Making sense with Marx

by Henry Farrell on February 3, 2004

“Sasha Volokh”: cries out for some intelligent Marxist analysis in the blogosphere – right on! However, he seems to be arguing that Marxism and the kinds of methodological individualism beloved of modern economists are antithetical to each other. This isn’t necessarily so at all. A big chunk of interesting contemporary work in Marxist theory starts from the premise of methodological individualism, and very frequently from the kinds of rational choice microfoundations that economists are attached to. Jon Elster’s work on Marx is an obvious starting point; Adam Przeworski’s _Capitalism and Social Democracy_ looks at exactly the relationship between class identity and collective action that Sasha is interested in, and how it shaped the turn to social democracy in the early decades of this century. I’m also very fond of John Bowman’s _Capitalist Collective Action_, which examines how capitalists have used trade unions in order to organize themselves collectively. While all Marxists haven’t become methodological individualists, a fair number of them have, and arguably have greatly improved the rigor and clarity of Marxist thinking by so doing.

Football nemesis for Yorkshire?

by Chris Bertram on February 3, 2004

A pub conversation about the current composition of the English Premier League led me to check the regional distribution of teams at the moment. The best represented region is Lancashire (historic boundaries) with 6 teams, followed by London with 5. The West Midlands has 3, the South of England 2, the North East 2, and the East Midland and Yorkshire one each. All of which raises an issue: if Leeds are relegated and Sheffield United are not promoted, will next season be the first season ever without a Yorkshire team in the top division of English football?

Punk the National Review

by Ted on February 3, 2004

The National Review, one of America’s premiere journals of conservative opinion, has started publishing letters from anonymous readers who claim to have had unpleasant experiences with leading Democratic candidates. (Here’s one on Kerry and one on Clark.) If you possess an email address and an eye-opening story, you’ve passed the rigorous fact-checking that has made National Review and the Penthouse Forum world-famous.

In honor of this editorial decision, I would like to propose my first contest ever:

Punk the National Review

The rules are simple:

– Send the National Review an email with an imaginary story of your first-hand experience with a Democratic presidential candidate or elected official.

Send it to me at the same time– I don’t want anyone to claim retrospective credit. (ted at (UPDATE: Be sure to blind carbon copy, or send it separately- it’ll give the game away if it’s a regular CC.)

– Up to three readers who get a letter published in the National Review (either in the Corner or in a story) will get a $10 gift certificate for from me.

– The contest runs from right now until March 31. If more than one letter is published, I will let readers judge the most outrageous letter that hit the virtual pages of the National Review. The winner of this contest will receive a $20 Amazon gift certificate. If more than three letters are run, all published letters will be eligible for this prize.

Good luck to all of you.

Some post-Hutton thoughts

by Chris Bertram on February 3, 2004

“Daniel posted on Hutton”: the other day, and was gracious enough to say that the Blairites should enjoy their day in the sun (whatever else he said elsewhere in the post). During the inquiry, it looked to me as if Gilligan and the BBC were in deep trouble and “I posted back in August saying as much”: . Since the report journalists have been queuing up to denounce Hutton for coming to conclusions other than the ones they were all hoping for and using words like “whitewash”. Typical examples are Gilligan’s mate “Rod Liddle”:,13812,1133385,00.html (on whom see “Martin Kettle in today’s Guardian”:,13812,1137632,00.html ), “Simon Jenkins in the Times”:,,2020-9076-983327,00.html and “Peter Oborne”: in the Spectator (see also “Liddle”: in the Spectator).

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Conservatives and Gay Marriage

by Harry on February 3, 2004

I just came across the following interesting quote from Harvey Mansfield:

bq. Procreation is considered to be part of a perfect or complete human life

He is quoted in the course of Stephen Macedo’s absolute blinder of an essay, “Homosexuality and the Conservative Mind” (Georgetown Law Journal, 1995, no internet access, I’m afraid). Although Mansfield distances himself from the view (‘is considered to be’), its fair to assume that he is committing himself to it, given that he is using it to oppose homosexuality in general and gay marriage in particular. Macedo deals well — no, brilliantly — with Mansfield and his ilk, but part of the brilliance of his essay is that he concedes so much to the conservatives, yet still comes up with homosexuality defended as morally innocent, and homosexual marriage defended as a positive good. So part of his strategy is to concede the vital importance of procreation to human flourishing.

An alternative strategy, common among liberals, would be to deny the relevance of the claim to formulating policy.

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Horoscope-ed page

by John Q on February 3, 2004

The ‘Gray Lady’ nickname of the NYT implies the kind of conservatism and caution that’s appropriate to a journal of record. But in what is, as far as I know, a newspaper first, today’s NYT brings the astrology column onto the Op-Ed page, providing horoscopes for the Democratic Presidential hopefuls.

I’m bemused by this. If the implied view is that astrology is so patently silly that no-one would take it seriously, isn’t this rather a juvenile trick to play on Erin Sullivan, noted as the author of Saturn in Transit and the forthcoming Astrology and Psychology of Midlife and Aging., who appears to have contributed her column in all seriousness? If the implied view is anything other than that astrology is too silly to be taken seriously, isn’t this insulting to every reader of the NYT who has even a high school level of scientific literacy? No doubt there is some ironic postmodern stance that is appropriate here, but I can’t quite locate it.

Update The Letters page ran three letters on this, one tongue-in-cheek supportive, one critical and one, from an astrologer, concluding

I hope that Ms. Sullivan’s intelligent presentation of astrology is just the first for The Times. Perhaps we now know what we’ve suspected all along: the Gray Lady always reads her horoscope like everyone else.

I think we have to conclude that the NYT is “having two bob each way”* on this one.

* This Australian idiom refers to a horesracing bet that pays off for either a win or a place.