Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why Ron Paul condemns the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln

Some of you may be asking yourselves, "Who is Ron Paul?" (you're the lucky ones) and "Why should we be interested in his idiotic opinions?" I grant that the second is a plausible question, but under the circumstances I think his views are newsworthy and merit a bit of attention.

The apparently endless campaign leading up to the 2008 US Presidential election has already thrown up a lot of odd phenomena, but one of the oddest is the candidacy of Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul. What is odd is not that he's running--anyone can do that, and he's already done it several times in the past--but that this time around he's attracting a respectable amount of favorable attention and support (on December 16 his campaign raised more than $6 million, overwhelmingly from small contributions, in a one-day fund-raising push). There is even some speculation that he might pull off a second-place showing in the New Hampshire Republican primary.

Nor is his appeal confined to a lunatic fringe of far-right Republican primary voters. Andrew Sullivan, who normally considers himself a serious political analyst, has actually endorsed him for the Republican nomination (while favoring Barack Obama on the Democratic side); the anti-Bush Republican TV blowhard Chris Matthews has declared "I love Ron Paul!"; and a surprising number of liberal and progressive types seem to find him attractive, too.

(Speaking of the lunatic fringe, the loony-left Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich even proposed running with Ron Paul on a Kucinich-Paul ticket, and [a 1/4/08 addition] here's an "anti-imperialist" endorsement of Ron Paul from CounterPunch.)

I don't think there's any real chance that Ron Paul will actually be elected President, so some of the other Republican candidates are more alarming in practical terms. But the fact that he's being taken seriously at all is perplexing and a bit depressing.

Paul does appear to be a generally sincere, principled, and ideologically consistent politician. But at the same time--let's not beat around the bush here--he's a reactionary political troglodyte and, on various important issues, a bit of a crank. (I will spell out my reasons for saying this more fully in another post soon, but this conclusion should be obvious to anyone who has taken more than a few moments to look into Paul's record or to listen closely to what he's actually saying. People who want to make their own assessment can start by looking HERE and HERE.)

So what is going through the minds of those who see Ron Paul as an appealing candidate of 'change'? OK, I can understand why some people who opposed the 2003 Iraq war might find it refreshing to hear a Republican oppose it and condemn the Bush administration's overall foreign policy (but so have other right-wing Republicans like Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak and, more sotto voce, Grover Norquist), and there's no question that Ron Paul's across-the-board anti-statism leads him to take some genuinely commendable positions. such as opposing government violations of civil liberties--or, at least, violations of civil liberties by the national government. (This aspect of his anti-statist "libertarianism" is complicated a bit by the fact that he is an anti-abortion absolutist, but I grant that there is not an inherent logical contradiction here.) What seems to be going on with a lot of people is that they selectively notice only a few of Paul's positions that they agree with, while either ignoring or being unaware of the rest, and they're attracted to the anti-establishment flavor of his campaign.

But in the process they often overlook the larger fact that Paul is a free-market fundamentalist, who would like to take us back to the most radical version of 19th-century economic liberalism, and an old-fashioned isolationist. I suspect that the real significance of Ron Paul's appeal, and the deeper problem of which it is only one symptom, is that a world-view of simplistic free-market fundamentalism and wishful isolationism has a lot of seductive resonance for many Americans--including a fair number who who might not embrace these positions in a fully explicit way. If so, then the Ron Paul boomlet helps illuminate some important underlying pathologies in American political culture.

Paul's supporters often get upset when is called an isolationist, and claim that this label is either an exaggeration or a malicious falsehood. It is neither. Yes, it's true that being opposed to military intervention abroad does not, in itself, make someone an isolationist. But Paul also wants to eliminate all foreign aid and opposes any international agreements that restrict US sovereignty in any way. Thus, just for example, he favors withdrawing from international organizations like the UN, the World Trade Organization, and NATO; he rejects any new multilateral initiatives, including US membership in the International Criminal Court or US participation in any international climate-change accords; and he appears to have fallen for the paranoid conspiratorial fantasy that NAFTA is intended as the first step toward merging the US into "an integrated North American Union" that would eventually lead to "the abolition of national sovereignty altogether." All that certainly adds up to a coherent perspective--i.e., isolationism--and it's a perspective that has played an important role in US political history. But I doubt it's one that most self-styled "progressives" really want to get behind. Based on everything that has happened in the world since the end of the 19th century, I would describe this position as unrealistic, unwise, and in some respects a bit delusional.

Yes, one has to grant that Paul seems to be sincerely pro-market and anti-statist rather than simply pro-business, as attested by his opposition to subsidies for big business and agriculture and his support for unilateral abolition of US tariffs. But how many people really think it would be a good idea to eliminate the income tax (without replacing it with anything else), abolish the Federal Reserve System, go back on the gold standard, phase out Social Security and Medicare, eviscerate environmental protection, and in general dismantle most elements of economic management and the public household built up since the 1890s? Paul's commitment to this kind of radical market utopianism is no doubt carefully considered and well-intentioned, but the historical experience of the past few centuries makes it clear than any attempt to put it seriously into practice would have catastrophic consequences.

Then there is the fact that, as Ron Paul himself puts it proudly, he has consistently "opposed all gun control schemes"--even the most basic and common-sensical, such as mandatory registration of guns and gun ownership--and appears to believe that the Second Amendment provides an absolute guarantee for individuals to own weapons of all sorts (including military-style assault rifles and other automatic weapons). I recognize that one can have sensible and legitimate disagreements about gun control policies, but such a position strikes me as a bit extreme.

(Congressman Paul also rejects the theory of evolution ... but, alas, that doesn't separate him from most of the Republican pack.)

=> As I said, I'll put off discussing most of that for another time. For the moment, let's just focus on a few of Ron Paul's more eye-opening views, which were brought to public attention by his recent TV interview with Tim Russert (a transcript is HERE, and a YouTube video that captures part of the exchange I'm about to quote from is HERE), in which he reiterated some long-held positions. Brad DeLong responded to Paul's remarks with a contemptuous "*SNORT!!*", and I agree that this is an appropriate reaction ... but maybe it's worth elaborating a bit.
MR. RUSSERT: I read a speech you gave in 2004, the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. And you said this:
Contrary to the claims of supporters of the Civil Rights Act of '64, the act did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of '64 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty....
REP. PAUL: Well, we should do, we should do this at a federal level, at a federal lunch counter it'd be OK or for the military. Just think of how the government, you know, caused all the segregation in the military until after World War II. But when it comes, Tim, you're, you're, you're not compelled in your house to invade strangers that you don't like. So it's a property rights issue. And this idea that all private property is under the domain of the federal government I think is wrong. So this--I think even Barry Goldwater opposed that bill on the same property rights position, and that--and now this thing is totally out of control. If you happen to like to smoke a cigar, you know, the federal government's going to come down and say you're not allowed to do this.... [T]he federal government's taken over property--has nothing to do with race relations. It just happens, Tim, that I get more support from black people today than any other Republican candidate, according to some statistics. And I have a great appeal to people who care about personal liberties and to those individuals who would like to get us out of wars. So it has nothing to do with racism, it has to do with the Constitution and private property rights.
Russert was quoting from a speech that Ron Paul gave in July 2004 ("The Trouble with Forced Integration") explaining his reasons for being the only Congressman to vote against a resolution honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He denounced the Civil Rights Act as an unconstitutional violation of private property rights that served no useful purpose and reduced individual liberty.

Part of his argument turns on a dubious empirical claim that any reduction in racial discrimination that has occurred during the past four decades had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Act and similar legislation. And another part of his case against the Civil Rights Act is the claim that it led ineluctably to affirmative action, quotas, and other forms of positive discrimination, which he excoriates at length. But whatever one thinks about affirmative action, focusing on Paul's criticism of it would be a distraction from the main thrust of his argument, which is not an attack on affirmative action but an attack on anti-discrimination laws. With admirable candor, he makes it clear that he believes that any laws prohibiting discrimination by non-governmental agents or organizations are illegitimate in principle.

Such a position is often described by its adherents as "libertarian," but characterizing it this way--as though "libertarian" simply meant "anti-government"--strikes me as an abuse of both language and logic. The belief that laws prohibiting racial discrimination in employment, housing, and so on necessarily reduce individual liberty makes sense only on the basis of two highly dubious assumptions: (a) that restrictions on or threats to individual liberty come only from government (or, in some versions, only from the national government), and (b) that a pervasive structure of racist social and economic discrimination directed against blacks did not restrict their freedom unless it was also legally mandated. But the kindest thing to say about these two assumptions is that they are sociologically naive and convey a severely distorted picture of the real world. More bluntly, they are absurd and, in most cases, ideologically tendentious.

(To avoid any possible misunderstanding, I obviously agree that it makes perfect sense to be nervous about the threats to freedom from unchecked or despotic state power and, more generally, about the dangers that can stem from an excessive and unbalanced role for the state in social life. That's one factor that should concern anyone committed to freedom. But the simplistic equation that "less government" necessarily = "more freedom" is obviously wrong--unless you think it's self-evident that people are more free in, say, Afghanistan or the Congo than in Iowa.)

