Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Off to APSA

The original idea behind my break in blogging was to get a lot of research and writing finished this summer. That didn't turn out the way it planned, and along the way a lot of other things changed as well. But at the very least, I got a few things done, and found myself thinking differently about a lot of my life as well.

For now, I'm off to the American Political Science Association's annual meeting, this year in Chicago. I'm presenting a couple of papers, the drafts of which you can read here and here (note: both are PDF documents). I'll be talking about cross-cultural discourse, human rights, Confucianism, Puritanism, models of community, globalization, liberalism, ontology, and much more.

I like conferences; they jazz me up, get me enthused about the discipline and who is doing what and how I can contribute. I realize that many long-time academics get entirely burned out on the conference-going scene, but for me, the rejuvenating effect remains as strong as it was when I attended my first professional conference as a graduate student. I hope that doesn't change anytime soon.

Plus, an added bonus: a crazy, near all-blogger panel, on the "Power and Politics of Blogs." Finally, my chance to get Henry Farrell's autograph.


Laura said...

see you there, Russell!

Anonymous said...

Enjoy. Say Hi to Henry for me, and let me know if Ana Marie Cox' rack is really all she makes it sound like. :^)

Reading your paper on the Puritans and Confucianism is interesting. Certainly the "silence of heaven" of Confucianism contrasts with the "personal relationship with God" so close to the core of Evangelical Christianity. Still, it seems to me that the apparent practical differences between the two are not readily predictable from that distinction. One might just as easily have expected the very "worldly" beliefs of Confucius to have led to a very Calvinist sort of work ethnic, while the Christian focus on the here-after has led to the abandonment of worldly pursuits more often than to the industriousness of the early northern European mercantile states. Much is made, for example, of the traditional Confucian contempt for trade as a barrier to capitalist transformation in Asia, while the message that "all are equal in Jesus' eyes" was often cited by advocates of expanded franchise, democratic government and even in defense of redistributionist social democracy.

I do note, though, your point about the Confucians seeing existing social relations as revealing the proper order of things. But is this not similar to the "Divine Right of Kings" - the notion that if God didn't want the king to rule us, he wouldn't have put him on the throne? One finds in medieval European thought a lot of divine justification for accepting one's role in the world. While that whole teleological line of thought was attacked throughout the early modern era, and especially in the revolutions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, it seems to be making a come-back in modern liberalism. Making the market so central to liberal claims about justice quite regularly leads to the teleological claim that if the the market has blessed some with wealth and others with poverty, that this reveals an underlying truth about who should be poor and who should be rich. It seems this ideology still has some appeal.

I wonder if one could deploy such an argument in response to liberalism?

I also note with interest your citiation of Allen Chun discussing the extended meaning given to jia in Confucius. (家 I presume?) I'm going to have to look up the article now. I had had some similar thoughts myself - the notion that jia represents something more along the lines of a functional and self-propagating social structure rather than simply a family. I was wondering if a neo-Confucian communitarianism might replace the notion of shared ritual as its defining feature with a more cognitive sort of definition - perhaps the notion of collective process of a cognition, production or propagation. I got the idea because I was always writing 参家 instead of 参加 - to participate - and started thinking there was an etymological link.

One of the things I'm going to do on my blog now that I have some time is an entry expanding on the kind of collectivism I did in the language rights posts last year, trying to justify the notion that people's stake in an institution justifies them having a say in what they do. Your discussion of Confucius' idea that membership in the community is conditional only on taking one's appropriate place in it offers an interesting approach. I had noticed that Confucian thought has some affinities to the conception of freedom as self-development in an expanded - and collective - conception of the self.

I've been hesitant to try to take that line because I don't know the ins and outs of Confucius that well. One prof I had who talked about him in depth was very anti-Confucian, while the other classed herself as a "Confucian feminist."

Scott (who has forgotten his blogger account password) Martens