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Alternative social media open thread

by Ingrid Robeyns on May 1, 2022

Following Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, some progressive/left-leaning people have left, or are considering to leave. I haven’t left. So far Twitter has been very useful for me for (1) political activism, especially regarding Higher Education policies in my own country; (2) as a source of information – it’s partly a supplement to newspapers and other traditional media; (3) exchanging information with others, worldwide; (4) some debate and exchange of arguments, which sadly is probably part of the reason the blogosphere has been in decline over the last decade. Hence, there are still reasons not to leave, but obviously I am waiting to see how Twitter under Musk-rule will change.

Nevertheless, it’s high time to start looking seriously into the alternatives; this might make it easier/less costly to leave if we ever judge we have to. I’m at square zero concerning Twitter-alternatives, and surely I’m not the only one. Hence my question: what are your experiences on other social media platforms, and do you have any advice to offer to those considering to move to another place?

EV charging challenges

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 30, 2022

About a year ago, the old second-hand car that my husband and I bought in 2007 was nearing its end. It had served us very well, but our car mechanic had been warning us for some years that it wouldn’t last for much longer. So we were contemplating what to do; we thought seriously about car-sharing combined with public transport, but for various reasons (the pandemic being one, having a child with special needs another), we decided to buy another car. We gathered information and decided to buy an electric car. The new car has been wonderful – I’ve never really liked driving a car but driving an EV is much more pleasant. And in Utrecht, the city where we live, the local authorities put new electric chargers in the streets at the same pace that new EVs are registered. So, at home we’ve never encountered any noteworthy difficulties with charging.

Until last week, I think we only had positive things to say about our experiences with driving an EV. But then we decided to go to France for a week. [click to continue…]

On Tuesday, I discovered that the Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy has 23 chapters (the introduction included), of which 20 have been written by political philosophers based in the USA, 2 by political philosophers then based in the UK who have in the meantime moved to the USA, and 1 chapter by a duo of political philosophers based in Oxford. And while this is a pretty striking case, in many if not most handbooks authors from the USA and the UK are numerically dominating.

I’m not going to argue why this is undesirable. If you think this is not a problem, then you don’t have to read on. I have very little time right now, so I’m going to focus on solutions, rather than trying to convince those who haven’t been part of this conversation before on why this is a problem.

But for those of us who think this is a problem, the question then is what to do. [click to continue…]

War – what can we do?

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 21, 2022

I recall that a few years ago, when Israel bombed the Gaza strip in the middle of the (Northern Hemisphere-) Summer, I felt angry and powerless. People, locked up in what was essentially an open air prison, had nowhere to escape or hide. The war in Syria similarly has led to horrible suffering. There have been many other wars or armed conflicts, but most of them hardly receive sustained reporting. And now there is the Russian war in Ukraine.

I am sure many of you ask, in such circumstances: “What we can do?” And I’ve heard some say “There is nothing we can do”. But that is not true. I’ve come up with the following answer to that question for myself, and am interested in learning how you answer that question for yourself. [note: trolls don’t even need to try; in case of doubt, I’ll delete]. [click to continue…]

Russian University leaders support Putin’s war

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 7, 2022

My university’s online newspaper reported earlier today that the Rectors of Russian Universities (their presidents/chancellors) have posted a statement of support for Putin’s war. Below the fold you find the translation that Deep-L made for us from Russian to English. (I don’t read Russian but my other experiences with Deep-L are pretty good).

So, the Rectors support the war, and adop the rethorics of the need for the “denazification” of Ukraine. The give their support to president Putin, and say they “support our President, who has made perhaps the most difficult decision of his life, a hard-won but necessary one.” Sadly, they also see it as their “fundamental duty, … to teach our students to be patriotic and to strive to help their motherland.”

I only hope that the Rectors had to do this because they could not do otherwise – a scenario so bad that, say, they would be put in prison and tortured, or their students endangered and universities put on fire. If no threats and coercion as serious as that made them write such utter horror, they should ashamed of calling themselves ‘academics’. Not just because they support Putin whose regime is massively violating human rights, not just because they support a brutal and unnecessary war, but also because they have not understood what the University is for.

Translation below the fold.
[click to continue…]

Limitarianism: a philosophical dispute

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 21, 2022

In my last post, on the public debate on limitarianism, I responded to Matt’s philosophical doubts about limitarianism by saying that there was a debate on this matter forthcoming in The Journal of Political Philosophy, and that I would post it once published in Early View. So, here it is.

Robert Huseby wrote a critique on limitarianism arguing that we don’t need that idea, given that we have egalitarianism and sufficientarianism. I responded in two ways. First, by saying that there are other ways to judge a philosophical idea than looking at philosophical distinctiveness (in other words, Huseby and I have different views on what we want political philosophy to do, and I argue that this has implications for judging the value of limitarianism). Second, within the meta-theoretical choices made by Huseby, I object to his arguments.