For the sake of argument, let's assume that Paul is being honest when he says that his position on these issues is not motivated by racism (though he does have a history of blatantly racist statements and associations with white-supremacist & anti-semitic wacko groups). That question is less important than the fact that his position is indefensible and pernicious.

=> Then Russert and Paul turn to the Civil War.
MR. RUSSERT: I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. "According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery."

REP. PAUL: Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn't have gone, gone to war. He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was the--that iron, iron fist..

MR. RUSSERT: We'd still have slavery.

REP. PAUL: Oh, come on, Tim. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I'm advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. You, you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where it lingered for 100 years? I mean, the hatred and all that existed. So every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn't sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.
It's always nice to see an elected official making a considered historical argument, but in fact Paul's argument here is ludicrous on both historical and logical grounds. However, my impression is that most commentaries have failed to zero in on the central point that makes it so absurd.

Let's leave aside the question of why it would be morally acceptable, from a so-called "libertarian" perspective, to reward slave-owners financially for having successfully enslaved and exploited other human beings (a point nicely addresed here). One could, hypothetically, make the pragmatic argument that ending slavery in the US through a legislative program of compensated emancipation might have been preferable to ending it through a massively bloody and destructive civil war.

But Paul's whole argument rests on the fallacious assumption that at some point these two options--of compensated emancipation or civil war--were available alternatives between which the Lincoln administration or some other US leadership could have made a choice. In the real world, the choices never presented themselves this way. Proposals for compensated emancipation were certainly floating around in the decades before the Civil War (and Lincoln even proposed it, unsuccessfully, for the border states during the war itself), but the point is that the southern slave-owning elites refused to consider it. In the case of the British Empire, once the British government had decided to end slavery, the slave-owners (in the overseas colonies) did not have the political strength to block it. Therefore, legislated abolition could be forced down their throats without the need for military conflict. In the US, the southern slaveocracy did have the political strength to block it, and they were unwilling to accept any peaceful abolition of their "peculiar institution."

How do we know this? Well, in 1860 the election of Lincoln--a candidate who had explicitly and repeatedly declared that he would not touch the institution of slavery where it already existed, but only proposed to limit its expansion to new territories--was enough the provoke them to secede from the US and form the Confederacy. Once that happened, the question of whether the US government should use compensated emancipation to end slavery in the southern states became historically irrelevant, since (as Ron Paul seems to forget) the US government headed by Lincoln no longer had any jurisdiction in the Confederate States--unless, that is, it used military force to prevent their secession.

I suppose it's hypothetically possible that, if the southern states had not seceded in 1860, then at some point in the next few decades the possibility of ending slavery through compensated emancipation might have become a realistic policy option. But in terms of the actual choices facing Lincoln and the rest of the US government in 1860, the scenario presented by Paul (and others like him) is a pure fantasy, and the question of whether a policy of ending slavery in the south by compensated emancipation might have been better than going to war had become irrelevant. The real choice, for Lincoln, was whether to accept the breakup of the Union or to go to war to preserve it. He chose the latter option and carried the country with him--though, at certain low points during the war, just barely.

(Once the war got going, as we all know, it developed its own political dynamics, as massive wars do, and it eventually resulted in an outcome that few people intended or foresaw at the beginning--the comprehensive abolition of slavery in the US. This was the ironic result of a process that the southern slave-owning elite themselves set in motion by seceding from the US in order to protect slavery.)

=> And by the way, to briefly address another canard that obfuscates many discussions of these matters, let's be clear that the Civil War was fundamentally about slavery--not because ending slavery was the prime motive that led most of those on the Union side to support the war (it wasn't), but because the determination to maintain slavery was the crucial and fundamental reason why the southern states decided to secede in the first place.

Southern apologists have tried to deny this undeniable reality for a century and a half, and some people still buy the line that secession had to do primarily with the defense of states' rights and other such principles, in a manner quite unrelated to slavery. There have also been pseudo-sophisticated economic-determinist arguments, often with a Marxist or quasi-Marxist twist, claiming that the war was "really" about such issues as industrial tariffs, public investments by the national government, and the like. (Marx himself was never seduced by such obfuscations, and always described the war as having been caused by a "slaveholders' rebellion.") But in fact these arguments are bunk. (This post has already gone on long enough, so for the moment I will simply point this out rather than defending this assertion in detail.)

Yes, history is complex, and these and other issues generated all sorts of political conflicts within and between regions during the decades leading up to the Civil War. But without the overriding, explosive question of slavery, none of these issues would have broken up the Union. Furthermore, when 11 southern states did secede to form a new country, what they said about their reasons at the time (as opposed to the rationalizations that some southerners offered in retrospect) made it clear that the perceived threat to the institution of slavery was their main impetus for doing so.

One example (among many) is a famous speech that Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, gave on the eve of war in March 1861. After surveying various aspects of the new Confederate constitution, Stephens zeroed in on the key point: "African slavery," based on the natural inferiority of "the negro [....] to the white man," is "the corner-stone" of the Confederacy. And the controversy over slavery "was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." The second point, at least, is indisputable.
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact.

But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. [....] Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. [....]

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner–stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.
(Links to this speech and some other relevant documents are collected in a useful post on the weblog Reason and Revelation. Another cogent evisceration of Ron Paul's historical absurdities is offered by Ari at The Edge of the American West.)

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. [1/8/2008]: Again, nothing I said above depends on whether or not Ron Paul is personally a racist. Nevertheless ... it is worth perusing a round-up of Ron Paul's history of pro-Confederate sympathies, his associations with various lunatic-fringe groups, and the steady stream of bigotry and paranoid conspiracy-mongering that appeared for decades in Ron Paul's newsletters (Paul's spokesmen now deny that he wrote any of it, though he certainly didn't dissociate himself from it) in this New Republic piece by James Kirchick.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jewish Christmas - The Chinese connection

My friend Andy Markovits passed along to me a very funny YouTube video that has been making the rounds. It touches on an intriguing aspect of American social history—the curious affinity of Jews for Chinese food. Ever since Eastern European Jewish immigrants began arriving here in large numbers about a century ago, they showed a special inclination to go to Chinese restaurants whenever they went out to eat non-Jewish food.

There was always something a little odd about this, since many of them normally avoided non-kosher food, and Chinese food is anything but kosher—certainly no more kosher than, say, Italian or Irish or generic-American food. (In recent years some Chinese restaurants have adapted by going kosher, but such cases used to be vanishingly rare.) Perhaps the sauces that smothered and disguised the food, which also tended to be finely chopped up, made a certain degree of denial easier? (Through most of the 20th century, the kind of Chinese food that American Jews were eating was usually some version of gloppy American-Cantonese.) And perhaps the special attractiveness of Chinese restaurants had something to do with the fact that Chinese—unlike a number of other ethnic groups in the US—had no history of, or reputation for, anti-semitism? One can only speculate.

Here are some informed socio-historical speculations by two Jewish sociologists, Gaye Tuchman & Harry Levine, in "'Safe Treyf': New York Jews and Chinese Food" (for those of you who come from the dominant culture, "treyf" or "treif" means non-kosher).
Three themes predominate. First, Chinese food is unkosher and therefore non-Jewish. But because of the specific ways that Chinese food is prepared and served, immigrant Jews and their children found Chinese food to be more attractive and less threatening than other non-Jewish or treyf food. Chinese food was what we term "safe treyf." Chinese restaurant food used some ingredients that were familiar to Eastern European Jews. Chinese cuisine also does not mix milk and meat; indeed it doesn't use dairy products at all. In addition, anti-Semitism, anti-Chinese racism, and the low position of the Chinese in American society also (perhaps paradoxically) made Jews feel safe and comfortable in Chinese restaurants.

Second, Jews construed Chinese restaurant food as cosmopolitan. For Jews in New York, eating in Chinese restaurants signified that one was not a provincial or parochial Eastern European Jew, not a "greenhorn" or hick. In New York City, immigrant Jews, and especially their children and grand-children, regarded Chinese food as sophisticated and urbane.

Third, by the second and third generation, Jews identified eating this kind of non-Jewish food—Chinese restaurant food—as something that modern American Jews, and especially New York Jews, did together. "Eating Chinese" became a New York Jewish custom, a part of daily life and self-identity for millions of New York Jews.
As they sum it up:
Chinese food was attractive to Jews in part because its ingredients were somewhat familiar, and because it did not instinctively repel. [....] Jews were also attached to Chinese food because they perceived it as sophisticated, non-Christian, and a bargain. In subsequent generations, these associations then became overlaid with memories of family meals in Chinese restaurants—where, after 1950, New York Jewish families ate far more often than they did in Jewish restaurants. In different ways, for different reasons, for four generations of New York Jews, Chinese restaurant food has continued to be part of what Federico Fellini called "the soft and gentle flavors of the past."
(P.S. [12/27/2007]: Of course, childhood memories that evoke warm nostalgia in some people can provoke a sense of claustrophobic discomfort in others—and in some cases, no doubt, both feelings at the same time. Tuchman & Levine note that "A few Jews now in their forties told us that eating Chinese food actually had such strong associations with Jewishness that they avoided Chinese restaurants." And another Jewish sociologist wrote to tell me: "My wife is the only Jew I know who will not eat Chinese food. She claims that it comes from having to spend too many nights out with her family at Chinese restaurants.")

