Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Philosophy of Antifascism: Resources

I no longer blog thanks to Twitter, teaching and other commitments. However, I will dedicate--and hopefully continue to update--this post as a resource guide to my writings on antifascism around and related to the core contribution to the project, The Philosophy of Antifascism: Punching Nazis and Fighting White Supremacy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020).

Last update: May 6, 2023

On January 20th, 2017, during an interview on the streets of Washington D.C., white nationalist Richard Spencer was punched by an anonymous antifascist. The moment was caught on video and quickly went viral, and soon “punching Nazis” was a topic of heated public debate. How might this kind of militant action be conceived of, or justified, philosophically? Can we find a deep commitment to antifascism in the history of philosophy?

Through the existentialism of Simone de Beauvoir, with some reference to Fanon and Sartre, this book identifies the philosophical reasons for the political action being enacted by contemporary antifascists. In addition, using the work of Jacques Rancière, it argues that the alt-right and the far right aren’t a kind of politics at all, but rather forms of parapolitical and paramilitary mobilization aimed at re-entrenching the power of the state and capital.

Devin Shaw argues that in order to resist fascist mobilization, contemporary movements find a diversity of tactics more useful than principled nonviolence. Antifascism must focus on the systemic causes of the re-emergence of fascism, and thus must fight capital accumulation and the underlying white supremacism. Providing new, incisive interpretations of Beauvoir, existentialism, and Rancière, he makes the case for organizing a broader militant movement against fascism.

Purchase Philosophy of Antifascism at (here) and receive a free copy of the pamphlet The Politics of the Blockade (Kersplebedeb, 2020) (see here and here).

Reviews (open-access) or Discussions:

  • Donovan Irven, "The Three-Way Fight and Antifascist Philosophy," Erraticus, January 18, 2021 (link).
  • Shane Burley, "Antifa Academics," Full Stop, April 5, 2021 (link).
  • Robert Luzecky, Symposium, June 17, 2021 (link
  • Craig Fowlie, "American Antifascism Comes of Age," May 13, 2022 (link).
  • Red Menace: Neither Liberalism nor Reaction: Centering the Three-Way Fight, August 31, 2022 (Podcast link)

 Related Writings:

  • With Stanislav Vysotsky, "Conference Report: Antifascism in the 21st Century," Three Way Fight, February 7, 2023 (link).
  • "Where Do We Go Next? A Review of Shane Burley's Why We Fight," Three Way Fight, November 3, 2021 (link).
  • "Seven Theses on the Three-Way Fight," Three Way Fight, August 1, 2021 (link); in pamphlet form from 1312 Press (link).
  • "From German Communist Antifascism to a Contemporary United Front," Preface to T. Derbent, German Communist Resistance 1933–1945 (Paris: FLP, 2021), 1–17 (link).
  • "'Command that Does Not Command': Reconsidering Rancière's Opposition of Politics and Policing,"Parrhesia 33 (2020), 83–112 (link: it's an early version of chapter 3 of Philosophy of Antifascism)
  • "On Toscano's Critique of 'Racial Fascism,'" Three Way Fight, December 30, 2020 (link).
  • Review of Ajith (K. Murali), Critiquing Brahmanism, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, December 9, 2020 (link).
  • "Between System-Loyal Vigilantism and System-Oppositional Violence, Three Way Fight, October 25, 2020 (link).
  • Review of Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, May 13, 2020 (link).
  • "Fighting Fascism with Feminism: A Review of Petronella Lee's Anti-Fascism against Machismo," Social Justice Centre, January 5, 2020 (link).

