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Enzo Rossi
Political theorist at the University of Amsterdam.
Interests: Legitimacy, realism, liberalism.
Recent Activity
Thanks a lot for this, Eric. Let me pick up on just two things for now. 1) You're right that 'small is beautiful' prefiguration is dangerous insofar as it can act as a sort of flypaper and distract radical actors from systemic change. Now it's true that prefiguration can be used to shape the organisation that will then take over society (those are indeed its origins), so that post-revolution we will not fall into tyranny etc. But yes, it can also degenerate (?) into a sort of Stoic "tend to your garden" sort of thing that may help preserve the status quo. Something to ponder. 2) I'm not against grand or systematic theory per se. I'm against technocratic theory, i.e. theory that makes prescriptions at the minute level, rather than letting the political chips fall where they may, as it were. So I think we don't disagree that much here.
I worry about where administrators will find resources for diversity programmes at non-wealthy institutions. I'd hate to see philosophy defunded to make room for new tenure lines in postmodernist "studies" departments. It is imperative to increase the visibility of the rigorous work on diversity carried out in philosophy and other disciplines with primarily epistemic (rather than political) standards. There might a battle to be fought about diversifying the traditional disciplines as opposed to transferring resources from the traditional disciplines to the newer disciplines that specialise in diversity. In any case administrators are likely to win big after the dust settles. There's a lot of good stuff in the protesters' demands, but precious little about democratic governance of the university, and a lot of requests for more central monitoring, weakening of tenure, and more power to deanlets and the like.
There is certainly a big methodological debate going on in political philosophy. Or two related ones: realism vs moralism and ideal vs nonideal theory.
One reason for the proliferation of adjuncts is, let's face it, the fact that they're a cheap way to free up research time for permanent faculty. Crudely, permanent faculty at research universities negotiate with management to strike a balance between maximising their research time and not undermining their own contractual power too much. Management are winning the long game, but in the short run many permanent faculty choose to buttress their individual contractual power by getting more research done, at the expense of the adjuncts. This is myopic on our part, but not that surprising when one sees it as just a symptom of the atomisation of the workforce under late (I wish) capitalism.
I just thought Tacitus was using Galcacus to slip in the standard, Stoic-tinted aristocratic dislike of the gluttonous Empire as corruption of the noble Republic (read: reduction of the senatorial class' power). The Stoic thing to do for Agricola might've been precisely to commit suicide; so in serving the tyrant Agricola gains glory but renounces his Stoic freedom, and the senatorial propaganda narrative is nicely wrapped up.
I would've thought another source could be Sidgwick's "intuitionism" -- also an influence on Rawls, interestingly. I do find the above comment on Chomsky (and Rawls) plausible.
@Neil: "I want philosophers to have more power over administrators." But what philosophers? Philosophers who are biased against the type of philosophy done in certain departments, say? We don't want administrators to tell department heads that they need to hire in the areas favoured by the PGR board.
I have no settled view on this yet. But I'm curious: what exactly are the pressures on departments due to US News rankings? (Genuine question.) I've a philosophy background but I'm now in political science. The US News rankings seem to matter a lot to my American colleagues, even though they know the methodology is at best questionable. Whatever ranking is the most widely accepted one seems to crystallise into a self-fulfilling prophecy. There might be something positive in having a more random ranking play that role: it keeps the discipline relatively united against a front of detested oracular external evaluators, rather than creating a small disciplinary in-group who gets to evaluate everyone, police boundaries, and so on.
Agreed. Nobody opposes accommodation when it comes at no significant cost to anyone.
One lesson from the stories above is that children are much less of an impediment to academic careers so long one has the means and the will to pay for extensive professional childcare. Not that that's surprising, but some questions do come to mind. While it's undeniably good for people to have the choice to raise their children themselves, do they have a right to that choice? Suppose for the sake of the argument that we answer that question negatively, and we also bracket the issue of breastfeeding (I just don't know enough about human biology to have a view on that). One unpalatable implication of that could be that only rich people should be allowed to have children without career sacrifices. But it doesn't have to be that way. A large part of the solution to the issue of children and academia, insofar as there can be one, could be to strengthen public and/or affordable childcare provision. Universities are probably quite well placed to do so independently of the wider society. To put this another way, given practical constraints and the need to be fair to all, it may be that non-self-funded commodification of childcare is preferable to accommodation. If that sounds crude and insensitive I do apologise. I've no idea of what it means to be a parent.
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Aug 20, 2014