Signatories include, besides Sarkar, John Dupre (Exeter), Paul Griffiths (Sydney), Samir Okasha (Bristol), Alex Rosenberg (Duke), and Rob Wilson (Alberta), among others. The letter offers a variety of considerations, some political, some practical/logistical. I am opening this for (substantive) discussion.
The full majority and dissenting opinions are here. A few quick observations:
1. In finding an unenumerated right of same-sex couples to marry under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution, the Supreme Court really for the first time since 1973 has found such a new right. (Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case rendering homosexual sodomy statutes unconstitutional, was decided on the basis of a "liberty interest" protected by the Due Process clause. If one treats that as part of the pantheon of "unenumerated rights" cases, it still gives a vivid sense of how rare such "discovery" of unenumerated rights has become.)
2. The dissents, especially by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, complain that the majority has, in effect, exercised a quasi-legislative power, rather than a judicial one. I believe that is correct, but it is rich with irony coming from the conservative wing of the super-legislature, which has often exercised the same power for venal, rather than laudatory, ends.
3. This part of Justice Scalia's dissent is especially entertaining:
Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South- westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.
It's good to see that mindless identity politics has arrived at the Supreme Court in the hands of a conservative Catholic from Brooklyn! But the most amusing aspect of this is the first sentence, and its parenthetical "or should not be": that parenthetical is there because even Justice Scalia knows that judges are not chosen for their legal skill but for their moral and political views. Everyone doing the selecting knows this.
This is a good takedown of the latest nonsense with numbers; there's also a post on June 24 at the same blog by my colleague David Strauss adding further commentary (the "linik" to that post isn't working, alas).
Alexander Dietz, a PhD student at the University of Southern California, kindly calls to my attention this initiative. As I told Mr. Dietz, I am a bit skeptical of undertakings like this, for the simple reason that most human misery has systemic causes, which charity never addresses, but which political change can address; ergo, all money and effort should go towards systemic and political reform. Mr. Dietz tells me that this project does not rule out donations in support of political change.
An important decision, striking a small blow for making cyberspace less of a cesspool than it presently is. See esp. page 44 of the opinion. As is so often the case, American law is an outlier here, providing the maximum protection for defamation and hate speech, including especially in cyberspace.
I first encountered this famous remark of Heine's in Freud, who was discussing revenge; Heine wrote:
Mine is a most peaceable disposition. My wishes are: a humble cottage with a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, the freshest milk and butter, flowers before my window, and a few fine trees before my door; and if God wants to make my happiness complete, he will grant me the joy of seeing some six or seven of my enemies hanging from those trees. Before death I shall, moved in my heart, forgive them all the wrong they did me in their lifetime. One must, it is true, forgive one's enemies-- but not before they have been hanged.
...at CHE. Jason tells me that he donated his fee from CHE, and is donating all of the royalties from his recent book on propaganda, to the Prison Policy Initiative, with which he is involved. Please take a moment to check out the PPI and the work it is doing to counter our inhumane incarceration practices.
I don't usually link to right-wing crazy blogs, but this bit of satire is too good to let pass. Indeed, it's such good satire that the person who sent it to me thought it might be real (it is not, I assure you).
Totally believable and totally disgusting. In a civilized society, these pointless people would be separated from the money that makes their excesses possible. (And it's an illusion that this behavior is confined only to the Upper East Side.)
A curious website, I can not vouch for its reliability. Lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and college professors have very little chance of being displaced by robots (3% or less); economists, on the other hand, have worse odds (over 40%!). Go figure.