 Interviews and Book Events

  • With Revolutionary Left Radio, August 16, 2020: "A Philosophy of Antifascism: Existentialism, Decolonization, and the Three-Way Fight" (link).
  • With The Howard Zinn Book Fair's podcast Books to the Barricades, August 2020 (link).
  • Join Book Launch with J. Moufawad-Paul, December 10, 2020 (link
  • Rad Reads, "End Table Book Chat" January 8, 2021 (YouTube)
  • With Revolutionary Voices, "Antifascism and Philosophy," January 22, 2021 (link).
  • With Millennials Are Killing Capitalism, "Philosophy of Antifascism in a Settler-Colonial Society," January 31, 2021 (link).
  • Brotherwise Dispatch vs. Devin Zane Shaw, Brotherwise Dispatch, vol. 3, issue 13, June-August 2022 (link).
  • With What's Left of Philosophy, "Antifascism and Emancipatory Violence," March 6, 2023 (link)
Bonus: Rad Reads reviews The Politics of the Blockade January 26, 2021 (Youtube). 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Talk at MUN: Rancière and Clastres

Tomorrow I'll be giving a talk at Memorial University in St. John’s, titled "The State and the Police: Considerations on Jacques Rancière and Pierre Clastres." In the talk, I examine the problem of command and coercion through the work of Clastres and Rancière. The argument of this talk has three parts. First, I show that command is a problem conceptualized by Rancière, and then, how the command-obedience relation functions to both reinforce and, when it is politicized, undermine the inequalities of a given police order. Then, I examine Clastres’s critique of the Eurocentric biases of anthropology and ethnography that reduce societies against the state to societies that lack a state. To show how societies refuse coercion and state power, I contend that Clastres proposes debt as both the origin of state power and the reason for the discontinuity and heterogeneity between societies against the state and societies with a state. I conclude with a series of critical remarks aimed toward evaluating Clastres’s identification of coercion with state power and Rancière’s categorization of command as policing. 

The talk is at Science 2101, 4:30 to 5:45.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Schelling's Anthropocentrism: A Short Presentation

The book launch for Rethinking German Idealism was probably as successful as can be for a book in a prohibitively priced hardcover: a good turn out, lots of questions, free food (as you'll see below), decently priced drinks, et cetera. I've decided to post my short presentation here (minus the footnotes and references supplied in the published version).

