Book cover contest (including $$ prize)

by Eszter Hargittai on January 30, 2009

I invite you to put on your creative thinking caps and participate in the book cover contest now running over at Worth1000 for my methods edited volume called Research Confidential. The winner receives $150 and the chance to have the design show up as the book cover.

You may recall the thread here a while back regarding the book’s title. I received many great suggestions. In the end, an idea I got from Jonathan Zittrain won out. That said, the subtitle “Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have” came from a suggestion on that CT thread submitted by reader Vivian.* Many thanks to both! (In fact, many thanks to all who participated in that helpful thread and convinced me to abandon my original idea.)

The title is not the only idea for which I owe JZ thanks. I’m following in his footsteps by running a contest for the cover design. His book on The Future of the Internet – And How To Stop It ended up with its cool cover this way.

The contest page gives a brief summary of the book and some ideas I have for a cover design although I’m very eager to see all sorts of other suggestions. The site also lists technical specifications for submissions. The contest runs for a week. If you can think of friends who are good at this sort of thing, please pass the word along. And thanks to my publisher, The University of Michigan Press, for supporting this idea.

[*] A note to reader Vivian: I’ve tried to figure out who you are so I could contact you and see how you felt about having your full name included in the book’s Acknowledgments. Please let me know your thoughts on this.

Cohen on Justice and Equality reading group (2)

by Chris Bertram on January 30, 2009

Chapter 2 of G.A. Cohen’s new _Rescuing Justice and Equality_ addresses an argument in favour of the difference principle put by Brian Barry (as a reconstruction of Rawls) in his _Theories of Justice_. The argument has two stages: in the first, an equal distribution is established as the only _prima facie_ just distribution; in the second, a move away from equality is licensed, so long as it is a move to a Pareto superior distribution. Barry’s argument for the first stage is essentially that there is no cause of an unequal distribution that would justify its inequality: so there is, at a fundamental (i.e. pre-institutional) level, no argument based on desert or entitlement that would provide a justifying explanation of an unequal distribution. Such inequalities, are therefore, so this argument claims, _morally arbitrary_. The argument for the second stage is consequentialist: it would be irrational to insist on an equal distribution if it were possible to move from it to a distribution where some people were better off and none were worse off. (Insisting on equality in these circumstances looks like a levelling-down.)

From the point of view of Cohen’s engagement with Rawls, it is hard (for me) to see that this chapter adds much to the previous one. Cohen invites us to imagine an initially equal distribution D1 and a Pareto superior distribution D2. It looks as if we should prefer D2 to D1, because some people do better and no-one does worse. But, he says, let’s imagine another equal distribution, D3 which is Pareto superior to D1. Why couldn’t we move from D1 to D3 (rather than D2)? He canvasses various explanations, but the central point, as before is that the naturally-talented are only willing to put the additional (worst-off improving) effort in under conditions of inequality (D2) rather than under the equal net reward available under D3. There isn’t, therefore, an objective barrier to the feasibility of equality at the D3 level, just a justice-denying choice on the part of the already talented.

The real interest of the chapter lies, I think, elsewhere and is hinted at by Cohen in his reference to Nozick at p.90 fn. 11. It is the assumption, which Barry clearly shares, that the removal of the morally arbitrary causes of the holdings that people have ought to privilege equality as the just initial distribution. Why isn’t equality just as morally arbitrary as an initial starting-point as inequality? This, of course, is the point pressed by my late colleague Susan Hurley in her _Justice, Luck and Knowledge_ (esp. ch. 6). The right response to that worry is to provide a positive argument for equality as a morally privileged starting-point rather than relying on it being some default position after the removal of morally unequalizing arbitrary factors.

[Remember the rules: no commenting unless you’ve read the book.]

Ever More Zombies!

by John Holbo on January 30, 2009

The Little Professor points us to the forthcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen’s classic novel to new legions of fans.

She then suggests some additional titles. I can’t believe she left out War and Peace and Zombies, however. Now 50% longer! And you’d have these great contrasts between the command styles of the Prussian and French and Russian and zombie generals. (Writes itself.)

But Marvel comics is ahead of the literary curve, as always, with Marvel Zombies. They specifically explore one possibility that Miriam sees as needing careful treatment: what if a vampire became a zombie? A vambie! (In related news: witchaloks!)

UPDATE: Come to think of it, this old literary mash-up post – continued here – is even funnier than zombies. In all modesty.

John Martyn is Dead

by Harry on January 30, 2009

In the fall of 1981, while living in a squat in Kentish Town and working at some disused church in Hampstead making an absurd number of placards for the upcoming CND demonstration in order to distract attention from the ubiquitous SWP banners, I listened to Solid Air nearly every day. My much older friends all said that it was best listened to while stoned but they may just have been teasing me for my notorious abstemiousness. A couple of years later I rode my rickety old bike from Oxford to Aylesbury (and back) to watch him (one of the few musicians I’ve bothered to see live). He was exquisite. Seeing that documentary about him a couple of years ago, it was clear he didn’t have long to live. BBC obit here. The youtube clips of his recent performances, though badly recorded, make it seem that he remained a great performer till the end. But this is the one: