Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Cunning of the Hypothetical

Via TPM:

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said that he'd been getting the impression that Mukasey really thought about torture in relative terms, and wanted to know if that was so. Is it OK to waterboard someone if a nuclear weapon was hidden -- the Jack Bauer scenario -- but not OK to waterboard someone for more pedestrian information?

Mukasey responded that it was "not simply a relative issue," but there "is a statute where it is a relative issue," he added, citing the Detainee Treatment Act. That law engages the "shocks the conscience" standard, he explained, and you have to "balance the value of doing something against the cost of doing it.

"What does "cost" mean, Biden wanted to know.

Mukasey said that was the wrong word. "I mean the heinousness of doing it, the cruelty of doing it, balanced against the value.... balanced against the information you might get." Information "that couldn't be used to save lives," he explained, would be of less value.
I saw Gordon Hull give a great paper on precisely this issue at the last SPEP. For Hull, the central issue seems to be the way in which the outlandish Jack Bauer scenarios--with their built in fictions of total knowledge--serve to commensurate the incommensurable. We pretend that Jack Bauer knows:
  1. that there will be a catastrophic attack,
  2. that the detainee knows where, when, and how the attack will take place,
  3. that torture will get this information out of the detainee in time, and
  4. that this information will allow Bauer to stop the attack.
Only through this elaborate pretense are we able to get something on the other side of the scale, against which we might weigh the acts of torture. The value of information doesn't hang in mid-air, after all. Shocking the conscience is just a cost to be overridden by the value of the information. That we never know the "value" of information before we have it, and never know that the subject even has the information we imagine him or her to have doesn't need to slow us down, since the thought experiment short circuits our ignorance.

Call it the cunning of the hypothetical...

UPDATE: Digby:
If you don't know what they know, then you can't know in advance if what they know might save lives, right?

I honestly don't know why everybody's so hung up on waterboarding specifically at this point. If this is their legal understanding, then they can use the rack, they can break arms and legs and they can pull teeth out with a pair of pliers. There is no logical difference between any of that and waterboarding if the only moral and legal guideline is that "it might be used to save lives."
UPDATE II: Greenwald:
Mukasey can go and casually tell them to their faces that the President has the right to violate their laws, that activities which everyone knows is against the law are legal, and that Congress has no power to do anything about it. And nothing is going to happen. And everyone -- the Senators, Bush officials, the country -- knows that nothing is going to happen. There is nothing too extreme that Mukasey could say to those Senators that would prompt any consequences greater than some sighing and sorrowful expressions of disapproval.
UPDATE III: Michael "Faster, please" Ledeen:
...the absolutists are legalistic utopians, because they believe it is possible to draft laws, or regs, or guidelines, that will obviate the need for human decision. That is not possible, any more than the bureaucratic manuals or the military manuals on whatever subject will eliminate human error (although they do sometimes make creative enterprise more difficult). Some smart Frenchman once said that the key to good government was to know when to break the rules.
How does doing away with the rules constitute knowing when to break the rules? The absolutists have a far better understanding of decisions than does Herr Ledeen.
  1. Cost/benefit analysis is not a decision procedure, but an avoidance of decision. It enshrines the hypothetical imagination as the seat of choice, and strives to reduce decision to a calculus (even if that calculus is wholly fictitious).
  2. If breaking the rules is ever necessary, then the breaker ought to be self-possessed enough to admit he or she is breaking the rules, and responsible enough to face the prison sentence that follows with dignity.
  3. The whole point of the argument about torture is about whether there ought to be rules or not, so Ledeen's whole post is just nonsense.

Historical Materialism Comes to Canada

This is massively exciting: Historical Materialism is one of the best journals for Marxist work, but they've never really expanded outside of Britain. Now they are holding their first ever North American conference, and it's just down the road in Toronto.

Here's the announcement:
Historical Materialism - First North American Conference
April 24-26, 2008, York University, Toronto

It is with great excitement that we announce plans for the first ever North American conference sponsored by Historical Materialism: A Journal of Critical Marxist Research. While HM's annual conference in London has become a major rallying point for hundreds of people working within the traditions of historical materialism, thus far the journal has not had a comparable presence on this side of the Atlantic.

That is about to change with this major conference at York University in Toronto, April 24-26, 2008, sponsored by the Department of Political Science and Founders College.

