Friday, May 01, 2020

Goodbye ... and thank you.

I will no longer be blogging at Ratio Juris owing to relentless problems at my end with viewing the blog and a sense that there are far fewer readers these days (and no comments whatsoever by would-be interlocutors). I am grateful to our regular and intermittent readers over the years. And thanks of course to Professor Jim Chen for convincing me to enter the blogging world back in 2008 (that makes for roughly 800 posts!). Should you be interested, I am still blogging, at least for the time being, at Religious Left Law.

All good wishes, Patrick

Happy May Day! (International Workers’ Day)

May Day Russian Constructivism
The following, albeit lightly edited, is from the Bread and Roses Centennial Committee’s (1912-2012) Facebook post several years ago accounting for the distinction between May Day and Labor Day in this country: 

“Ever wonder why the U.S. celebrates Labor Day, the first Monday in Sept, while May 1 is a day recognized around the world as a workers’ holiday, a day of solidarity between workers of all nationalities? It was bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday – a demand of major political significance for the working class. ‘Eight hours for work —eight for rest—and eight for what we will.’

Already at the opening of the 19th century workers in the United States made known their grievances against working from ‘sunrise to sunset,’ the then prevailing workday. Fourteen, sixteen and even eighteen hours a day were not uncommon. The 1820s and 1830s are full of strikes for reduction of hours of work and demands for a 10-hour day were put forward in many industrial centers —the Mechanics’ Union of Philadelphia, led a strike of building trade workers in Philadelphia in 1827 for the 10-hour day — Lowell’s ‘mill girls’ Mill did the same. 

The 8-hour day movement, which directly gave birth to May Day, is connected to the general movement initiated in the U.S. On August 20, 1866, delegates from over 50 craft unions formed the National Labor Union. At its founding convention the following resolution dealt with the shorter workday: ‘The first and great necessity of the present, to free labor of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which 8 hours shall be the normal working day in all states in the American union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is attained.’
The First International adopted the Eight-Hour Day in Sept. 1866 at [its] Geneva Congress … :  ‘The legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of the working class must prove abortive .... The Congress proposes 8 hours as the legal limit of the working day.’ 

The Second International, held at Paris in 1889, designated May 1st be set aside as a day upon which the workers of the world, organized in their political parties and trade unions, were to fight for the 8-hour day. The Paris decision had been influenced by events in the U.S. in 1886 where there had been a call for a general strike on May 1st, 1886, for the 8-hour day.

Strikes and lockouts in 1885 increased to about 700 and the number of workers involved jumped to 250,000. In 1886 the number of strikes more than doubled. On May Day, 90,000 marched in Chicago, in New York, 10,000 marched to Union Square. Eleven thousand marched in Detroit. May Day rallies in Louisville and Baltimore were remarkable for their black-white unity. In NYC, labor leader Samuel Gompers, told the crowd, ‘May 1st would be remembered as a second declaration of independence.’ 

But the event that guaranteed May Day a place in the history of the working class took place three days later at Haymarket Square in Chicago. There, an 8-hour Association was formed long in advance of the May 1, 1886 strike. Events of May 3 and 4, which led to what is known as the Haymarket Affair, were an outgrowth of the May 1st strike. A demonstration on May 4 at Haymarket Square was called to protest a deadly attack of the police upon a meeting of striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Works on May 3, where six workers were killed and many wounded. The meeting was peaceful and ended when the police marched into the Square. A bomb was thrown into the crowd, killing a sergeant; a battle ensued and seven policemen and four workers were dead.

A witch hunt against militant workers, especially the anarchist leaders followed and eight men were arrested. The trial produced no evidence that any of them threw the bomb, nor that any of them had conspired to throw it. Prosecuting Attorney Julius Grinnel said in his closing remarks, ‘Law is upon trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the grand jury and indicted because they were leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousands that follow them…. Convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and save our institutions, our society.’ 

Seven men were sentenced to death; two petitioned for clemency and had their sentences commuted to life in prison; and 21-year-old Louis Lingg exploded a dynamite tube in his mouth while in jail. The four were hanged on November 11, 1887. One year after the hanging of the Chicago labor leaders, the American Federation of Labor voted to rejuvenate the movement for the 8-hour day May 1st, which was already a tradition, was chosen as the day to re-inaugurate the struggle for the 8-hour day. Yet leaders of the A. F. of L. limited the strike movement. While May Day picked up momentum across the world, it lost steam in its country of origin. In 1905 the AFL disavowed May Day altogether, choosing instead to celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September, the national holiday sanctioned by the federal government in 1894. May Day in the U.S. was nevertheless still celebrated. In 1910 the Socialist Party brought 60,000 into the streets of New York City for May Day, including 10,000 women of the Shirt Waist Makers’ Union.”

