From today’s Washington Post:  

The Feb. 7 editorial “Darfur‘s Chaos Spreads” called on the international community to exert more pressure on Chadian leader Idriss D¿by to stem the current wave of violence in North Africa.

But what Sudan and Chad most desperately need is a diverse group of highly educated, indigenous peacemakers who are committed to regional stability. George Washington University has gone a long way toward empowering such leaders by supporting Banaa.org, a student-run scholarship program for young Sudanese people who have survived atrocity and demonstrated a commitment to peace. For stability and sustainable development to become a reality in Northern Africa, as well as in the Horn of Africa, we must mobilize our educational resources to nurture and support those working for peace in their homelands.
Only by empowering those who have lived through genocide and civil war can we hope to end this perpetual conflict.

JEFF DeFLAVIO

Co-Founder

Banaa: The Sudan Educational

Empowerment Network

Washington

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Marx and Rawls, A Dialogue

February 12, 2008

In the realm of social and political philosophy Marx is unavoidable.  Robert Heilbroner wrote,

We turn to Marx, therefore, not because he is infallible, but because he is inescapable.  Everyone who wishes to pursue the kind of investigation that Marx opened up, finds Marx there ahead of him, and must thereafter agree with or confute, expand or discard, explain or explain away the ideas that are his legacy.

But it is not just that Marx stands out ahead of us in the field of political philosophy, social science or economics.  Rather, as Jameson notes, it is essential to recognize Marxism as a theory which cuts across a myriad of disciplines.

 I think it is crucial to insist on the fact Marxism is the only living philosophy today which has a conception of the unity of knowledge and the unification of the “disciplinary” fields in a way that cuts across the older departmental and institutional structures and restores the notion of a universal object of study underpinning the seemingly distinct inquires into the economical, the political, the cultural, the psychoanalytic, and so forth. This is not a dogmatic opinion but simply an empirical fact. 

With this in mind I would like to begin a short series of Marxist criticisms of John Rawls who is considered by many – including President Bill Clinton – to have most clearly articulated the foundational principles of the Democratic party.  

The following is a very short introduction for those of you unfamiliar with these theories.   In short, Marxism is a philosophy which advocates for the establishment of a classless and stateless socio-political order, the basis of which is the communal ownership of the means of production.  Based largely on the works of Karl Marx, “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat” (Communist Manifesto).  Some time after state power has been seized, “all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character” and class distinctions will disappear.  Political power, Marx argues, is only the organization of one class’s power for the oppression of another, and as Marxist organization ultimately destroys class antagonism by eliminating its economic basis, political oppression as such under a Communist government is impossible.

 

Marxist government stands in stark contrast to the social and political order advocated by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice.  Rawls conceives of a Just social order as one in which individuals are accorded the most liberty, so long as that liberty does not infringe upon the freedom of others.  Secondly, he argues that economic inequality is only justified insofar as it benefits the poorest members of society.  The following entries are an attempt to put these two theories of Justice into dialogue, critiquing the both the Rawlsian Original Position and the Principles of Justice from a Marxist perspective. 

Stay tuned!

  

Dear Readers: My book is published and available for purchase at the Palgrave Macmillan website, or Amazon and other bookseller sites (see Best Web Buys).  Here’s some information from  the publisher:      

Shortly after the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, Hannah Arendt quipped that “only in America could a crisis in education actually become a factor in politics.”  The Cold War battle for the American school – dramatized but not initiated by Sputnik – proved Arendt correct. The schools served as a battleground in the ideological conflicts of the 1950s.  Beginning with the genealogy of progressive education, and ending with the formation of New Left and New Right thought, Education and the Cold War offers a fresh perspective on the postwar transformation in U.S. political culture by way of an examination of the educational history of that era. 

 “In contemporary American culture, ‘the conservative 1950s’ have become something of a cliché. Hartman’s smart book gives new historical substance to the term, showing us how–and why–our schools turned Right during the Cold War. Even better, he makes us question whether the schools ever really turned back.”–Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of Education and History, New York University

 

“Hartman is a wise and sensible guide through the thickets of historical flow, economic structure, political condition and cultural context.  An encounter with Education and the Cold War is fortification for the important struggles ahead.”–William Ayers, University of Illinois at Chicago; Author of Teaching Toward Freedom

Introduction: An American Crisis * John Dewey and the Invention of Childhood: Progressive Education in the Beginning * Education as Great Depression Experience: The Unraveling of the Popular Front and the Roots of Educational Vigilantism * From Hot War to Cold War for Schools and Teenagers: The Life Adjustment Movement and the Ideology of Maturity * Communist Teacher Problematic: Liberal Anticommunism and the Education of Bella Dodd * Progressive Education is Red-ucation: Conservative Thought and Cold War Educational Vigilantism * Crisis of the Mind: The Liberal Intellectuals and the Schools * From World-Mindedness to Cold War-Mindedness: The Lost Educational Utopia of Theodore Brameld * Desegregation as Cold War Experience: The Perplexities of Race in he Blackboard Jungle* Growing Up Absurd in the Cold War: Sputnik and the Polarized Sixties * Conclusion: The Educational Reproduction of the Cold War

Andrew Hartman is Assistant Professor of History, Illinois State University.

Today is Super Tuesday and we are all supposed to vote for the candidate who will bring “change” to Washington.  But what kind of change is actually possible?  Democrats wistfully long for an alternative universe in which Gore or Kerry had beaten Bush, but let’s seriously consider how our world would be different:

If a Democrat had been President for the past eight years….

1. No occupation of Iraq (although they all voted for it, Democrats would probably not have taken the initiative to falsify so much intelligence) .  Some of our contributors disagree, and have claimed that 

Secretary of State Holbrooke would not even have had Colin Powell’s minimal qualms about such a war.  And think about the pressure Gore would have received from the right, who still controlled Congress (not to mention the AM radio waves).  Gore would have been forced to show his toughness, his mettle.  I think our tendency to imagine Gore would have acted differently is a superimposition of the new and improved Nobel Laureate Gore on the old politician Gore.  Also, let’s not forget that Lieberman, who is a clone of Dick Cheney on issues of foreign policy, would have been vice president.

2. Serious action on global warming
3. A more forward thinking and lucid foreign policy which better preserves American hegemony
4. Marginally increased foreign aid to the world’s poor
5. No torture of detainees or spying on Americans

How it would be the same

1. Absurd wealth concentration: 2% of the world’s population controls 50% of the wealth and 50% of the world’s population controls less than 1% of the wealth
2. Well over 1.5 billion people living on less than 1 dollar a day.
3. Occupation of Afghanistan
4. Unconditional support for Israel
5. No serious attempt to deal with the consumerism and commodification which create the industrial conditions responsible for global warming.
5. All foreign aid is given out through the same, horrible USAID.
6. We continue to pursue free trade policies that manufacture poverty

This is just a short list.  There are obviously many more items for both.  I hope these lists can illustrate that when we say this election is a nonevent, it is not to suggest that there is literally no difference between parties or candidates.  The question is one of emphasis.  Most Americans believe the differences listed above are VERY important.  Indeed, they are all that matters, as to address problems on the bottom list is “unrealistic.”

The disagreement on the Left about whether or not to vote then comes down to a question of what voting means, what it entails as a personal statement and as a moral action.  Such a discussion is beyond me right now.  I am toying with some Marxist/utilitarian/deontological comparisons, but none are wholly coherent.

Rather than a philosophical analysis, how about some feedback: Are you choosing to vote or to “sit this one out?”  Why?