We are now busy organizing panels and themes and attending to all the logistical details involved in hosting a large, dynamic conference of critical scholars and activists. Over the next few weeks, a conference website will be set up and announcements will go out concerning details with respect to agenda, accommodation and travel. To give you a taste of what we have in store, here is a list of just some of the more than 100 people who have accepted our invitation to present papers at the conference:

Rosemary Hennessey, Bertell Ollman, Johanna Brenner, Aijaz Ahmad, Peter Linebaugh, Joel Kovel, Deborah Cook, Giovanni Arrighi, Leo Panitch, Crystal Bartolovich, Moishe Postone, Barbara Epstein, Ato Sekyi-Otu, Bryan Palmer, Anna Agathangelou, Henry Veltmeyer, Isabella Bakker, Peter McLaren, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Greg Albo, Patrick Murray, Nancy Holmstrom, Bill Carroll, Rick Wolff, Radhika Desai, Stephen Gill, Alfredo Saad-Filho, John Saul, Christopher Phelps . . .

For further information, feel free to email Or watch for HM mailings in the coming weeks. We hope to see you in Toronto in April.
I'm especially excited about Moishe Postone and Patrick Murray, who are, without a doubt, two of the best people to read on Marx's critique of political economy--and Patrick's a real sweetheart to boot.

Monday, January 28, 2008

CFP: Anti-Liberalism and Political Theology

Trilingual Symposium (English, German, French)
Anti-Liberalism and Political Theology
Antiliberalismus und politische Theologie
Antilibéralisme et théologie politique

Third Annual International Symposium of the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS), at Sciences Po/The Institute for Political Studies (IEP) (tbc) in Paris, France, 9-11 July 2008

The second in a planned series of three events on political theology, this Symposium follows on from the highly successful SCIS Symposium, "The Resurgence of Political Theology," held in September 2007 in Pisa, Italy (parallel to the SCIS-organised political theology section in the General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research) and precedes a workshop, "Political Theology and Failure of Democratization" (title tbc), to be held at the Sixth Annual Conference "Workshops in Political Theory" in September 2009 in Manchester, England.

Papers given at the 2008 Symposium in Paris will automatically be considered for inclusion in an edited volume on "Anti-Liberalism and Political Theology," which the editors of a series with Continuum have already expressed an interest in publishing. (Papers on the topic submitted by authors unable to attend the Symposium are also welcome and will be considered for inclusion in the volume on a case by case basis.)

Paper proposals (in English, German or French) are invited on any aspect of the significance of anti-liberalism in the intellectual history and historical actuality of political theology as well as on contemporary expressions of anti-liberal tendencies in political theologies.

The twenty-first century has been called "the age of political theology." Political theology can as easily express itself as theology-cum-political thought, theology-cum-politics, or politics or social and political thought using theology for argument's sake. Prominent examples are radical Islam, Latin American "liberation theology," African "black theology," religious Zionism, and the Christian right in the United States. A recent contribution from within the discipline of Political Science, "Comparative Political Theology" (Kofmel, 2007), proposes to gain valuable insights into the theoretical foundations of the interplay between religion and politics by comparing political theologies to each other across religious and cultural boundaries. As a result of such study, it has been suggested that the single most important factor underlying all political theologies is anti-liberalism. The particular expression of anti-liberalism is of course always contextualized. The argument has been extended to imply that political theology's being anti-liberal means that it is at least potentially anti-democratic too.

Post 1989 and, with increased urgency, post 2001, political theology has come to reappraise the value of Christianity for a politico-theological project that could at once sustain or replace discredited Marxism, challenge liberalism for political hegemony, and hold its own opposite radical Islam. Many contributors to this new debate seem particularly drawn to Carl Schmitt's straight-forward "friend/enemy" distinction (elaborated in his 1932 essay, The Concept of the Political). Surprisingly, radical Islam shares many of the concerns of Christian political theologies, such as an opposition to "neo-colonialism" and, more recently, "neo-liberalism" and "globalization." Radical Islam claims that in Islam theology cannot be separated from or replaced by politics and is hostile to the spread of liberal western values such as secularization, capitalism and democracy. Although radical Islam need not be violent, militants use arguments of radical Islam to justify acts of terrorism and political theology has thus become an international security concern. We also cannot understand the failure of democratization (for example in Iraq, Pakistan and Zimbabwe) - and increasingly of western democracy - without understanding modes of anti-democratic thinking and unless we understand political theology (in all religions) as a major source of anti-liberal (and thus inherently anti-parliamentarian, anti-capitalist and anti-democratic) thought.

