Category Archives: civic theory

polycentricity: the case for a (very) mixed economy

I haven’t really studied Quinn Slobodian’s history of neo-liberalism, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, nor Nancy MacLean’s Democracy In Chains: The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America. I am following the controversy about the latter, … Continue reading

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outline of a session on civic agency

This morning, I enjoyed working with an impressive group of Rwandan professionals (academics, clinicians and others). The outline of the session could work for other groups and is “open source”–available for anyone to borrow. I open with my formula that … Continue reading

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ambition: pro or con?

How should we think about ambition? Here are four possibilities: It’s basically a sin. According to the OED, “ambicioun” already appears in 1449 on a list of “vicis” (vices), right between “pride,” and “vein glorie.” It’s the selfish desire to … Continue reading

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Gandhi on the primacy of means over ends

I don’t think that Gandhi really said, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” but he did hold a challenging view of the relationship between means (or strategies) and ends. “Be the change” could serve as a … Continue reading

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the I and the we: civic insights from Christian theology

Let’s assume that individuals have ethical responsibilities: each of us must strive to do what is right. However, our knowledge, self-discipline, and capacity to influence the world are all severely limited. Therefore, we are obliged to participate in groups that … Continue reading

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the right to strike

Yesterday, Alexander Gourevitch from Brown University spoke on “The Right to Strike.” I won’t try to summarize (or scoop) the argument of his forthcoming paper, except to say that Gourevitch uses an account of oppression to give a strong defense … Continue reading

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what if something is not your problem?

I frame a most of my research and teaching around the question, “What should we do?” I’d even define a citizen as someone who asks that question. In academic contexts, I argue that this question is complex and under-theorized: it raises … Continue reading

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from I to we: an outline of a theory

These are the main ideas that I’ve defended (or plan to develop) in my theoretical scholarship. They are organized from micro to macro and from ethics to politics. As always, I put this draft online to welcome critical feedback. Each … Continue reading

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how information relates to power, according to C.V. Wedgewood

C.V. (Veronica) Wedgewood’s The Thirty Years War is almost a century old, but it remains an inexhaustible source of insights. TaNahisi Coates loves it, too: “Take this for whatever it’s worth but she writes better than any historian I’ve ever … Continue reading

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Nicole Doerr, Political Translation: How Social Movement Democracies Survive

A century ago, Robert Michels observed what he called the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” at work in the socialist and revolutionary labor parties and movements of Europe. He argued that these groups provided “the best field of observation” for the … Continue reading

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