Announcements, Academic Philosophy

CFP: Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism

Readers of this blog might be interested in a new series, published by Palgrave and edited by David Hardwick and Leslie Marsh: Palgrave Studies in Classical Liberalism.

Here’s a description from the publisher’s website:

This series offers a forum to writers concerned that the central presuppositions of the liberal tradition have been severely corroded, neglected, or misappropriated by overly rationalistic and constructivist approaches.

The hardest-won achievement of the liberal tradition has been the wrestling of epistemic independence from overwhelming concentrations of power, monopolies and capricious zealotries. The very precondition of knowledge is the exploitation of the epistemic virtues accorded by society’s situated and distributed manifold of spontaneous orders, the DNA of the modern civil condition.

With the confluence of interest in situated and distributed liberalism emanating from the Scottish tradition, Austrian and behavioral economics, non-Cartesian philosophy and moral psychology, the editors are soliciting proposals that speak to this multidisciplinary constituency. Sole or joint authorship submissions are welcome as are edited collections (conference proceedings excluded), broadly theoretical or topical in nature.

If you’re interested in submitting a proposal to the series, please email Leslie Marsh.

Published on:
Author: Matt Zwolinski
  • Gooz Chos

    Based on the description, it sounds like they want writers who value flowery and pompous language over clarity. I half suspect this is a parody of a bad sociology paper.

    Tip: Make sure you use the word “epistemic” a bunch of times in your proposal to increase your chance of being accepted.

    • Peter from Oz

      Some real howlers in this piece aren’t there?
      ‘epistemic independence’ is a wonderfully meaningless phrase.
      And what, pray, is a zealotry? Is it a fancy way of saying ‘chauvinism’? And can such zealotry be anything but capricious?
      But my favourite has to be: ”society’s situated and distributed manifold of spontaneous orders…”. The italics are otiose, and ‘manifold’ as a noun is a car part not a plethora which seems to be it’s meaning here. The identity of those making the ‘spontaneous orders’ and what those orders comprise is unknown. Are they saying that new architectural styles will spontaneously come into being to rival the Ionian, Doric or Corinthian? Or is about a new range of honours akin to the Order of the Garter?

    • Sean II

      “…overwhelming concentrations of power, monopolies and capricious zealotries.”

      Happy 70th birthday, Politics and the English Language.

  • Rob Gressis

    Sounds like they wouldn’t want anyone exploring, say, Kant and classical liberalism.

    • Sean II

      No, just cant about classical liberalism.

      • Rob Gressis

        The way this blurb is written calls to mind critical theory (which I’ve now started to read a bit about). Is critical theory the dominant view among humanistic professors now? If it’s not, is it on its way? If it is, what about social and natural scientists — is it the dominant view among them? Its approach to the world certainly seems to be spreading to lots of fairly mainstream outlets, like Salon and Slate, but maybe I’m seeing things.

        • Sean II

          I really don’t know how far it goes. I’d guess its the usual spread you get with any such fad, where X are true believers, while Y are go-along-to-get-along folks who parrot the language as needed to be left alone with their mundane-but-not-ridiculous work. Hopefully Y is a lot > than X, although I go back and forth about which group is morally worse. (Current pendulum status: people like Peter Salovey seem much worse than people like Judith Butler.)

          Two things I do know:

          1) The language sure is easy to recognize. Phrases like “performing power”, “enacting violence”, “____ bodies”, along with the usual suspects like “privilege” as a verb, “structural” or “institutional” used as a synonym for magical, etc. give a convenient early warning when you’re approaching the territory.

          But of course outsiders sometimes steal the terms. That happened here a few months back. Steve Horowitz and Sarah Skwire co-wrote a post, and when someone disagreed with it by saying “Steve is wrong about blah, blah, blah,” Horowitz hyperventilated: “the way you’ve erased Sarah tells me all I need to know about you!”