May Day image
Sundry Reflections in Honor of May Day (International Workers’ Day) 

“Once again the time has come to take Marx seriously.”—Eric Hobsbawm

“In the Marxist tradition, self-realisation is the full and free actualisation and externalisation of the powers and the abilities of the individual. [….] Under suitable conditions, both [political democracy and economic democracy] can be arenas for joint self-realisation.”—Jon Elster 

“We have gone so far as to divorce work from culture, and to think of culture as something to be acquired in hours of leisure; but there can only be a hothouse and unreal culture where itself is not its means; if culture does not show itself in all we make we are not cultured. [….] Industry without art is brutality.”—Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

May Day SA
Eleven Criticisms of Capitalism
  1. Capitalist class relations perpetuate eliminable forms of human suffering.
  2. Capitalism blocks the universalization of conditions for expansive human flourishing.
  3. Capitalism perpetuates eliminable deficits in individual freedom and autonomy.
  4. Capitalism violates liberal egalitarian principles of social justice.
  5. Capitalism in inefficient in certain critical respects.
  6. Capitalism has a systematic bias towards consumerism.
  7. Capitalism is environmentally destructive.
  8. Capitalist commodification threatens important broadly held values.
  9. Capitalism in a world of nation-states fuels militarism and imperialism.
  10. Capitalism corrodes community.
  11. Capitalism limits democracy.
—From Erik Olin Wright’s Envisioning Real Utopias (Verso, 2010)

May Day Egypt
Economic Democracy
“I have argued that economic Democracy, as a system, will be less alienating than Laissez Faire. To summarize the reasons: Workers will have more participatory autonomy under Economic Democracy, because the degree of workplace democracy will not be restricted by the capitalists’ need to keep open all options for profit. The labor-leisure trade-off should be more in accordance with the general interest under Economic Democracy, because workers will have a greater interest in promoting more flexible, less frantic, more meaningful working arrangements, as well as shorter hours and longer vacations, than do capitalists, who bear the costs and risks of such changers (under Laissez Faire) but do not receive the full benefits. Workers are likely to be more skilled under Economic Democracy, because neither competitive pressures nor the need for control will push so hard toward deskilling.”—David Schweickart, Against Capitalism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996)

May Day garland America the Possible: The Values 

[….] “Many thoughtful Americans have concluded that addressing our many challenges will require the rise of a new consciousness, with different values becoming dominant in American culture. For some, it is a spiritual awakening—a transformation of the human heart. For others it is a more intellectual process of coming to see the world anew and deeply embracing the emerging ethic of the environment and the old ethic of what it means to love thy neighbor as thyself. But for all, the possibility of a sustainable and just future will require major cultural change and a reorientation regarding what society values and prizes most highly. 

In America the Possible, our dominant culture will have shifted, from today to tomorrow, in the following ways:
  • from seeing humanity as something apart from nature, transcending and dominating it, to seeing ourselves as part of nature, offspring of its evolutionary process, close kin to wild things, and wholly dependent on its vitality and the finite services it provides;
  • from seeing nature in strictly utilitarian terms—humanity’s resource to exploit as it sees fit for economic and other purposes—to seeing the natural world as having intrinsic value independent of people and having rights that create the duty of ecological stewardship;
  • from discounting the future, focusing severely on the near term, to taking the long view and recognizing duties to future generations;
  • from today’s hyper-individualism and narcissism, and the resulting social isolation, to a powerful sense of community and social solidarity reaching from the local to the cosmopolitan;
  • from the glorification of violence, the acceptance of war, and the spreading of hate and invidious divisions to the total abhorrence of these things;
  • from materialism and consumerism to the prioritization of personal and family relationships, learning, experiencing nature, spirituality, service, and living within limits;
  • from tolerating gross economic, social, and political inequality to demanding a high measure of equality in all these spheres.
We actually know important things about how values and culture can be changed. One sure path to cultural change is, unfortunately, the cataclysmic event—the crisis—that profoundly challenges prevailing values and de-legitimizes the status quo. The Great Depression is the classic example. I think we can be confident that we haven’t seen the end of major crises. 