Whatever the reasons, this connection between American Jews and Chinese food has long been a solidly established social fact. (I don't know whether this has also been true for Jews in Montreal & Toronto, or whether there are any parallels outside North America.) And I am told by people who know about such things (not just professionally, but from relevant sociological research) that this connection has long been a self-conscious part of Chinese-restaurant lore as well. If someone wanted to start a Chinese restaurant, the best bet was to have a Chinese community nearby—but, failing that, everyone knew that the second-best situation was to open the restaurant near a supply of Jewish customers.

As part of this pattern of ethnic symbiosis, one special Christmas custom (we might almost call it a tradition) that emerged among American Jews was to go out to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas. Again, the explanation is no doubt complex. Since most Chinese didn't celebrate Christmas as a religious or family holiday, Chinese restaurants were likely to be open when other restaurants were closed. I would also guess that it's easy to get a reservation at your favorite Chinese restaurant when the goyim are mostly having Christmas dinner at home. And the movie theaters are often emptier, too—so why not go to the movies while you're at it?

[UPDATE 12/25/2012: Marc Tracy, drawing on the analysis by Levine & Tuchman, reflects on "Why Eating Chinese Food on Christmas Is a Sacred Tradition for American Jews".]

For a celebration of this Jewish Christmas tradition, click HERE.

Happy Holidays (& eat well),
Jeff Weintraub

UPDATE 12/21/2010: For a nice video on the subject from the Forward, see "Jews and Chinese Food: A Christmas Story".
And where was Elena Kagan (now Supreme Court Justice Kagan) on Christmas day in 2009?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nicolopoulou & Weintraub, "Individual and Collective Representations in Social Context" (Human Development, 1998)

As many of you reading this already know, my wife Ageliki Nicolopoulou is a a developmental psychologist—though her perspective is more interpretive and socio-cultural than those of most psychologists, developmental or otherwise. We share a lot of intellectual interests, and we have even managed to write and publish a few pieces together (without destroying our marriage in the process).

One of our co-authored pieces is a 1998 article we published in Human Development, an international theoretical journal in development psychology, with a title that some might consider self-indulgently sprawling: "Individual and collective representations in social context: A modest contribution to resuming the interrupted project of a sociocultural developmental psychology" (Human Development 41:4, July-August 1998, pp. 215-235).

(There were also two commentaries, by David R. Olson and Margarita Azmitia.)

I think this piece should be of interest to a broadly interdisciplinary audience, since it addresses issues that are (or should be) of concern across the human sciences. As I have noted in the past, the thinker who gets the most direct discussion in this article is Piaget, but Durkheim is the theoretical hero of the piece--with some walk-on parts by Charles Taylor, Louis Dumont, L.S. Vygotsky, Clifford Geertz, Jerome Bruner, and others. (In that respect, the real heart of the argument is laid out in pp. 215-220, then fleshed out a bit in pp. 222-224 & 226-227.)

At all events, enough people have asked me about this piece that I figured I might as well make it conveniently accessible. In addition, below is a letter I once sent to a sociologist friend of mine that discussed this piece and elaborated (or speculated) a bit further on some of the issues it raises. Anyone interested in an introductory overview can have a look at that letter ... or, if you feel so inclined, you can go directly to the article itself.

--Jeff Weintraub

P.S. This piece criticizes Piaget's sociological imagination for what we see as its tendency toward one-sided relational or interactional reductionism. As it happens. over the past few decades there has been a resurgence of "relational" approaches in social analysis under various rubrics--with no direct link to Piaget in most cases, as far as I can tell--and while they are an obvious improvement over the full-scale individualist reductionism and atomistic utilitarianism of so-called "rational choice" analysis, I would say that many of them display the same one-sidedness and other limitations as Piaget's approach. Most, but not all. For one version that helps to bring out the strengths of a relational approach without succumbing so fully to its dangers, see Mustafa Emirbayer's "Manifesto for a Relational Sociology" (American Journal of Sociology 102:2, September 1997, pp. 281-317). (It is probably not coincidental that Mustafa is also a Durkheim enthusiast.) We hadn't read that article before we wrote "Individual and Collective Representations" ... but it's worth mentioning now in this context.

[November 7, 2003]

Dear X,

It occurs to me that you might also be interested in this piece that Ageliki & I co-authored for an international theoretical journal in developmental psychology. Among other things, it addresses some of the underlying theoretical issues in the other stuff I sent you--and some larger issues that ought to be of concern to any thinking sociologist. The thinker who actually gets the most direct discussion in this article is Piaget; but Durkheim is the theoretical hero of the piece. (Piaget was of course, as Lévi-Strauss described himself, "an inconstant disciple" of Durkheim's.) I don't know whether you're as big a fan of Durkheim as I am, but anyone with cross-cultural concerns like yours is bound to be engaged by Durkheimian issues (even if you don't always like Durkheim's answers).

In a way, the prehistory of this article goes back to a graduate seminar on Durkheim that I did at UC/San Diego in 1989 or so, in which Ageliki also participated. (At the time, she was a Lecturer in Communication at UCSD and also a Research Associate at the Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition.) More proximately, the first version of this piece was a conference paper that Ageliki gave at the Jean Piaget Society meetings in Philadelphia in June of 1996. The symposium to which she'd been invited was titled "Personal and Cultural Processes in the Development of Representation and Meaning" ... but as the discussant, Katherine Nelson, tactfully pointed out, Ageliki's paper was the only one that actually dealt with culture in any serious sense.

Then and later, various people told Ageliki that they found the paper helpful in thinking about the relevant issues. In addition, although "representation" is a very hot topic in psychology these days, this piece says some things about it that no one else has quite said, I think. So Ageliki decided it was worth developing the paper into an article, and asked me to come along as a co-author.

=> Part of the agenda here is Ageliki's long-term effort (no doubt quixotic, and probably Sisyphean) to bring a bit of cultural awareness, interpretive sensibility, and sociological imagination to the developmental psychologists; and this intended audience helps to explain the ways that some of the arguments are angled in this piece. But I think it also has some significant things to say to a wider audience.

Of course, one of the key difficulties in this enterprise is that the essential insight involved here (what Louis Dumont calls the "sociological apperception") looks pretty obvious once you see it, so that it seems almost a waste of time to belabor it ... but, until you do see it, it seems either preposterous or incomprehensible--the switch in perspective is really like a Copernican shift. And it's not just psychologists who have a little trouble with it. As Dumont points out in the Introduction to Homo Hierarchicus, one would expect at least that "this apperception should be the a b c of sociology," but alas, in the real world, this is not something one can take at all for granted....

Let me add that from my point of view, the heart of the argument in this article is really laid out in pp. 215-220, then fleshed out a bit in pp. 223-224 & 226-227. Everything else is there primarily to elaborate, illustrate, and drive home this central message (though the other discussions are not without their own intrinsic interest, too ... including the quick overview of some of Ageliki's work in pp. 228-233).

=> One of the fringe benefits of doing this piece was that it gave both Ageliki and me a chance to engage some unresolved issues in Piaget ... who can still find ways to surprise me. In particular, reading the recent translation of Piaget's collected Sociological Studies (comprising essays that run from 1928-1960) brought some things that had always perplexed me about Piaget's theoretical project into really sharp relief. Among other things (a) they confirm the extent to which, through¬out his career, Piaget continued to wrestle intellectually with the kinds of issues that had first been impressed on him in his youth by Durkheim and Freud (for example, the surprising prominence of Freudian themes, including those that have to do with emotional life and emotional relationships, in Piaget's 1960 essay on "Problems of the Social Psychology of Childhood" is at times startling). In the process, (b) they bring out the fact that, at the level of meta-theoretical discussions, Piaget always retained a powerful social dimension in his perspective (albeit a seriously incomplete one, with a tendency toward interactional reductionism)--to a degree that almost all "Piagetian" psychologists would probably find incomprehensible. And (c) they underline the remarkable continuity of Piaget's thought in this respect (and other respects). Once he has worked out a key idea to his satisfaction (and I would say his crucial sociological ideas had all come together in the '20s and '30s, leading up to The Moral Judgment of the Child in 1932), he reiterates the same central formulations remorselessly over time, simply applying them to new problems and elaborating their implications as the Piagetian enterprise rolls ahead, in an unstoppable tank-like fashion, decade after decade.

All this has led me to revise my previous impression that Piaget had largely abandoned the Durkheimian and Freudian themes and concerns in his project after, roughly, finishing The Moral Judgment in 1932 (with a partial, but isolated, resurgence of some Freudian elements in Play, Dreams, and Imitation 13 years later). Clearly, the situation is more complicated than that.[1] Instead, what is really most striking (and perplexing) is (d) the remarkable disjunction (or, to use Piaget's own term, décalage) between Piaget's meta-theoretical pronouncements (which, as I noted, remained remarkably consistent over time) and the theoretical logic that informed the main body of his substantive work in the decades after 1932 (in which even the most rudimentary socio-cultural elements have largely disappeared, or at best require a microscope to discern).