          An obnoxious use of language, perfectly capturing the source of much latter day SJ jargon: a desire to melodramatize everything.

          See how it works? If the commenter had forgotten to mention Steve, then he would have just been a guy who forget to mention Steve. But instead he forgot to mention Sarah, a woman, so now suddenly he’s guilty of “erasing” women’s voice in politics or something.

          2) Very little of this is new. From personal experience I can confirm the basic grammar and vocab were in place at least 20 years ago.

          Some of the dead give aways from back then are still in use today, like “problematic”, “narrative”, “rape culture”, etc. Others have faded away, like “empower”, “dialectic”, and “text” with various pretentious prefixes and suffixes attached. But usually you can

          People sometimes I ask me why I didn’t become a professor, make a career in the topics which most interest me.

          Part of the answer is, I just couldn’t speak that language. Like…even if I was totally committed to doing so for the sake of advancement, I couldn’t pull it off.

          (The other part is: back when I was at the age one makes that decision, you had to do degrading things like pretend Jurgen Habermas and Martha Nussbaum were interesting people whose names would echo through the ages. I tried to see it that way. I really did. But all I could make out was a bullshit artist and a token with impeccable timing.)

          • Rob Gressis

            Do you think Marxism was more or less of a threat than critical theory?

          • Sean II

            Probably about the same. Perhaps exactly the same, since one day we may discover these are just varied expressions of the same persistent trait. Which at the moment has no name less clunky than “hatred of secular, rational, liberal, scientific, industrial-market civilization”.

            Ayn Rand said a lot of stupid shit, but I always thought she was onto something with “hatred of the good for being the good”. In the sense that there are people who seem to instinctively hate the stuff we regard as progress. And not because they doubt it is, or have any better ideas. They seem to hate this civilization, while very much recognizing its superiority.

            More and more I’m thinking the source must be displaced religiosity, since it’s good practice to explain current traits in terms of traits previously known to exist. Who hasn’t once mistaken a hipster for a Mennonite, or vice versa?

            But I admit at first glance the score seems lopsided. Especially if you look through the pinhole of now.

            Marxism starved and murdered millions, then kept the world under threat of total destruction for 50 years.

            Hard to beat for that, but the new guys are working a project with potential. Most things favored by SJW are dysgenic in one way or another, some dramatically so.

            In rough order of effect size: taboo against eugenics, free migration, a higher education based rent-seeking caste system, feminism, welfare statism, abortion, transgenderism.

            The first one stops us noticing the problem or doing anything about it. The second lowers human and social capital faster than anything known. The third traps our smart people in a wasteful 4-16 year signaling race, during which they tend not to have kids (nor stop being kids themselves). The fourth makes marriage and motherhood seem shameful to women, just long enough that it’s frequently too late. The fifth makes sure poor women have incentives pushing in the opposite direction. The sixth is by its very nature something which will be used more by women with high IQ and future orientation, less by women low in both. The last one is pretty trivial, since few people will ever really exercise the freedom to cut their genitals off, but let’s give points for consistency and commitment.

          • Rob Gressis

            Hi Sean II,

            So, line by line:

            “They seem to hate this civilization, while very much recognizing its superiority in every particular measure.”

            I’m not sure I agree with that: I don’t hate my civilization, but there are problems that civilization brings with it — depression, certain environmental problems, lack of meaningfulness — that arguably don’t happen in less socially developed civilizations. These problems don’t outweigh the good things, but they’re very salient, and unless you know something about history, or have traveled to non-developed countries, or just have a sense that the good things in life are fragile and easily lost, it’s easy to focus on them and begin to think of your civilization as abominable.

            Why do you think free migration reduces human and social capital faster than anything known?

            I’m no expert, but I am a professor, and I see firsthand (to some degree, at least) how little of a difference I make. Given that you think education is for signaling, what do you think it signals? If you’re like Caplan, you might think it signals something like the ability to sit still and follow directions for four years. Do you think that we can make a better instrument than college that nonetheless gives the same information about someone’s personality traits? Does such an instrument already exist? If so, why do you think we don’t use it?