You've linked to two articles by Todd Gitlin recently. Both indicate troubling characteristics of college students that are possibly (at least in part) attributable to the influence that capitalism exerts on American culture (e.g. freshmen are now in general more interested in great financial success than "develop[ing] a meaningful philosophy of life," while in 1974 the latter was more strongly valued than the former - perhaps this is explicable in terms of changes in the college population, but from what I understand (uniquely capitalistic) economic forces may well be to blame). Then there are larger worries about growing depression among Americans (Gitlin speaks to this in one of the articles that you posted), which is sometimes vaguely explained as a product of an empty consumer culture that allegedly breeds nihilism. (A more expansive list of cultural problems supposedly produced by capitalism is offered by Terry Eagleton in Why Marx was Right: "Alienation, the ‘commodification’ of social life, a culture of greed, aggression, mindless hedonism and growing nihilism, the steady hemorrhage of meaning and value from human existence . . . .")
In light of the foregoing, my question is this: Are there any good, and relatively recent, books or articles that argue that capitalism has deleterious effects on American (or, more broadly, Western) culture? If there are, I've had little success in finding them. The Frankfurt School is clearly relevant here, but Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse were (obviously) engaged with a world substantially different from the current one, and the modern representatives of the Frankfurt School (e.g. Habermas and Honneth) repeatedly strike me as far too gentle with contemporary culture, possibly for fear of seeming too pessimistic.
Habermas basically abandoned the original critical/Marxian/Freudian aspects of Critical Theory in favor of a return to Kant. But the question posed is a good one. What would readers recommend by sociologists, historians, political theorists, philosophers etc.?
The full report. Briefly: Michael LaCour, a PhD candidate in poli sci at UCLA, got a lot of attention for a paper co-authored with Donald Green in 2014:
LaCour and Green (2014, Science) report a remarkable result: a ~20-minute conversation with a gay canvasser produces large positive shifts in feelings towards gay people that persist for over a year. The study’s design is also notable: over 12% of voters invited to participate in the ostensibly unrelated survey that formed the study’s measurement apparatus agreed to be surveyed; nearly 90% were successfully reinterviewed; and each voter referred an average of 1.33 other voters to be part of the study who lived in the study area. The paper is based on a dataset that allegedly describes two field experiments, LaCour (2014).
Other researchers, taken by the results, want to pursue the research further: "Hoping we could harness the same procedures that produced the original study’s high reported response rate, we attempt to contact the survey firm we believed had performed the original study and ask to speak to the staffer at the firm who we believed helped perform Study 1 in LaCour and Green (2014). The survey firm claimed they had no familiarity with the project and that they had never had an employee with the name of the staffer we were asking for. The firm also denied having the capabilities to perform many aspects of the recruitment procedures described in LaCour and Green (2014)."
Presented with this and other evidence of irregularities, Prof. Green "agrees a retraction is in order unless LaCour provides countervailing evidence." Prof. Green then reports that "LaCour has been confronted and has confessed to falsely describing at least some of the details of the data collection," and proceeds to post a public retraction of the 2014 paper.
Barring some further exonerating circumstances, I would imagine this is the end of Mr. LaCour's career as an academic political scientist.
Excesses of censorial zeal are easy to recognize, and pseudosolutions that require tiptoeing through minefields are easy to decry. The more deeply interesting question is: Why are we having this discussion at all? Deploring is simple, but grasping is hard.
The closer you look, the higher the questions pile up. Are more students arriving at college already feeling rattled? Is sexual assault on campus more common than ever, requiring new levels of preventive intervention? Or is the fear of rape, surely realistic up to a point, inordinate?
Does a troubling curriculum suggest an abundance of troubled minds? Is there an epidemic of fragility? Of the fear of fragility? Or both? (Are they the same thing?) Maybe more traumas — more date rapes, more racial "microaggressions" — lie in wait for unsuspecting students nowadays. Does the clamor for the right to be undisturbed emanate from a particular set of students, or does it reflect a more sweeping incidence of disturbance? Is there a climate of contagion? Is fragility the new normal?...
There is ample reason to believe that more college students now than 20 or 30 or 40 years ago consult campus counselors to deal with one stress or another. According to the most recent survey (September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013) of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors:
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)