February 18, 2010


Cavell, Stanley, Cora Diamond, John McDowell, Ian Hacking & Cary Wolfe, Philosophy and Animal Life (New York: Columbia U. Press, 2008) (Before reading this collection of essays, one probably should have read J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace and his Lives of Animals. After that, I would recommend beginning at the end of this collection by reading the concluding essay by Ian Hacking "Deflection." As he notes, "None of the three essays [by Cavell, Diamond, and McDowell] collected here is about animals." Id. at 140. The essays are about the nature of philosophical discourse, philosophical skepticism, and the role of ethics in Coetzee's fiction.).

Dobbin, Frank, Inventing Equal Opportunity (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("The agents of change were civil rights activists and then politicians, but the people who invented equal opportunity--decided what it would mean on the ground--were personnel managers. After the Civil Rights Act [of 1964] was passed, social movement activists played bit roles. Members of Congress, judges, federal officials, and presidents had parts in the drama, but it was personnel experts who concocted equal opportunity programs, and later diversity management programs, in the context of changing ideas about discrimination. Public officials approved some new programs and rejected others, but it was personnel experts who put the programs together. Some of the changes were visible and dramatic, as when firms struck rules reserving good jobs for white men or wrote rules against trading jobs for sex. But many of the changes were subtle, as when firms began advertising every open job or set up written performance evaluation systems, and their origins in civil rights law were soon forgotten." Id. at 1. Though this is not a great read, it is definitely a worthwhile read for two reasons. First, it provides a nice short history of the processes which brought about where we are today with respect to equal opportunity. Needless to say, equal opportunity remains a work-in-progress. Second, and I think more interesting, the book is a reminder that lawyers--notwithstanding what they are told when in law school--are often not at the center of social change. Though they may not be mere bit players, lawyers (and the law) are often playing catch up to changes that others (here personnel managers) have already brought about. This point gets missed because, in part, of the continuing false idea that law is primarily what judges do.).

Grandin, Greg, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009) ("Fordlandia is indeed a parable of arrogance. The arrogance, though, is not that Henry Ford thought he could tame the Amazon but that he believed that the forces of capitalism, once realized, could still be contained." Id. at 365.).

James, Rawn, Jr., Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010).

Hardt, Michael & Antonio Negri, Commonwealth (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2009) ("With the title of this book, Commonwealth, we mean to indicate a return to some of the themes of classical treatises of government, exploring the institutional structure and political constitution of society. We also want to emphasize, once we recognize the relation between the two terms that compose the concept, the need to institute and manage a world of common wealth, focusing on and expanding our capacities for collective production and self-government. The first half of the book is a philosophical and historical exploration that focuses successively on the republic, modernity, and capital as three frameworks that obstruct and corrupt the development of the common. On each of these terrains, however, we also discover alternatives that emerge in the multitude of the poor and the circuits of altermodernity. The second half of the book is a political and economic analysis of the contemporary terrain of the common. We explore the global governance structures of Empire and the apparatuses of capitalist command to gauge the current state and potential of the multitude. Our analysis ends with a reflection on the contemporary possibilities for revolution and the institutional process it would take up from a different and more philosophical perspective a central issue raised in the body of the text. . . . These together with the Intermezzo can also be read consecutively as one continuous investigation." Id. at xiii. Commonwealth is the concluding volume of Hardt and Negri's trilogy with includes Empire (2000) and Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004).).

Kleiman, Mark A. R., When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (Good public policy read. “Developing a consequence-focused approach to crime control would require that we blunt the emotional edge that debates about crime often have and ask the simple question: what are the stakes in crime control? If for a moment we thought about ‘crime’ as something bad that happens to people, like auto accidents or air pollution or disease, rather than as something horrible that people do to each other—if we thought about it, that is, as an ordinary domestic-policy problem—then we could start to ask how to limit the damage crime does at as little cost as possible in money spent and suffering inflicted.”. Id. at 2.).