            How does feminism make marriage and motherhood shameful to women? I can perhaps see the point about motherhood — if you decide to have children, you’re throwing your potential away on something we already have too much of — but what is the feminist critique of marriage that you think has traction with the average woman? (And also: do you think feminism has really had a big effect, or is the bigger effect thinks like the cost of housing in urban areas, a la Sailer’s affordable family formation thesis?)

          • Sean II

            Forgive my changing the order, but likewise point for point

            SIGNALING – “Given that you think education is for signaling, what do you think it signals…Do you think that we can make a better instrument?”

            I think Caplan’s right that conscientiousness and conformity play a not-easily-replaced role, such that we might always be stuck with something like education as we know it, but I also think he way underestimates how much of it is just IQ signaling. As you probably know, the reason he gives is that even under current law employers could still devise a stealth IQ test, if only they wished. But mostly they don’t so…

            Here’s why he’s wrong. First, he doesn’t understand how severe a problem over-compliance is. There’s two kinds of lawyers. The cheap ones heard about Duke Power once, and they’ll advise you “IQ tests are illegal and must never be used in any personnel deselection”. The expensive ones will tell you “well it’s complicated, but IQ tests are not illegal strictly speaking…” You’re gonna say “What the fuck does ‘strictly speaking’ mean?” They’re gonna explain Bryan’s point about how a sufficiently job-related questionnaire might pass muster. You’re gonna say “What the fuck does ‘might’ mean? And how much will it cost me if ‘might’ turns out to be ‘not quite’?” They’re gonna cite some cases and numbers. You’re gonna say “Holy shit!” They’re gonna say “Yeah but this one Silicon Valley firm with an octillion dollars has been getting away with it for years”. You’re gonna say “Bully for them, but I want no part of it!” And of course things only go this far if the notion of IQ testing somehow managed to sneak past a social taboo which goes deeper than any law.

            Bottom line: Bryan far too easily blows off the fact that education is the only fully legal and socially sanctioned form of job discrimination in a society where discrimination is a dirty word. He’s not being realistic about how much would change, if that one massive advantage were taken away.

            So yeah, I think we could make a better instrument…if we had a culture woke to IQ and tolerant of its testing. The other traits – conscientiousness and conformity, shoveling shit and taking shit – we could test by means of apprenticeships (like those which once ruled the job market, back in the days before IQ become so important).

            MIGRATION – “Why do you think free migration reduces human and social capital faster than anything known?”

            The math here is pretty simple. We can look at the dysgenic effects of Western civ generally (i.e. without the migration factor) by observing places like Iceland or New Zealand. The pattern there suggests a loss of something like 1 IQ point per generation. Not good, but not full Idiocracy either.

            Meanwhile in France they seem to have lost 4 points in about 25 years. And the only plausible explanation is the obvious one.

            It’s worth a moment to think about just about dramatic migration can be. The quick and easy way is just to calculate smart vs dumb fractions, on the premise that most of the your high human capital productivity comes from people IQ 115 or higher, while most of your social problems come from people 85 or below.

            Say you’ve got a country of 9.5 million, average IQ 100. So you’ve got a dumb fraction of 1.5 million…being cared for by a middling 6.5 million, and a smart fraction of 1.5.

            Now you let in .5 million from the country next door, which has an average IQ of 85. Only 80,000 of these newcomers will be at or above your base average. The other 420,000 will be below it.

            So now your population is 10 million, with a dumb fraction of 1.9, being cared for by a middling 6.6 million, and a smart fraction unchanged at 1.5.

            The social burden being carried by your smart fraction has shot up 25%. And of course so has the size that group which can plausibly claim your system is failing them. The first is bad for human capital, the second is bad for social capital, and eventually both will end up inspiring bad policies.