[1] Some of the later works of Piaget that I already knew, like his fine little book on Structuralism (1968), had already suggested some of this to me. But, by themselves, the things he said along those lines couldn't help seeming like isolated remarks against the overwhelming­ly non-social (and narrowly cognitive/rationalist) background of his work after 1932.

I still don't know precisely how to explain this disjunction (though we have some ideas, as you can see in the article), but I think the reality of it is indisputable. Piaget always protested (in his meta-theoretical essays) against the interpretation of his developmental epistemology as asocial and individualistic. (As he says more than once in the essays collected in Sociological Studies, Durkheim had already demolished atomistic individualism, so this position was hardly worth discussing further; the only question was whether the sociological alternative was an unacceptably "global" approach or, as he preferred, a "relational" and "analytic" one.) The fact that precisely this kind of asocial, individualistic constructivism came to represent the heart of Piagetian developmental research can be blamed only partially on the narrowness and superficiality of Piaget's English-speaking followers. The fact is, I'm afraid, that this position is quite compatible with the main body of Piaget's own substantive work over most of his career (a massive research enterprise, after all). Piaget's continuing belief in the need for a sociologically informed approach (of a certain sort) to develop¬ment, and for the significance of emotional life and what Freud would have called "primary process" mental activity in development (all of which are documented in the meta-theoretical essays), really left practically no trace on the main body of the work in which he elaborated his analysis of genetic epistemology. When it came to doing a sociologically informed analysis, Piaget could really talk the talk ... but he could not, on the whole, walk the walk.

Unfortunately, there's a lot we couldn't really go into in this piece, mostly because we couldn't discuss everything at once ... and also because we couldn't afford to get too far out ahead of our audience (without laborious explanations, which would have unbalanced the discussion and been distracting). For example, with regard to Piaget, we addressed the (partially repressed) Durkheimian elements in his theory, but we had to largely pass over the Freudian themes.

As for Piaget's sociological ideas themselves, taken on their own terms, I am powerfully struck by their fascinating combination of insights and limitations (or so it seems to me). If you haven't read his Sociological Studies yourself, you may find some food for thought there ... and maybe in this article, too.


Having intended to close off the discussion of Piaget there, I find I can't resist mentioning a few other things that thinking through Piaget brought to my mind, and that are relevant to broader themes in 19th- and 20th-century social theory. I toss them out in case they might be of interest to you. (If not, you can just pass them by.)

In particular, there was something else about Piaget that I would have loved to bring up in this article, but which I knew we couldn't so much as mention without totally baffling much of our audience. This is something which I first became dimly aware of as far back as 1972, but which is brought home to me ever more strongly every time I try to think through the logic of Piaget's thought: Among other things, this article addresses (from one direction) the fundamental question of just what Durkheim means when he says (correctly) that society is a reality sui generis. Now, part of what's going on with Piaget is that, deep down, he shares with Marx the basic feeling that, in a totally rational society, society would not be a reality sui generis ... since our relationships would be transparent, un-reified, and subject to our conscious and cooperative control. Of course, in Piaget's case this is complicated by the fact that (unlike Marx) it's not clear whether he thinks we will ever actually attain such a society (especially since, as Piaget is more keenly aware than Marx, no society will ever be made up exclusively of adults). But it's clear that this image is, at least, a kind of regulative ideal and ideal-typical theoretical model for him. Much in Piaget's thought becomes clear when one realizes this (including some especially loopy, but in their own way bizarrely fascinating, passages in his 1950 piece on "Explanation in Sociology"). But more on this another time....

I also realized that I (and, I think, a number of other people) had underestimated the presence of Piaget in Habermas's ever-unfolding theoretical project. This may seem odd to say, since everybody knows that Habermas drew heavily and explicitly on Piaget (both directly, and via such epigones and elaborators as Kohlberg) in working out his socio-historical picture of moral evolution--all this is laid out clearly enough in Communication and the Evolution of Society and thereafter, duly reported by Tom McCarthy, etc. But I realize that Piaget and Habermas are also united by a shared emphasis on the idea that the development of both rationality and moral autonomy is inextricably tied up with egalitarian relationships of discussion and cooperation--which are more or less equated. (In several of his essays Piaget goes so far as to say that it's probably fruitless to ask which comes first, logical thought or rational cooperation, since--and here he makes one of his ponderous puns--relationships of cooperation are inherently co-operations.[2]) Behind this, of course, what they also share is a (tempered but intransigent) kind of rationalist utopianism (rooted in a certain type of neo-Kantianism).

[2] And the model of discussion that Piaget sees as ideal-typically optimal really does have some striking resemblances to the famous "ideal speech situation" (though, in Piaget's case, it is much more sketchily described). I don't mean this is simply a matter of influence (I'm sure that, for Habermas, Peirce and others played a more proximate role here, not to mention Kant's "What is Enlightenment?"), but rather a sign of intellectual affinities.

=> Of course, any comments and/or reactions you care to pass on would be appreciated. Best wishes to you and yours.

Yours in struggle,
Jeff Weintraub

Blair Derangement Syndrome - An example from A.C. Grayling

Here in the US we have had to contend for a decade and a half with the peculiar phenomenon of Clinton Derangement Syndrome--a pervasive, almost obsessive hatred of Bill & Hillary Clinton that seems to have infected large numbers of people toward the right side of the political spectrum (and not only them). That's not to deny that people might have good reasons to disagree with either or both of the Clintons, or even dislike them. But in a great many cases the intensity of this hatred is not just irrational but, I must confess, inexplicable. Of course, the fact that CDS is irrational and often outright delusional (here is one especially ludicrous recent example) does not prevent it from beng a significant social fact that has had a real impact on US politics and may do so again.

Over in Great Britain, the equivalent phenomenon among wide swathes of the intelligentsia and sectors of the educated middle classes more generally is Blair Derangement Syndrome. Again, there are serious reasons why people might disagree with Blair's policies and his political style or even condemn them--and let me re-emphasize that point, so no one can claim that I am unaware of it or trying to ignore it. But in many cases these feelings about Blair go beyond serious moral and political criticism and slide over into the realm of pervasive, all-consuming, obsessional, and even hysterical hostility. (Anyone who thinks my adjectives are exaggerated probably hasn't been following journalism and public discourse in Britain very closely for the past several years. And I should add that a few of my own friends, otherwise quite admirable and intelligent people, suffer from BDS in clinically extreme fashion. I am too kind to quote examples even anonymously.)

There are some interesting parallels to the Republican Clinton-hatred of the 1990s here. As Blair survived one scandal and attack after another that were supposed to finish him off, the impotent fury of Blair-haters only increased and became even wilder as they kept asking each new time, with ever-growing frustration and disbelief, "How the hell did he get away with that??!!"

One sign of BDS is the irresistible urge to slip some bit of Blair-bashing into discussions of every conceivable topic, with little or no regard for relevance, plausibility, or simple accuracy. This phenomenon is now so pervasive that it would be tiresome to start listing examples--it's become so routine that I suspect some people do it almost automatically--but I was just alerted to an interesting example by Norman Geras.

This comes from a column by the British philosopher A.C. Grayling in the Guardian's on-line "Comment is Free" blog. The main thrust of this piece is an attack on religion in general and on discussion of religion by politicians in particular, along with a criticism of anyone who fails to reject and condemn religion strongly enough. Grayling is a religious non-believer (as I am) and a harsh and thoroughgoing opponent of religion who would like to see it go away (which I was once myself, for a period in my teens, though my attitude toward religion has--rightly or wrongly--become more complex and ambivalent over the years and in some respects even sympathetic, partly for reasons I learned from such thinkers as Durkheim & Weber). Not beating around the bush, Grayling describes religion in sweeping and straightforward terms as "belief in fairies and allied irrationalities," moves straight on to Torquemada and the Inquisition, and dismisses agnosticism as a contemptible and cowardly evasion of the self-evident validity of atheism. ("Agnosticism is a rubbish position: the prior probability that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden is not 50%; it is 0% - and so for all supernaturalistic beliefs.") OK so far--agree or disagree, these are serious and important positions that deserve to be debated publicly.

But Grayling, having disposed of Torquemada, has to toss in a Blair-bashing remark,too. Now, it is true (and well known) that Blair is a believing Christian--and so is Gordon Brown, as it happens--though, given the norms of British politics, Blair doesn't go on and on about his religion in public the way too many US politicians do. But attacking Blair for that is not enough for Grayling, who can't resist going over the edge where Blair is concerned:
I think it is considerably more serious to say, "I believe in God and he told me to go to war in Iraq", which is what a soon-to-be-Catholic recent prime minister of somewhere practically said (as, even more practically, did his born-again big friend across the water).
In fact, Blair never said anything remotely like this, explicitly or "practically." Even the Observer article that Grayling cites to support this bit of sloganeering, after reporting that this charge has been made against Blair, immediately explains that "[t]his was a distortion of carefully phrased remarks" by Blair that didn't actually say that at all.

Grayling is a philosopher of the analytical school, so most of the time he is presumably committed to making arguments with clarity, precision, accuracy, and careful attention to logical connections. When it comes to Tony Blair, however, casual smears and sloppy sloganeering--which includes repeating slurs you have heard at second-hand without even bothering to read the sources you cite with any care--is more than good enough. Such are the symptoms of Blair Derangement Syndrome.

