Monday, January 13, 2014

Nima Shirazi on Twitter
Biden's eulogy for Sharon never mentions Palestinians. Not even once. Nothing. All Israelis are assumed to be Jews.
Jason Stanley, and Vesla Weaver, a philosopher and a political scientist, a Jew, maybe two judging from photographs, both married to African Americans, in Stanley's care, first generation.  Weaver is co-author of  “Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America”.  Stanley is from a family of refugees from Nazi Germany

The parallels and relevance to too obvious to ignore, but they did.

Is the United States a ‘Racial Democracy’?
Plato’s “Republic” is the wellspring from which all subsequent Western philosophy flows, and political philosophy is no exception. According to Plato, liberty is democracy’s greatest good; it is that which “in a democratic city you will hear … is the most precious of all possessions.” Subsequently, two notions of liberty emerged in the writings of democratic political philosophers. The dispute about which of these two notions of liberty is most central to human dignity is at the heart of Western philosophy. Both are central to American democracy. Indeed, it is best to think of these as two different aspects of the conception of liberty at the heart of American democracy, rather than distinct concepts.

The standard source of the distinction between two senses of “liberty” is a speech in 1819 by the great political theorist Benjamin Constant. The first, “the liberty of the ancients,” consists in having a voice into the policies and representatives that govern us. The second, “the liberty of the moderns,” is the right to pursue our private interests free from state oversight or control. Though the liberty of moderns is more familiar to Americans, it is in fact the liberty of the ancients that provides the fundamental justification for the central political ideals of the American Democratic tradition. For example, we have the freedom of speech so that we can express our interests and political views in deliberations about policies and choice of representatives.

Given the centrality of liberty to democracy, one way to assess the democratic health of a state is by the fairness of the laws governing its removal. The fairness of a system of justice is measured by the degree to which its laws are fairly and consistently applied across all citizens. In a fair system, a group is singled out for punishment only insofar as its propensity for unjustified violations of the laws demands. What we call a racial democracy is one that unfairly applies the laws governing the removal of liberty primarily to citizens of one race, thereby singling out its members as especially unworthy of liberty, the coin of human dignity. 
"Plato’s “Republic” is the wellspring from which all subsequent Western philosophy flows, and political philosophy is no exception. According to Plato, liberty is democracy’s greatest good"

Never trust a fascist for an honest description of democracy, but Stanley's a philosopher and Weaver's a political scientist, so they begin with what they know, with ideas not the facts, even the facts of democracy. There's no real discussion of the contradictions between the liberty of the "ancients" and "moderns" other than to acknowledge they exist.  I'd written there was no discussion "at all", and it's right there in the quote, but I was so shocked by the authors' blindness of the larger view of events I skipped right over it. The piece itself reads as if it were written in a bubble; what kind of imagination can be simultaneously so rigorous and so oblivious? That's a question Freud would ask, and Stanley's father. But Stanley has always been a proud expert, arguing from the modern definition of liberty; his universalism begins in individualism, the conscience of the individual imagination. The rest is lip service.

See also my argument with Eric Schliesser on the need for Israeli racial democracy, with a link to Jason Stanley's post on living in Germany as the heir of German Jews who fled the Nazis.

Stanley own expected happy homecoming into German society wasn't necessarily working out as planned. One of the teachers at the Gymnasium told me that Heinrich Heine wasn't really a "German" poet, but rather was a "European" poet. My absurdly well-meaning and wonderful hostfather regularly repeated that "Deutschland ist kein Einwanderungsland" (which is, as Schneider points out, a common theme among Germans of a certain generation). Whenever I told people I was of German descent, they would argue with me -- then upon discovering that I was Jewish, would say "Oh, so you're not German, you're Jewish" (strangely, I never heard anyone say to someone, upon discovering that they were Christian, "Oh, so you're not German, you're Christian"). Among my German friends, there was a pervasive sense of the strangeness of other cultures, which alternately manifested itself as either irrational disdain or irrational admiration.
Schliesser a German Jew living in the Netherlands and working in Belgium, I really do not need your lectures on these matters.
Stanley again, in The Boston Review 8/14. His ignorance of the history of Jewish self-definition as a people is strange.

See also Republicanism and Liberalism from 10/14

see also 1/15

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