            (Note: to get the same dramatic result with just differential fertility, your dumb fraction would have to assort with each other perfectly, and then promptly produce 2.5 children per woman, while your smart fraction assorted not at all, and produced 0 children per woman. Obviously migration is a much faster and more powerful force.)

            FEMINISM – “How does feminism make marriage and motherhood shameful to women? I can perhaps see the point about motherhood…”

            Well, first let me clarify: feminism has almost no influence outside of the upper middle class. Blue collar women mostly seem to hate feminism, to the limited extent they notice it at all. So if we’re talking about the effects of feminism on women, we’re only ever talking about the effect on smart women.

            And from there it’s pretty simple. The main place where feminism lives is on college campuses, and the main things it does there are 1) promote and aggravate tension between the sexes, and 2) make women ashamed of their own desires vis-a-vis men.

            It’s part of the vulnerability of being young, that authority figures and peer groups can easily sell you on the idea some commonplace emotion is your own secret shame. And girls are even more prone to this than boys!

            Feminism works that pathway, so that a young lady who find herself drawn to domineering, assertive men (big evolutionary shocker there!) is taught to recoil from and pathologize her feelings. It takes whatever heightened instinct women have for social attachment, diverts it away from men, and harnesses it to the self-imposed crone collective.

            None of which would matter very much, expect it turns out if you do this to a bunch of women ages 18-28 (the really smart ones stay on campus for grad school), you can retard their relationship development with men until about 85-90% of their ovum are gone.

            I sense you may be skeptical about the size of this effect, but remember: it doesn’t have to be very big, as long as it’s well targeted. Only ~10% of the population has an IQ over 120, and however many girls feminism cons into cloistering away their youth, just about all of them come from within that group.

            ANTI-WESTERNISM – “I don’t hate my civilization, but there are problems that civilization brings with it — depression, certain environmental problems, lack of meaningfulness…”

            No dispute there. Indeed let me add: failure to thrive. I’ve been waiting awhile for someone to point out the big problem in my worldview, i.e. –

            Libertarian Sean: “Western civ is the greatest, we must fight to save it.”

            Hereditarian Sean: “Evolution is the key to history, and lately Western civ is looking like a dead-end in terms of Darwinian fitness.”

            But that’s a tangent off my original point. Recall we started of talking about Marxism vs Crit Theory.

            So the question to be answered is not “What good reasons might there be for skepticism about Western civ in 2017?” I stipulate there are some.

            Rather the questions is “Why have some people opposed Western civ at every turn, even at its best moment, even before there were good reasons for doing so, even when opposition meant supporting systems which are clearly worse, and not for good reasons either, but for a endless series of dubious pre-texts picked up and discarded across 200 years?”

            Think of the people who, from one moment to the next, had to switch from from saying “capitalism produces only scarcity” to “capitalism produces soul-draining affluence”. What was going on with them? Think of the way Gorbachev transitioned from liking communism to liking the environmentalism, with the only common point being what he did not like. Or how Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez went from killing for communism to killing for Islam, in the apparent belief that this posed no serious problem for the continuity of his life’s work. And so on.

            We’re not talking about a large percentage of the population here, but clearly there are people who hate the West first, find the excuse later.

