1) Happy birthday, Thomas Paine! As Judith Shklar once mentioned, the thrust or strength of Paine was that he was able to make a very small pamphlet about a regional conflict into a global manifesto about transcendent issues that are still with us today.
2) David Beer’s book Punk Sociology sounds rad. Here’s a blurb from a blog post of his: “The book itself develops an idea I’ve previously written on, which is that we can draw upon alternative forms of knowledge in order to develop the repertoire of sociology and the social sciences. This draws on work by Howard Becker and others. The book responds directly to a range of debates on the future of sociology (including those in the picture below, amongst others)…. And here’s a review of the book from This Sociological Life.
3) The 100 year anniversary of World War One continues to bring almost always sober analysis, both of what happened then and the world it left behind, and that the part of the world mostly suffering from the effects of the Great War are outside of Europe, “Fortunately, there was no relapse, because the West had learned its lessons from historical mistakes. Today, three factors loom large in the avoidance of disaster: the United States’ military presence in Europe, the progress of European integration, and Europe’s abandonment of great-power politics. Yet there is no point in fooling oneself: Only as long as the Balkan countries believe in the European Union and the benefits of membership will today’s precarious peace in the region become permanent.
No such hope currently exists for the Middle East, whose contemporary political borders were largely established by Britain and France during WWI, when the diplomats Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot negotiated the division of the Ottoman Empire. Likewise, the creation of Israel harks back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, whereby the subsequent British mandatory power in Palestine supported the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.
The Middle East created back then is, more or less, the Middle East today. Yet we are now witnessing its disintegration, because the Sykes-Picot design always implied a strong external hegemonic power (or two) able and willing to maintain stability by channeling (or suppressing) the region’s numerous conflicts. Great Britain and France, the first hegemonic powers, were succeeded by the US and the Soviet Union – and, finally, by the US alone.
America’s misadventure in Iraq, its exhaustion as a world power, and its unwillingness to maintain its previous level of commitment to the region have rendered the Sykes-Picot structure untenable, because no other external force for order is available. The resulting vacuum has been filled by various currents of political Islam, terrorism, protest movements, uprisings, secession attempts by national or religious minorities, and aspiring regional hegemons (Iran and Saudi Arabia).”
4) New Book: The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other, Peter Shafer. Blurby: “In late antiquity, as Christianity emerged from Judaism, it was not only the new religion that was being influenced by the old. The rise and revolutionary challenge of Christianity also had a profound influence on rabbinic Judaism, which was itself just emerging and, like Christianity, trying to shape its own identity. In The Jewish Jesus, Peter Schäfer reveals the crucial ways in which various Jewish heresies, including Christianity, affected the development of rabbinic Judaism. The result is a demonstration of the deep mutual influence between the sister religions, one that calls into question hard and fast distinctions between orthodoxy and heresy, and even Judaism and Christianity, during the first centuries CE.”
7) I’m not sure what the correlation between literary “symbolism”, as described here, and our ever-present tendency to see things through art that confirms biases, but I thought this was interesting. Of the authors mentioned and quoted, hardly any of them sought to provide a symbol. The symbols came through the writing process, and not before.
8) Judging the constitutionality of Obama’s remarks has a lot of wrinkles., via the Volokh Conspiracy (this was written prior to the speech).
9) The Aid Debate rages one. Here’s is Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson arguing for robust, inclusive institutions as a way to really help Africa, and here is Ken Opalo saying, essentially, “yes, but…”