Getting ready for World Poetry Day

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 29, 2012

Last Thursday, we celebrated national poetry day in the Netherlands. The cultural office of my university asked all staff teaching on that day to read a poem during class. I selected a couple from a volume edited by Amnesty International, which has translations of wonderful poems by great poets like Nazim Hikmet or Pablo Neruda. Yet since I forgot the book at home, I took refuge to the internet, where I found some lovely poems by Miriam van Hee, a Belgian/Flemish poet who writes in a sober and accessible style and whose poems I read quite a bit in my youth. That’s how I ended my teaching that day, and I hope to be lucky that next year national poetry day is again on a day when I teach.

All this reminded me of a delightful thread we had here at CT a while back, in which Trane suggested we could all come up with translations of our own favorite poems. In slightly amended fashion, I suggest the following: on 21 March, World Poetry Day, I will open a thread where everyone can post a poem of their own making or their favorite poem by someone else – and in both cases with or without translation into English/Globish. Go write, people!

Some reviewers have complained that Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind seriously overreaches when he writes stuff like this:

Conservatism is the theoretical voice of … animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, agency, the prerogative of the elite. (7)

He digs up fun quotes from old, odd sources.

“In order to keep the state out of the hands of the people,” wrote the French monarchist Louis de Bonald, “it is necessary to keep the family out of the hands of women and children.” (15)

At this point conservatives get ticked off: Louis de who?

Can’t pin us to some dead monarchist! Guy was French! Robin is guilty of tarring all of conservatism with the broadest, blackest brush. It’s paranoid stuff. Nasty sniffing around in the alleged id. No respect for the superego.

This sort of dispute is hard to adjudicate, because the only way to do so rigorously is with specifics – examples and counter-examples. But really Robin isn’t claiming that there are no counter-examples to his claim. He is saying his model is the paradigm. He is modeling the typical, not the invariable, conservative. The conservative response is that – today – only conservative extremists think in this bad way. It’s no accident that Robin has to run off to Old Europe for the juiciest quotes. The rest he gets from more contemporary conservatives when maybe they slipped in an interview and said something they didn’t quite mean, or they exaggerated for effect and … taken out of context …

Let’s take a crack at defending Robin, like so. Ross Douthat’s latest column in the NY Times is a good fit for Robin’s thesis. Douthat is no one’s notion of a radical conservative. He’s a squish (well, that’s what lots of conservatives think of him.) His job is to make conservatism sound reasonable to urbane liberals. None of that seamy underbelly, talk radio-style stuff.

So if even Douthat fits Robin’s model – that doesn’t prove anything. Still … [click to continue…]

Social democracy and equal opportunity

by John Quiggin on January 29, 2012


My critique of Tyler Cowen’s post arguing the unimportance of social mobility has started off, or maybe merged into, of those old-fashioned blog firestorms we used to have back in the day, now also reticulated through Twitter – a few links here, here and here. But rather than criticise Cowen further, I thought I would try to work through the bigger issues involved from a social democratic perspective[1].  In particular, as discussed in comments here, should social democrats favor policies to enhance social mobility, or does mobility between generations make inequality even worse, for example by justifying what appears as meritocracy?


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