The EMF as camel’s nose

by Henry Farrell on March 10, 2010

“Charlemagne’s prediction”: 1 that the Greek crisis would have no substantial effects for EU integration is looking “decidedly wobbly”:

bq. Radical plans for a European version of the International Monetary Fund to bail out crisis-hit countries would need a new treaty and the agreement of all European Union member states, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has warned. Throwing her weight behind the proposals from Wolfgang Schäuble, her finance minister, Ms Merkel admitted that the European Union had lacked the tools to deal with the Greek debt crisis: “The sanctions we have were not good enough.” But she added that a full-scale negotiation of the EU’s 27 member states would be needed to set up a European Monetary Fund, which would be able to bail out eurozone members subject to strict budgetary conditions. “Without treaty change we cannot found such a fund,” Ms Merkel told foreign correspondents in Berlin yesterday.

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Imprints: the final issue

by Chris Bertram on March 10, 2010

I now have in front of me the final issue (vol. 10 no. 3) of Imprints, currently subtitled “egalitarian theory and practice” but originally “a journal of analytical socialism”. Conceived in Dunkin Donuts Piccadilly Circus branch in 1995, and launched in London during Euro 96 (we crowded round a small radio after the launch conference to hear the England-Spain penalty shoot-out), Imprints has been an important part of my life for nearly 15 years. We’ve interviewed many of the important intellectual figures of the left: Cohens Joshua and G.A., Philippe Van Parijs, John Roemer, Ruth Lister, Carole Pateman, Martha Nussbaum, Nancy Fraser … there’s a long list, and published some good and interesting work. But circulation was always small, and the effort involved in a small group self-publishing was large. A couple of years ago we believed we had a deal with a publisher to take the grind off our hands, but it all fell through at the last minute and it has been hard to rally the troops ever since. Many thanks to all our readers and contributors: it has been fun to work with you. Subscribers should get their final copies within the next month.

This story (via Leiter) concerns the requirement in Pennsylvania that any university department within the PASSHE system that graduates fewer than 30 majors over five years justify its existence. A theater and dance department chair is quoted as follows:

“This is an insult to many of our faculty who feel what they do is central to the life of the university,” said Dr. Slavin, who also is vice president of the campus chapter of the faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. “Challenging them to justify their existence is really a slap in the face.”

It is odd that in “normal” times it is just assumed that the departmental units can carry on without ever having to justify or even reflect very much on their existence or what they are supposed to be doing? It is entirely un-obvious why many departments should continue to exist (and some of the most un-obvious graduate huge numbers of majors); and one might have thought that it was a good idea even in normal times to review the justifications of their existence. The fact that there is so little reflection on the missions of departments is down, in part, to a failure of management; a failure that is just made starker by the demand that departments picked out by some arbitrary feature which, until this moment, they have been given no reason to think was a problem.

The issue made it to Leiter because several of the Philosophy departments in those institutions fall into the low-major category. But is producing Philosophy majors the point of having a Philosophy department? In Our Underachieving Colleges (CT review still on its way: DD to blame if I never get round to it) Derek Bok claims that the standard assumptions within most departments in research universities is that the undergraduate curriculum is for attracting and then teaching majors, and, further, that our attention to the majors should be shaped by the aim of preparing them well for graduate school. This means that the curriculum is designed for a tiny minority of the students who take classes, and even many of them, probably, would be better off doing something other than going to graduate school (that’s me, not Bok, saying the last bit).

I don’t think of the curriculum, or the mission of my department in my institution, that way at all.

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