=> On the substantive question of the 2003 Iraq war, Norm cuts through to the key point:
All the wise souls, so many liberals amongst them, who wilfully misconstrue what Blair has said on this score reveal only their own failure [or simple incapacity--JW] to accept that there might have been reasons on the other side from the one they took. That is one measure of their liberalism.
Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

Thursday, December 20, 2007

China's role in the Darfur atrocity ... and what to do about it (Eric Reeves)

A brief but comprehensive overview by the indispensable Eric Reeves. (For some further background, see Genocide in Darfur - The Chinese Connection.) A few highlights:
Two weeks ago, Britain introduced a toughly worded Presidential Statement at the U.N. Security Council, demanding that Khartoum's National Islamic Front regime turn over two génocidaires to the International Criminal Court. [....]

The Presidential Statement should've easily passed: The evidence against both men is strong, and because of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593, the ICC has jurisdiction over the matter. What ended up happening, though, was hardly a surprise to anyone who has watched Darfur closely over the last five years. China threatened to veto the non-binding declaration unless its language was essentially gutted, and rather than force the issue, Britain, France, and the U.S.--as well as the other Security Council members--quietly decided to drop the matter. As a result, not only will Haroun and Kushayb remain free, but the government in Khartoum will feel as if it can block the extradition of those subsequently accused by the Court. The ICC just lost its teeth.

This under-reported development provides yet another example of China's enabling role in the Darfur genocide. The crimes that China has abetted in Sudan are almost certainly too numerous to detail in any one place, but, here, for easy documentation, is a précis of how the country has come to have the blood of more than 400,000 Darfuris on its hands.
[JW: Read the overview, which includes China's systematic sabotage of all diplomatic efforts to halt the catastrophe by use of its UN Security Council veto, most recently ...]
. Resolution 1769 (July 2007) was a weakened substitute for 1706. The idea was to authorize a "hybrid" U.N./African Union force of some 26,000 troops and civilian police to protect civilians and humanitarians. China eventually voted for the resolution, but only after stripping it of a mandate to disarm combatants. China also refused to approve any sanctions measure in the inevitable event of Khartoum's non-compliance with the terms of 1769.

U.N. sources tell me that since the passage of Resolution 1769, China has become more, not less, supportive of Khartoum's broad defiance of the international community. This stance has brought deployment of U.N.-authorized forces to a standstill, and continues to impede humanitarian aid delivery. Indeed, there is a real danger that the entire U.N./African Union mission will be aborted, precipitating a collapse in security throughout Darfur. As Jean-Marie Guéhenno, head of U.N. peacekeeping, recently asked, "Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?" [JW: For more details, see HERE.]

Once again, it appears as if China will have quietly strong-armed the U.N. into getting exactly what it wants.

It takes great confidence to engage in long-term genocide before the world's eyes. China--diplomatically, economically, militarily--has done much to provide Khartoum with that confidence. If the world community wants the genocide to end, the Chinese government must be made to understand that it will lose more by helping to perpetuate the horror in Darfur than it will gain by supporting Khartoum.
--Jeff Weintraub
New Republic (On-Line)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Partners in Genocide
A comprehensive guide to China's role in Darfur

By Eric Reeves

ERIC REEVES is a professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan.

Two weeks ago, Britain introduced a toughly worded Presidential Statement at the U.N. Security Council, demanding that Khartoum's National Islamic Front regime turn over two génocidaires to the International Criminal Court. The first, Ahmed Haroun, who, in a grotesque bit of irony, now serves as Sudan's minister of humanitarian affairs, is accused of having directly orchestrated many of the vicious crimes documented by the U.N. and independent human rights organizations in Darfur. Similarly, Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed militia leader, is deeply implicated in the most egregious violations of international law--targeted ethnic slaughter and the use of rape as a weapon of war among them.

The Presidential Statement should've easily passed: The evidence against both men is strong, and because of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593, the ICC has jurisdiction over the matter. What ended up happening, though, was hardly a surprise to anyone who has watched Darfur closely over the last five years. China threatened to veto the non-binding declaration unless its language was essentially gutted, and rather than force the issue, Britain, France, and the U.S.--as well as the other Security Council members--quietly decided to drop the matter. As a result, not only will Haroun and Kushayb remain free, but the government in Khartoum will feel as if it can block the extradition of those subsequently accused by the Court. The ICC just lost its teeth.

This under-reported development provides yet another example of China's enabling role in the Darfur genocide. The crimes that China has abetted in Sudan are almost certainly too numerous to detail in any one place, but, here, for easy documentation, is a précis of how the country has come to have the blood of more than 400,000 Darfuris on its hands.

INVESTING IN OIL. First things first: We have to settle the question of why China has made itself such a willing accomplice. One needn't go much further than the oil fields in the southern part of Sudan to find the answer. Over the last decade, with its economy booming and its need for cheap fossil fuels climbing at a fantastic clip, China has been Khartoum's primary partner in oil development projects. Of the 500,000 barrels of oil Sudan produces every day, China imports roughly two thirds. That would translate into more than $7 billion a year in costs, if the oil were purchased on the open market. But because China dominates the two major oil production consortia in southern Sudan, Beijing's petroleum bill was only slightly more than half that. It's no wonder the Chinese have been so keen on funneling money--some $10 billion--into Sudanese oil infrastructure projects like pipeline construction, all-weather road building, and exploration rigs. Don't expect the relationship to change any time soon either: China's petroleum import bill has risen by more than 10% per year for more than a decade and shows no signs of slowing.

LUBRICATING A GENOCIDAL ECONOMY. In addition to its massive investment in oil development, Beijing has provided more than $6 billion dollars in other commercial and capital investments. Much of the money has been poured into huge dam projects, including the environmentally irresponsible Merowe and Kajbar dams in the northern reaches of the country. Civilian displacement and violent repression of protests in the Nubia region--a direct result of these dam projects--have done nothing to dissuade further investment.

China has also put significant money into Khartoum's rail line, port capacity, and the civilian road system that surrounds Khartoum. These investments, some apparently positive, have provided a critical financial bridge for an economy that is plagued by massive external debt--currently more than $25 billion, making Sudan's economy, on a per capita basis, one of the most indebted in the world. In fact, it is misleading to speak of a "Sudanese economy": foreign investment benefits almost exclusively Khartoum and its immediate environs. (The electricity generated by the dams mentioned above, for example, will benefit the areas only in and around Khartoum.) The rest of Sudan, Africa's largest country, sees almost nothing of the economic development that is so conspicuous in Khartoum itself. What's more, the Sudanese companies that benefit most from Chinese investments are controlled, either directly or indirectly, by members of the National Islamic Front, further strengthening the regime's stranglehold on Sudanese national wealth and power.

SUPPLYING WEAPONS. Since 1996, Beijing has been Khartoum's primary supplier of weapons, military supplies, and weapons technology. Using Chinese-generated oil revenues (and anticipated oil revenues), Khartoum has purchased large quantities of military aircraft, heavy artillery, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and much else that fills the deadly arsenal destined for Darfur. China also helped to improve the regime's production capacity, with the effect that Khartoum is now largely self-sufficient in building small- and medium-sized weapons.

Both China and Russia were cited in a May 2007 Amnesty International report on Darfur that highlighted irresponsible weapons transfers. The group discovered that both countries had shipped air-to-ground fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships to Sudan, despite a U.N. weapons embargo. And a June 2007 Amnesty report on China's international arms transfers, drawing on the work of the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, highlighted the shipment to Khartoum of Dong Feng military trucks, the very sort implicated in some of the worst mass executions of ethnic African tribal groups in Darfur.

When asked about these vast weapons shipments, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu replied, "In conducting arms sales to African, we carefully consider the local area's situation and development model and stick to the spirit of protecting local peace and stability." By "protecting local peace and stability," she no doubt was referring to Darfur's millions of displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of war dead.

FLEXING ITS DIPLOMATIC MUSCLE AT THE UN. For the past five years, China has played lead blocker for the National Islamic Front regime at the U.N. This semi-official blessing from a permanent member of the Security Council has allowed Khartoum to defy a host of U.N. demands and continue with its genocide. Take a look at this rundown of failed U.N. attempts at peace:

. Resolution 1556 (July 2004) "demanded" that Khartoum disarm the deadly Janjaweed militia and bring its leaders to justice. China abstained on the resolution, and Khartoum subsequently ignored it, surmising correctly that the international community would have no stomach to back up this "demand" with threats or action.

. Resolution 1591 (March 2005) imposed an arms embargo on Darfur. China abstained in the vote and Khartoum continues to bring huge quantities of weapons and military supplies into Darfur. China has also opposed any effort to sanction Khartoum for violating the U.N. resolution.

. Resolution 1593 (March 2005) referred "crimes against humanity" reported by a U.N. panel to the International Criminal Court. China abstained, and Khartoum has subsequently shown nothing but contempt for the ICC.