Those interested in this intra-academic-philosophical debate, feel free to chime in. If anyone wants to read the paper by Robert Huseby (since unlike mine, it’s not open access), I’m happy to send it to anyone dropping me an email.

NB: Luigi Caranti and Nunzio Alì published in the Italian Journal Politica e Società a paper with the same title as Huseby’s paper, voicing overlapping criticisms. Email them or me if you want to get hold of a copy.

CBS on the superrich and limitarianism

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 23, 2022

We were having birthday cake with my youngest son who turned 14 today, when CBS aired an item on the Sunday Morning Show for which I was interviewed. The item was on the question whether one can be too rich. As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve written a couple of papers (this one being open access) and more journalistic pieces (e.g. this) that we should answer this affirmatively. So now CBS decided the idea deserved an item, and I think they did a great job in putting several different relevant concerns together in a mere 8 minutes. It can be watched online here. (I believe they could have found more vocal opponents of limitarianism, but I guess these voices get plenty of airtime elsewhere?)

Abigail Disney has a line of critique from which I’ve so far tried to steer away – namely that becoming superwealthy changes a person and their character for the worse. That resonates with some of the findings in the intriguing book by Lauren Greenfield, Generation Wealth. Although I wrote very briefly (in Dutch, alas) on the scientific studies that we have that suggests that extreme wealth concentration might lead to unhappier people than being moderately well-off, I am hesitant to write more about this, for two reasons. One is that arguing that they are less happy and that therefore they should not be so rich is quit paternalistic (and most approaches in political philosophy and social ethics reject paternalistic arguments). Still, it also affects their children, so the paternalism objection might be less strong than at first sight. Arguing that they become less virtuous (read: bad people) is something that I cannot say since I haven’t tried to find the relevant studies (if they exist); moreover, it also seems a non-starter if we want to engage in a political debate that should include those that are superrich, or that defend the superrich. The other reason why I haven’t gone down this road so far is that I think the other arguments for limitarianism are strong enough in themselves to carry the claim – why then introduce a more contentious one, except if the evidence were to be overwhelming?

I don’t think I’ve announced on this blog the other news I have on limitarianism, which is that I’m writing a trade book on the topic, which is under contract with Allen Lane/Penguin (for the UK), Astra (for North America), and translations secured in Dutch, German, Korean, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish (the magic that working with an agent does!). The manuscript is due after the (Northern Hemisphere) Summer, so I’ll be having more posts on this matter over the next months.

How to make conferences more climate-friendly

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 14, 2021

In the Board of the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA), where I’m currently serving as past-president, there has been an intensifying of the debate on the climate consequences of the annual conference. The HDCA is an international association of mainly academics, though it also attracts policy makers, activists, and others, who are interested in the human development approach (best-known from the UNDP’s Human Development Reports) and one of the main theoretical frameworks underpinning it, the capability approach.

The essence of the tension is clear: there is a significant cost in terms of greenhousegas-emissions of flying to another corner of the world to attend a three-day conference; greenhousegas-emissions need to be reduced as drastically and fast as possible in order to protect the climate, and a stable climate is an important precondition for human flourishing/human development. So what should an organisation such as the HDCA, or its individual members, do with this tension? Clearly, all academics still flying to conferences should ask themselves this question. Hence, let’s open up the discussion here, and see what insights (or good ideas) you might have. [click to continue…]

Let’s write a poem

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 6, 2021


Tall trees standing strong
in the distance a soft sun
wrapped in sweet silence

I turn my head up
searching to see a movement
a woodpecker taps

My walks never end
the trees keep calling me back
like a second home.

Fairness in five minutes

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 6, 2021

The European Union’s political institutions are organising a many-months-long Conference on the Future of Europe. Part of this are a series of meetings of randomly invited European citizens, who are deliberating on what they think is important for the future of Europe. They are divided in several panels, and the panel that focusses, among other things, on social justice, is meeting this weekend for an online deliberation. As part of this, I have been invited to explain, in five minutes, the concept of ‘fairness’, and to do so in a balanced and accessible way. Not easy if one is used to give hourly lectures to university students, but here’s what I came up with – trying to get the most out of 5 minutes while also being as accessible as possible to a very diverse audience.

When thinking about fairness, we need to ask 4 questions:

First: what is fairness in general terms?
Second, where does fairness apply?
Third, what are the relevant principles of fairness?
Fourth, what are possible policies that affect fairness?

