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Baer and Bositis's openness in taking biology seriously is welcome and refreshing. For good reasons and bad, social scientists, including those who see themselves as feminist, have suppressed consideration of biological realities. They have tended, implicitly, to accept the notion of tabula rasa-that “blank” creature waiting to be written on by the organized forces of society-that underlies so much political theorizing in the West. As the philosopher Mary Midgley points out in her fascinating book, Beast terpretive account of human thought and action that aims for understanding and probes meaning.) The method understood as scientific, and the authors implicitly endorse it, is one that may broadly be called methodological individualism. One builds from certain rock-bottom particulars- adding them up, or relating them to one another- and the sum of these particulars is one's explanation of a given phenomenon. “Science,” says Hobbes, “is the knowledge of consequences and the dependence of one fact upon another.” I Baer and Bositis implicitly endorse this model, despite the fact that natural sclentists long ago gave up on this understanding of causality. So-although they are absolutely correct to argue that “psychological” explanation alone will not serve, nor will social learning arguments-the particular way in which they draw biology into the picture simply affixes it to the multi-causal scene as another variable or set of variables to be concatenated with many others.
In the early days of the second Iraq war, we heard cries of “illegal” repeatedly. The commencement of hostilities against Saddam Hussein’s “Republic of Fear” was said to violate established norms of international law; to make the United States an outlaw among nations; and to constitute a disastrous precedent. We were told that the United States had never before in its history engaged in preventive or preemptive action against a hostile foe and that, therefore, the administration of George W. Bush was sui generis in its arrogant violation of law and its besmirching of American foreign policy. These sorts of claims are subject to empirical investigation, of course, and such investigation shows them to be false. The United States has, indeed, engaged external foes in the absence of official declarations of war and in a manner that can reasonably be called preemptive if not preventive. This may or may not be a good thing, of course, but it does belie the charge of notorious originality on the part of the Bush administration at that time. Different words may be used – as, for example, the locution “anticipatory self-defense” deployed by the Kennedy administration in the days of the Cuban missile crisis – but the reality is that the United States has taken action in the past that can reasonably be called preemptive.
Elshtain presents a case for the primacy of politics if one would argue persuasively about international justice. Without political stability, all attempts to assist developing states, or to sustain persons caught in the chaos of “failed states,” must fail. A concept of justice lies at the heart of this discussion and revolves around the fundamental questions of to whom justice is owed and in what justice consists.
Have we any obligations beyond our own borders? If so, what form do these take? These questions are addressed by developing a concept of comparative justice indebted to the just war tradition and tying it to the equal moral regard of persons. This leads, in turn, to two further difficulties. First, what does it mean to make a claim under the equal regard norm? Just war criteria posit certain universal claims in a political universe in which particular bodies politic either respond, or do not, to such claims in light of their own principles and interests. The article develops a citizenship model for cases of humanitarian intervention, rejecting any and all approaches that involve an asymmetrical valuing of human life.
Second, who can be called upon to use coercive force in behalf of justice? Elshtain argues that all states have a stake in creating and sustaining an international system of equal regard. But, at present, there is no universal body that can be turned to with any confidence in situations of catastrophic violence, like ethnic cleansing. UN Peacekeepers are effective only after a measure of order is restored. As a result the state, or states, with the greatest capability to project power bears the lion's sharer of responsibility for enforcing an equal regard norm. Elshtain acknowledges the difficulties of articulating a strong universal justice claim while assigning a particular state, or states, and their people a disproportionate enforcement burden. But that best describes the present moment and it is better by far that those with power deploy that power within a framework of principles and constraints rather than solely along the lines of classic realpolitik.
