Many of my law school colleagues (especially Judge Richard Posner) were strongly influenced by his work. Foucault's remarks on Becker, noted by Kieran Healy (Sociology, Duke) are quite interesting. In my recent Winter seminar on "Ideology" (with Michael Forster), I assigned sections of Becker's A Treatise on the Family in conjunction with exploring Adorno's idea that under capitalism, society is a "totality," in the sense that (as Brian O'Connor usefully puts it), "Each part of society can be propertly understood only as a part of a whole from which it gains its meaning." Unintentionally, but usefully, Becker makes this point with his analysis of the family under capitalism. Like many important intellectual figures, Becker relentlessly pursued some simple ideas, even to extreme and at times implausible conclusions. I was surprised to learn of his passing, since he was still a frequent presence around campus, and seemed vital and as engaged as ever. I have no doubt the various economics blogs will have better-informed commentary on his work and its import for that discipline.
(Thanks to Rick Hasen and Dean Rowan for the link to Prof. Healey's piece.)
She met Bertrand Russell, arguably her greatest mentor, on a walking tour of the moors in 1916. By candlelight at a little inn, he asked his three young companions what each wanted in life. Compelling work, a world-changing cause, the others answered. And Dora? She didn’t hesitate: marriage and children. Dora was forthrightly sexual, her wide-set eyes vividly intelligent. Russell—forty-five, in a childless, moribund marriage and partial to women half his age—was intrigued.
Some time later at tea in London, Dora clarified: not a conventional monogamous marriage, of course. Of course, he agreed. But if children resulted? They should belong to the mother, she asserted. “Well, whoever I have children with, it won’t be you,” he sniffed. He was wrong, she wishful....
But Bertie did find happiness with Dora. He badgered her to marry him. Lord Russell wanted a legitimate heir; he could not respectably divorce with no new wife on tap. Dora was just twenty-five, footloose in Paris, reading at the Bibliothèque Nationale and “sketch[ing] notes for a satirical musical about concepts of God.”
She wrote Ogden, “The kind of slavery he wants me to accept is what he, at my age, would have emphatically denounced . . . . But he hates an irregular relation and wants absolute surrender or a complete break.” She dreaded either, but this New Woman was ready to sacrifice for love. “I do want to try and do what is best for his work and him without destroying myself.”
She solved the dilemma unconsciously, you could say, by not using contraception. Within months she was pregnant. They married—without vows of monogamy—in 1921, two months after their son John was born.
The dozen years with Bertie were mind-reelingly fruitful. Dora had four children, published four books, founded a school, ran for Parliament....
In writing, speaking, and organizing, Dora always linked sex and socialism—pay for housework with fair industrial wages, the intimate labors of women with the sweated labor of men. Pregnancy was four times more fatal than mining, the most dangerous of occupations, she told Parliament and the minister of health. Her Workers’ Birth Control Group of activists and progressive members of Parliament explicitly allied with Labour to distance itself from the eugenic ideologies of birth control advocates such as Marie Stopes, who would limit the propagation of the genetically inferior working classes. A “trade union of lovers,” Dora proclaimed, will “conquer the world....”
In 1929, with the Australian gynecologist Norman Haire, Dora did the mule’s work of pulling together the London Congress of the World League for Sexual Reform, a five-day confab where medicine met sex radicalism. Topics from psychoanalysis to prostitution, contraception, and censorship were debated. Haire was widely mistrusted as an arriviste, but the Russells’ good names attracted the attendance or endorsement of dozens of celebrities—George Bernard Shaw, Havelock Ellis, Radcliffe Hall, Margaret Sanger, even Sigmund Freud. The eminent sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, the first champion of homosexual rights, spoke. In Berlin, to Dora’s astonishment, he introduced her to two transsexuals....
While agitating for their principles in public, Dora and Bertie were testing them at home. Both had other lovers; the lovers were sometimes dealt with jointly. “For some weeks I have wished to express my gratitude for your generous conduct since you have known that Dora and I love each other,” Bertie wrote to an erstwhile paramour of Dora’s. When she got pregnant with Griffin Barry, Bertie welcomed the child, who was registered as Harriet Ruth Barry Russell....
It's a good public relations gimmick, and hopefully effective, but the reality is that it is civilization vs. the NRA, adults vs. the NRA, everyone who isn't a Nazi or sociopath vs. the NRA, etc. Readers outside the U.S., I know, find this all mystifying (how can a fringe group representing about 1.5% of the US population hold the rest of the country hostage to insanely irresponsible rules regulating guns?) and let me add it is mystifying to those of us in the United States.
We recently had the latest Heidegger scandal, and now we have Louis Menand on the increasingly bizarre case of Paul DeMan, whom Menand plausibly describes as a "sociopath" rather than simply a Nazi collaborator and anti-semite, given his many years of fraud, misrepresentations, and lies. Of course, Menand has another aim, namely, to defend DeMan's work in literary theory, to defend (remarkably) its "rigor." At moments like this, one realizes that even words like "rigor" require indexicals attached, since "rigor a la Menand" has nothing to do with what you might have thought the word meant, as anyone who has read DeMan's "rigorous" misreadings of Nietzsche will know. In any case, a somewhat less forgiving account than Menand's of DeMan's bizarre life is here.
Philosopher Justin Tiehen (Puget Sound) writes to share this curious story:
You might be aware that the Ultimate Warrior, an extremely famous professional wrestler, died yesterday. (It's been in the news, and the guy was famous enough that people who don't follow wrestling at all are still sometimes vaguely aware of him.) Anyway, after retiring from wrestling he became a motivational speaker and life coach. For reasons that are somewhat opaque, this involved him creating a website where he posted a glossary of "the world's philosophies," with entries on behaviorism, consequentialism, deontology, existentailism, general semantics, and on and on. Just to give you a sense, here is the entry on Kantianism.
"This is the exact opposite of Objectivism. It's epistemology is faith-eaten and mystic- appeasing. It's metaphysics is subjective, it's ethics are altruistic and it's politics are collectivistic. Kant created the exact opposite of what constitutes a philosophy based on reason. His "argument" consists of equivocations, elaborate straw-men (the entire Critique of Pure Reason for example), etc. He was quite an evil person."
As you can gather, the Ultimate Warrior was apparently a Randian. Many of his other entries also come from a Randian perspective.
This is very funny, from Cockburn's Washington Babylon
Leon Wieseltier: ‘You let me flap this bug with gilded wings/This painted child of dirt that stinks and stings . . .’ The Tartuffe of Babylon, stabled at The New Republic where he has led the life of a second-tier literary dilettante . . . paltering with the interns, whose duties included walking his dog. Fainéant, full of pathetic self-conceit, Wieseltier evokes London’s Grub Street of the 1890s, whose Bohemian poseurs were so well recorded by Max Beerbohm (though Wieseltier would not have the courage to make a pact with the Devil, as did Enoch Soames). Cover story for a life of marked, though no doubt merciful, lack of productivity, is that he is at work on a ‘book about sighing’.
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)