For those interested to learn more: Two panels on "Comparative Political Theology" will be part of the section, "Religion, Globalization and Security," at the Second Global International Studies Conference of the World International Studies Committee (WISC), taking place at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, 23-26 July 2008.

Please send proposals for papers to be given at the 2008 SCIS Symposium in Paris and to be considered for inclusion in the edited volume to: or by 29 February 2008.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Exploitation: What Is It?

Most discussions of exploitation in economic and philosophical circles seem to treat it as a species of theft, or, even more diffusely, some sort of unfair distribution of the products of labor. I think this is--as an interpretation of Marx--simply wrong.

Labor is exploited when it is used for an end which is not its own, just as "natural resources" are exploited when they are turned from their own ends to serve human ends. In the case of labor, its own end is to produce some useful good or service. It is exploited when it is subordinated to capital's end--the production of surplus-value. Producing surplus-value presupposes the production of useful things, but entails more than this. Capital exploits labor not by stealing from it, or by keeping more than its fair share of the product, but by subordinating labor's end to its own.

Thus, I think most discussions of "market socialism"--including this one--ignore the specific role of the value form in Marx's critique of political economy. This is the same thing Marx castigated Proudhon for, and so it's no surprise that Proudhon pops up in this discussion. Without addressing the "mongrel" dualisms of use-value/value and concrete labor/abstract labor, any discussion of cooperative production remains on the terrain of capitalism, where it just looks like an inefficient way to accumulate investment capital.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Marx and Philosophy CFP

Call for papers:
Marx and Philosophy Society Fifth Annual Conference
Is there a Marxian philosophy?
London, Saturday 24th May 2008

Keynote speaker: Andrew Feenberg (Simon Fraser University)

Is there a distinctive Marxian approach to areas of philosophy such as metaphysics, philosophy of mind, ethics or aesthetics? If so, what does it consist in? Or does a Marxian 'approach to philosophy' amount only to explaining philosophical ideas as means of class struggle or as effects of social relations of production? If so, can such an approach avoid making philosophical presuppositions of its own? We invite papers on any of these questions, in relation to Marx's own work or to others in the Marxist tradition. A panel for postgraduate paper givers will also be organised.

Please submit abstracts of up to 300 words by 13 February 2008 at the latest to Andrew Chitty at

Visit the MPS at our website.

Note from me: The MPS is a great society, and deserves far more attention. Submit something if you can, attend if you can, and put it on the calendar for next year if you can't go this year.

SPEP Call for Papers

SPEP 2008 Call for Papers:

The Call for Papers for the 2008 meeting of SPEP has now been posted on the SPEP web site. The postmark deadline for submissions is February 2, 2008. The electronic deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, February 2, 2008.

The 2008 meeting will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 16-18, 2008. Papers and panels from diverse philosophical perspectives in all areas of Continental Philosophy are welcome. For further information, please contact Co-Directors Peg Birmingham ( or Len Lawlor (

APA Submission Reminder:

SPEP also encourages its members to submit papers for consideration to the American Philosophical Association. Submission guidelines for the APA can be found here. The postmark deadline for Eastern Division APA submissions is February 15, 2008.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Just for Future Reference

Larry Kudlow at NRO:
...I believe stocks are a key barometer of our nation’s health and wealth...
By which he means, of course, capital's wealth and wealth. And then, even better...
Reagan, of course, slashed tax rates on producers...
By which he means, of course, that Reagan slashed rates on appropriators. To call them producers is to turn "the barometer of our nation's health and wealth" into the very measure of its "health and wealth," and I'm assuming Kudlow doesn't want to go that far--a barometer is a predictive measure, not an index of the amount of weather.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Work Harder, Minions! Your Overlords Are Proud!

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN):
I am so proud to be from the state of Minnesota. We’re the workingest state in the country, and the reason why we are, we have more people that are working longer hours, we have people that are working two jobs.
This is so many different ways of fucked up, it's hard to know where to begin...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Teaching from Fear

This is my "favorite" student evaluation comment from last term:
Slick Willy needs to be reminded that a class is not a Ph.D. oral defense—few students, if any, care about his radical new academic reading of The Republic, or his pontificating on the meaningless, petty aspects of the text. Students register for this class expecting to get a reasonably thorough understanding of early and important works of political philosophy. Instead, they get windy explanations on pedantic and arcane (and supremely uninteresting) details from the text. Roberts is undeniably a bright and articulate guy, but he's stuck in graduate school pretensions. If this continues, Roberts will become the epitome of McGill's worst (but all too often typical)—professors who are stuck in their own academic world, who care nothing about students or teaching.
Of course, I would like to protest. That's not me. It's laughably wrong. Etc. And yet...

