Reforming policing

The persistent fact of racial disparities in the use of deadly force by police officers in US cities is an intolerable injustice. The Washington Post has maintained a database of police shootings since 2015 which includes shootings but not other causes of death; link. This database shows a glaring level of disparity between black, Hispanic, and white persons …

Democratic socialism in the 1930s

Is it still possible to think big in western democracies about social and economic change in a way that substantially improves the lives and freedoms of most of society? We see the deprivation and indifference of the economic system that has governed most industrialized countries for the past century and a half, leading to gross …

Is there a working class in the US?

There is certainly a working class in the United States, and it is a majority of the population (persons who earn their livelihood through wage-paying employment). But it is highly fragmented, mostly in the service sector, unorganized, and often disinclined to believe in the possibility of serious social change. A recent Brookings research report by …

Gross economic inequalities in the US

An earlier post (link) highlighted the growing severity of inequalities of wealth and income in the United States, as well as Elizabeth Warren's very sensible "billionaire" tax proposal. According to a 2020 article in Forbes, "According to the latest Fed data, the top 1% of Americans have a combined net worth of $34.2 trillion (or 30.4% …

English socialism

What were the social conditions that led many English intellectuals in the 1930s to engage in fundamental critique of the society in which they lived? Why was social criticism so profound and sustained in Britain from the time of Carlyle and Engels to the surge of English socialism in the 1930s? The answer, of course, …

A 1934 debate about communism among American philosophers

The appeal of Marxist socialism -- communism -- as an alternative to the consumerism, inequality, and exploitation of European and American capitalism was a powerful draw for many intellectuals in the 1930s, especially in the context of the great Depression and widespread crisis and deprivation of the 1930s. This interest extended to many prominent American …

Can Nietzsche support a decent political philosophy?

Nietzsche's anti-moralism is a key theme in his philosophy and civilizational criticism. He regarded traditional European morality as "herd morality", the deplorable consequence of Christian values of subordination and ressentiment. It is hard enough to find in Beyond Good and Evil or Genealogy of Morals a basis for criticizing even the most grotesque examples of interpersonal brutality and violence, and …

Classification of political systems and theories

Graph of political systems (click image for full resolution) It is possible to analyze much of the history of modern political philosophy -- political theory since Hobbes and Locke -- in terms of answers to a few primary questions. (This post expands upon a discussion of the "topology" of the space of political theories; link.) The …

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as a war crime

When Nazi Germany attacked Poland in 1939 it committed a war crime, codified by the standards established in preparation for the Nuremberg Trials in 1945. Here is a very useful summary of the Nuremberg process ("The Influence of the Nuremberg Trial on International Criminal Law", edited by Tove Rosen) at the Robert H. Jackson Center …

Vasily Grossman on good and evil

Vasily Grossman's novel Life and Fate was long delayed in its publication because of Soviet censorship but has come to be recognized as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. Grossman was a complex and appealing intellectual. Born in 1905, he was raised in a secular Jewish family in Berdichev, Ukraine. He was educated as …

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