Two other key factors in cultural change are leadership and social narrative. Leaders have enormous potential to change minds, and in the process they can change the course of history. And there is some evidence that Americans are ready for another story. Large majorities of Americans, when polled, express disenchantment with today’s lifestyles and offer support for values similar to those urged here. 

Another way in which values are changed is through social movements. Social movements are about consciousness raising, and, if successful, they can help usher in a new consciousness—perhaps we are seeing its birth today. When it comes to issues of social justice, peace, and environment, the potential of faith communities is vast as well. Spiritual awakening to new values and new consciousness can also derive from literature, philosophy, and science. [….] 

Education, of course, can also contribute enormously to cultural change. Here one should include education in the largest sense, embracing not only formal education but also day-to-day and experiential education as well as the fast-developing field of social marketing. Social marketing has had notable successes in moving people away from bad behaviors such as smoking and drunk driving, and its approaches could be applied to larger cultural change as well. 

A major and very hopeful path lies in seeding the landscape with innovative, instructive models. In the United States today, there is a proliferation of innovative models of community revitalization and business enterprise. Local currencies, slow money, state Genuine Progress Indicators, locavorism—these are bringing the future into the present in very concrete ways. These actual models will grow in importance as communities search for visions of how the future should look, and they can change minds—seeing is believing. Cultural transformation won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either.” [….]—From James Gustave Speth’s “America the Possible: A Manifesto, Part II,” Orion magazine (May/June 2012)

Global Justice

 “[A]ffluent people in developed countries have duties to respond to globalization with measures that would strengthen developing economies because otherwise they would take advantage of people in developing countries. A person takes advantage of someone if he derives a benefit from her difficulty in advancing her interests in interactions in which both participate, in a process that shows inadequate regard fro the equal moral importance of her interests and her capacity for choice. In the case of globalization, the central difficulties are bargaining weaknesses due to desperate neediness. [….]

[M]ajor unmet transnational responsibilities [are located] in two aspects of globalization. The first corresponds to the familiar charge that transnational corporations exploit. In transnational processes of production, trade, and investment, people in developed countries currently take advantage of bargaining weaknesses of individuals desperately seeking work in developing countries, in way that show inadequate appreciation of their interests and capacities for choice. Responding to this moral flaw, a citizen of a developed country ought to use benefits derived from this use of weakness to relieve the underlying neediness. The other aspect corresponds to familiar charges of inequity in the institutional framework that regulates world trade and finance. The multinational arrangements that sustain globalization depend on tainted deliberations in which the governments of developed countries take advantage of the weak capacity to resist their threats of governments of developing countries. Citizens of developed countries should support arrangements that would be the outcome of responsible deliberations based on relevant shared values, a shift that would entail giving up large current advantages to promote the interests of people in developing countries.” — Richard W. Miller, Globalizing Justice: The Ethics of Poverty and Power (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Suggested Reading:
  • American Social History Project (Herbert G. Gutman, Director, and Stephen Brier, Editor) (various contributors). Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s Economy, Politics, Culture & Society, Vol. One: From Conquest and Colonization through Reconstruction and the Great Uprising of 1877 (Pantheon Books, 1989).
  • American Social History Project (Herbert G. Gutman, Director, and Stephen Brier, Editor) (various contributors). Who Built America? Working People and the Nations's Economy, Politics, Culture & Society, Vol. Two: From the Gilded Age to the Present (Pantheon Books, 1992).
  • Avrich, Paul. The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984).
  • Brecher, Jeremy. Strike! (Straight Arrow Books, 1972).
  • Foner, Philip S. May Day: A Short History of the International Workers' Holiday 1886-1986 (International Publishers, 1986).
  • Green, James. Death in the Haymarket.... (Pantheon Books, 2006).
  • Hobsbawm, Eric. “The Transformation of Labour Rituals,” in Hobsbawm’s book, Workers: Worlds of Labor (Pantheon, 1985): 66-82.
  • “May Day” at the Marxist Internet Archive
  • “May Day,” by Scott Molloy, in Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas, eds., The Encyclopedia of the American Left (Garland, 1990): 455-457.
  • Roediger, Dave and Franklin Rosemont, eds. Haymarket Scrapbook (Charles H. Kerr Publ. Co., 1986).
Relevant bibliographies freely available on my Academia page:
  • Anarchism: Philosophy & Praxis
  • Beyond Capitalist-Attenuated Time: Freedom, Leisure, and Self-Realization
  • Beyond Inequality: Toward the Globalization of Welfare, Well-Being and Human Flourishing
  • Beyond Punitive Capitalist and Liberal Society
  • Blacks on the (Radical) Left
  • The Black Panther Party
  • Capitalist and Other Distortions of Democratic Education — From Etiological Diagnosis to Therapeutic Regimen
  • César Chávez & the United Farm Workers
  • Democratic Theory
  • Detroit: Labor & Industrialization, Race & Politics, Rebellion & Resurgence
  • Frantz Fanon
  • The Life, Work and Legacy of Mohandas K. Gandhi
  • Global Distributive Justice
  • The Great Depression & The New Deal
  • Health: Law, Ethics & Social Justice
  • Human Rights
  • Immigration & Refugees: Ethics, Law, and Politics
  • L.R. James: Marxist Humanist & Afro-Trinidadian Socialist
  • Toward an Understanding of Liberalism
  • Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965)
  • Marxism
  • Marxism (or ‘the Left’), Art & Aesthetics
  • Marxism and Freudian Psychology
  • Toward a Marxist Theory of International Law
  • Otto Neurath & Red Vienna: Mutual Philosophical, Scientific and Socialist Fecundity
  • Toward a “Realist” Social and Political Psychology
  • Punishment and Prison
  • Radical Catholicism (The Catholic Worker Movement, Liberation Theology…)
  • Social Security & the Welfare State
  • Utopian Imagination, Thought and Praxis
  • Workers, the World of Work, and Labor Law
May Day Vietnam