There is no denying that moving from Washington & Jefferson College to McGill University intimidated the hell out of me. My new colleagues intimidated me, but the students intimidated me even more. Or, at least, I felt on display before them, pinned and mounted in the market of their affections. And the bigger of my two classes was, by far, the worst in this regard. And I taught it from the position of my fear: I prepared endlessly, I tried to impress them with my erudition, I tried to make myself feel necessary. So, in that sense, this student is right: I approached class as if it were a Ph.D. oral defense. Or at least, as if I needed to defend myself.

I would like to think I got past that over the course of last term. It certainly was not a monotonous feature of even the Greek political theory course (and my smaller course, on 19th Century theory was radically different, and much more successful). But there was too much of it, for sure. So, I'm sorry for that, my anonymous hater.

This term, the scariest class for me is Aristotle, but not because of the students, per se. It is more the specter of the multiple Aristotle scholars in the Philosophy Department, who are not looking over my shoulder at all, but who inhabit my brain anyway, like so many super-egos. So far, I think I have handled this fear better; I'm still preparing like a madman, but I told my students on the first day (and again on the second) that I was the least necessary thing in the classroom, and that they didn't need me to explain the text to them. I don't mind being thought of as a tough teacher, a hard grader, or the like. I just don't want to teach from out of my fears.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Useful Corrective

I couldn't let this pass without a response: Jacob Levy has done me a solid by responding, on his blog, to my little overview of anti-liberalism. He homes in my division between Left and Right versions of anti-liberalism, and makes what I think is a good point:
Right-anti-liberalism seems to be getting defined in a particular way for the purpose of serving the subsequent thesis that liberalism relies on it, and of ensuring that left-anti-liberalism is free of its taint. I guess there's Pinochet there, or Mussolini in practice-though-not-theory, but... Where is church, or aristocracy, or blood and soil, or nation, or the aesthetic-aristocratic-tory-environmentalist critique of market liberalism that runs from Carlyle and Ruskin through to John Gray? I can't recognize Maistre in that description, or Fichte, or Metternich, or Kirk This is a serious construction of the category of rightist anti-liberalism. There is plenty of anti-capitalism on the antiliberal right; and no great political theory or political ideology is free of uncomfortable connections or resemblances to the others...
I take that to be a typo, and his criticism to be that I have produced "a serious constriction" of Rightist thought. I agree, and also agree with his final point that no serious political ideology is free of discomfiting reliances upon enemy-of-my-enemy type assimilation to other ideologies at every point. This did not come across in my post, but I think Right and Left have relied upon one another as much as Liberalism has relied upon the Right (That's not meant as an effort at quantitative estimation or a feint towards moral equivalence, just an acknowledgment that history has demonstrated that most everyone can get in bed with most anyone if the conditions are right).

In a sense, what I left out of my post was the romanticism of the Right--I made it sound all jackboots and cronies, and left out all the glory, beauty and wisdom of the old ways. And I call myself an Aristotelian!!??

In my defense, I don't think I produced a caricature of the Right as it appears from the Left, but a caricature of the Right as it appears from the standpoint of liberalism. From within liberalism, it looks as if the Right advocates more restrictions on the market (the sphere in which we meet as free and equal wills endowed with inalienable rights and alienable property) than are necessary for the continued functioning of the market itself. I think this must mean that the Right advocates coercion in places where liberals think there could be mutual consent. That coercion might be in the service of any number of higher goods--beauty, nature, virtue, nation, god, whatever--but it's still coercion.

Nonetheless, since I don't know of any Rightist thinkers who want to do away with the market altogether--even Plato and Aristotle leave some very limited space for market interactions--Rightist thought appears, from a liberal perspective, to be in favor of some sort of "mixed regime." That is, they don't eliminate the market as such, but only confine the market through coercion (thus, even fascism looks like half-hearted communism; that is, communism is maximal totalitarianism, while fascism is some attempt at a third way).

That was the half-formed idea behind those final paragraphs of my post. There are lots of problems with this way of looking at things--e.g., lots of people who think they're on the Left end up, on my account, being on the Right--but I have a hard time seeing how to formulate things differently--at least not from within the perspective of liberalism.