          • Peter from Oz

            You are right that the biggest problem we face is the failure of nerve and destruction of what John Fowles called the Aristos. We are seeing a similar thing happen that happened in Ancient Rome: the upper classes are committing generational suicide by failing to breed.
            Too many people in the elites suffer from what I call Virginia Woolf syndrome. Between 1910 and 1930, Woolf and the Bloomsberries found that they could shatter the bourgeois respectaability and conventions, having babies out of wedlock, bed-hopping, etc, etc. Of course they had plenty of money and domestic servants to pick up the pieces and make their bohemian lifestyles easy. But that wasn’t enough for Woolf and her cronies; they wanted everyone to have the opportunity to break taboos. They forgot the eminent sense of W.S Gilbert ” if everybody’s somebody, then no-one’s anybody.”
            Yes, you are right that the working class and the lower middle class are not really that interested in feminism or anything else championed by second-rate people such as Woolf and her ilk. But once they had welfare they lapped up the permissive society. The problem is that the welfare state can’t pay for it all. The social problems haven’t been caused by our civilisation, but by those antinomians who you rightly see as having some in built animus against the rules and conventions that made our civilisation great.
            The SJWs, probably coming from a strong American puritan tradition are now trying to institute a new morality which in some respects resembles the old, but with a different justification. New-Victorianism is born. This is most evident in feminist thought where it has been noticed that the sexual revolution has in fact led to a loss of power for women. In the old morality, the default female answer to the question of sex was ”no”. But after the sexual revolution that answer became ”yes”. Refusing sex on moral grounds was seen as wrong and unliberated. With widely available contraception and fewer social taboos, women really didn’t have to say no from a moral viewpoint.
            But now we see many in the feminist movement pushing the idea that ”yes means yes”. They are keen on expanding the meaning of rape to include just about any sex that the women later regrets. They want to change that default answer back to ”no.” This isn’t because they think that sex before marriage is immoral, but because that women don’t gain much by engaging in sexual licence.

          • Sean II

            Another factor in the Great Unfertilizing is opportunity cost. There’s just so much to do now, if you’re lucky enough to be a young first worlder. The lifestyle we’ve set up here takes away one the classic reasons for having kids – boredom.

            For a simple illustration, look at the voluminous output of prestige TV. 25 years ago the opportunity cost of having kids (and thus surrendering your tuner to Barney) was not getting to watch Murder She Wrote. Big deal. Today there must a dozen cinema-quality mystery series set in the British commonwealth alone. I mean, there hasn’t been one with a gumshoe working cases in Port Stanley yet, but anyone on Netflix knows it’s just a matter of time.

            Likewise for restaurant culture. Having kids means giving up the right to eat out at will, which in the past didn’t mean very much (most towns had a few good Italian joints, maybe one over-priced “French” place), but now even if you live in Birmingham – mine or yours – you can sample the latest in foodie fusion innovation.

            And so on. It’s probably also worth mentioning that people get ugly a lot slower and later than they once did. I recall a stat about postwar Britain that had only 2/3 the population keeping their original teeth much past 35. All very different today, as anyone with a working thyroid and a will to do so can keep themselves looking reasonably fit into their mid-40s. Which means the decision “should I give up my body for parenthood?” was not the same question in 1960 as it is now. Back then most young people knew they were gonna turn into chewed bubble gum in a few years anyway, so why not? What ever we might call this factor, “Adjusted Beauty Years at Risk”, the number is just a lot higher now.

          • Peter from Oz

            Yes, it’s hilarious how people today are always whining about inequality and how hard done by it has made them, whilst they are are immersed in the latest gadgetry, entertainment, restaurant culture, with good health and security.
            But the antinomians can never be satisfied. They are not alone. However. Everyday I meet apoloitical people who seem to revel in being offended by life, who need to establish a villain in every situatiion and find it difficult to enjoy themselves, or, more importantly, to allow others to enjoy themselves.
            If I may digress, your comment reminded me of a theory expounded by a columnist in the Spectator, Rory Sutherland, aka, the Wiki Man. He noted that his grandfather, a country doctor in the 1950s was respected because he owned things- a car, an inside loo, radio, dishwasher, etc- that most people couldn’t hope to own. Now everyone can aford just about anything that was just a generation or two back a luxury. This means that it is getting harder for the middle classes to differentitate themselves from the herd, other than by becoming moaners and virtue signallers.

          • there are problems that civilization brings with it — depression, certain environmental problems, lack of meaningfulness — that arguably don’t happen in less socially developed civilizations.

            I’m sorry, but this is nonsense.

