rousseau’s thought had a pernicious influence on the likes of Marat and Robespierre, but we cannot place “the entire burden of blame” on Rousseau’s political philosophy for the ruthless repression of Montagnard rule (save the Dantonists), thereby condemning Rousseau by Robespierre, any more than we should condemn Marx by Stalin. It is no doubt true that “Robespierrisme—in religious policy just as in education, in its views on women, black emancipation, constitutional theory, press freedom, and individual rights—everywhere clashed with the Revolution’s essential principles and, above all, the Rights of Man,” but that should not mean we reduce Rousseau’s political thought to its influence on Robespierrisme: “In pleading against the tyrannical and tragic consequence of isms and systems, we may foist too easily the entire burden of blame upon those very thinkers whose theories were most vulnerable to distortion as well as exploitation.”**

* See his “veritable tour de force,” Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the Rights of Man to Robespierre (Princeton University Press, 2014).
** Raghavan Iyer, Utilitarianism and All That (Chatto & Windus, 1960).

Sunday, April 03, 2016

J.S. Mill, John Rawls, and G.A. Cohen: The Contingent Nature of Capitalist Incentives

A Cuban doctor in Haiti
“While we repudiated with the greatest energy that tyranny of society over the individual which most Socialistic systems are supposed to involve, we yet looked forward to a time when society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious; when the rule that they who do not work shall not eat, will be applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so great a degree it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which are not to be exclusively their own, but to be shared with the society they belong to. The social problem of the future we considered to be, how to unite the greatest individual liberty of action, with a common ownership in the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in the benefits of combined labour. We had not the presumption to suppose that we could already foresee, by what precise form of institutions these objects could most effectually be attained, or at how near or how distant a period they would become practicable. We saw clearly that to render any such social transformation either possible or desirable, an equivalent change of character must take place both in the uncultivated herd who now compose the labouring masses, and in the immense majority of their employers. Both these classes must learn by practice to labour and combine for generous, or at all events for public and social purposes, and not, as hitherto, solely for narrowly interested ones. But the capacity to do this has always existed in mankind, and is not, nor is ever likely to be, extinct. Education, habit, and the cultivation of the sentiments, will make a common man dig or weave for his country, as readily as fight for his country. True enough, it is only by slow degrees, and a system of culture prolonged through successive generations, that men in general can be brought up to this point. But the hindrance is not in the essential constitution of human nature. Interest in the common good is at present so weak a motive in the generality not because it can never be otherwise, but because the mind is not accustomed to dwell on it as it dwells from morning till night on things which tend only to personal advantage. When called into activity, as only self-interest now is, by the daily course of life, and spurred from behind by the love of distinction and the fear of shame, it is capable of producing, even in common men, the most strenuous exertions as well as the most heroic sacrifices. The deep-rooted selfishness which forms the general character of the existing state of society, is so deeply rooted, only because the whole course of existing institutions tends to foster it; and modern institutions in some respects more than ancient, since the occasions on which the individual is called on to do anything for the public without receiving its pay, are far less frequent in modern life, than the smaller commonwealths of antiquity. These considerations did not make us overlook the folly of premature attempts to dispense with the inducements of private interest in social affairs, while no substitute for them has been or can be provided: but we regarded all existing institutions and social arrangements as being (in a phrase I once heard from Austin) ‘merely provisional,’ and we welcomed with the greatest pleasure and interest all socialistic experiments by select individuals (such as the Co-operative Societies), which, whether they succeeded or failed, could not but operate as a most useful education of those who took part in them, by cultivating their capacity of acting upon motives pointing directly to the general good, or making them aware of the defects which render them and others incapable of doing so.”

—From John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography (1873). Part of this passage was quoted at the end of G.A. Cohen’s chapter on “The Incentives Argument,” in his book, Rescuing Justice and Equality (Harvard University Press, 2008). I was reading afresh the section on the “lax” and “strict” interpretations of Rawls’s “difference principle,”[1] which has to do with the incentives of market-maximizing “high fliers” (like doctors in the U.S., say, in contrast with Cuban doctors, a salient comparison highlighted by the fact that Cuba provides ‘more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined[2]). As Cohen writes in the conclusion to his chapter, “Rawls’s lax application of his difference principle [which is nonetheless justified in some policy contexts] means ‘giving to those who have.’ He presents the incentive policy as a feature of the just society, whereas it is in fact, and as Mill says, just ‘highly expedient’ in society as we know it, a sober ‘compromise with the selfish type of character’ formed by capitalism. Philosophers in search of justice should not be content with an expedient compromise. To call expediency justice goes against the regeneration to which Mill looked forward at the end of this fine passage.” In other words: “high fliers would forgo incentives properly so-called in a full compliance society governed by the difference principle [i.e., on a strict reading thereof] and characterized by fraternity and universal dignity.” 

[1] In one of its formulations, the principle states “that inequalities are just if and only if they are necessary to make the worst off people in society better than they would otherwise be.” Cohen “disagree[s] sharply with Rawls on the matter of which inequalities pass the test for justifying inequality it sets and, therefore, about how much inequality passes the test.” The kernel of Cohen’s critique of Rawls on this score is that he does not apply the difference principle “in censure of the self-seeking choices of high-flying marketeers, choices which induce an inequality harmful to the badly off.” See, in addition to the more thorough treatment in Rescuing Justice and Equality (2008), the (rhetorically) accessible analysis provided in Cohens Gifford Lectures (1996) and published in his book, If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? (Harvard University Press, 2000): 117-133. 
[2] See, for example, John M. Kirk and H. Michael Erisman, Cuban Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution, and Goals (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), and Steve Brouwer, “The Cuban Revolutionary Doctor: The Ultimate Weapon of Solidarity,” Monthly Review, January 2009 (Vol. 60, No. 8). 

Sierra Leone’s government welcomes the 165 Cuban health-care workers who came to fight Ebola. (Glenna Gordon for The Wall Street Journal)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Reading: Toward Enlightenment & Emancipation

Reading a salvage book by one of the Salvage men on the truck of the A.T.S. salvage office. St. Nazaire. c1919. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Yes, I know, that is a rather pretentious title, but I believe it to be true (or at least could be true). Here is a list of the bibliographies available at my Academia page. (If you can’t access any of these let me know and I will send a PDF copy or copies to you.) Some, if not many of these will be occasionally updated. I also have published and unpublished writings on motley topics (and some teaching material) there as well if you are interested

43. Judaism