Part of the renaissance in Schelling studies is due to his work in nature-philosophy. His criticisms of modern concepts of nature suggest that his work could be fertile ground for thinking about nature non-anthropocentrically and for undermining the anthropocentric corollary that humans are the masters of nature and exercise dominion over it. Were that true, it might also be fertile ground for articulating normative claims supporting animal rights. We need only consider his claim that ordinary concepts of nature view it as a receptacle for a quantity of objects as not only anticipating Heidegger’s critique of technicity, but also Tom Regan’s critique of Peter Singer’s utilitarianism. The utilitarian approach to giving equal consideration to the interests of sentient beings considers these beings as if they are ‘mere receptacles’ for ‘quanta of pleasure and pain.’
    However, things aren’t that straightforward. Schelling is, of course, a sharp critic of modern concepts of nature. He argues, for example, that due to its dependence on mechanistic explanations of natural phenomena, modern philosophy since Descartes ‘has the common defect that nature is not available for it and that is lacks a living ground.’ From the vantage point of nature-philosophy, there is no justification for the Cartesian reduction of animals to mere natural machines that act ‘according to the disposition of their organs.’ Yet the problem becomes more complicated when we consider Descartes’s justification for the mechanistic explanation of animals: animals lack of their ability to use logos (that is, speech, reason, discursive thought, and language). This philosophical anthropocentrism exhibited by Descartes is not merely a modern failing; it encompasses a much broader tradition stretching back to Aristotle, a tradition that Schelling does not escape.
Schelling repeatedly claims that animals, while not necessarily mere mechanical automatons, lack language (logos) and freedom. In the First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799), he maintains that animals are ‘selfless objects’, meaning that ‘all ways of thinking a rationality in animal activities fail us.’ Later, in the ‘Aphorisms as an Introduction to Naturphilosophie’ (1805), he claims that animals are ‘incessant somnambulists’ who do not act of their own accord, but rather act insofar as their natural ground acts through them. Then, in the Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom (1809), he argues that animals can never emerge from the dark ground of nature, and thus lack the possibility for ‘absolute or personal unity’ (HF, 40).
The reason, though, that Schelling’s anthropocentrism is of interest, is that it didn’t have to be that way. On Schelling’s account, animals fall outside of moral consideration; humans owe them no direct obligations. Descartes formulates the problem with characteristic perspicuity: anthropocentrism is ‘indulgent to human beings […] since it absolves them from the suspicion of crime when they eat or kill animals.’ Along with a critique of Schelling, though, I try to show that certain parts of his work could lay the theoretical groundwork for a non-anthropocentric nature-philosophy.
Schelling phrases his anthropocentric claims in moral terms in the Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature. When discussing the emergence of the self-consciousness of practical reason, Schelling avers that, given that self-consciousness emerges through the acknowledgement of others, it is only through this act of recognition that individuality acquires moral purpose: ‘my moral existence only acquires purpose and direction through the existence of other moral beings’ (Ideas, 39). If we raise the ‘curious question’ as to whether these others include non-human animals, ‘whether animals also have souls,’ Schelling responds with the following:
a person of common sense is at once taken aback, because, with the affirmation of that, he would consider himself committed to something, which he has the right and authority to assert only of himself and those like him. (Ideas, 39–40; trans. modified)
After this appeal to common sense, Schelling drops the topic. What are we to make with his curt dismissal of the problem of animal others?
It’s problematic in Schelling’s case because he sets a ‘natural history’ [Naturlehre] of the mind as the task of nature-philosophy, in which the philosopher traces the emergence of consciousness within nature (Ideas, 30). In the Ideas he demands that, philosophically speaking, ‘Nature should be Mind made visible, Mind the invisible nature.’ I mention this feature of Schelling’s philosophy since it ought to have some bearing on the status of animals. If Geist (mind) proceeds along a continuum from simple to more complex forms, this progression should suggest that, even though humans possess faculties relatively more advanced than animals, that these distinctions are differences of degree rather than kind. A distributive continuum of intelligence or Geist would undermine the absolute exclusion of non-human animals from ethical or moral consideration.
Instead, Schelling builds a systematic case against including animals in moral considerations. He contends that the only external beings who merit moral consideration as ‘spiritual’ equals (that is, beings possessing Geist) are those beings, ‘between whom and myself giving and receiving, doing and suffering, are fully reciprocal’ (Ideas, 39; my emphasis). But Schelling should not, at this point, be able to appeal to the principle of spiritual equality of beings, when precisely this principle is in question. The boundaries that he establishes between those beings who act and who suffer like us, and those who do not, affirms a much more pernicious boundary: those beings with whom we share no reciprocity do not act and do not suffer because they do not act or suffer like we do. To dismiss the ‘curious question’ of whether animals are owed any moral obligations absolves humans, as Descartes writes, of ‘the suspicion of crime,’ when we humans assert our dominion over animals and exploit them to our ends. Unfortunately, I cannot address here how Schelling's anthropo-centrism plays out in his subsequent work. However, at least, you now know why the food was vegan.

In the talk I was unable to address how Schelling's anthropocentrism remained consistent through 1809. I've included some comments about absolute idealism in what follows:

I’ve noted claims from Schelling’s Ideas that would establish that differences between humans and animals are differences of degree and not kind. On this account, these differences of degree could be mapped onto the continuum leading from simple to complex acts of Geist. This approach has the advantage of accepting the differences between humans and animals, while acknowledging that the less complex dynamics of intelligence and their modes of relating to the environment would be shared by humans and non-human animals. However, if this were Schelling’s position, he could not categorically exclude non-human animals from the sphere of moral existence. It would remain possible, given the shared features of human and non-human Geist, that humans would owe some form of moral consideration to non-human animals, or at least some non-human animals. I suggest, in the conclusion to the essay that Schelling’s absolute idealism could converge with what, from the standpoint of critical animal studies, Matthew Calarco calls indistinction theory, an approach that no longer takes ‘distinctions between human beings and animals as the chief point of departure for thought and practice,’ which – unlike the utilitarian approach of Singer or the deontological approach of Regan – considers not only animals like us, but also the ‘fate of animals and other beings who lack the key capacities that would establish the grounds for basic ethical consideration.’ Perhaps, then, the critique of anthropocentrism provides an unlikely vindication for Schelling’s absolute idealism.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Launch: Rethinking German Idealism

From Facebook:
It is with great pleasure that I invite you to the book launch for Rethinking German Idealism (edited by Sean McGrath and Joseph Carew, Palgrave Macmillan 2016), which will take place at Room 404, Thomson House, 4:30-6:30, September 16.