            As someone with a pretty strong connection to the developing world, I can tell you that depression is rampant there (but of course why wouldn’t it be?), but those who suffer from it are so ridiculed and stigmatized that they melt away into yaba addiction or else just commit suicide. And since neither of those things are talked about, either, Westerners never hear about it and thus think there is no depression problem.

            Regarding “certain” environmental problems: Anyone who has spent any time outside of the developed world knows about the terrible environmental problems — catastrophes — that exist there.

            As for “lack of meaningfulness” (I think you mean “meaninglessness,” or “existential crisis” or perhaps just “ennui”) it’s difficult for me to perceive this sort of statement as anything other than… uh, I’ll say “Western bias.” You must realize what a silly caricature it is to view people in developing countries as merry tribesmen who enjoy the deep existential value imparted to them by their traditional way of life, oogah boogah boogah. We’re talking about literate, tech-savvy, modern people who are exactly like you, but for the fact that they have no money and no good economic prospects.

          • D Hampton

            Regarding “certain” environmental problems: Anyone who has spent any time outside of the developed world knows about the terrible environmental problems — catastrophes — that exist there.

            I agree.

            In the West, the air and water are cleaner now, the forests healthier, etc., than before the start of industrialization.

            Of course, industrialization was a net negative for the environment at first, because it ramped up the quantity of pollution without immediate countermeasures. But over time it also brought with it modern sanitation and waste disposal and forestry and technology for reducing pollution etc., and managed to break even and beyond.

            As an aside, the historic indigenous peoples mythologized by the modern green movement as having lived “in harmony with nature”, actually did anything but. They polluted the heck out of their environment, they overfished and overhunted and overharvested – and whenever they’d taken everything they could from their current patch of nature, they simply migrated to a fresh one. They could do this because there was so few of them, and most of the planet was uninhabited by humans.

            The only way they were “more in tune with nature”, was that their religions were themed around it and inspired awe in it.

            If that is what people feel is ‘missing’ nowadays, then Sean II appears to be right on the money with his hypothesis that “the source must be displaced religiosity”.

          • Rob Gressis

            First, thanks for the apology.

            Second, re: depression, the environment, and meaningfulness, I think you’re attacking a straw man. I said that civilization brings certain problems with it. The best contrast is not to the developing world, but to the non-civilized world, which may not exist at all anymore.

            Compared to that past, there are problems unique to civilization. From what I’ve read and heard, depression was not a problem that was widespread until the 19tg century; I’ve always wondered how this could be known–maybe people just didn’t have the clinical category, or maybe it was just under-diagnosed–but it’s the standard story. Same too with meaninglessness: supposedly, it didn’t pick up as a philosophical problem until Tolstoy. Finally, I wrote “certain environmental problems” for a reason: I know that, e.g., American Indians would often waste herds of buffalo in times of surplus. But surely, anthropogenic global warming is a problem unique to civilization?

          • Okay, fair enough. It could be that the industrialization themes of Rand’s work combined with Sean’s invoking Rand in the first place set a developed/developing nations context that wasn’t really the same context from which you were speaking. I wouldn’t say that’s a straw man, I’d just say we were speaking from different angles about the same broad themes.

            Regarding depression and ennui, yes, I think those problems have always been with us, but they had different names back then. Depressed people used to be called “melancholy” for example. The stories of men returning from war as silent and brooding are centuries old, and what could this be other than depression and PTSD?

            But at least now that I see where you’re coming from I have less to disagree with. Had I better understood this initially, I likely would not have commented.

          • Peter from Oz

            “Part of the answer is, I just couldn’t speak that language. Like…even
            if I was totally committed to doing so for the sake of advancement, I
            just couldn’t pull it off.”
            That’s exactly the reason a friend gave for not writing Mills and Boon books, even when the opportunity presented itself to her. She realised that even though they liked her first effort, she had sweated too much in producing it and couldn’t repeat the exercise.