Iris Marion Young

by Henry Farrell on August 2, 2006

Via “Larry Solum”:, Iris Marion Young died two days ago, on July 31. I had known that she was ill with cancer over the last couple of years – it doesn’t seem to have slowed her writing down. She criticized liberal theory from a perspective that seemed to me to be both tougher and more attractive than communitarianism, focusing on the ways in which liberal remedies failed to address enduring structural inequalities. She liked the ways in which cities fostered diversity – her best book, _Justice and the Politics of Difference_, drew as much on sociologists of the city like Richard Sennett as on political theory. I don’t have any personal anecdotes – I never met her – but I liked and admired her work very much indeed.

Update: obituary “here”: (thanks to David Kahane in comments)

The Starry Heavens Above

by Cosma Shalizi on August 2, 2006

Now this is what I call “filling the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them”.

(Via David R. in e-mail.)

The Heart of the Right Wing Conspiracy

by Henry Farrell on August 2, 2006

Thomas Medvetz has just published an article in “Politics and Society”: (my favourite academic journal) that deserves a wide readership; he’s given me permission to “post it”: temporarily. The piece is about the role that Grover Norquist’s Wednesday meetings play in cementing the conservative movement and indeed, in an important sense, in constituting its identity (Medvetz attended fourteen of these meetings and interviewed several key figures separately). Readers who aren’t familiar with current debates in sociology shouldn’t be put off by the initial theoretical discussion – the points that Medvetz makes in the main part of the article are clear, and easily understood. He’s claiming that these meetings serve a key function in creating a cohesive conservative community, centered on agreement over those things that aren’t open for discussion – babies (abortion), guns and taxes. It also helps conservatives frame issues for wider debates, and constitute themselves as distinct from the wider Republican party – participants frequently criticize centrist Republicans, or those who are too willing to bow to their constituents rather than sticking to conservative principal. Finally, the meetings are a point of exchange among movement conservatives themselves, and between the conservative movement and elected officials – both have something to gain from the other.

Medvetz backs up his story with juicy ethnographic details. His account of the debate over Medicare (beginning on the bottom of p.354) is a highly valuable piece of political history. A Heritage Foundation fellow denounced the forthcoming legislation as a massive expansion in government. The White House, aware that this was in the offing (and that conservatives were highly suspicious of the legislation), sent Doug Badger to make the positive case for the legislation. He and Newt Gingrich claimed that the legislation should be seen as an important incremental step towards privatizing healthcare and dismantling the welfare state. Gingrich’s argument that the healthcare bill was a victory for conservatism seemed to win his audience over. This account is a lovely illustration of Jacob Hacker’s “argument”: about the new politics of welfare state entrenchment. It also serves as a capsule account of what the conservative movement has become today. Great stuff – go read it.

(via “Dan Nexon”:

She Wasn’t Asking For It

by Belle Waring on August 2, 2006

Feel like getting really angry? Go read this Pandagon post and the zuzu post at Feministe it refers to. And the comments. From Amanda:

Zuzu at Feministe, in trying to write a normal blog post on how this case is being blown up to bolster racist fears, ran into this problem when some of their regular commenters started to bleat about how Moore has only herself to blame for what they considered the outrageous behavior of being young and leaving the house to have fun. Always these people say they mean well, of course, but in this case, the commenter slipped up and showed the true purpose of her bleating:

I don’t know about the whole race thing you’re getting at, but I agree that the coverage seems to be trying to force her into the victim role. It’s tragic what happened, but Jennifer made a number of really stupid decisions that are not terribly sympathetic (to me, at least). Driving into manhattan to get tanked (while underage no less), then not calling parents or authorities for help when she and her friend got stranded was profoundly bad judgment.

You read that right. People are “trying to force…into the victim role” a person who was raped, murdered, and then dismembered and left in a dumpster. I know that there is strong psychological pressure to find some reason why someone else was raped, a reason you could avoid. If I just do this and don’t do this and… Why? Because it’s just really scary to think that you might become a victim for no reason at all. People feel that if they can just do some magical thinking they will stay in the not-victim chalk circle and everything will be OK. The problem is not that women sometimes get drunk or go dancing or get into cars with strangers because someone threatening is following them down a dark city street. The problem is the rapists and murderers. Keep your eyes on the ball, people. Now let’s have the comments thread degenerate into a pointless discussion of what women should be doing to avoid getting raped, because god knows I’ve never heard any of that before. C’mon, Steve, advocate concealed carry! [NB: I am not actually particularly opposed to concealed carry laws (or Steve!), but I don’t think they would put a dent in the US rape rate, because most people are raped by someone they know and no one is likely to tote their pistol around from room to room in their own goddamn house while they talk with a friend. Which nonsensical behavior is also not relevant to concealed carry. And I don’t want to hear about it at all.]

Conservatism invented in 1953:NYT

by John Q on August 2, 2006

The term “conservative” gets bandied about a lot these days, and readers may wonder where it comes from. Jason DeParle in the NYT has the answer. It was invented by one Russell Kirk in 1953. DeParle’s opening para (“lede” in US newsspeak) introduces us to

Russell Kirk, the celebrated writer who a half-century ago gave the conservative movement its name

and elaborates later on

Kirk, who died in 1994, wrote 32 books, the most famous being “The Conservative Mind,” which was published in 1953. It championed 150 years of conservative thought, and offered “conservative” as a unifying label for the right’s disparate camps.

I must say, it’s a great term, offering a neat contrast with “progressive”. Surprising nobody came up with it earlier, really.