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Quarantine, Discretionary Time and Self-Realization: appalling unequal conditions and thus a dearth of opportunities for freedom


“My Quarantine: The Calm of Collaging,” by Luc Sante 

“The Covid-19 quarantine, which has in many other ways decimated my concentration, has revived my collage industry. I started making collages around age thirteen, in part out of frustration at my poor drawing skills and in part because of the lure of unpredictable found objects. The practice reached its peak in my twenties, when I made fliers for bands and had a hand in a zine or two. Then the scene changed, the bands broke up, and I no longer had an audience or a purpose. So I quit making visual work for nearly forty years. But the flame never entirely went out, as proven by the fact that I lugged my materials—piles of magazines, accordion folders full of clippings—from apartment to apartment and house to house, at least nine times.

What brought me back to action a few years ago was Instagram, which seems to include more people I know IRL [I had to look this up: ‘In Real Life’] than any other social medium—nearly all the most visually oriented of my friends. Instagram became a wall on which I could slap up my latest collage for a bit, before it got covered over by new stuff by others. I’m a performer; I have to work to some semblance of a crowd, however small. Getting a reaction stimulated me to keep trying to top the previous thing I put up. After about a year, though, even that flare-up subsided; my hobby ceded to more pressing matters. But then the quarantine came along. All of a sudden I was in need of a form of expression that would bypass the usual cognitive pathways. I had no reason not to make collages, and seemingly all the time in the world, since every day had become about a month long. 

So I’ve been making collages in consecutive series determined by physical constraint: a ledger, a stenographer’s notebook, mounted industrial photographs, a deck of lotto cards. I have a vast trove of imagery to draw upon: the disbound and damaged books I collected while working at the Strand Bookstore after college, the New York Post headlines I hoarded in those same years, the bag of half-shredded movie posters I bought from a street peddler in the Nineties, the wildly random ephemera—a German medical textbook from the Twenties, crudely illustrated Spanish pamphlets from the Thirties, movie-star magazines from the Forties—that until recently I was able to glean from the book-exchange table at my local supermarket. Collage is a scavenger’s art: it forms the dead matter of the past into combinations that could only occur in the present; it builds a future from ruins. [….]

I enjoy the challenge of making something that can be consumed by the eyes with no thought involved, and at the same time introduce a thought that lies just on the edge of meaning, preserving maximum ambiguity. Collage-making suits the moment; it is a meditative practice that requires the regular exercise of fine motor skills. It imposes calm.” The entire essay is here. 

