Contra politanism, Against solidarity, and other things

Two of the major pieces of my new “Justice in Babylon” research project are now available. (Both links gated, I’m afraid.)

“Contra politanism”, European Journal of Political Theory.

“Against solidarity: Democracy without fraternity,” in Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka, eds., The Strains of Commitment: The Political Sources of Solidarity in Diverse Societies, Oxford, 2017

(See also There is no such thing as ideal theory, Social Philosophy and Policy, which is also a part of this project.)

Some other promotional links while I’m at it.

The $30 paperback edition of Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom is coming out on July 13. To refresh your memory, the BHL symposium on the book can be found here, the Online Library of Liberty symposium here, and reviews are gathered here.

I’ve had a few opportunities to discuss the current crisis recently.

“Is Liberalism In Danger?”, a “Free Thoughts” podcast interview in Cato’s Libertarianism.org “Free Thoughts” series with Aaron Powell and Trevor Burrus.

“Brexit, Trump, and the Rise of Radical Right Populism in the West: Is Democracy Threatened?” Plenary roundtable at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, chaired by Dietlind Stolle, with Sheri Berman, Mark Blyth, Christopher Parker, and me.

The Intellectual Climate For Liberty, a roundtable at the 40th anniversary of the Cato Institute, chaired by David Boaz, with Emily Ekins, Charles Murray, and me.

  • Sean II

    That defense of intellectual vitality on campus was not very convincing.

    You might have known this when you found yourself naming “condo associations” as a thing universities are still better than when it comes to viewpoint diversity.

    That was no mere bout of word-finding difficulty, either. The only way to defend college as a home of open debate is by omitting the most relevant comparison set: the podiverse and the blogosphere.

    Those things exist because academia is failing in its mission. They exist because scholars in legacy institutions stopped having interesting things to say about some of our world’s most important questions. On a range of big issues, the tower offers little more than silence or lies:

    Sex, race, class, religion, human evolution, crime, war, history, the clash of civilizations, education, parenting, the arts – all corrupted one way or another by official orthodoxies. In the worst corners one can study with distinction for years and end up subtracting from the sum of human knowledge. A sociology or gender studies grad today is less able to explain, predict, and understand behavior in her own chosen topic than an illiterate milkmaid from 1600.

    This is why people started disrupting their way around the university in the first place. This is why we now have things like Waking up with Sam Harris and Slate Star Codex, either one of which is a better place to take one’s curiosity than the finest campus in the world.

    No, I’m afraid the real story here is: when it comes to intellectual openness, and despite a massive advantage is subsidized resources, academia is getting its ass kicked by a gang of amateurs and part-timers whose only advantage is not being afraid of real debate.

    • King Goat

      I think blogs and pods exist and are popular more because people are drawn to hyperbole (like saying ‘illiterate 17th Century milkmaids,’ who believed in literal ‘we’re going to burn you because you caused my miscarriage with your evil eye’, not ‘we’re going to retract your article because of sexism,’ withcraft, among other things) and easy, less than careful discussion and answers than to whatever failures of U.S. academic institutions exist (these are real but exaggerated, partly for partisan reasons, partly by a focus on the ever smaller humanities sections while ignoring the STEM sections which continue to be the envy of the world, churning out important work). Far from Sam Harris and Scott Alexander, here are the most popular blogs:


      Yale and Stanford (where Harris went btw) aren’t perfect, but I’d still take them (overall) over TMZ and Perez Hilton’s blog as places to hear ‘interesting things to say about some of our world’s most important questions.’ The running down of academe in particular seems more like sour grapes from those who didn’t excel there (or whose ideologies don’t) or youthful idealism crushed by learning that the real world is full of institutions with some number of ‘sell outs’ and non-‘iconoclasts’ > 0.

      • Peter from Oz

        And people are drawn to hyperbole because they have been ”educated” in a system that doesn’t value critical thinking outside the STEM subjects.
        You are right that STEM continues to thrive in colleges/universities. But Sean is right that the humanities section of those institutions have become infested with the sophists of the new clerisy.

        • King Goat

          “But Sean is right that the humanities section of those institutions have become infested with the sophists”

          He made no such careful distinction, you’re doing that for him.

          • Peter from Oz

            See Sean’s reply. He was making the distinction.

          • Sean II

            Thank you indeed.

          • King Goat

            I see. So when he said “academia is failing in its mission” what he *really meant* was “an increasingly and relatively small and less powerful subsection of academia.” And when he juxtaposed “the most relevant comparison set: the podiverse and the blogosphere” what he meant was “a relatively small and unpopular set of blogs that I like.” And when he said “A sociology or gender studies grad today is less able to explain, predict, and understand behavior in her own chosen topic than an illiterate milkmaid from 1600,”, it was jk! because whatever nonsense the former believe the latter believed in literal witches that should be burned….

            This is the very hyperbole and less than careful talk which makes his vaunted “podiverse and the blogosphere,” which is my point.

          • jdkolassa

            Goat clearly won this round, at least on pointing out that Sean really did bring up those points and failed to defend them.

            Though I do partially agree with Sean that the “liberal arts” and “humanities” portions of academia are increasingly full of bullshit and no actual work. I also don’t see how that subsection of academia is less powerful; if anything, it appears to be growing more powerful (at least on college campuses, not sure anywhere else.)

        • Sean II

          I wasn’t talking about STEM, of course.

          I was talking about the part of academia Jacob was defending in his Cato panel.

          Just for clarity, here’s some other shit I didn’t say:

          Didn’t say all podcasts and blogs are good.
          Didn’t say there are no problems with the new intellectual media.
          Didn’t say the most popular podcasts are the best ones.
          Didn’t say medieval milkmaids were free of false beliefs.

          What’s that, five? Five of the things he “responded” to are things I didn’t say, imply, or intend.

          And he can’t figure out why no one likes him.

          • Peter from Oz

            But you din’t say those things with such aplomb that King Goat had to engage in that old negotiating trick of the pre-emptive rebuttal.

          • Sean II

            Yes, a devious bit of gaslighting on my part.

  • jdkolassa

    As someone not in the know and without access to these publications, can someone define “politanism” for me? Is it shorthand for cosmopolitanism?