Neoliberalism, the Street, and the Forum (or what the Eurozone could learn from the Greek left)

My Greek Uncle Rathos spent two months living in the dark. In September 2011, in response to pressure from its European creditors, the Greek government imposed a new property tax to be paid via electric utility bills.[1] A construction contractor hit hard by the financial crisis, my uncle couldn’t make those tax payments and so his electricity was cut off. Reportedly, 350,000 other households suffered the same fate.[2] This was just one in a series of austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund and other lenders to deal with the supposed debt crisis: i.e., that Greece’s ratio of debt to Gross Domestic Product was too high.[3] But rather than find ways to pump up Greece’s economy and thus its GDP, the IMF and Eurozone leaders have focused on bringing down its debt. Austerity measures toward this end have included wage cuts and layoffs of civil service workers, reduced job security and severance pay for private sector workers, reduced benefits and imposed budget cuts, all of which have exacerbated unemployment levels that, as of this writing, are about 27% overall and 60% for those under 25.[4] Additionally Greece was called on to engage in “structural change,” that is, to make its economy more conducive to market processes via methods such as privatization.[5] There is no alternative, the people are told Continue reading

philoSOPHIA 2015 at Emory May 14-16, 2015

philoSOPHIA 2015

Ninth Annual Conference

The Neolithic to the Neoliberal:

Communities Human and Non-Human

Emory University

Atlanta, GA

May 14-16, 2015

Local Hosts:

Cynthia Willett | Noëlle McAfee | Erin Tarver

Graduate Assistant: Lilyana Levy

Keynote Speakers:

Drucilla Cornell | Lisa Guenther & Chloë Taylor | Kelly Oliver

Many Thanks to our Generous Sponsors:

Subvention Fund, Hightower Fund, Emory Center for Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Department of Comparative Literature, Department of African American Studies, Department of Philosophy, Disability Studies Initiative, Oxford College Humanities Division, Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs at Oxford College, Emory Center for Women, The Loemker Funds

All events will take place at the Emory Conference Center Hotel

1615 Clifton Rd. NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30329

Continue reading

epistemic deliberative theory

Advocates of epistemic deliberative democracy point to deliberations’ propensity to track the truth.  Could someone please explain to me what truth there is to track on political matters, which by their very nature are political because no one can agree on a truth that would adjudicate the matter? This seems folly from top to bottom.

philoSOPHIA Conference at Emory May 14-16, 2015

I’m helping organize the 9th Annual Meeting of the feminist philosophy society, philoSOPHIA.  The lineup is amazing….

philoSOPHIA 2015
9th Annual Conference
The Neolithic to the Neoliberal: Communities Human and Non-Human
Emory University
Atlanta, GA
May 14-16, 2015
Local Hosts:
Cynthia Willett | Noëlle McAfee | Erin Tarver
Keynote Speakers:
Drucilla Cornell | Lisa Guenther & Chloë Taylor | Kelly Oliver

Continue reading

Richard Rorty 1997 on Democracy and Philosophy

When I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1990s, I was an occasional guest host on a public affairs program of the local PBS station. In 1997 I interviewed the philosopher Richard Rorty.

This afternoon, with the help of Emory graduate student Karen McCarthy, I finally got around to digitizing it. Then we uploaded it to YouTube.  It’s kind of eery watching it again.  So many of the issues Rorty and I discussed are still with us today in the clash of cultures between religion and secularism, attempts at democratization in the Middle East versus the Taliban, and the near-impossibility of finding a way to adjudicate between our differences.  Rorty stuck by his position that we can never really get outside our culture and history to adjudicate anything, yet at the same time he appealed to notions of “better” and “worse” that could be understood through stories we tell ourselves.  I wasn’t satisfied with that then, and I’m still not now.  But maybe that is simply because there is no philosophical panacea that could ever be satisfying and, in the end, we are really just left, rather bereft, with our ability to tell compelling stories. Rorty at one point appealed to the occasional geniuses like Jefferson and Jesus and Socrates (a weird troika) who, perhaps struck by a cosmic ray, could move us forward.  Then and now this appeal to genius is hardly helpful. But I think I get what he was saying — that the occasional fluke could get us out of our constituting context.  At the very end I bring up a piece he had written the year before for the New York Times on what might happen in the future in America, the future, specifically 2014 and 2015.  So it is a fascinating kind of time travel to watch this interview now, from here in the future.

Neoliberalism and the Mail

The conservative / neoliberal attack on public sector enterprises, namely the United States Postal Service, has worked so well that now I, a leftie, am hating the US Postal Service.  They are clearly understaffed and so I see mail carriers trying to deliver the goods as late as 8 p.m.  God bless them. But when I want a package delivered on time — or delivered at all  (first world problem) — they are no where to be found  And if during a lull time I get through to customer service in under 20 minutes, I get a non-answer.  And so, personally, I’ll go with a privatized mail service (FedEx or UPS) but they, UPS at least, are notorious for treating their workers horribly.  My US postal worker gets treated well, but if Congress won’t back this public service then we all fail. Quandary.

On Nothing

Purging all the detritus in my home office, I wonder whether it’s time to get rid of my 4-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Surely with the new online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy this is just taking up shelf space.  But I do love this one entry, even though I completely disagree with it, because it is quite funny:

(from The Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Nothing is an awe-inspiring yet essentially undigested concept, highly esteemed by writers of an existentialist tendency, but by most others regarded with axiety, nausea, or panic. Nobody seems to know how to deal with it (he would, of course), and plain persons generally are reported to have little difficulty in saying, seeing, hearing, and doing nothing. Philosophers, however, have never felt easy on the matter. Ever since Parmenides laid it down that it is impossible to speak of what is not, broke his own rule in the act of stating it, and deduced himself into a world where all that ever happened was nothing, the impression has persisted that the narrow path between sense and nonsense on this subject is a difficult one to tread and that altogether the less said of it the better. Continue reading