Drawing together new and established scholars from German Idealist Studies, the volume is an attempt to reconceive various figures in the tradition, with an emphasis on ways in which their fundamental concepts still have contemporary purchase. Three authors from the volume will be in attendance: Joseph Carew, Wes Furlotte, and Devin Zane Shaw.

Vegan-friendly snacks will be served. For those interested, the articles by each author appearing in the volume can be made available by request.

Feel free to invite others.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

On Rancière and Clastres (and Todd May)

In Society against the State, Pierre Clastres writes,
from its beginnings our culture has conceived of political power in terms of hierarchized and authoritarian relations of command and obedience. Every real or possible form of power is consequently reducible to this privileged relation which a priori expresses the essence of power. (16)
I've been working on a paper that compares Rancière and Clastres to understand their respective projects. I've completed a rough draft of the section on Rancière, which responds to what I consider to be an undertheorized point in the literature: Rancière's account of command and obedience. I argue that Rancière's politics, at least as he outlines it in Disagreement, has two features (two features also relevant to his concept of the police): politics involves both the symbolization of equality (the aesthetics of politics) and the enactment of equality, which more specifically means the disruption and subversion of relations of command.

By emphasizing the latter point, how equality disrupts relations of command, I think we not only gain a greater appreciation of Rancière's work, but we also gain an analytic distinction that contributes to understanding debates in Rancière scholarship. At the moment, we're only going to look at an example of the latter point.

As some of you know, I recently reviewed Martin Breaugh et al.'s Thinking Radical Democracy. In that review, I discuss Rachel Magnusson's chapter on Rancière. I think it's a great and incisive essay, and I follow her discussion through a critique of the work of Todd May, who, she claims, interprets Rancière's work in terms too close to liberalism. There certainly are passages in May's work where it seems that he does verge to close to liberal accounts of equality, despite, of course, his distinction between passive and active equality. Magnusson's judgment, however, has continued to bother me. After working out the analytical distinction between symbolization and command, I now know why. Todd May is cast as both too liberal (by Magnusson) and too anarcho-purist (by Samuel Chambers) because May and his critics emphasize different features of Rancière’s politics: May focuses on the enactment—in his words, the “activation”—of equality against command, while Magnusson and Chambers interpret May as giving an account of political symbolization. Indeed, one of the virtues of May's work, in distinction to much of the literature, is to think Rancière's politics against relations of command.

Next up is to deal with Clastres, who attempts to outline a genealogy of political power, and his hypothesis is that the social division, which is the State, between command and obedience precedes all other hierarchical distinctions. Then I will argue that Rancière's concept of the police, is a critique of this vertical model of political power.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book Exchange: McLennan and Shaw

These days, the time I used to spend blogging has been expended on being managing book review editor for Symposium and the CSCP. That does not mean that Matt and I have ended our philosophical back-and-forth. Over at Symposium, we have reviewed each other's books:
Symposium inaugurates a new series, Book Exchanges, with Matthew R. McLennan’s review of Devin Zane Shaw’s Egalitarian Moments: From Descartes to Rancière (Bloomsbury, 2016) and Shaw’s review of McLennan’s Philosophy, Sophistry, Antiphilosophy: Badiou’s Dispute with Lyotard (Bloomsbury, 2015). Book exchanges put contemporary scholars into dialogue through mutual review and critique of their recent publications with the aim of establishing intersections and points of reinforcement between works that speak from different standpoints or different disciplines; in the case of McLennan and Shaw, both authors aim to outline a radical and militant philosophical approach informed by Badiou, Lyotard, and Rancière. Such an exchange is apposite, given that McLennan and Shaw are currently co-authoring a book on the political thought of Miguel Abensour.    –Eds.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reviewing "Split Season 1981"