. Resolution 1706 (August 2006) authorized more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers and civilian police to protect civilians and humanitarian workers in Darfur. China abstained, and would have vetoed the measure had language not been inserted that "invited" the consent of the Khartoum regime. The National Islamic Front declined the "invitation" and refused to accept the U.N. peacekeeping force. China supported Khartoum's defiance by declaring its belief in "non-interference" in the domestic matters of sovereign nations.

. Resolution 1769 (July 2007) was a weakened substitute for 1706. The idea was to authorize a "hybrid" U.N./African Union force of some 26,000 troops and civilian police to protect civilians and humanitarians. China eventually voted for the resolution, but only after stripping it of a mandate to disarm combatants. China also refused to approve any sanctions measure in the inevitable event of Khartoum's non-compliance with the terms of 1769.

U.N. sources tell me that since the passage of Resolution 1769, China has become more, not less, supportive of Khartoum's broad defiance of the international community. This stance has brought deployment of U.N.-authorized forces to a standstill, and continues to impede humanitarian aid delivery. Indeed, there is a real danger that the entire U.N./African Union mission will be aborted, precipitating a collapse in security throughout Darfur. As Jean-Marie Guéhenno, head of U.N. peacekeeping, recently asked, "Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself, and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations, and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?"

Once again, it appears as if China will have quietly strong-armed the U.N. into getting exactly what it wants.

It takes great confidence to engage in long-term genocide before the world's eyes. China--diplomatically, economically, militarily--has done much to provide Khartoum with that confidence. If the world community wants the genocide to end, the Chinese government must be made to understand that it will lose more by helping to perpetuate the horror in Darfur than it will gain by supporting Khartoum.

Kant Attack Ad

This YouTube parody of a campaign ad attacking Kant ("Paid for by the Committee to Elect Friedrich Nietzsche") has been making the rounds of the internet for several weeks now. I must confess that I find it only mildly amusing, but clearly a lot of people feel otherwise--and it certainly captures the tone of too many all-too-real campaign ads. So if you haven't seen it already, have a look and judge for yourself (or, as Kant would say, "sapere aude!"): Kant Attack Ad

Yours for transcendental apperception,
Jeff Weintraub

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is promoting democracy a good idea? - An exchange with Taylor Owen

A few months ago I had an e-mail exchange with Taylor Owen on the question of whether promoting, encouraging, and defending democracy should be an important foreign policy goal for the US (and for other countries that currently have democratic regimes). This conversation was touched off my response to some of his remarks in an item he had posted in the Oxblog group weblog. He suggested that we should "put the absolutist democracy promotion rhetoric to rest" ... and went on from there.

The gist of my response was that while "absolutist" democracy promotion sounds like a bad idea (depending on what "absolutist" means), it doesn't necessarily follow that supporting and encouraging democracy is a bad idea in general--in fact, I would say, it remains an important and valuable moral and political principle, as long as it's pursued intelligently. Taylor Owen then came back with an intelligent and thoughtful response to my response ... to which I might have responded in turn, but didn't.

He recently decided to post this exchange on Oxblog (and his own blog), and now that he's done that, I might as well do the same here, since some readers may find it of interest.

=> In many respects, Taylor Owen and I don't disagree quite as sharply as the initial rhetoric might imply. But where we do differ, honesty compels me to say that I remain unconvinced by his conclusions, and I think that some of them involve non-sequiturs. In the end, I don't see any reason to abandon the basic position I suggested in my first message to him:
What if one argues that <1> supporting and promoting democracy (and democratic political forces) should be treated as an important general goal of foreign policy, which should not easily be abandoned for considerations of short-term expediency or alleged realpolitik, but at the same time <2> it should not be treated as the only important goal of foreign policy, and <3> we should also recognize that democratic regimes will only work in some circumstances and with certain conditions, so it is neither a universal panacea nor something that can simply be parachuted into any society at any time?

That strikes me as a realistic (as distinct from “realist”) approach--and I suspect that it’s one you might actually have some sympathy for, too. But if so,then the proper conclusion (it seems to me) is that the defense and promotion of democracy is a “useful meta-narrative” to help guide politics, diplomacy, and foreign policy-–as long as it is not understood in an exclusive, unrealistic, or utopian manner.

To put it another way, picking up on David Adesnik’s useful comment, any effective long-term political perspective has to combine commitment to certain core principles with flexibility in practice and the recognition that we always confront multiple, often competing, goals and concerns. (I guess this is mostly just a restatement of Weber, which is OK with me.) Responding to this dilemma by simply abandoning the core principles–-i.e., throwing out the baby with the bathwater–-is actually a pretty “absolutist” solution itself, even if it masquerades as pragmatism (or “realism”).
A great many people nowadays feel tempted to throw out the baby with the bathwater in this way (as George Packer observed a year ago, there has been a general stampede toward Kissingerian pseudo-"realism" on both the left and right), and I happen to think that would be a terrible idea, so these issues deserve some careful and reasonable consideration. Readers can decide whether the exchange between Taylor Owen and me (below) makes a useful contribution to this goal. (I've corrected a few typos.)

--Jeff Weintraub

Democracy Promotion as Foreign Policy
Taylor Owen

In light of recent developments in Pakistan, this might be a good time to post an exchange I had with Jeff Weintraub a few months ago on the subject of democracy promotion as a foreign policy meta-narrative. The first is his response to this blog post of mine. He is in Italics.

Dear Taylor,
[Quoting from TO's original post:] SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT…: The moment the democratically elected government [of the PA] is undemocratically reconfigured is the right time for aid to be re-instated? hmmm, now what lesson does this send to those for whom this aid is rightly intended? [....] Tangentially, can we please put the absolutist democracy promotion rhetoric to rest.
[JW:] Well, at least you recognize that your last point is “tangential.” In this specific case, the aid was neither suspended nor restored in the name of “democracy promotion,” but on the basis of other issues (as Patrick Porter correctly pointed out in his comment). No one claimed otherwise. So what’s the problem? These are simply two disconnected points.

However, if these points are supposed to be connected (as you seem to be suggesting in the overall discussion), then this strikes me as a bit of a non-sequitur.

Your real point seems to be a call to reject “absolutist democracy promotion rhetoric”. That sounds OK to me, depending on what “absolutist” means in this context. But what is it actually supposed to mean? You do on to say, for example …
Rather, I am making a judgment on those who claim that in certain cases the promotion of democracy is an absolute, and in other cases it is well, a little more flexible.
This sounds mostly like a suggestion that some people are sometimes hypocritical (or confused), which is a fair polemical point. But on the face of it, the substantive argument being put forward here is a little confusing. If people treat support for democracy as “flexible” in some circumstances, then it’s not being treated as “an absolute”. So, again, what’s the point?

Your point seems to be this:
Democracy can have good and bad implications, depending wholly on how free people choose to act. Foreign policy must therefore be based on more than simply its “promotion”. It is not a particularly useful meta-narrative.
The first two sentences here strike me as quite right, as far as they go. (As liberalhawk pointed out in his comment, the position laid out in these two sentences is precisely the rationale underlying US policy toward Hamas, Fatah, and the PA–whether or not you happen to think the specific details of that policy are sensible or not.)
It is not a particularly useful meta-narrative.
But that final sentence is either unclear or a non-sequitur. How does that follow from what came before?

What if one argues that <1> supporting and promoting democracy (and democratic political forces) should be treated as an important general goal of foreign policy, which should not easily be abandoned for considerations of short-term expediency or alleged realpolitik, but at the same time <2> it should not be treated as the only important goal of foreign policy, and <3> we should also recognize that democratic regimes will only work in some circumstances and with certain conditions, so it is neither a universal panacea nor something that can simply be parachuted into any society at any time?

That strikes me as a realistic (as distinct from “realist”) approach--and I suspect that it’s one you might actually have some sympathy for, too. But if so, then the proper conclusion (it seems to me) is that the defense and promotion of democracy is a “useful meta-narrative” to help guide politics, diplomacy, and foreign policy-–as long as it is not understood in an exclusive, unrealistic, or utopian manner.

To put it another way, picking up on David Adesnik’s useful comment, any effective long-term political perspective has to combine commitment to certain core principles with flexibility in practice and the recognition that we always confront multiple, often competing, goals and concerns. (I guess this is mostly just a restatement of Weber, which is OK with me.) Responding to this dilemma by simply abandoning the core principles--i.e., throwing out the baby with the bathwater–-is actually a pretty “absolutist” solution itself, even if it masquerades as pragmatism (or “realism”).

Yours for democracy (all things considered),
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. Also, by the way, describing the situation in the PA as “the moment the democratically elected government is undemocratically reconfigured” is a little odd, and somewhat misleading. It suggests that there has just been a Fatah/Abbas coup against Hamas, but matters are a little more complicated than that.

[TO responded:]Dear Jeff,

Many thanks for taking the time to write. I hope that my reply shows a slightly greater deference to the subject matter than my admittedly flippant blog post.

I think as you say, that it is best we treat these as two separate issues: The issue of recent US policy regarding the PLO, and the larger utility of democracy as a meta-narrative. First though, let me just say that I agree generally with much of what you propose. I think we would probably agree on the desired end goals of American foreign policy. I am simply uncertain whether democracy promotion is a useful meta-theme in order to achieve these ends. While absolutist might have been a bit harsh, there is certainly a degree of ideological doctrine that drives many to promote the spread of democracy at the cost of other policy objectives. Objectives that I would consider more important than, and in many cases prerequisites for, successful democratic development. It is this that concerns me.

