What Did Happen With Political Theory?

by Henry Farrell on July 7, 2009

It sounds as though the putative efforts to remove Mary Dietz as editor have failed, and Sage has backed down. “Inside Higher Ed”:http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/07/07/sage has the details (along with some discussion of the comment thread on this blog, and the recent decision of the American Sociological Association to farm out its journals to Sage.

At the same time Sage was landing a prestigious batch of journals, it was trying to reassure political scientists who have been trying to figure out what was going on with the leadership of _Political Theory,_ a key journal in the discipline and one published by Sage. … unconfirmed reports … coup … While Sage officials insist nothing of the kind happened, and the original editor is in place, another political scientist has confirmed that he was offered and accepted the editorship, then withdrew when he learned of the controversy. While Sage officials will acknowledge only some sort of “misunderstanding,” they admit that whatever it was they were were trying to do was done without consulting the scholars on the editorial board of the journal, and they are apologizing for that. …

Jayne Marks, vice president and editorial director of Sage, said in an interview that there had been “a misunderstanding,” but that Dietz had never stopped being editor of the journal. … declined repeatedly to explain what took place, or to acknowledge that anything had happened. … Asked explicitly about how another political scientist said he signed a contract for an editorship that wasn’t apparently open, and that many political scientists were expressing concern about the lack of information, Marks repeated that everything has been “sorted out” and that she wouldn’t say more.

Daniel Davies will be moderating a salon with George Soros at “FireDogLake’s Book Salon”:http://firedoglake.com/booksalon/ tomorrow – should be fun …

The Left That Dare Not Speak Its Name

by Henry Farrell on July 7, 2009

I’m still writing a long, substantive-ish piece responding to Larry Lessig’s “twin”:http://lessig.org/blog/2009/05/et_tu_kk_aka_no_kevin_this_is.html “posts”:http://lessig.org/blog/2009/05/on_socialism_round_ii.html on the dangers of confusing socialism with collaborative stuff on the internet, but it may be no harm to try to expel the less substantive stuff from my system in the meantime. And I do have some stuff to get out. I usually like Lessig’s stuff, even when I don’t agree with it, but these two posts are a horrible, _horrible_ mess.

Post the first:

It is completely unreasonable to call [Kevin Kelly’s argument] “socialism” — at least when the behavior described is purely voluntary. It’s like saying “Because Stalin set up a competition between different collective farms, it’s not unreasonable to call that free market capitalism.” … The thing that Smith was pointing to (and Hayek too), is not “socialism.” It is not reasonably called socialism. Because “socialism” is the thing Smith was attacking in the 6th edition of his Theory of Moral Sentiments. Socialism is using the power of the state to force a result that otherwise would not have been chosen voluntarily by the people. … Coercive government action is — IMHO — a necessary condition of something being “socialism.” It isn’t sufficient — there is plenty of coercive governmental action that doesn’t qualify as socialism, like raising taxes to fund national defense, or to pay the police. … I’m not an opponent to all things plausibly called “socialist” … A graduated income tax could properly be called “socialist,” because it is coerced … But all of the examples of proper “socialism” begin with pointing to coercion by the state. A conservative Baptist church is not “socialist” when it voluntarily collects money to give to the poor, even though the result is similar to the result of a “socialist” plan to redistribute money from the rich to the poor. … sloppiness here has serious political consequences. When a founder of the movement which we all now celebrate calls this movement “socialist,” that plays right in the hand of those would attack everything this movement has built. Again, see Helprin. Or Andrew Keen.

Post the second:

There’s an interesting resistance (see the comments) to my resistance to Kevin Kelly’s description of (what others call) Web 2.0 as “socialism.” That resistance (to my resistance) convinces me my point hasn’t been made. … It is not even that never in the history of “socialism” have people so understood it (there have of course been plenty of voluntary communities that have called themselves “socialist”). Instead, my argument against Kelly was about responsibility in language: How would the words, or label, he used be understood. Not after, as I said, reading “a 3,500 word essay that redefines the term.” Rather, how would it be understood by a culture that increasingly has the attention span of 140 characters? … In reading the reactions to my argument, however, I realize that in using the term “coercion” I was committing the same error that I was accusing Kelly of making. People associate the word “coercion” with Abu Ghraib or Stalin. And certainly, the “coercion” of socialism isn’t necessarily (or even often) that. That’s fair. By “coercion” I meant simply law — that “socialism” is a system enforced by law, and enforced contrary to the way individuals would freely choose autonomously to associate. … So I didn’t mean anything necessarily negative by the term “coercion.” … Again, if you doubt that, think about American critics of “socialism”: None of them are complaining about people voluntarily choosing to associate however they choose to associate (except of course if they are gay). They are complaining about people being forced to associate in ways they don’t choose to associate.

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The assumption about universal Internet access among Americans likely left some of the most enthusiastic Michael Jackson fans without the opportunity to enter the lottery for tickets to the memorial services being held today in Los Angeles. Registering for the lottery could only be done online and many millions of Americans don’t have Internet access in their homes. Worse yet, because registration was confined to the dates of July 3rd and July 4th, most public access points would have been inaccessible due to holiday closings at public libraries and other locations. Adding insult to injury, these constraints of online access are very much unequally distributed among the population leaving certain types of people – for example, African Americans – much less likely to have had the opportunity to enter the drawing.

Talking about the digital divide – or the differences between the technological haves and have-nots – is passé conjuring up seemingly outdated debates of the 1990s. Nonetheless, the fact remains that a big portion of Americans continues to live without Internet access at home or often without any Internet use anywhere. According to the
latest figures (2007) from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, over 38% of American households report no home Internet use. Broken down by race and ethnicity, close to 55% of African American households and over 56% of Hispanic households do not report home Internet usage. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has more
recent figures
confirming that large numbers of Americans continue to be disconnected with Blacks and Hispanics less likely to be online than Whites and Asian Americans. [click to continue…]

Blogs and books

by John Q on July 7, 2009

Blogs kill books. At least, that’s what I always thought. Between 1988 and 2000, I wrote four1 books and edited a couple of volumes. In 2002, I started blogging, and I haven’t done a book since then.

But, in the mysterious way of things, it turns out that blogs generate books, or at least book contracts. In comments here not long ago, Miracle Max wrote

The discredited ideas theme really needs a book, and JQ appears to be the ideal person to write it.
I will even contribute the title: “Dead Ideas from New Economists.” No charge.

Brad DeLong picked it up, and a couple of days later I got an email from Seth Ditchik at Princeton University Press suggesting that it really would be a good idea. Now, we have a contract, and we’re going to use Max’s suggested title.

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