Ripstein, Arthur, Force and Freedom: Kant’s Legal and Political Philosophy (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: Harvard U. Press, 2009) ("My aim is this book is to develop and defend Kant's own statement of his political philosophy, particularly as he articulates it in the Doctrine of Right, the first part of his Metaphysics of Morals. I intend it as a work of political philosophy, which engages with Kant's ideas, in part through a consideration of them in light of trends in political philosophy in the two centuries since he wrote. Most of those trends have been hostile to Kant's central ideas: the claim that it is possible to construct a system of equal freedom has been the target of many attacks, as has his focus on coercion as the distinctive feature of legal systems; his further identification of a system of equal freedom with a system of reciprocal limits on coercion forms as sort of double-sided target. His functional distinction between private and public law is also widely rejected as indefensible. More generally, even Kant's admirers often doubt the possibility of articulating requirements of justice without recourse to views about human inclinations and vulnerabilities. It is now thought that these ideas cannot be even given a coherent statement. . . . My development of Kant's view will show that his ideas can be coherently stated, and that they are both conceptually powerful and normatively appealing. Kant is most resolute in is development of these ideas in the Doctrine of Right. . . . Id. at ix-x. "Kant invokes the Latin maxim Quilibet praesumitur malus, donec securitatem dederit oppositi ("Everyone is resumed bad until he has provided security to the contrary"), not because of any views about the 'radical evil' of human beings, such as those he defends in his Religion, but because the alternative is a merely material principle based on the particular motives of those you interact with. All they can force you to do is enter with them into a rightful condition, and that authorization obtain 'no matter how good and right-loving human beings might be.'" Id. at 163-164.).

Roth, Randolph, American Homicide (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2009) ("It will become evident that homicide rates among adults are not determined by proximate causes such as poverty, drugs, unemployment, alcohol, race, or ethnicity, but by the factors that seem on the face of it to be impossibly remote, like the feelings that people have toward their government, the degree to which they identify with members of their own communities, and the opportunities they have to earn respect without resorting to violence. History holds the key to understanding why the United States is so homicidal today." Id. at 3. As they say, it is the journey, not the arrival that matters. Roth takes us on a wonderfully horrid journey, where we arrive at this unsettling conclusion: “It would have been nice to be able to end this book on a hopeful note: But we humans are, as primatologist Frans de Waal observes, a ‘bipolar’ species. Our capacity for cooperation, teamwork, friendship, empathy, kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, compromise, and reconciliation is unparalleled, because our happiness and survival depend on the strength of our social groups and on our commitment to them. But we also have an unparalleled capacity for competition, factionalism, hostility, sadism, cruelty, intransigence, and domination. If we feel that our social groups are threatened, if a power struggle is under way within them, or if we have no social group to protect us, we can be violent—perhaps more ruthlessly and willfully violent than any other species. Which side of our nature prevails depends on historical circumstances. . . . [T]here is no certainty that any nation, however low its murder rate, will remain nonhomicidal forever.” Id. at 474.).

Sen, Amartya, The Idea of Justice (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2009) ("In contrast with most modern theories of justice, which concentrate on the 'just society', this book attempts to investigate realization-based comparisons that focus on the advancement or retreat of justice. It is, in this respect, not in line with the strong and more institutionalism celebrated tradition of transcendental institutionalism that emerged in the Enlightenment period (led by Hobbes and developed by Locke, Rousseau and Kant), but more in the 'other' tradition that also took shape in about the same period or just after (pursued in various ways by Smith, Condorcet, Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Marx, Mill, among others). The fact that I share a point of departure with these diverse thinkers does not, of course, indicate that I agree with their substantive theories . . ., and going beyond the shared point of departure, we have to look also at some points of eventual arrival. The rest of the book will explore that journey." "Importance must be attached to the starting point, in particular the selection of some questions to be answered (for example, 'how would justice be advanced?'), rather than others (for example, 'what would be perfectly just institutions?'). This departure has the dual effect, first, of taking the comparative rather than the transcendental route, and second, of focusing on actual realizations in the societies involved, and second, of focusing on actual realizations in the societies involved rather than on only on institutions and rules. Given the present balance of emphases in contemporary political philosophy, this will require a radical change in the formulation of the theory of justice." Id. at 8-9. An interesting "theoretical" read.).