I wanted to say one more thing: most conservatives are not anti-liberal. Conservatives and "Liberals" (in the contemporary partisan political sense) seem to me to differ over the necessary conditions of liberal freedom, but agree that securing liberal freedom is the goal of the state.

This is one reason why Jonah Goldberg's thesis in Liberal Fascism is so silly, but also so understandable. Claiming the mantle of classical liberalism for contemporary conservatism, he conflates contemporary liberalism with populist statism with fascism, all because contemporary conservatism and contemporary liberalism disagree about the means of securing freedom and, therefore, about where state intervention into markets is necessary. This is a purely intra-liberalism fight at the level of political theory.

The reason I wanted to say this is because a lot of the romanticism of the Right (and I mean of the really anti-liberal Right) bleeds over into right-wing liberalism. But there is all the difference in the world between those who view markets as a means to romantic ends (national glory, theocracy, imperial domination) and those who view romance (old-time religion, family farms, imperial domination) as a means to market ends (economic growth, free trade, subjective freedom). The former are the true Rightists; the latter are conservative liberals.

I still think that Leftist anti-liberalism is differentiated from Rightist by intransigent anti-capitalism, in that, from the Left, the market cannot serve as a means. Certain non-labor markets might be ineliminable on a Leftist analysis, but I just don't see Leftists embracing markets as means to the proper ends of politics, because it seems that Marx's analysis of markets--their widespread existence depends upon a labor-market and, hence, on capitalist production--carried the day. There's no place in Leftist theory for a partial incorporation of markets, as there is on the Right.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Nightmare on the Brain of the Living

My colleague Jacob Levy:
I still get a little shudder of sadness thinking about the failure of the July Monarchy.
I can't say I share Jacob's sadness on this one. Not because I'm particularly thrilled by the Revolutions of 1848, but because my emotional investments are elsewhere in history. Different moments weigh on my brain.

I'm going to be teaching Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire starting on Thursday. Obviously, Marx has little sympathy for the Orleanists. Basically, he thinks they made their bed, both with regards to the February Revolution of 1848, and with regards to Bonaparte's coup in 1851. His comments about "the party of order" are among the best polemics he ever penned (here's the text, if you're curious).

All I will note is that there is no Black Book of Capitalism, but not because the bourgeoisie has no blood on its hands.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Liberalism, Anti-Liberalism, Radical Leftism

I just gave my intro lecture to Radical Political Theory, and thought it worked rather well,'s (the gist of) what I said:

Radical political theory, for my purposes, comprises anti-liberal political thinkers on the Left. Therefore, I want to spend some time talking about what I mean by this formula. Left and Right are generally identified more by emotional tics and customary sociological groupings than by any matters of definite principle. It is safe to say that 90% of political discourse in North America is neither very Leftist nor very Rightist, in that 90% of political discourse remains within the discursive boundaries of liberalism. Liberalism is the sun of our ideological solar system. Therefore, I think I need to work in the following order:
  1. Identify liberalism
  2. By negation, identify anti-liberalism
  3. By division, isolate Leftist anti-liberalism.

First, what is liberalism? If you look at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, you find something like this (and I'm borrowing heavily here): Liberals accord liberty primacy as a political value, in at least two senses.
  1. Liberals have typically maintained, with Locke, that humans are naturally in “a State of perfect Freedom to order their Actions […] as they think fit […] without asking leave, or depending on the Will of any other Man.” That is, liberty is primary in the sense of natural, or primitive in human beings.
  2. Likewise, liberals agree with Mill that “the burden of proof is supposed to be with those who are against liberty; who contend for any restriction or prohibition […]. The a priori assumption is in favour of freedom.” In other words, liberty is normatively primary; it is the default setting for our political life, requiring no justification; on the contrary, any restriction of it must be justified. This has been called the Fundamental Liberal Principle (Gaus): freedom is normatively basic, and so the onus of justification is on those who would limit freedom, especially through coercive means.
For liberals, it follows from the priority of liberty that political authority and law must be justified, as these limit the liberty of citizens. Consequently, a central question of liberal political theory is whether political authority can be justified, and if so, how, how much, and of what kind. It is for this reason that social contract theory, as developed by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant, is usually viewed as liberal even though the actual political prescriptions of, say, Hobbes and Rousseau, have distinctly illiberal features to our contemporary ears. Insofar as they take as their starting point a state of nature in which humans are free and equal, and so argue that any limitation of this freedom and equality stands in need of justification (i.e., by the social contract), the contractual tradition is liberal.

