Month: November 2014

Falguni Sheth (Hampshire) on the Ferguson verdict


Yet neither an indictment nor a conviction of Darren Wilson would have given black Americans, or other populations of color, what is so urgent: a court system that sees the history of racial injustice through serial acts of police violence, that processes justice by taking into full account the history of slavery, and that of racial, political and economic segregation. Neither an indictment nor a conviction would have afforded long-term racial justice, in which police officers no longer represent the white ruling class of Ferguson, in which the governor of Missouri doesn’t send the National Guard to shut down the speech and protests of those who are the victims of racism. That form of racial justice — regardless of the decision not to indict — will need much more. It will need the cultural, legal and economic defeat of white supremacy. And that is a much longer, much larger struggle.


via White supremacy lives on: Ferguson decision confirms absence of legal and moral justice –

How not to mix the new realisms and politics

In his Manifesto of New Realism (SUNY Press, 2014), Maurizio Ferraris makes the following claim:

[T]he area where skepticism and the farewell to truth have shown their most aggressive side is politics. Here postmodern deobjectification was, exemplarily, the underlying philosophy of the Bush administration, which theorized that reality was simply the belief of “reality-based communities”–that is, unwary people who do not know how things go. This praxis found its most concise expression in the response by one of Bush’s consultants to the journalist Ron Suskin: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too.” An arrogant absurdity of course.

I have seen this example used several times in recent years by self-proclaimed realists wedding, say, deconstruction to the right wing. Thus, I’m not picking on Ferraris, whose very clear writing style and knowledge of the traditions he’s critiquing are well worth the reader’s time. But count this as another example where those professing a certain realism make highly problematic claims when moving to politics. One need not be Machiavelli to acknowledge that politics is precisely about contestations over the ability, the sovereignty, to proclaim a performative: this is where the border will be; this is how this decree will be applied; we are now at war; etc. Political contestation does not happen in some academic discussion of transcendent or transcendental values or by pointing to a transcending reality (though, as Spinoza’s Theological Political Treatise made clear centuries ago, the claim to one or more of these realities or values can be politically and rhetorically valuable). Far from an absurdity, the quotation above points out the performative/constative distinction between that which “creates a reality” (which, hem, all action does) and those who would merely describe it after the fact. This is not postmodern relativism or “deobjectification,” because whence would come, outside the contestation and violence at the heart of the political, some “objective” reality or value that wouldn’t be open to contestation within the political? Political contestation is nominalistic; it is interminable negotiation: the realities it names are performed and re-performed and are nothing outside that performance. What is the reality of a border but its re-iteration, it re-mapping, for example? What is gender but its re-iteration? Race? That doesn’t mean, say, that one shouldn’t contest sovereignty, as in Derrida’s Rogues, in the name of the unconditional openness of the democracy-to-come (to use an example I’m teaching in my grad course this week), or that we simply accede to “might is right.” But to make claims to a “pre-political” reality or nature from within the political is itself a political move. And the danger of not recognizing this could come at the cost of reifying all those political categories (in the name of this supposed non-political reality), such as race and gender, and then making a claim to a realism that can’t recognize the reality of the political or how action takes shape therein. It also means not being able to diagnose, say, the state of sovereignty, the problem of the state of exception, the unstable relation of the law of force and the force of law, the distinction between constituting and constituted power, and so on. And then pretending it is those deconstructionists and genealogists and so on are who are the ones who are naive about the nature of reality.

AOSs in Philosophy Jobs Thus Far

The Philosophers’ Cocoon goes through the numbers and it’s bleak. (Cocoon notes that last year there were 190 jobs listed by this time; only 110 TT jobs as of now) In any case, .9% of jobs are in African American philosophy, 8% of jobs are in Continental, 4.5% are in Feminist Philosophy (which means my department is doing 20% of all hiring in feminism this year), while a full 29% of jobs are in applied ethics.

Lost in Rawlsland – George Yancey interviews Charles Mills

The critique by Mills is less of Rawls here than what Rawlsianism has become, or perhaps could only have become:

Rawls himself said in the opening pages of “A Theory of Justice” that we had to start with ideal theory because it was necessary for properly doing the really important thing: non-ideal theory, including the “pressing and urgent matter” of remedying injustice. But what was originally supposed to have been merely a tool has become an end in itself; the presumed antechamber to the real hall of debate is now its main site. Effectively, then, within the geography of the normative, ideal theory functions as a form of white flight. You don’t want to deal with the problems of race and the legacy of white supremacy, so, metaphorically, within the discourse of justice, you retreat from any spaces worryingly close to the inner cities and move instead to the safe and comfortable white spaces, the gated moral communities, of the segregated suburbs, from which they become normatively invisible….

Rather, mainstream political philosophy is seen as irrelevant to [e.g., forums on race and civil rights] because of the bizarre way it has developed since Rawls (a bizarreness not recognized as such by its practitioners because of the aforementioned norms of disciplinary socialization). Social justice theory should be reconnected with its real-world roots, the correction of injustices, which means that rectificatory justice in non-ideal societies should be the theoretical priority, not distributive justice in ideal societies. Political philosophy needs to exit Rawlsland — a fantasy world in the same extraterrestrial league as Wonderland, Oz and Middle-earth (if not as much fun) — and return to planet Earth.

via Lost in Rawlsland –