I’ve been using Adam Swift’s Political Philosophy: An Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians (UK) in my Political Philosophy course this semester, and, having now had several students thank me for assigning it, I should probably recommend it more widely. The book is written at an angle to my course. The course goes through the main ideas of various important contemporary theorists of justice: Rawls, Sen, Nozick, Milton Friedman (ok, he’s the odd-one-out, but my view is that nobody should leave college without reading chapters 1,2 and 6 of Capitalism and Freedom, and I abuse my position as a professor to do my bit), Kymlicka, Okin, Fraser, and G.A. Cohen. The book is more conceptual; it consists of chapters on Social Justice, Equality, Freedom, Community and (in the new, second, edition) Democracy, which go through various distinctions and problems in thinking about those concepts, and it only refers to the work of particular philosophers insofar as it is relevant to the problem at hand. The book also includes a lovely discussion of the division of labour between political philosophers on the one hand and political activists and politicians on the other, and offers a semi-sympathetic diagnosis of the reasons that politicians often seem to be such uncareful thinkers about matters of value. It really is a superb piece of writing, accessible to anyone with an interest in these matters, but somehow achieving the accessibility without compromising the complexity of the issues in question.

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Dubious about demography

by John Q on November 10, 2006

Tyler Cowen launches another round in the long-running EU vs US productivity debate. As regards the productivity issues, I don’t have much to add to this piece from a couple of years ago.

But there’s one point on which Cowen lays a lot of stress in this post from the Sheri Berman seminar – the fact that Europe has low birthrates and therefore, on average, is likely to have lower output per person in the future. As he says, this is an issue on which I and CT commenters have been conspicuously silent.

Yet family life gets plenty of attention here, and it’s certainly an issue I take seriously. So why did I and others ignore this aspect of the argument?

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Ranking political theory journals

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 10, 2006

In many (most? all?) Universities, the research output of the staff is evaluated every couple of years (every 4 or 5 years, for example). This is also done at a more aggregate level, for example in country-wide Research Assessment Excercises. For such evaluations, an unavoidable question is: what determines quality, and how should we weigh publications of different quality levels? In order to simplify matters a little, let us just look at journal articles and not at books. One possibility is to make three categories of journals, A, B, and C, where A would give you double points compared with B, and B double of C. The difficult question then becomes: how should one decide which journals to classify in which group?
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