In a very important sense, it is certainly true that Luc Sante’s quarantine is, so to speak, indeed “his,” and yet it reminds us that opportunities to exercise one’s agency (always within constraints of one kind or another) and creative abilities and powers, such as they may be, are the result of causes and conditions, the social and political forms of and control over which are in the main or generally speaking, above and beyond any one individual, raising questions of class, status, privilege, race, sex, and so forth. In other words, during this pandemic, the socio-economic, existential, and psychological circumstances one is facing are vastly different owing to the operation of these causes and conditions, reflecting, as they do today, in all parts of the world, vastly unequal conditions of freedom. (We leave for another day the questions and facts of social epidemiology that directly address the differential variables and causal factors accounting for the varying conditions and experiences of health, morbidity, and mortality exposed by this pandemic.) 

I do not at all begrudge Sante’s use of his discretionary time under quarantine conditions to engage in an activity that lends itself to self-realization.* I know a law professor who is likewise availing himself of such an activity with his free time at home, in this case, making beautiful glass mosaics. Apart from appreciating the value of such activities, we might think of all those who are compelled to do other things with their time, much of which may be rarely or truly discretionary: stand in line for free food distribution; apply (or repeatedly attempt to apply) for unemployment benefits; finds ways to avoid an abusing spouse, parent or caregiver; plead with mortgage lenders, landlords or creditors to be excused from making the next payment or negotiating for different and more lenient terms; provide education for their school-age children; caring for others young and/or old, or helping those unable to fully care for themselves; and so forth and so on. As for what one does with what discretionary time one has, that too often reflects the aforementioned causes and conditions, much like working people will use their time off from work—their precious leisure time—to “escape” the reality of their working lives, to forget the work week and live for the weekend, or to simply nap or be lazy, watch TV (it hardly matters what one is watching), or to engage in a consumption or consumption-like activity that brings immediate satisfaction, instant gratification or pleasure….

Now and again a poor or working person may stumble upon an activity the purpose of which is to “achieve something,” in which “satisfaction is supervenient upon the achievement rather than being the immediate purpose of the activity” (of course a kind of pleasure or enjoyment may accompany the activity but there is something about its goal, the purpose that brings more lasting satisfaction or contentment or eudaimonia). This may be the result of the beneficent influence of a close friend or family member, or the memory of a particular or unusual event, or a learning experience of one sort or another; the point being that it is typically the case that many if not most of us have been socialized into an habitual preference, as it were, for consumption (hence ‘bread and circuses’ ideology), thus we’ve not learned to value those activities that tend toward self-realization, the opportunities for such learning having been few and far between or virtually non-existent (there are always exceptions, but these are exceptions to the rule, not occasions for self-reproach or blame of those that fall within the class captured by the rule). 

Finally, as Jon Elster points out, “[a]lthough self-realisation can be deeply satisfying, the satisfaction must not be the immediate purpose of the activity. Self-realisation belongs to the general class of states that are essentially by-products, that is, states that can come about only as the side effect of actions undertaken for some purpose, such as ‘getting it right’ or ‘beating the opposition.’

We should be fighting, in our capacity as individuals, as members of groups, organizations and social movements, as political representatives and public officials, for the day when everyone will be able to live under the conditions of equal freedom(s), for a day in which every person will have, for example, the substantive freedom to choose to engage, like Luc Sante, in “a meditative practice that requires the regular exercise of fine motor skills.” 

* My understanding of this is shaped largely by Jon Ester’s treatment of the concept in his essay, “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 University Press, 1989): 127-158. 

Relevant Bibliographies
  Related Posts

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Socialist Humanism and Psychoanalytic Critical Theory of Erich Fromm: Toward a Fresh Assessment

