What’s up with Political Theory?

by Henry Farrell on July 2, 2009

I asked this question over at the Monkey Cage, a political science blog that I also contribute to, and was greeted with a resounding silence (political theorists perhaps being disinclined to read heavily pol-sci oriented blogs). So I’m asking it here. What exactly is happening at the journal, Political Theory? I understand that the editor, Mary Dietz, has been asked to step down, and that Mark Bevir has been asked to step in, but beyond that I know nothing – all sorts of rumours and claims of coups, decisions-by-fiat etc are swirling around at the “Political Theory Rumor Mill”:https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=21008160&postID=9135623259230578337&pli=1 but there isn’t much in the way of solid information. Anyone know what’s happening?

Helprin on EconTalk

by John Holbo on July 2, 2009

Having knocked Mark “digital barbarism” Helprin around in a trio of posts – in one of which I remarked that the guy should probably listen to EconTalk to learn that libertarians are actually skeptical about the merits of copyright extension – I am duty-bound to report that Helprin was just a guest on EconTalk. [click to continue…]

Washington Post Really Crashes and Burns Edition

by Henry Farrell on July 2, 2009


For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, non-confrontational access to “those powerful few” — Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors.

The astonishing offer was detailed in a flier circulated Wednesday to a health care lobbyist, who provided it to a reporter because the lobbyist said he felt it was a conflict for the paper to charge for access to, as the flier says, its “health care reporting and editorial staff.” …

“Underwriting Opportunity: An evening with the right people can alter the debate,” says the one-page flier. “Underwrite and participate in this intimate and exclusive Washington Post Salon, an off-the-record dinner and discussion at the home of CEO and Publisher Katharine Weymouth. … Bring your organization’s CEO or executive director literally to the table. Interact with key Obama administration and congressional leaders.” …

The flier says: “Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No. The relaxed setting in the home of Katharine Weymouth assures it. What is guaranteed is a collegial evening, with Obama administration officials, Congress members, business leaders, advocacy leaders and other select minds typically on the guest list of 20 or less. …

“Offered at $25,000 per sponsor, per Salon. Maximum of two sponsors per Salon. Underwriters’ CEO or Executive Director participates in the discussion. Underwriters appreciatively acknowledged in printed invitations and at the dinner. Annual series sponsorship of 11 Salons offered at $250,000 … Hosts and Discussion Leaders … Health-care reporting and editorial staff members of The Washington Post … An exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will actually get it done. … A Washington Post Salon … July 21, 2009 6:30 p.m. …

“Washington Post Salons are extensions of The Washington Post brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard,” the flier says. “At the core is a critical topic of our day. Dinner and a volley of ideas unfold in an evening of intelligent, news-driven and off-the-record conversation. … By bringing together those powerful few in business and policy-making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues, Washington Post Salons give life to the debate. Be at this nexus of business and policy with your underwriting of Washington Post Salons.”

The Washington Post’s news division seems quite upset at the way that the event was described in the promotional materials, and has now said that it won’t be participating. But this kind of event is not unusual in Washington DC, even if the marketing isn’t usually quite as crass and direct.

The Mitey Walzer

by Daniel on July 2, 2009

I’ve made a number of rather harsh comments about Michael Walzer on CT in the recent past, motivated by his twin tendencies to a) reinvent the wheel with respect to international humanitarian law and b) produce arguments which seem to be tailored like a Versace evening gown to fit round the voluptuous curves of Israeli foreign policy. In this article in the New York Review of Books, however, he revisits the issue of “human shields” and although I still find it frustrating that he’s not referencing the legal literature at all, it’s clear that he’s not simply playing the more-in-sorrow-than-anger apologetics game. His specific contention is that a country in a “human shields” situation has a duty to have as much concern for foreign noncombatants as if they were its own citizens; I’m not sure that I agree with this because IIRC Walzer has a particular standard for noncombatant status that I don’t agree with[1], but it’s clear that he’s not shaping his views round the “facts on the ground”. I therefore, to the extent that I have previously suggested he had turned into a simple partisan hack, and without qualifying my opinions of the actual past articles concerned (which I maintain were bad), apologise.

[1] Also, he operates to a standard based on efforts taken to “minimise” noncombatant casualties whereas I think it’s very important to insist on the Geneva Conventions’ standard of “not excessive relative to the concrete definite military objective”. The difference being that under the Geneva standard, but seemingly not Walzer’s, you can have situations where even “minimised” casualties are still “excessive”, meaning that you’re just not allowed to do the military thing. I think that Walzer’s NYRB piece implies that he’d actually agree with the Geneva standard in practical applications, but it’s much clearer.

Against (micro)economic imperialism

by John Q on July 2, 2009

We’ve had various versions of the case for and against the use of (micro)economic rational actor models in the social sciences lately, so I thought I would weigh in with my version of the case against. It has three main elements
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A bit more on sociology

by Chris Bertram on July 2, 2009

I’m just back from an excellent Rousseau Association conference at UCLA to find, now I’ve tuned back in to CT, that we’ve been discussing sociology v economics as theories of society. Funny, because one of the the things that came up in LA was the old Robert Nisbet thesis about the conservative origins of sociology. The idea is that sociology has its origins in the counter-enlightenment attempts of Burke, de Maistre, Saint Simon etc to theorize about social order in the light of the Revolution. It turns out that I’ve long since lost or given away my copy of _The Sociological Tradition_, so I haven’t been back to the original, but I’m curious as to what the thinking is on the Nisbet thesis today. I’m perfectly fine with the use of methods drawn from economics in the social sciences (and with other approaches too) but it is worth noting that most economics involves a straighforwardly rationalistic and enlightenement attitude to the social world, one that the Burkean tradition disputes as being inadequate to social understanding.

Thankyou to Michèle Lamont

by John Q on July 2, 2009

We’ve been very happy over the last few weeks to have a number of guest posts from Michèle Lamont who’s been visiting us virtually while travelling around physically, often to places with limited Internet access. I’ve put a list of her posts over the fold, for easy reference.

Among other things, I’ve particularly enjoyed the way in which Michèle has brought some actual evidence and intellectual rigour to the kinds of interdisciplinary and metadisciplinary discussions that go on all the time at a place like CT. From us at CT, thanks Michèle and our hopes that your foray into blogging has been enjoyable and enlightening.

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