I not only review books in philosophy, but also about baseball, strikes, and labor. The Hardball Times has published my review of Jeff Katz's book Split Season 1981: Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball. I can't shake the feeling that, as a longtime Giants fan, that the photograph of Fernando Valenzuela that heads the review is subtle trolling by the folks at THT...but then again, part of the book's subtitle is Fernandomania. But about Katz, I say:
Another way to convey Katz’s storytelling skill is to note, because I’m too young to remember it, that the split season had always been to my mind a statistical anomaly or a turning-point in labor relations, but not really a season like I remember 1987 or 1989. However, by the end of the book, I cursed myself for caring whether the Dodgers or Yankees would win the World Series, I could feel how Reds fans or Cardinals fans might dismiss the results of 1981 with an asterisk or two, I felt indignation at the possibility that Boone was sold to, and DeCinces traded to, the Angels at the end of season as retribution for their efforts on behalf of the union. Finally, I grinned with pleasure when Katz notes that an Angels team packed with union leaders—DeCinces and Boone, but also Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor and Steve Renko—made it to the playoffs in 1982.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Baseball and Intersectionality, or, A Belated Reply to Rian Watt and Craig Calcaterra


In a pair of recent essays, both Rian Watt (in “Life at the Margins”) and Craig Calcaterra (in “The Intersectionalist Manifesto”) challenge the idea that baseball writing ought to, as it’s often said, stick to sports. Watt’s specific interest, which initiated the discussion, was to ask what kind of baseball writing comes after Sabermetrics. He notes that among readers and writers there is a sense that sabermetrically-inclined analysis has reached a point of saturation, in which much of the recent writing has been dedicated to tinkering with a well-established paradigm. Watt proceeds to argue that discontent within the baseball writing community signals that a paradigm shift is underway. “The best baseball writing,” Watt notes,
this year has been about more than baseball. It’s been about politics, and race, and gender, and sexuality, and money, and power, and how they all come together in this game we love. It’s placed the game in its social context, and used it as a lens to talk about ideas that are bigger than the nuts and bolts of a box score.
He then refers to this approach as intersectional writing, which, as Calcaterra notes, captures the sense in which baseball intersects with broader social dynamics such as race, gender, and economics. Much of the pushback against intersectional writing is premised on the claim that sports journalism ought to stick to sports (a claim which is itself questionable, as will become clearer below). An additional dimension of the pushback to which Calcaterra responds is the mistaken idea that intersectional writing is merely a fancy name for licensing a writer to introduce his or her particular “social justice” concerns into analyses of the game, or that it is cultural writing with baseball as a focus. The response offered by Watt and Calcaterra is, in Watt’s words, that “all baseball writing is culture writing, namely, that all baseball writing is immersed in broader cultural dynamics and norms that may or may not be explicitly analyzed by the writer.

I’d like to offer a few belated comments on these essays. It’s true that, while I watch baseball and read about baseball, that I don’t usually write about it. What I find interesting, in this case, is the use of the term intersectionality, and how it found its way outside of the academic contexts in which we usually talk about it, to become the name for a new paradigm of baseball writing. In what follows, I will argue that intersectionality means something more than cultural or socio-political baseball writing. I think that if intersectionality names a new paradigm of baseball writing, that it should explicitly confront both the norms that orient how the game is played and the norms that guide the conceptual choices that writers make. That sounds abstract, but I think the recent debate over the so-called unwritten rules of baseball will illustrate what I mean.

However, I’d like to take a brief detour through the article that introduced intersectionality as a concept: Kimberle Crenshaw’s “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”* I think this detour is warranted because Crenshaw makes a crucial point about how an uncritical approach to social norms produces biases in the way we think about discrimination, social activism, and social change (among other things). Crenshaw argues that the dominant approaches to problems of discrimination “treat race and gender as mutually exclusive categories of experience and analysis.” To treat discrimination as the result of either gender or race distorts and marginalizes the experiences of those who are adversely affected by both gender and racial discrimination. 