Fromm 5
Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist whose books found a wide readership beyond the academic world. The following works are indispensable to providing a fresh assessment and critical appreciation of Fromm’s life and work. In other words, they combine to provide a rather different picture from the conclusion drawn by “leading scholars and social critics” on (loosely speaking) the Left (largely ‘New York intellectuals’) following the attack on Fromm and “neo-Freudianism” by Herbert Marcuse in Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Beacon Press, 1955, and in 1966, with a new ‘Political Preface’) and their subsequent debate (1955-1956) in Dissent magazine. Lawrence J. Freidman reminds us that “decades after the encounter, leading scholars and social critics, including H. Stuart Hughes, Paul Robinson, Christopher Lasch, and Russell Jacoby, reiterated Marcuse’s line of attack against Fromm,” while dismissing or ignoring Fromm’s pivotal role in the founding years of the Frankfurt Institute (originally located at the Institute for Social Research [Institut für Sozialforschung] at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany).
  • Anderson, Kevin and Richard Quinney, eds. Erich Fromm and Critical Criminology: Beyond the Punitive Society. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
  • Burston, Daniel. The Legacy of Erich Fromm. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.
  • Durkin, Kieran. The Radical Humanism of Erich Fromm. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
  • Durkin, Kieran and Joan Braune, eds. Erich Fromms Critical Theory: Hope, Humanism, and the Future. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.
  • Friedman, Lawrence J. (assisted by Anke M. Schreiber). The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.
  • Funk, Ranier, ed. The Clinical Erich Fromm: Personal Accounts and Papers on Therapeutic Technique. Amsterdam: Brill/Rodopi, 2009.
Related Bibliographies
(i) Beyond Capitalist-Attenuated Time: Freedom, Leisure, and Self-Realization; (ii) Beyond Inequality: Toward the Globalization of Welfare, Well-Being and Human Flourishing; (iii) Beyond Punitive Capitalist and Liberal Society; (iv) Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology, & Pharmaceutical Reason, (v) Buddhism and Psychoanalysis; (vi) Dreams and Dreaming; (vii) The Emotions; (viii) Human Nature and Personal Identity; (ix) The History, Theory & Praxis of the Left in the 1960s; (x) Marxism; (xi) Marxism and Freudian Psychology; (xii) Toward a Realist Social and Political Psychology; and (xiii) Workers, the World of Work, and Labor Law.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

On President Trump’s dangerous decision to freeze funding of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, described Trumps decision asa crime against humanity,” tweetingevery scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity.”(HuffPost) 

The Trump administration’s decision to halt funding of the World Health Organization (WHO) is as—if not more than—politically, morally, and legally irrational, reckless and dangerous than its 2018 decision to no longer honor the promises made by the U.S. in The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. No such global entity is flawless (that is, beyond this or that criticism) in a post-Westphalian world order of nation-states subject to the cycles, manias, and crashes endemic to capitalist globalization and marked by post-imperialist world powers competing for hegemony. But WHO’s mandate, purposes, and programs are absolutely essential for all countries and peoples of the world, serving as a vivid reminder of our shared vulnerabilities, capacities, and powers as human animals on this planet. The desiderata of public health* cannot be satisfied by any nation alone, as diseases, epidemics, and pandemics do not respect geopolitical borders, and global coordination of the requisite scientific and medical expertise has long been demonstrated absolutely necessary to achieving the common goals of health and safety, human welfare and well-being, as well as human development and flourishing. 
*    *    *

Here is an introduction to WHO from Wikipedia: 

“The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group. The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency’s governing structure and principles, states its main objective as ensuring ‘the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.’ It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.

The WHO was established in 7 April 1948, which is commemorated as World Health Day. The first meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the agency’s governing body, took place on 24 July 1948. The WHO incorporated the assets, personnel, and duties of the League of Nations’ Health Organisation and the Office International d’Hygiène Publique, including the International Classification of Diseases. Its work began in earnest in 1951 following a significant infusion of financial and technical resources. 

The WHO’s broad mandate includes advocating for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health emergencies, and promoting human health and well-being. It provides technical assistance to countries, sets international health standards and guidelines, and collects data on global health issues through the World Health Survey. Its flagship publication, the World Health Report, provides expert assessments of global health topics and health statistics on all nations. The WHO also serves as a forum for summits and discussions on health issues.

The WHO has played a leading role in several public health achievements, most notably the eradication of smallpox, the near-eradication of polio, and the development of an Ebola vaccine. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer; healthy diet, nutrition, and food security; occupational health; and substance abuse. 

The WHA, composed of representatives from all 194 member states, serves as the agency’s supreme decision-making body. It also elects and advises an Executive Board made up of 34 health specialists. The WHA convenes annually and is responsible for selecting the Director-General, setting goals and priorities, and approving the WHO’s budget and activities. The current Director-General is Tedros Adhanom, former Health Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, who began his five-year term on 1 July 2017.

