Moral Views of Market Society

by Kieran Healy on October 30, 2006

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in the “discussion on Sheri Berman’s book”:, perhaps out of residual guilt at not completing her Comparative Politics seminar back when I was a graduate student. But here’s a somewhat related new paper by “Marion Fourcade”: and myself on “Moral Views of Market Society”: [pdf] which touches on some of the Polanyian themes in the discussion, particularly debates about the relationship between the market and the moral order, broadly conceived.

Social Democracy and Fascism as Cousins-German

by Henry Farrell on October 30, 2006

Sheri Berman’s book on the past and future of European social democracy makes (at least) two big contributions. First, it takes up Karl Polanyi’s claims about the origins of socialism and fascism and makes something new of them. Berman is explicitly writing in a Polanyian tradition, but she isn’t a disciple or an epigone of Polanyi. Like the social democrats who are the heroes of this book, she takes a classic set of arguments and interrogates and updates them, making claims about what works and what doesn’t, what’s relevant to our contemporary situation, and what isn’t. Second, in so doing she decisively demonstrates the importance of ideas to politics. Her story is one where ideas have dramatic consequences for history. The failure of some socialists to escape from the straitjacket of economistic Marxist thought doomed them to failure and political irrelevancy. The willingness of others to challenge conventional nostrums, and to become actively involved in politics had an enormous historical impact, whether they went to the left (social democrats) or to the right (various strains of fascists and national socialists). [click to continue…]

Sheri Berman’s The Primacy of Politics is one of the best books I have read in a long time. While much contemporary political science devolves into ever less relevant formalisms and ‘econo-aping,’ Berman’s book reminds us of the power of narrative; in two senses. First, in the sense that says, ‘nothing gets you going like a good narrative.’ Second, in the sense that it demonstrates how social facts such as narrative, argument, rhetoric, and claim-making about the political world are essentially constitutive of it. In both of these senses its is a excellent piece of scholarship. [click to continue…]

“Political history in the advanced industrial world has indeed ended, argues this pioneering study, but the winner has been social democracy…”

So runs the opening blurb on Sheri Berman’s The Primary of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century. Most of the book is a well-researched account of the history and subtlety of social democratic thought, but I wish to consider the broader framing of the argument. In the last chapter the author returns to her apparent view that social democracy is fundamentally a solution to the problem of politics and it will remain relevant, indeed dominant, throughout the twenty-first century. [click to continue…]

Paintings to see before you die

by Maria on October 30, 2006

The Guardian has a lovely new arts blog that leads off with a piece about the 20 paintings to see in the flesh before you die:
“van Eyck, The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, c.1435, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Caravaggio, The Burial of St. Lucy (1608), Museo di Palazzo Bellomo, Syracuse, Sicily
Rembrandt, Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (1654), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
San Rock Art, South African National Museum, Cape Town
Paul Cézanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire from Les Lauves (1904 – 6), Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Michelangelo, Moses (installed 1545), Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome
Leonardo da Vinci, The Adoration of the Magi, (c. 1481), Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Mark Rothko, The Rothko Chapel (paintings 1965-66; chapel opened 1971), Houston, Texas
Vermeer, View of Delft (c.1660-61), Mauritshuis, The Hague
Matthias Grünewald, The Isenheim Altarpiece (c.1509-15), Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, France
Hans Holbein, The Dead Christ, (1521-2), Kunstmuseum, Basel
Velázquez, Las Meninas (1656), Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
Funerary Mask of Tutankhamun (1333-1323BC), Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Masaccio, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (c.1427), Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.
Pablo Picasso, Guernica (1937), Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid
Titian, Danaë (c. 1544-6), Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples
Raphael, The School of Athens (1510-11), Stanza della Signatura, Vatican Palace, Rome
Parthenon Sculptures (“Elgin Marbles”), c. 444 BC, British Museum, London
Henri Matisse, The Dance (1910), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.”

The comments unfairly criticise Jonathan Jones’ selection as too European, but he says himself it’s a subjective list of paintings so serious or affecting as to be worth travelling to see. And he invites readers to suggest their own. It’s an interesting take in the age of mechanical reproduction. The suggestions so far lean heavily on the 20th century, with the odd old master thrown in. I hope the Guardian’s commenters take up Jones’ challenge to broaden the field.

I’ve seen maybe a quarter of Jones’ list (if we allow ‘seen’ to include works I have shuffled past in the Louvre). But I’d still add to it Chagall’s stained glass windows in the Hadassah Hospital in Israel. They are deeply moving and can only be properly experienced by going there. You haven’t experienced Chagall till you’ve experienced him with light coming through (although the Chagall gallery in Nice comes close). Secondly, I’d add Monet’s Nymphéas which have been specially hung in curved rooms at the Orangerie in Paris. A recently attempted visit confirms the Orangerie is still impossible to get into, so this addition to the list is really wishful thinking.

The Guardian’s arts blog also reminds me to post a link to a wonderful stage interview of Gael Garcia Bernal at the NFT a couple of weeks back. The character GGB most identifies with is the sweet but irresponsible Julio from Y Tu Mamá También, but his thoughtful comments about politics and inequality in Mexico show this actor has more to say for himself than your average horny teenager.

Support Cory Mason in Racine

by Harry on October 30, 2006

We don’t usually do political endorsements at CT, in fact we don’t even have a line on anything (with one possible exception). So I should say that any endorsements we do are entirely the responsibility of the individual poster (in this case, me). But I did want to alert Wisconsin residents, and especially Racine residents, to a candidate who really deserves your support. Cory Mason is running for the state legislature in Racine, on the Democratic ticket. He should win, but there is no certainty in these matters, and his opponent, a local retired cop, is running a strong campaign, and is, absurdly, trying to portray Cory as a carpetbagger (absurdly because Cory grew up in Racine, and told me when I first got to know him that he intended to work in Madison for a while until he could figure out a way to move back to Racine).

I should say three things. I have never supported a Democrat in a partisan race before, and I think Cory was not sure I’d say yes when he initially asked for my support. Second, Cory is a friend and former student of mine, who I know very well, and that is what makes me so confident in him. He is very firmly committed to a progressive vision of social justice and at the same time understands, from working for many years in the legislature as an aide and a lobbyist (for the teacher’s union) that politics involves pragmatic compromise. His principles and character, though, ensure that where there are compromises they will not be shoddy, but borne from careful judgment about the best that can be done in the circumstances. Third, he is deeply thoughtful about what are the best means to achieve the end of social justice. I know this because when he first encountered my unorthodox views about school choice and vouchers, instead of being straightforwardly appalled, as most would be, he was appalled and intrigued, prompting a set of arguments and debates on education policy we’ve had over the past several years. There’s no-one I’d rather see win a race this Fall. If you are in Racine you should vote for him, but even if not he needs and thoroughly deserves your support (contributions welcome here).