For our purposes, we should note that the uncritical adoption of these “single-axis” frameworks introduces theoretical and practical norms that undermine the social agency of marginalized groups. Crenshaw’s interest is in how these single-axis theories marginalize black women. She argues that black women are marginalized because feminist theory is largely shaped by the experiences and struggles of white women.** In a similar fashion, antiracist struggles are largely shaped by African-American men. This places African-American women in a double-bind: there are ways in which their consciousness as women conflicts with their consciousness as members of the African-American community, and there are ways in which their consciousness and experiences as African-Americans conflict with their experiences as women. This is, undoubtedly, a very schematic summary. But it is enough to introduce Crenshaw’s critique of the normative failures of single-axis frameworks:
These problems of exclusion cannot be resolved simply by including Black women within an already established analytical structure…the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism…. (140)
Thus for Crenshaw, intersectionality is a direct attack on the presumed norms that guide single-axis frameworks.

The Unwritten Rules

The response to the recent comments by Bryce Harper and Goose Gossage about the unwritten rules of baseball will illuminate what I mean by reconsidering the social norms that guide our thinking about baseball. Though I will not recount those comments here, I will point to a recent post concerning the racist undertones of policing the so-called “unwritten rules” of the game. Sam Adler-Bell writes:
These flare ups of concern about the erosion of baseball values—translation: that baseball players occasionally act like they’re having fun—almost always center on non-white players’ perceived violations of baseball etiquette. Gossage’s comments are plainly racist.
If what I am saying about intersectionality is correct, then criticizing the so-called unwritten rules requires doing more than merely condemning the comments themselves. It involves, as Adler-Bell notes, reconceptualizing how those comments are understood. Here are the ways that we could consider the context of players enforcing the unwritten rules.

1) Stick to sports: The unwritten rules are part of the game. 
On this view, the fact that (white) American players evoke the unwritten rules to police the behavior of Latin American players is accidental. The proponent of this view looks for an exception and finds that in 2012 Cole Hamels deliberately hit Bryce Harper with a pitch so that Harper would get a better idea of his place—so it’s not all Latin Americans who are on the wrong side of the unwritten rules.

Obviously, this approach is incompatible with an intersectional approach. There is a fine line distinguishing the next two possible ways to interpret the norms of the unwritten rules.

2) The unwritten rules as applied by Player X are socially unacceptable.
It is possible to begin by looking at the unwritten rules through the lens of broader social dynamics. Then, given that many of the off-field complaints involve (white) American players policing the behaviors of Latin American players (most recently, it’s Gossage criticizing José Bautista’s admittedly awesome and jubilant, I sayplayoff bat-flip), we can conclude that policing the unwritten rules displays racist undertones, or at least, some degree of white privilege. The problem, however, is that proof that race is a factor often turns on whether or not a particular player (our Player X) who has decided to police the game has racist motivations or not. Once it becomes about the player's intent or attitudes, we've lost sight of the system of social norms.
3) The unwritten rules allow (white) American players*** to set the norms of the game.
The standpoint of the second view starts with a particular practice (the unwritten rules) and then introduces broader social dynamics into the equation. However, the unwritten rules are not rituals that have existed since time immemorial. As Adler-Bell writes,
Enforcing traditional codes of conduct is the primary way that whiteness continues to exert its authority over the game. When baseball old-timers talk about the “right way” to play the game, they mean the “white way.” And in this, I see less a genuine loyalty to the game’s existing norms, than an attachment to the privilege of defining what those norms are. (My emphasis)
Thus when white (American) players claim that they are policing who plays the game the right way, they are claiming the privilege of defining the norms of baseball. Moreover, we could suggest that the reason (white) American players continue to enforce the unwritten rules (that is, define the norms for how the game is played) is that they derive a competitive advantage—as a group—from the unwritten rules. This point, of course, has been noted by historians of baseball’s integration, but it is still relevant today. If even Bautista, in his essay in The Players' Tribune, appears obligated to note that his famous bat flip doesn’t represent disrespect for the unwritten rules of the game—“It wasn’t out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn’t because I don’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment”—what of the lesser-known Latin American player who is on the bubble of a major league (or even minor league) roster? Could we conceive of these players, for example, modifying their behaviors to avoid incurring the physical violence of Law and Order Ball (what Dave Zirin suggested on Twitter we call “Ball and Order”) by standing off the plate to avoid potential injuries—thus putting themselves at a disadvantage as batters.