The WHO relies on assessed and voluntary contributions from member states and private donors for funding. As of 2018, it has a budget of over $4.2 billion, most of which comes from voluntary contributions from member states.” [….]

*    *    *

Here are a handful of titles that help one understand the immense importance of this UN agency’s mandate and responsibility for international public health, whatever our specific criticisms or list of shortcomings (e.g., Farmer, et al. below):
  • Farmer, Paul, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico. Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013.
  • Fidler, David P. International Law and Infectious Diseases. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1999.
  • Fidler, David P. International Law and Public Health: Materials on and Analysis of Global Health Jurisprudence. Ardsley, NY: Transnational Publ., 2000.
  • Fidler, David P. The Challenges of Global Health Governance. New York: Council of Foreign Relations, 2010.
  • Fidler, David P. and Lawrence O. Gostin. Biosecurity in the Global Age: Biological Weapons, Public Health, and the Rule of Law. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.
  • Gostin, Lawrence O. Global Health Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.
* Please see the following titles by Lawrence O. Gostin:
  • Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint (University of California Press, 3rd ed., 2016)
  • Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader (University of California Press, 3rd ed., 2018)
  • Human Rights in Global Health: Rights-Based Governance for a Globalizing World (Oxford University Press, 2018)
  • Principles of Mental Health Law & Practice (Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Global Health Law (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Alternative and Complementary Medicine: a select bibliography (this post is not related to the coronavirus pandemic)

KuriyamaBivins alternative medicine

Alternative and Complementary Medicine bibliography

This compilation is largely confined to books, in English. Its original motivation can be traced back to my research and unpublished writing on Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) in conjunction with an abiding interest in Buddhism, in particular its relevance to the mind and human psychology. The inclusion of literature on the “placebo effect” is not intended to suggest or imply that alternative and complementary medicine is, in the end, simply reducible to evidence of placebo effects, although, as in (scientific) biomedicine, there is undoubtedly an awareness of its possible and probable role in the healing and health of both body and mind. The title of this bibliography—specifically, the term “complementary”—should make it clear that I don’t think alternative medicine and healing traditions are inherently superior to modern biomedicine, indeed, in my own case, I would likely seek out, in the first instance, a physician trained in modern biomedicine for diagnosing the symptoms of an illness that might afflict me; but there are a class (the boundaries of which are not well-defined) of bodily and mental ailments or afflictions that may be more amenable to the healing arts of alternative medicinal traditions, and some of these may even work in tandem (hence their status as ‘complementary’) with conventional biomedical treatments. For now, we might note with the neurosurgeon and professor of biomedicine, Grant Gillett, that these alternative or complementary models of medicine and healing “ask more subtle questions of the healing professions than can be framed by orthodox allopathic [science-based] medicine.”

Analogically and roughly speaking, I suspect alternative medicine is to biomedicine the way biomedical or bio-statistical epidemiology is to social epidemiology: the analogy is not perfect, if only because it does not encompass mind-body differences, as the mind—or the heart-mind, spirit, psyche/soul—falls more readily and overtly within the province of alternative medicine, although a subsidiary analogy finds the part played by “the mind” in alternative medicine vis-à-vis the body structurally similar to “social conditions” vis-à-vis individual persons (who are at once unique and similar to others individuals for the purposes of biomedicine). Finally, the fact that I assembled this bibliography during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a coincidence bereft of meaning, save for the fact that I am homebound a bit more than usual and thus found the requisite discretionary time to put it together.

Cohen healing at the   Gyatso book

Bibliographies with more or less family resemblance to this compilation (embedded links) : (i) Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Addiction; (ii) Bioethics; (iii) Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology and Pharmaceutical Reason; (iv) Buddhism and Psychoanalysis; (v) Death and Dying; (vi) Diseases, Epidemics, and Pandemics; (vii) Health: Law, Ethics and Social Justice; (viii) Psychoanalytic Psychology and Therapy; and (ix) Sullied (Natural and Social) Sciences.

Clifford Tibetan Buddhist   Smith Forgotten Disease

Monday, April 13, 2020

The three principal conditions of good (physical and mental) health

The following is based on one section from Lawrence O. Gostin’s Global Health Law (Harvard University Press, 2014: 414-419). I have edited and re-written some of this material, while what remains—in quotes—is from his book.

