The Triumph of Injustice

Is there a tax collection problem? Are companies not paying their fair share? If so, how much? And, who cares? Is it just because they are smart, as Trump proclaimed when asked about his lack of paying taxes? The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay (2019) by Saez and Zucman answer these questions (most of which is available and updated on their website. A few notes:

"At the heart of today's tax dodging lies a powerful and versatile technology: the offshore shell company. Popularized in 2016 by the revelations in the Panama Papers, the offshore shell company is like a multi-tool. It can be used to avoid estate taxes, capital gains taxes, ordinary income taxes, wealth taxes, corporate income taxes, withholding taxes on cross-border payments of interest, dividends, and royalties. It can also come in handy if you want to defraud the IRS, ex-spouses, children, business partners, or creditors. It's not unhelpful if your goal is to practice insider trading, launder money, pocket illegal commissions, fund an electoral campaign under the table, or finance terrorist groups. As an emblem of the zero-sum economy, the offshore shell has no rivals." (p. 63-64)

"In 2003, a year before it was listed as a public company in August 2004, Google sold its search and advertisement technology to its own "Google Holdings," a subsidiary incorporated in Ireland, but for Irish tax purposes a tax resident of Bermuda, an island in the Atlantic where its "mind and management" are supposedly located... In just one year, 2017 (the latest year available), Google Holdings in Bermuda made $22.7 billion in revenue. How so? Because it's the legal owner of some of Google's most valuable technologies. Google Holdings licenses the right to use its technology to Google's affiliates throughout Europe. (A similar scheme is used in Asia, with Singapore in lieu of Bermuda). Google's subsidiaries in Germany or France pay billions of dollars in royalties to Google Holdings for the right to use to so-called Bermudian technology, reducing the tax base in Germany and in France, and increasing it in Bermuda by the same amount. The corporate tax rate in Bermuda? Zero." (p. 75-75)

"A recent study estimates that globally, 40% of all multinational profits - profits made by firms outside of the country where they are incorporated, such as the profits made by Apple outside of the United States, or those of Volkswagen outside of Germany - are booked in tax havens today. This corresponds to around $800 billion in income earned in the United States, France, or Brazil that ends up being booked and taxed in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, or Singapore, usually at rates between 5% and 10%. In this war of all multinationals against all states, US multinationals appear to be the boldest: they shift not 40% (the world average) but 60% of their foreign profits to offshore tax havens each year." (p. 78)

"With tax avoidance reduced to a minimum, there's a wide consensus that increasing the amount of revenue collected from the wealthy is possible. But how much exactly? According to our computations, by about four percentage points of national income, or $750 billion a year in 2019." (p. 143)

"Among the many policies that can curb the power of established wealth and contain rent-seeking, the quasi-confiscatory taxation of very high incomes historically has proved effective. But it faces a major limitation: as we've seen, it's become too easy for the very rich to own a lot of wealth while reporting little taxable income. Reinstating a 90% top marginal income tax rate would not make a meaningful difference to the tax bills of many of America's billionaires. Overcoming this limitation requires taxing top wealth itself at high rates. A moderate wealth tax at a marginal tax rates of 2% above $50 million and 3% above $1 billion, such as the one discussed in the previous chapter, would generate a lot of revenue - about 1% of GDP each year, according to our estimates." (p. 173-174) 


Ending Aid Dependence

Looking for a different perspective on aid? A short publication (144 pages) called Ending Aid Dependence (2008) by Yash Tandon, with a forward by the former President of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa, is well worth your read. The book is published by Fahamu, which also published Shivji's book on NGOs. A few notes:

"The political rationale and teleological direction of the South Commission Report was succinctly summarised by Nyerere in these five headings: development shall be people centred; pursue a policy of maximum national self-reliance; supplement that with a policy of maximum collective South-South self-reliance; build maximum South-South solidarity in your relationships with the North; develop science and technology." (p. 16) 

"Historically, all imperial projects begin with military conquest, then with economic restructuring so that the colonised country's economy services the needs of the imperial nations, and finally ideological conversion of the colonised leadership and population through education, training, etc. It is the same pattern with the present development aid architecture." (p. 22)

"It is clear that IMF bail-outs to the hard-pressed economies of all these countries in the South that, through ignorance or naivety, accepted them, were not to protect these economies. The objective, or at any rate the effect, was to bail out hard-pressed American financial and banking interests, and to create conditions for further control by American (and allied) capital over the national economies of the developing countries in distress. In other words, these developing countries were placed in distress through debt burden, trade liberalisation, and the other Red Aid conditionalities of donor funding, and then to get them out of the distress, the IMF moved in and cleared the way for AmericanEuropean-Japanese capital to take over. This, at least, is what evidence shows on the ground, whatever the neoliberal theorists might say in their erudite books." (p. 62)

