Cultural History and its (Political) Lessons
Guest editor, Nayeli L. Riano
Cultural history serves many purposes, the ends of which we can hardly agree upon. The idea of this history as a form of cultural preservation—that is, the writing about older times and its artifacts like customs, dress, art, literature, religion, music, etc. for memory’s sake—was famously criticized by Nietzsche as “antiquarian;” idle and impractical for political change, action, or progress. Alternately, we can consider how historical works like Johan Huizinga’s The Waning of the Middle Ages (1919), Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), or Henry Adams’ Mont Saint Michel & Chartres (1904) demonstrate an early modern desire to understand an older world-outlook not just for its own sake, since they all continued on to play significant roles in public life beyond being historians. Their study of cultural history, then, shaped the ways in which these thinkers came to analyze society. It can be said that, through their cultural-historical writings about Europe, these authors were better able to convey the inherent plurality and diversity within any society, and to take lessons from these observations which they applied when tackling the problems of their own day and age. We can, then, gather a couple of questions that will serve as suggested topics for this issue: How does the study of cultural history help us “politically”? How practical are the lessons that reading cultural history imparts? Or, is it the case that cultural history serves no purpose beyond sustaining a collective recollection of a bygone age? Is this end-in-itself something valuable? This issue welcomes submissions under the theme of “Cultural History and its (Political) Lessons,” broadly construed, as a way to engage the ways in which cultural history deepens our understanding of (and appreciation for) the complexities of society. We welcome essays on relevant historians for this topic, including the aforementioned Huizinga, Burckhardt, and Adams, but are also open to essays that tackle these questions from another angle or through another thinker or region.
Proposals due: June 22nd 2021
Final drafts due: April 1st 2022
Rationalism in Politics: Sixty Years On
Guest Editor, James Alexander
Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays was published in 1962. The book was taken to be a major statement of Michael Oakeshott’s thought. Some of the essays were more than a decade old, but when brought together revealed Oakeshott’s attitude to post-war thought. The book was published at a time when the post-war consensus was not only in place but flourishing: there was a rising tide of a political science committed to liberal democracy, there were political writings of a liberal or libertarian cast by Popper, Berlin and Hayek, and of course there was a novel attempt from within a broadly liberal position to explore questions of equality which until then had chiefly been the concern of socialists—as seen in the coming writings of Rawls, Sen, Williams, Nozick, Nagel and so on. Oakeshott, perhaps unfortunately, was associated with the reaction against this movement. Why? Likely because of what Rationalism in Politics was taken to stand for. Though Oakeshott has remained an important name since the 1960s, he has tended to be regarded as a figure of somewhat narrow or partisan interest. For my part, I am sure that the reception of Rationalism in Politics meant that it was impossible for Oakeshott to get his eventual monograph on civil order, On Human Conduct (1975) taken seriously—as the misunderstandings on both sides made evident when Pitkin and others reviewed him, and he reviewed them in turn, in the journal Political Theory in 1976. Oakeshott had been at work since the 1950s on the asymmetric counterconcepts of what he eventually called ‘civil association’ and ‘enterprise association’, but since he held back publication until 1975, this meant that his mature political philosophy was never taken seriously by his contemporaries, who by the 1970s had moved on to Rawls and All That, and has not been much taken seriously by his successors, who still seem constrained by a Rawlsian straitjacket or now, perhaps, the glass casing round a Rawlsian historical costume.
I welcome submissions from scholars on the subject of Rationalism in Politics after sixty years: asking you to reflect on what you thought of the book at the time of publication, if you were there to see it, or what you thought of the book at first encounter—what the book symbolised in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and onwards—how it struck you, even as a symbol, or sighting line, how your view of it may have changed as you reached your own intellectual maturity, and any reflections you have about whether Oakeshott’s work is now obsolete and should be abandoned, or contains anything which makes it relevant to the present time. Close reading, or narrowness and precision, is acceptable: it would be interesting, for instance, to consider how any of Oakeshott’s particular themes have aged or have been extended, deflected (as, for instance, Pocock extended and deflected Oakeshott’s ‘traditions’ and ‘languages’ via Kuhn’s ‘paradigms’, Skinner’s ‘foundations’ and his own ‘moments’ into a complicated justification of the practice of the history of political thought in the 1970s and 1980s). So I would like to see standard sonata form articles. But I also would like to see blunt, short, sharp essays or reflections too. (Is there anything to be said for the individual manqué? Is Oakeshott’s theory of conservatism a trick? Was Bacon so much at fault? Is there room for Oakeshott’s style in our time? Is ‘education’ now an academic rather than a vocational subject? Was Hobbes’s pin-up really a child of pride? Can historians swallow Oakeshott’s account of history? Is Oakeshott really a Nietzsche-Geuss sort of figure rather than a Hayek-Berlin sort of figure? Why did Oakeshott hardly ever write about a monster called ‘liberalism’?)