First, the purpose of pointing out the discrepancy between the rhetoric of middle eastern democracy promotion and policy decisions regarding the democratically elected government of the PLO, was more to make the point that both you affirm, which is that democracy promotion is messy, and there are many interests that seem to override its promotion. In this case, the perceived threat to the security of an ally.

You are right that whether this policy is actually in the best interest of the US is debatable. Many have argued that Hamas was actually willing to conceded more at the time of the election than at any other time in recent memory (the last constitution, now abandoned, seems to suggest this). This, one would think, would be precisely the time that one would want to engage with them, rather then promoting policies that re-radicalizes them. But, I do not know enough about this to say much more. I will leave that to others to take on.

Regarding this fitting within the rhetoric of the Bush Administration, made by you and Libhawk. I respectfully disagree. I think that there is no doubt that neoconservatives put significantly more weight on the utility of democracy than simply ‘it may or may not be useful’. This seems to me to undercut the principle argument of neoconservatism, for better or worse. Indeed, the very underlying principle of current middle eastern policy is that democracy may be destabilizing, but in the long run, it is better for US interests. From this, however, their follows two perhaps. more interesting points on the nature of US foreign policy.

First, if democracy promotion in the short run is very bad for people living through the transition, which research suggests it is, but is good for long term US interests, then clearly US foreign policy puts the later ahead of the former. Fine, this should be acknowledged. Second, does the manner in which democracy is promoted matter to the long term impact on US interests? Here, I would argue yes. A democracy is obviously not a static state, but rather a representation of its free people. If these people become free through a very violent externally imposed invasion, surely this will effect the end democratic state. If this is even close to correct, then the means of democracy promotion are just as important to US interests as the end democratic state they seek to establish. More thought to the means would also of course enhance the likelihood of bucking the first of these trends, the short term human security of those in the state we are engaging.

On the question of absolutism, you are of course correct that that was hyperbole. However, it is equally disingenuous to claim relativism in the rhetorical use of ‘democracy promotion’ as meta-theme for current US foreign policy. Since the cold war, different people have taken different lines on the degree to which this should be THE guiding principle of US foreign policy. While none may be completely absolutists, I would suggests that some, including current neoconservatives, are ideologically doctrinaire.

In the historical debate on the relative weight that should be placed on the promotion of democracy, or even of the democratic peace theory, neoconservatives certainly fall closer to absolutism than many other foreign policy ideologies. It is this, that I worry has a negative effect on the very things democracy is ideally indented to enable - Higher living standards, human rights, basic needs. Alternatively of course, liberal internationalists are on a different axis of this spectrum, believing that institutions should be promoted which first result in the betterment of the people who live under their mandates, and second, that allow for free and open societies to evolve peacefully. The point is, there is a spectrum, and depending where one puts democracy promotion, there are real policy consequences. i.e.) It was the hope of democracy promotion that put many over the edge in supporting the Iraq war.

Regarding your sensible proposition that: “any effective long-term political perspective has to combine commitment to certain core principles with flexibility in practice and the recognition that we always confront multiple, often competing, goals and concerns” I would simply say: Unless, of course, said core principle does more damage than good.

My main point here is not whether democracy is good or bad, but rather whether it is useful, not just as a theme, but as a meta theme of American foreign policy. For me, to be a useful meta-narrative, or core principle, many other principles of a desired foreign policy would fall under it without compromising the cohesiveness of the meta-narrative, or meta-policy. David points out that there always inconstancies in any ‘core principle’. But just how many inconsistencies are we willing to accept, and at what point do these inconsistencies threaten the very benefits the core principle is supposed to enable, ie, human rights, ect. I guess we all draw our own line here. I personally am simply not convinced that democracy promotion, in the Wilsonian, or Bush second inaugural sense, accomplishes this is a coherent way. The inconsistencies are too vast and the cost to the human costs too large.

For me, the costs to human security, of forceful democracy promotion, often will outweigh the long term benefits of a society which achieved its democracy through violent means. I simply believe that there are other, more beneficial uses for US force and influence, if the objective is the betterment of the human condition. What is more important than democracy promotion? To me, Human Security, which I believe a far more useful overarching goal of an interventionist foreign policy. Of course, a state, democratic or otherwise, may be the cause of insecurity. But this is why we have principles such as r2p and institutions such as the ICC. These are objective to the form of governance, only caring about the treatment of the citizens by the state in question.

I would also ask, whether a democratically elected society achieved through great bloodshed and misery, is better than a non-democratically elected society living in relative peace? This speaks to the problems of conflating democracy promotion with the promotion of basic human rights. The two are undoubtedly often in opposition. Particularly in the transition phase. To me it is simply insufficient to claim long run befits from short term misery in the promotion of democracy. Short term costs cannot be seen as extraneous, or worse, as necessary to the birth of a democratic state. Particularly one being transitioned by outside force. This to me, shows a blind faith in the utility of our actions which is profoundly disrespectful to societies in which we are engaging, or invading, as the case may be.

Finally, on the selective use of a core principle, at what point does the false rhetoric surrounding democracy begin to negatively effect the very things democracy is supposed to enable? This can be far less tangible that polices that directly harm people, and involve the effects of a degraded US position in the world, the impact on the actions of other states and groups, and so on. Democracy promotion as a guiding principle, arguably also limits the positive impact the US can have in countries such as Iran, which are far more open to the human rights discourse, than that of US imposed democratic transition - i.e., regime change.

Kind regards,

[JW's last word:]Hi Taylor,

Thanks for your serious and extensive response to my message. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that we partly agree and partly disagree on the issues you raise. These include some important questions you raise that I had thought of raising myself, regarding the complicated relationships between “human rights” and “democracy” as possible foreign-policy themes. In the broadest sense, I think we agree that these are partly distinct and partly connected, and I would also agree that there can sometimes be tensions between them, but I think you overdo those tensions and draw some conclusions that I find unwarranted. I also think that your discussion slides too easily from the question of (a) whether supporting and encouraging democracy should be an important goal to the quite different question of (b) whether invading countries with US troops and overthrowing there regimes is generally a good technique for establishing successful democratic regimes. (Etc.)

But I’m afraid I will have to put off spelling out the details, since I’m tied up with other things right now. Perhaps soon... In the meantime, I did want to acknowledge receiving your message and thank you for taking the time & trouble to respond to mine. Enjoy yourself in Rome.

Jeff Weintraub

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ike Turner (1931-2007)

Legendary rock-&-roll / rhythm-&-blues icon, notorious wife-beater, and famously all-around-difficult-person Ike Turner has just died. His name will be forever linked to that of his greatest protegé and one-time-wife Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock), who is still going strong on her own.

As Gene at Harry's Place correctly observes:
He may have been a world-class son-of-a-bitch [to put it mildly--JW], but damn, he and Tina could be good together, even in front of screaming American girls.
To illustrate, Gene provides YouTube video of a 1965 show by the Ike & Tina Turner Revue in Los Angeles HERE.

It's great--and also a weirdly fascinating ethnographic snapshot from American popular culture in the mid-1960s, just before the great wave of the late 1960s broke. (That totally bizarre but entirely typical stage act, for example.)

There's more from Stuart Elliott HERE.

=> Having said all that, I must confess that probably neither Ike nor Tina Turner would ever have been of more than slight interest to me except for the impact of one remarkable song, "River Deep - Mountain High"--with which Ike Turner wasn't directly involved, at least initially. This was a 1966 single recorded by the (also legendary and notorious) Phil Spector, backed up by his trademark "Wall of Sound". It was sung by Tina Turner, but Spector insisted in the contract that Ike--known for being controlling and generally difficult, as I mentioned earlier--had to stay away from the studio completely. At first the 1966 single had a so-so reception in the US, but it was re-released in 1969 and hit it big. I first heard this song in 1970, and it burned itself permanently into my consciousness.

Since then there have been many other versions of the song, by Ike & Tina Turner together & separately and by a lot of other people, but while some of them are good, none of them is overwhelming in the same way (at least, for me).

Right now I can't find a free link to the classic Phil Spector version of this song on the internet, but something of its distinctive quality is captured in a live performance by an older (though still remarkably hot) Tina Turner in Amsterdam in 1996, which anyone who's interested can see and listen to HERE.

--Jeff Weintraub

P.S. And by the way, as is true of a lot of songs, some people may find the message conveyed by the lyrics ideologically incorrect or even pernicious in certain respects--but that doesn't keep the song from being powerful.

P.P.S. It's interesting to note that this post drew more e-mail responses than a lot of political items. As I was explaining to a friend, the kind of music from the late 1960s & early 1970s that moved me most deeply and has stayed with me most inescapably came above all from Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. But I connected with a lot of other stuff as well. One other pop song from that era which I think of as being in the same general category as "River High, Mountain Deep," which also grabbed me right away and has never let go is the Motown mega-hit "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" by the Four Tops. In general, I was never more than a mild fan of Motown music, but that one song is genuinely haunting. You can listen to it HERE.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Shredding Soars"- A Bush-Land mystery

The following story definitely falls in the category of "interesting, if true"--and it looks plausible that it is true, since the information apparently comes direct from US government sources. Nor does it seem entirely surprising, given that we're talking about the most obsessively secretive and shamelessly high-handed Presidential administration in recent memory. (You do have to wonder, though--do they really have that much to hide, or is this just institutionalized paranoia getting out of control?) Still, I suppose it's possible that the explanation may turn out to be more complicated than it looks at first glance.

