A Dream About Dandys and Beanos

by Harry on July 2, 2008

John’s post below reminds me that I haven’t yet noted Margaret Drabble’s well-deserved elevation to Dame of the British Empire. I read The Waterfall in my late teens, just because it was on my parents’ bookshelves, and didn’t like it at all, presumably because I didn’t understand a word of it (my parents’ bookshelves provided a lot of my teen reading, including every single on of Shaw’s plays, and the very weighty Auld report on the William Tyndale affair – I was not very discriminating and even read The Concrete Boot which is, if I remember correctly, truly dreadful). I started reading Drabble’s novels as an adult only after hearing her talk about The Witch of Exmoor on Radio 4 and heard her talk about its foray into political philosophy (I assign chapter 1 in my upper division political philosophy class to be read after we play the original position game). But I liked them so much that I stopped about half way into her ouevre, on the principle that I want to have more available to read for the first time later in my life (the same reason that I stopped reading Trollope and Dostoevsky, and stopped watching the new series of Doctor Who half way through the second season; from which you can tell that have an iron will). Anyway, John’s post reminded me of Lady Drabble’s elevation because she is the author of one of my favourite passages from the whole of literature. It brilliantly the evokes the personality of a middle-aged man whom life has (so far) defeated. It’s on page 11 of The Needle’s Eye which is, I think, my favourite of her books so far. Dour and depressed Simon Camish, enduring an unsuccessful marriage, is about to go to a dinner party hosted by his friends Nick and Diana:

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Reading Comics

by John Holbo on July 2, 2008

I’m organizing a book event for Doug Wolk’s Reading Comics [amazon], which is now out in paperback. The event will be nominally hosted at the Valve. I got to know Doug on the strength of mocking him with my masterful New Skrullicism post of yore. Then I read this great book of his, which only made me like him more. I posted about it here. Anyway, this post is mostly a heads-up that the event is going to happen round aboutish July 10. I’ve already got participants lined up, but several people are going to participate just by posting on their own blogs so you are welcome to show up in the usual ‘I’ve got a blog too’ way.

In other news: I’ve really been enjoying a lot of music by people named Finn. The two albums currently on heavy rotation are The Hold Steady’s Stay Positive (lead singer Craig Finn) and Liam Finn’s I’ll Be Lightning. A couple YouTube links: Liam Finn’s “Second Chance” and The Hold Steady’s “Little Hoodrat Friend” and “The Swish”. But the one you really need to listen to and watch is “Stuck Between Stations”. Bruce Springsteen wishes he was as awesome as vaguely Randy Newmanesque Craig Finn. Who is apparently starved for groupies. I’m not really eligible myself.

Kicking the Irish Out

by Henry Farrell on July 2, 2008

This “column”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f24b5eda-45eb-11dd-9009-0000779fd2ac.html from Wolfgang Munchau is a keeper. “Challenged”:http://blogs.ft.com/rachmanblog/2008/06/expulsion-from-europe/ by Gideon Rachman last week to reveal the theory under which he believed that the Irish could be kicked out of the EU for having had the impertinence to vote ‘No’ a couple of weeks ago, Munchau obliges:

My own hunch is that they will try to find a way to enforce the Lisbon treaty without the non-ratifiers. As a first step, they will try to offer the No-sayers a quit-and-rejoin deal. It would be the least divisive option of all, but unfortunately, it may also be one of the least realistic. … … In Ireland’s case it may require a referendum to get out and another one to get back in. … If this is not possible, there are several other options involving varying degrees of involuntary separation. For example, everybody would formally remain inside the EU on the basis of the Nice treaty, but the ratifiers would organise their areas of co-operation outside the EU and its institutions – on foreign policy, immigration, economic governance, maybe even on energy and the environment. … There is, of course, the ultimate threat; not a trial separation, but permanent divorce. The Lisbon ratifiers formally leave the EU, and re-group under a new rival organisation. In reality, this is not so much an option, but the thing you do when you have run out of options, the strategic choice of last resort. Like a nuclear bomb, it is a useful device to be used in an emergency, not something you plan for.

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Rights, permissions, duties ….

by Chris Bertram on July 2, 2008

I’ve recently had to advise some students who wanted to write papers on the topic of humanitarian intervention. Not for the first time, it brought home to me how strong the disciplinary pressures towards a particular perspective can be. Political philosophy (of the Rawlsian/Kantian variety) isn’t an entirely fact-free zone, but the way we often discuss matters of principle tends to push us towards favouring _policies_ independently of the way things actually are. So we might ask, what should be the foreign policy of a just liberal state and what attitude should such a state have to “outlaw regimes” which are engaged in systematic human rights violations. And, in the light of such thinking, what would the laws of a just international order look like? What rights against interference would states have? When would there be a duty to intervene? And so on.

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The distinction between sociology and anthropology, as I learned it, is the distinction between the study of industrial and non-industrial societies. (Obviously false at the margins, but as a rough and ready definition it seems servicable, esp. as so many people offer this answer to the basic question.)

My interest in tagging has led me to assume that any such label is a social construct mainly held in place by its beneficiaries, rather than being something true about the world (and one of my many crank beliefs is that the ability of academic departments to defend the edge cases of such definitions is going to take a hit in a networked society.) However, since I have posting privileges at CT this week, I’d like to run the thought experiment a different way.

Sociologists and anthropologists of living culture have different outlooks and tools. What would change if they were each dispatched to the other’s research sites? If organizational behavior were the primary tool for understanding hunting raids, or if board meetings were viewed through an anthropological lens?

I think we can all construct a world where interesting results would appear (and obviously some of that work is being done already), but would the results be _better_ than what we have today, or just novel? Is one discipline more transportable than the other? Could one simply disappear, or subsume the other, with little loss of intellectual value, or could they merge as equals?

Put another way, if we strip away the historical bias of the kinds of societies being observed, how different are the core values, tools, and intuitions of the two (one and a half?) disciplines?

Travelling Matt

by Kieran Healy on July 2, 2008

Via Teresa. I have to say that I was skeptical for the first fifty seconds or so, what with the new-agey soundtrack and the apparently solo globetrotting, but what comes after is just absurdly sweet in a nerd-brings-the-world-together sort of a way. Enjoy.