There is much that is interesting in Anthony Burke's essay. Unfortunately, Burke is unable to resist hyperbolic language and too readily substitutes rhetorical onslaught for compelling argument. For example, those he criticizes as being neo-imperialists in liberal internationalist clothing are many times over said to present “disturbing” or “disturbing indeed” arguments. We are told that liberty is a “hermaphrodite”; that the war on terrorism constitutes “the democracy that slaughters, the liberator that tortures” (p. 73), as if Abu Ghraib is standard policy rather than aberration and the deaths of civilians intentional rather than a tragic unintended consequence of fighting. Burke's opponents, he says, deploy “notoriously vague” and “fear-soaked rhetoric” as they “scandalously” mimic the ICISS report's title (p. 76). Citing Jürgen Habermas, he calls the war against Saddam Hussein an “unimaginable break” with existing norms (pp. 75, 76). This suggests that there are “imaginable breaks,” but we do not know anything about the criteria he is applying. Reserving sunny language for his own proposed alternatives, Burke blasts the idea of state sovereignty itself as “violent and exclusivist,” and “linger[ing], like a latent illness, in the very depths of modern cosmopolitanism” (p. 74). These excesses are distracting and cloud the observations in his essay that are perceptive and deserve serious consideration.
In his 2000 best seller Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Civic Community, Robert Putnam analyzed the links between social capital and civic engagement. Lamenting the decline of “civic America,” he called for a Tocquevillean renewal of voluntary association in the United States. In American Grace, Putnam and coauthor David Campbell—who also helped with the preparation of Bowling Alone—return to the analysis of American civil society, focusing their attention on America's changing religious landscape and its implications for democracy. Their basic argument is that while the United States is religiously diverse and pluralistic to a profound degree, and while in recent years it has witnessed growing religious polarization, it has also succeeded in muting religious tensions and hostilities. As they conclude: “How has America solved the puzzle of religious pluralism—the coexistence of religious diversity and devotion? And how has it done so in the wake of growing religious polarization? By creating a web of interlocking personal relationships among people of many different faiths. This is America's grace” (p. 550).
Given the importance of religion in American life and the influence of Putnam's broad agenda on much current social science research on social capital and civic engagement, we have decided to organize a symposium around the book, centered on three questions: 1) How is American Grace related to Putnam's earlier work, particularly Bowling Alone, and what are the implications of the continuities and/or discontinuities between these works? 2) What kind of a work of political science is American Grace, and how does it compare to other important recent work dealing with religion and politics in the United States? 3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of Putnam and Campbell's account of “how religion divides and unites us,” and what is the best way of thinking about the contemporary significance of religion and politics in the United States and about the ways that the religious landscape challenges U.S. politics and U.S. political science?
Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (Cambridge 2009) offers a theory of the evolution of the modern state and an even more ambitious framework “for interpreting recorded human history.” The book raises fundamental questions about the political structuring of violence, the functions of the rule of law, and the establishment and maintenance of political order. In doing so, it speaks to a range of political scientists from a variety of methodological and subfield perspectives. We have thus invited four prominent political science scholars of violence and politics to comment on the book: Jack Snyder, Caroline Hartzell, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Larry Diamond.
It is sometimes said that one person's ‘freedom fighter’ is another person's ‘terrorist’. This chapter argues that this is not the case: there are well-accepted and clear definitions of terrorism that preclude any such reductive and simplistic equation. After having defined terrorism in a manner generally accepted among serious scholars of the subject, this chapter argues that the just war tradition – often construed as a way of thinking and adjudicating that applies only to collisions between sovereign states – can be usefully applied to conflicts between states and those non-state entities that engage in the planned and intentional destruction of innocents. For, as I have argued elsewhere, just war is not just about war: it is also a way of thinking about politics and political life more generally. Sadly, much political commentary today appears to have lost a robust way in which to speak about politics of which war, in the traditional sense, is a subset. Refusing to think seriously about politics leads to such widely accepted nostrums as those that claim there are ‘root causes’ for terrorism and that unless these are solved or ameliorated, terrorism will flourish. This puts the cart before the horse. It is only after relative political stability, including bringing illegitimate violence to heel, is restored that social questions can be addressed meaningfully. Without a structure of political accountability there can be no meaningful tackling of social questions.