Nonetheless, many people would argue that Hobbes is at best a qualified liberal, since he argues that drastic limitations on liberty can be justified. Paradigmatic liberals such as Locke and Mill not only advocate the primacy of liberty, but also maintain that only very modest limitations on liberty are actually justified. However, (and here my voice comes back in) a funny thing happened on the way to limited government. The state and its coercive laws are justified by their securing equal liberty for all, but that means, mutatis mutandis, that the state and its coercive laws are the conditions of liberty. Only in the state can we be free. (This conclusion is explicitly drawn by Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, and even Locke is committed to it once money is admitted). Our natural, primitive liberty justifies a state with a monopoly on the use of force.

For this reason, I think the folks who want to exclude “statists” like Hobbes, Rousseau, and Hegel from the liberal club want to have their cake and eat it too. They want private property, security of their persons and their contracts, protection from foreign invasion, and stable monetary and credit systems, but they poo-poo Kant’s stark claim that the individual will is secure in its freedom only when the authority of the state knows and polices every bit of property down to the smallest iota. Rudy Giuliani’s claim that “freedom is authority” is right down the center of the liberal tradition. The argument about how much authority is necessary for the state to secure people’s natural liberty is a legitimate one within liberalism, but it is an argument within liberalism.

Now we should be able to address the second question: What is anti-liberalism?

It seems that anti-liberal political theories must, by definition, deny liberalism’s basic premise: the anthropological and normative priority of liberty. This premise could be denied in various ways:
  • With Aristotle, we could say that it is political authority that is natural and primitive, while freedom is exceptional and in need of justification. In general, pre-modern thinkers did not, in Hegel’s phrase, place an absolute value on subjective willfulness; thus, freedom was a condition of cultivation, not a human birthright.
  • With Marx, you could say that the liberty valued by liberals is merely an ideological reflection of the market economy.
  • With Spinoza, you could claim that humans are naturally slavish, and that freedom is only achievable through a (collective) practice of philosophy.
  • Etc.
In general, all of these options involve a denial of primitive liberty and/or a denial of its normative importance. State authority is not justified by its securing equal liberty. Therefore, the state does not hold a legitimate monopoly on the use of force.

Third, what differentiates Leftist from Rightist anti-liberalism?

Here I’m going to declare by fiat: Leftist anti-liberalism is resolutely anti-capitalist, while Rightist anti-liberalism tends to incorporate capitalism within a set of state structures even as it jettisons the (liberal) justificatory discourse of capitalism. Thus, in Rightist anti-liberal regimes, market mechanisms tend to be infiltrated by naked uses of force or violence: an increase in slave or convict labor, other forms of servitude, formation of mafia-like cartels, price-fixing and intimidation, etc.

Part of the Leftist case against liberalism is that it surreptitiously relies upon Rightist anti-liberalism to establish itself and function. In other words, there is a necessary violence disavowed by the liberal theory of justice. In Mao's "Combat Liberalism," he portrays liberalism as a character flaw marked above all by passive aggression. Liberals say "peace" to your face--or say nothing at all--and then look the other way while the Corleones take your farm and build a casino on it.

Who's Our Buffy?

This is pretty good. My favorite:
Fred Thompson = The Judge
His backers got all excited and made a big effort to assemble him. When they finally put him together, he turned out to be a lethargic mess and didn't accomplish very much.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What's Up With That?

A New Year's puzzler: Why are there Randian Aristotelians?

I understand that there is some affinity between Rand's realist ontology and Aristotle's, but Mayhew and Miller both work on Aristotle's political philosophy, and there are few political philosophies more opposed to Rand's than Aristotle's--the master of those who know held that:
  • The political community is natural.
  • The city is an organic whole.
  • Trade and money-making are antithetical to ethical life, and should be heavily restricted.
  • Those who pursue life as the highest good are living the life of cattle.
So, as I said, what's up with that?

UPDATE: Yeah, so the obvious answer is because Rand considered herself an Aristotelian, and the fruit never falls far from the bigger fruit, or something like that. But what I want to know is how they read Aristotle's Ethics and Politics and come away thinking Aristotle's anti-(Platonic)-communism leads him to be pro-capitalism, or to be compatible with such a stance??