I will explain these four questions one after the other. [click to continue…]

Coffee in Zürich

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 3, 2021

In 2007, I attended a workshop at which, during coffee after registration, I introduced myself to another scholar, who responded that he knew me. I couldn’t recall meeting him before, so when that showed on my facial expression, he added – “Well, I know your Crooked Timber persona”. That was a new expression for me! In my memory, Miriam was also there. A conversation ensued about Crooked Timber, and someone asked how the group of bloggers was put together and whether we all knew each other. I recall that those I was talking to were surprised to hear that, at that time (which for me was one year after I joined the blog), I only had met two Timberites – Harry and Chris. Harry I first met when I was a PhD-student at Cambridge and he was a keynote speaker at a political theory graduate conference, and Chris during a conference a few years later. But I had not met any of the other Timberites, and it would actually take quite a while before that would change. [click to continue…]

E-mailing for work during the weekend

by Ingrid Robeyns on October 23, 2021

I recall, a few years ago, seeing a FB-friend mention that they think emailing for work during weekends is really bad, and should not be done. At the time, that surprised me – as long as it’s clear that no-one expects anyone to read or respond to emails during the weekends, what’s the problem? But that initial response might be too quick, and I’m increasingly having second thoughts about this – though have not come to a clear position on this matter. So this made me wonder what the smart people here think about emailing for work during the weekend.

Here are a few reasons why emailing during the weekend might be bad. First, the sender might think they are not imposing any expectations on the receiver, but that might not be how the receiver experiences it. In that case, they are infringing on the private time of their co-worker. Second, if the sender has some sort of power over the receiver (being their boss, supervisor, etc.), then this might even be more so. Third, if people regularly email during the weekend, they are effectively signaling/telling that one can’t do this job without working at least part of the weekend, and it might be problematic to convey that message to those who aspire having such a job in the future (e.g. PhDs or postdocs receiving messages from professors during the weekend), since it might put off those who want to have healthy/balanced lives to stay in that sector. Finally, perhaps an argument could be made that it is a collective protection/self-binding strategy to not send emails during the weekend in an attempt to contain the working week to Monday to Friday. But I am not sure that argument works, give that there are so many other work related things we can do and do do during the weekend. [click to continue…]

Speeding up the academic refereeing process?

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 13, 2021

A while back, I was invited to referee a paper for an academic philosophy journal that requested the report back within 60 days. Really, 60 days? This provoked two thoughts in me. First, I’ll never submit to this journal. If you already give referees 60 days, how long will the entire process take? Second, why does it often take so long in (political) philosophy, ethics and related fields to get papers reviewed by journals?

What could be the reasons why it takes so long, how does this compare to other fields, and what (if anything) can be done about it? [click to continue…]

Easy birds – in this slow Summer

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 18, 2021

I promised those of you interested in Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help a booknote – but oh my goodness, I’ve been so slow this Summer. I guess I am not alone – if I can go by the stories of many (international) colleagues who are all very tired after trying to keep all balls in the air during the pandemic (in fact, with homelearning more balls than before). So I’ve tried to be foregiving to myself for missing various deadlines, including the self-imposed ones of the books I’d wanted to talk about here. I will get to chatting about that book before too long, but not this week.

In the meantime, I had to think of Crooked Timber while walking in the Belgian countryside two weeks ago – in particular to this photoblog by Chris in which he captured a swift in full action. I smiled when I saw these birds sitting, and though: I will make a picture of some swifts the easy way.

This Summer, with all the nasty events unfolding in the world (which leads to worries, sadness and anxieties, because it’s not easy to see how we can make a significant change), and with all the long-term fatigue from the pandemic, it seems so much better to try to take it the easy way. Ten more days, and then the third academic year in the pandemic will start.

Book Chat: Mariana Mazzucato – Mission Economy

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 24, 2021

As announced a few weeks ago, here is the first of a series of book chats – starting with Mariana Mazzucato’s Mission Economy. The idea is that this post opens up a space for anyone to talk about any aspect of the book they want to discuss (under the general rules that apply to discussion on this blog), as well as raise questions of clarification that we could put to eachother.

Mission Economy is about rethinking capitalism and rethinking government. Perhaps it is even more about rethinking government than about rethinking capitalism. Both need to be rethought in order to redirect the economy into what Mazzucato calls ‘a mission economy’, which will allow us to tackle problems facing humans and the planet that are currently not properly addressed: climate change, insufficient high-risk long-term investments in the real economy, real wage growth that is much lower than productivity growth, and so forth.

Mazzucato argues that right now we (that is, our governments) ask “how much money is there and what can we do with it?” but instead we should be asking “what needs doing and how can we restructure budgets and design innovation and collaborations between the government, industry, academia and other groups so as to meet those goals?” [click to continue…]