I am therefore open to any length of utterance: down to a mere paragraph if that is all there is, though I would welcome a few thousand words, and perhaps as many as ten, if necessary. I am aiming for human interest, and literary interest, and autobiographical reference: what you think. I would like this to be something I would like to read, since I have often found academic writing to be excessively buttoned up, braced and belted. I am open to extreme statements of hostility, or incomprehension, where they exist, as long as they are expressed articulately.
Timeline: finalised MSS to be sent by 31 January 2022. Please send proposals to me, as soon as possible, but at latest, by 1 June 2021 at email@example.com
Three Stories about Capitalism: The moral psychology of economic life
Jonathan Haidt’s forthcoming book Three Stories about Capitalism: The moral psychology of economic life has been a while in the making, having been delayed by Jon’s many other commitments. Jerry Gaus was slated to guest edit but sadly with his passing, the slot is now open. Pursuant to this, C+T is looking for someone to guest edit a symposium on the forthcoming book, a preview available here. One needs to be au fait not only with Haidt’s work but with moral psychology and economics in general. Interested parties should drop a line to Leslie.
Sovereignties, Social Orders, and Internationalism: Reviving the Libertarian Interstate Federalist Tradition
Guest Editor, Brandon Christensen
Classical liberal and libertarian scholars have long been concerned with the interaction of states. States are central to issues of war & peace, poverty & wealth, and art & brutality. For centuries, the primary concern for classical liberals was Balkanization rather than empire. Thus Adam Smith advocated for a federation between the British Isles and British North America. Thus the American federalists advocated for a federal union instead of 13 sovereign states. Thus Hayek and Mises called for the abrogation of national sovereignties under an international legal regime.
The end of World War II and the advent of the Cold War changed the concern about Balkanization. Empire became the paramount worry for libertarians and classical liberals. As a result, their focus shifted from an interaction between states to the actions of the United States. Other variants of IR liberalism have flourished since the end of World War II, but classical liberal and libertarian thought on IR has been hampered by a lingering concern over imperialism. Thus the European Union governs by fiat and democratic excess. Thus regional cooperation is not driven by concerns for individual liberty. Thus internationalist organizations are unconcerned with authoritarian overreach.
This is a call to revive the libertarian interstate federalist tradition, but it’s also an invitation to push boundaries on the well-established topics of sovereignties, social orders, and internationalism. Papers to be considered must be set in the context of international relations between polities (but not necessarily states) and they must provide rebuttals, further thoughts, or criticisms about the following notions:
● Do the concepts of polycentric democracy (Andersson) and polycentric sovereignty (Salter & Young) answer the age-old problem of predation better than republican security theory (Deudney)?
● Why did pre-1945 classical liberals believe that Balkanization was the main threat to peace, wealth, and liberty?
● Is ethnogenesis (Geloso & Rouanet) an overlooked answer to the problem of state sovereignty?
● Should libertarians and classical liberals continue to work around state sovereignty (MacDonald; Tucker & de Bellis), or revive efforts to confront it directly (Christensen)?
● How imperial is the current liberal world order (Ikenberry)? How liberal are the national
(Hazony) or civilizational (Maçães, Pabst) challenges to the status quo?
● Does the Westphalian status quo deserve its much-maligned reputation in libertarian and
classical liberal circles (Van de Haar)?
● What, if anything, can the libertarian interstate federalist tradition do for state capacity libertarianism (Cowen)?
Please send your proposal (an abstract or draft of the paper) to Brandon Christensen: firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: C + T symposium) no later than June 1, 2021. Notification of acceptance will be sent by June 25, 2021.
Timeline: Accepted papers (max 8,500 words) will be subject to peer-review. The issue will be published in late 2021 or early to mid-2022.
Symposium on Robert Vinten’s Wittgenstein and the Social Sciences: Action, Ideology and Justice
Guest Editor, Richard Eldridge
Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Charles and Harriett Cox McDowell Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Swarthmore College