The three principal conditions of good (physical and mental) health:
  • The first encompasses the full range of socio-economic and political determinants that undergird the generalized welfare, well-being, and self-fulfillment or happiness (or eudaimonia) and thus make up the “full set of conditions in which people live and work.” Prominent among these determinants are education, income, housing, social inclusion, personal liberties, and robust forms of social and economic equality which are best realized through democratic principles, methods, and processes: participatory, representative, or deliberative (ideally, and sometimes in praxis, all three are evidenced in mutual, complementary and systematic form). In this case, underlying or “upstream” determinants: poverty (absolute or relative inequality), racist discrimination, illiteracy, lack of adequate shelter, indeed, failure to satisfy what are commonly thought to be basic needs, are “are linked to more direct (or downstream) risk factors” such as smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction, exposure to environmental pollutants (especially air pollution), domestic violence, endangerment in the workplace, stress, and so forth any and all combinations of which can lead to injury, sickness, chronic illness, disease(s), depression (and other kinds of mental illness), high infant and maternal mortality rates and lowered life expectancy. The “safety net” metaphor does not fully capture the full panoply of necessary determinants and conditions here.
  • The “second essential condition for good health is the provision of health care services to all individuals,” universal health care, as we say. Such “comprehensive coverage includes clinical prevention (e.g., testing, counseling, and vaccinations), medical treatment for injury and disease, and supportive care” for those who are in pain or suffering in body and/or mind. “These services range from primary care to emergency and specialized services, through to rehabilitation and pain relief. Universal health coverage aims to make all vital health care services available, affordable, and accessible to the entire population—poor/rich, physically and mentally disabled, and urban/rural. Effective health systems require health care facilities (clinics, hospitals, nursing homes), human resources (e.g., doctors, nurses, health care and community workers), and essential medicines [and other therapies] to serve the full range of needs within the population.”
  • The third condition, inextricably intertwined with the previous two above, is the “provision of public health services,” supported in the first instance by a national or federal government, in cooperation and collaboration with states, local and community governments and decision-making institutions and bodies. This provision of public health services should be suffused with a humane spirit and heartfelt sense of humanistic social solidarity based on individual human dignity and our shared human condition (or vulnerabilities) and nature as human animals. “Classical population-based services include hygiene and sanitation, portable water, clean air, vector abatement, injury prevention, health education, and tobacco and alcohol control [and gun control?]. Conceived more broadly, they include built environments conducive to good health such as green spaces for recreation, [aesthetic enjoyment, rest, solitude, community gardening], walking and bike paths, access to nourishing foods [including grains, fresh fruits and vegetables] ….” Public health services as such are an indispensable part of an adequate public health infrastructure. A robust public health system is predicated on a “habitable, safe environment.”
  Suggested Reading (with an imposed constraint of 12 titles):
  • Berkman, Lisa F. and Ichiro Kawachi, eds. Social Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2nd, 2014.
  • Bhopal, Raj S. Ethnicity, Race, and Health in Multicultural Societies: Foundations for Better Epidemiology, Public Health, and Health Care. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Callahan, Daniel. The Five Horsemen of the Modern World: Climate, Food, Water, Disease, and Obesity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
  • Daniels, Norman. Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Farmer, Paul, Jim Yong Kim, Arthur Kleinman, and Matthew Basilico, eds. Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013.
  • Fidler, David P. International Law and Public Health: Materials on and Analysis of Global Health Jurisprudence. Ardsley, NY: Transnational Publ., 2000.
  • Gillett, Grant R. Bioethics in the Clinic: Hippocratic Reflections. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
  • Gostin, Lawrence O. Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
  • Gostin, Lawrence O. Global Health Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.
  • Gostin, Lawrence O., ed. Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.
  • Valles, Sean A. Philosophy of Population Health: Philosophy for a New Public Health Era. New York: Routledge, 2018.
  • Venkatapuram, Sridhar. Health Justice: An Argument from the Capabilities Approach. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011.
Relevant bibliographies freely available on my Academia page: (i) Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Addiction; (ii) Alternative and Complementary Medicine; (iii) Bioethics; (iv) Biological Psychiatry, Sullied Psychology and Pharmaceutical Reason; (v) Buddhism and Psychoanalysis; (vi) Death and Dying; (vii) Diseases, Epidemics, and Pandemics; (viii) Health: Law, Ethics and Social Justice; (ix) Psychoanalytic Psychology and Therapy; and (x) Sullied (Natural and Social) Sciences.