--Jeff Weintraub
Radar On-Line
December 14, 2007
John Cook
Bush Secret Shredding Soars

Behold, the Bush Administration in chart form: Federal spending on paper shredding has increased more than 600 percent since George W. Bush took office. This chart, generated by, the U.S. government's brand spanking new database of federal expenditures, shows spending on "contracts for paper shredding services" going back to 2000. Click here for the full, heartbreaking breakdown. In 2000, the feds spent $452,807 to make unpleasant truths go away; by 2006, the "Cheney Effect" had bumped that number up to $2.9 million. And by halfway through 2007, the feds almost matched that number, with $2.7 million and counting. Pretty much says it all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rousseau vs. Hobbes on sovereignty, citizenship, & the political

This was sent (in October 2007) to students in my seminar on social & political theory. It may be of more general interest.  [Also available as a PDF file here.]
—Jeff Weintraub

To: Members of PoliSci. 181-601 (Modern Political Thought)
From: Jeff Weintraub
Re: A final word from planet Rousseau ...
... before we move on to planet Burke

One advantage of reading Hobbes and Rousseau in close proximity is that they present us with especially radical and concentrated examples of two of the most fundamental and influential images of politics and the political realm—or, to put it another way, with two of the most fundamental orienting approaches to conceiving and thinking about politics—that have run through western social and political theory. As a shorthand, we can call these the image of politics as sovereignty and the image of politics as citizenship.

(Rousseau, of course, picks up the concept of sovereignty and incorporates it in his theory—but, as usual, in a deliberately paradoxical way that transforms its significance. I will get to that below)

You will often encounter arguments that mix together elements from these two orientations in various ways, so to get a clear sense of the basic differences between them and the inner logic of each, it can be illuminating to consider them in relatively pure form. Hobbes and Rousseau are useful for this purpose.

=> I explained this contrast to some extent in Ch. III of Freedom and Community, especially pp. 10-11 & 16-18 of that chapter, so I won't try to reproduce that whole discussion here. [I also address this distinction in pp. 10-16 of my essay on "The Theory and Politics of the Public/Private Distinction"—a condensed version of which can be found HERE.] But here is a quick summing-up of the basic picture.

Essentially, for the first conception, the central requirement and defining feature of a political unit or body politic is the existence of an effective sovereign power—that is, a more or less unified, concentrated, and exclusive center of political power and authority that stands above the society and governs it through the enactment, enforcement, and administration of laws. This orientation takes for granted the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, or sovereign and subject (and this is true whether a particular thinker winds up taking the side of the rulers or of the ruled).

In the approach oriented to the notion of citizenship, on the other hand, the underlying model of politics and the political realm centers on a process of collective decision-making and collective self-determination by a body of fundamentally equal citizens united in a self-governing political community. Ultimate authority is lodged, not in a sovereign that stands above the society, but in the community of citizens itself.

Each of these orientations generates a different problematic—that is, a different range of theoretical and practical problems, issues, and questions that are considered most necessary and appropriate for political theory and practice to address. And, of course, each tends to be linked (in complex ways) to distinctive images of human nature and social order.

=> Consider a few contrasts that flow from, or are linked to, the fundamental contrast between these two images of the political.

For Hobbes, the primary and essential requirement for a viable social and political order is the existence (or creation) of an effective sovereign. To put it slightly differently, in more colloquial everyday terms, the primary questions are: Is there a government? Is it in control? Who controls it?

Rousseau, however, insists that a set of otherwise disconnected individuals who happen to be dominated by the same ruler would not constitute a body politic but at most an "aggregation" (Social Contract, Book I, ch. 5, p. 147) that could dissolve as soon as the ruler's power faltered. The prior and more fundamental requirement is the existence of a people—that is, a community. Therefore, the most important questions have to do with understanding the kinds of solidarity that bind a community together, maintain it, and give it its identity. Or, to put it slightly differently: Is there a people? And what makes it a people?

Now, how about the meaning of "politics"? From both perspectives, one of the distinctive functions of political power and political action (though not the only such function) involves consciously considering public issues, matters of common or collective concern, and collective outcomes—and making binding decisions about them. For Hobbes, making such decisions is of course the exclusive role of the sovereign. Individuals in the society should attend to their own individual affairs and pursue their individual interests, while the sovereign power acts to construct the framework of laws and institutions within which they pursue their private interests and "to direct their actions to the Common Benefit" (Leviathan, ch. 17, p. 227).

In the model of politics as citizenship, on the other hand, the citizens themselves, acting as members of a community, ultimately have both the power and the responsibility to participate, directly or indirectly, in considering these collective issues and making collective decisions about them. In practice, this kind of politics will involve public discussion and debate and deliberation, political cooperation and disagreement, collective action, active solidarity and contestation, and so on. To quote Lincoln's lapidary formulation: "government of the people, by the people, for the people." One implication, of course, is that ordinary members of the society—acting as citizens—must have both the capacity and the willingness to actively consider public issues, collective outcomes, and the pursuit of "the Common Benefit." For this larger tradition on which Rousseau is drawing, the concept that captures this combination of capacities, orientations, and commitments is "republican virtue"—sometimes also termed "political virtue," "public virtue," and/or "civic virtue."

=> We might say that, in their different ways, both Hobbes and Rousseau see politics and the political realm as having a central role in the social order, both actually and ideally. By contrast, a thinker like Adam Smith—and the larger orientation which he represents—would like to reduce or de-emphasize the role of the political as much as possible.

Smith, as we discovered from Books III-V of The Wealth of Nations, certainly does see a necessary and important role for an effective sovereign power in helping to guarantee security, enforce contracts, maintain a legal system, construct necessary infrastructure, etc. But, for Smith, the sovereign is not the basis of social order; instead, its role is primarily to serve as a backup facilitating the "natural" operation of the market system. Ideally, government should be limited strictly to its irreducible necessary functions, and collective outcomes should be subject as little as possible to conscious decision-making by anyone (instead, they should be left as much as possible to the "invisible hand"). Nor, as you will have noticed, does Smith's theory place much value or emphasis on political participation, conscious cooperation, collective decision-making, community, or solidarity. In a sense, one might almost describe the main thrust of Smith's theory as being not just (relatively) un-political but even anti-political.

But that similarity between Hobbes and Rousseau, at least in comparison with a theorist like Smith, also highlights a crucial difference between their perspectives. Hobbes and Rousseau both see politics and the political realm as being of central importance, but what kind of "politics"?

Recall that the politics of citizenship involves, above all, an ongoing process of active participation by citizens in collective action, collective decision-making, and collective self-determination. In other words, participation in active political life should be spread through society. (In a well-ordered republic, Rousseau tells us in Book 3, ch. 15 of The Social Contract [p. 198], citizens rush eagerly to participate in the assembly, and “public business takes precedence over private business in the minds of citizens.”) In Hobbes's ideal model, on the other hand, "politics" in this sense should not exist at all. Instead, political power and responsibility should be concentrated in the sovereign, and society should be depoliticized. To put it another way, the "public" political power of the sovereign should rule over and, in principle, on behalf of a society of "private" and politically passive individuals. The stronger the sovereign, the less politics.

=> One distinctive twist that Rousseau puts on the model of politics as citizenship (following up a hint by Montesquieu) is to accept the suggestion that there must be a sovereign power, but then to deny that this sovereign is or should be separate from the people. Instead, in any legitimate regime, the sovereign is the people—that is, the body of citizens acting together as members of the political community, collectively in control of decisions and actions that affect them all. (Thus Rousseau insists, against common usage, that "the sovereign" does not refer to the government or the ruler. Instead, government officials should act merely as agents of the sovereign people.)

Rousseau also accepts, in his own way, Hobbes's argument that the sovereign must be unified. But for Hobbes the unity of the sovereign is achieved precisely by separating the sovereign from the subjects—that is, from the mass of individuals in society—as strictly as possible, and restricting those who control sovereign power to as tight a group as possible (ideally, a single individual). For Rousseau, on the other hand, the unity of the sovereign—which is to say, of the political community of citizens—depends above all on the solidarity between citizens, their commitment to the community and to republican liberty, and their exercise of republican virtue.

=> One upshot of all this is that, for Rousseau, considering the fundamental bases and requirements of the good society and the good political regime lead us immediately to the problem of community (a concern that, to say the least, is not central to the theories of either Hobbes or Smith).

The problem of community also happens to be a central one for Edmund Burke—but Burke's conception of community, and the social and political theory in which it is embedded, are different from Rousseau's in important ways. So on to Burke....

Yours for theory,
Jeff Weintraub

[P.S. For some related issues, see Hobbes on sovereignty, social order, & the nature of the social contract.]