The Politics of Unwritten Rules

By focusing on how norms arise in baseball, and by focusing on who claims the privilege of setting those norms, we undermine the idea that it is possible to just merely stick to the game. What the intersectional approach demonstrates is that social norms are themselves social forces. To phrase this in different terms, we could call the second approach reformist: it aims to reform the game by halting a bad practice or correcting what player attitudes we consider acceptable. That is an admirable goal in itself, and I’m not condemning that. However, the intersectional approach aims to show how different practices within the game reveal the privilege that (white) American players have on and off the field, and perhaps—I raise this as a possibility because this is a question we should seek to answerthe competitive advantage they gain by having this privilege. Perhaps this is precisely what Calcaterra’s critics believe is “social justice” advocacy. So be it. The entire point is to make the normative structure visible so that we can interpret it, rather than treating social and political dynamics as if they are magically rebuffed by the chalk on the field. When we say that the Goose Gossages, the Jonathan Papelbons, and the Bud Norrises of baseball play “Ball and Order,” it’s a reminder that the unwritten rules of the game are themselves never neutral.

* This article appears in The University of Chicago Legal Forum (1989), 139–167.
**Crenshaw, p. 154: “When feminist theory attempts to describe women’s experiences through analyzing patriarchy, sexuality, or separate spheres ideology, it often overlooks the role of race. Feminists thus ignore how their own race functions to mitigate some aspects of sexism and, moreover, how it often privileges them over and contributes to the domination of other women.”
*** Or, to paraphrase Ta-Nehisi Coates, players who believe they are white.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Latest Arrivals

My reading lists are probably at their most diverse when I'm not in the midst of a book project. While some of the major features of the next project are coming into focus, I've been reading a variety of books that won't have any direct bearing on it. (Then again, who knows for sure?)

The Abensour stuff is for a long-term project that Matt McLennan and I are working on. I've written a book review of Split Season 1981, though it's ultimate venue is unconfirmed. And, yes, it's taken me this long to get a copy of Coates's book. What can I say? I'm backlogged:

Next, a stack from a Verso book sale. Geras probably looks like the odd title out, but it's a follow up for our reading group for Feuerbach's The Fiery Brook. Behind that stack is another stack of recent acquisitions; some are part of a self-education in indigenous studies to find essays/chapters to include in introductory courses in philosophy:


Then, catching up on Derrida and Honneth for future (shorter) projects, plus two more baseball books to read before the season starts:

Not pictured: five or six other books that are somewhere waiting to be delivered.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The "Oriental Idea": Feuerbach and Schelling

I'm part of a Feuerbach reading group, and I'm attempting to give his work more time than I did when I read The Essence of Christianity. I've only gotten as far as the first paragraph of Feuerbach's "Towards a Critique of Hegel" and I'm struck by an undercurrent of ambivalent orientalism that reminds me of a passage from Schelling's Philosophy of Art (University of Minnesota Press, 1989). Presented, without further ado, as a kind of call-and-response:

By German speculative philosophy, I mean that philosophy which dominates the present—the philosophy of Hegel. As far as Schelling’s philosophy is concerned, it was really an exotic growth—the ancient oriental idea of identity on Germanic soil. (The Fiery Brook, Verso, 2012, p. 53).
From Pythagoras onward, and even further back, down to Plato, philosophy perceived itself as an exotic plant in Greek soil, and this feeling expressed itself among other places in the universal impulse leading those initiated into higher teachings—either through the wisdom of earlier philosophers or through the mysteries—back to the birthplace of the ideas, namely, the Orient. (4-5)