I will be arguing against a school of thought and an epistemology. The school of thought is ‘scientific neorealism’, as it is called in the study of international relations. This perspective is shaped by the insistence that ethics and international politics have nothing to do with one another, save insofar as morality is brought in as window dressing in order to disguise what is really going on: the clash of narrowly self-interested powers. The world of international relations is construed as a zone of self-help in a Hobbesian clash of a war of all against all. For more than twenty-five years now, I have argued that, to the contrary, ethics does not stop at the water's edge and morality is not silent during war.
The epistemology that I will contest is not so much argued against up front as challenged by a narrative that makes an antipositivist case. Contrary to the presuppositions of the political science in which I was trained, description and evaluation are not entirely separate activities. We do not layer evaluations onto a neutral description; rather, moral evaluation is embedded in our descriptions. How we describe is itself often a moral act. This is a case made eloquently in a book that seems to have disappeared from view, Julius Kovesi's Moral Notions. The argument against positivism is also an argument against an account of moral evaluation named ‘emotivism’, which holds, roughly, that our moral evaluations are not rationally defensible and bear no serious cognitive content.
Charles Taylor first became known to many through his important essays challenging the regime of behavioralism in the human sciences. For those like myself who were clinging to the hope that there would be room for scholars who were not committed to a positivist epistemology and to the behavioralist outcropping in departments of Political Science, Taylor was a lifeline. He helped many whose training was not in philosophy proper but in its political theory variant to appreciate the distinctive quality of the Geisteswissenschaften and to fight back when we were told that the only way to do things was to abandon the ground of meaning and values; to embrace a narrow science of verification; to ignore ontological or anthropological questions altogether; and to hold epistemological debates at arm's length. Taylor's resounding claim, backed up with richly elaborate and elegant argument, was that the human sciences cannot be wertfrei because “they are moral sciences” whose subject matter is that “self-interpreting animal,” the human person. Taylor's monumental Sources of the Self added much needed richness and nuance to the question of identity, displaying in full his historic acumen and knowledge. This volume signaled Taylor's move toward that phase of his career associated with “the politics of recognition,” very much linked to questions of identity and current, often heated, debates about multiculturalism.
I will be arguing against a school of thought and an epistemology.
The school of thought is ‘scientific neorealism’, as it is
called in the study of international relations. This perspective is
shaped by the insistence that ethics and international politics have
nothing to do with one another, save insofar as morality is brought in
as window dressing in order to disguise what is really going on: the
clash of narrowly self-interested powers. The world of international
relations is construed as a zone of self-help in a Hobbesian clash of a
war of all against all. For more than twenty-five years now, I have
argued that, to the contrary, ethics does not stop at the water's
edge and morality is not silent during war.
Richard Rorty is not only a leading light of the revival of pragmatism but one of its chief beneficiaries. His work has penetrated far and wide. He has become a kind of antiphilosopher philosopher. Rorty is an intelligent and canny thinker. He can be a powerful writer. But he tends invariably to undercut whatever gravitas might inhere in his own position with moves toward what is best called the “unbearable lightness of liberalism,” or at least one dominant contemporary version of it. There are many entry points into Rortyan discourse, although Rorty doesn't make the task of expositor and critic all that easy. How so? Because his arguments are often slippery and difficult to engage. Just when you think you've come up against something solid, it turns squishy. My hunch is that this is because Rorty wants to embrace, not to debate, to draw us all under the big tent of “we liberal ironists,” “we pragmatists,” “we antiessentialists,” we who “don't do things this way,” we … we … we. In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Rorty uses the “we” word nine times in one short paragraph (CIS 79–80). Those of us who resist such “we-ness” are left to sort out just how, why, and where we disagree. I will begin with a few assorted discontents that evolve into deeper engagements, including a fleshed-out counterpoint to Rorty's positions on Freud, cruelty and self-creation, and redescription.