 "Ending aid dependence is not a one-day project. Deeply embedded structures and the power of vested interests do not disappear overnight. Neither do they disappear on their own. Cutting off from aid dependence is an act of political will. Aid's demise has to be strategised carefully, like fighting a war, no less. It cannot be left only to politicians, or officials, or experts. However, without their active involvement the strategy cannot succeed. It is the combined efforts of the people and their leaders that can lift the mental shackles of the past." (p. 77)


The Transnational Land Rush in Africa

The Transnational Land Rush in Africa: A Decade After the Spike

Abstract: This volume provides up-to-date information on what has happened in the African 'land rush', providing national case studies for countries that were heavily impacted. The research will be a critical resource for students, researchers, advocates and policy makers as it provides detailed, long-term assessments of a broad range of national contexts. In addition to the specific questions of land and investment, this book sheds light on the broader international political economy of development in different African countries.

It is available via Palgrave here: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-030-60789-0 or the DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-60789-0 


The UAE as a Global Donor

The United Arab Emirates as a global donor: what a decade of foreign aid data transparency reveals

Open Access article: https://doi.org/10.1080/21665095.2021.1883453 or here https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21665095.2021.1883453

Abstract: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a leading contributor of foreign aid, in terms of percentage of gross national income as well as in total amount. Historically, Emirati aid was opaque, and little was known about the foreign aid portfolio. This changed after 2009 when the UAE began to submit detailed, project-level data to the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. Based on a decade of aid transparency, this article carries out an examination of the political economy of aid provided by the UAE, comparing its portfolio to other donor countries. Particular attention is paid to analyzing three primary recipients of its aid (Egypt, Serbia and Yemen) and the implicit motivations driving those decisions. The majority of Emirati aid to these three countries was granted as general budgetary support, often in tandem with efforts to achieve political, economic and/or military aims. Based on the findings, an evaluation is made regarding Emirati narratives of South-South cooperation and its seeking of mutual benefit as well as critiques put forward within the literature countering this. In addition to critically assessing the details of an under-researched aid portfolio, this paper highlights areas for further study to deepen our understanding of the UAE's foreign aid. 


The Racial Contract

Mills' The Racial Contract (1997) is essential reading - short and generally accessible (the philosophy might be a challenge for those outside of it), but well worth struggling through. Charles W. Mills is currently at City University of New York and has written a number of books (reviews of others to come). The book seems to be available here, via the Publisher. A selection of notes from this book:

"White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with Plato and Aristotle, perhaps say something about Augustine, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, move on to Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and Marx, and then wind up with Rawls and Nozick. It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, liberalism, representative government, socialism, welfare capitalism, and libertarianism. But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and runs the ostensible gamut of political systems, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. And this omission is not accidental. Rather, it reflects the fact that standard textbooks and courses have for the most part been written and designed by whites, who take their racial privilege so much for granted that they do not even see it as political, as a form of domination. Ironically, the most important political system of recent global history—the system of domination by which white people have historically ruled over and, in certain important ways, continue to rule over nonwhite people—is not seen as a political system at all. It is just taken for granted; it is the background against which other systems, which we are to see as political, are highlighted. This book is an attempt to redirect your vision, to make you see what, in a sense, has been there all along." (p. 1-2)

"What is needed, in other words, is a recognition that racism (or, as I will argue, global white supremacy) is itself a political system, a particular power structure of formal or informal rule, socioeconomic privilege, and norms for the differential distribution of material wealth and opportunities, benefits and burdens, rights and duties." (p. 3)

"All whites are beneficiaries of the Contract, though some whites are not signatories to it." (p. 11)

"In philosophy one could trace this common thread through Locke's speculations on the incapacities of primitive minds, David Hume's denial that any other race but whites had created worthwhile civilizations, Kant's thoughts on the rationality differentials between blacks and whites, Voltaire's polygenetic conclusion that blacks were a distinct and less able species, John Stuart Mill's judgment that those races "in their nonage" were fit only for "despotism." The assumption of nonwhite intellectual inferiority was widespread, even if not always tricked out in the pseudoscientific apparatus that Darwinism would later make possible. Once this theoretical advance had been made, of course, there was a tremendous outpouring of attempts to put the norming on a quantifiable basis—a revitalized craniometry, claims about brain size and brain corrugations, measurings of facial angles, pronouncements about dolichocephalic and brachycephalic heads, recapitulationism, and finally, of course, IQ theory—the feature putatively correlated with intelligence varying, but the desired outcome of confirming nonwhite intellectual inferiority always achieved." (p. 59-60)

"By the social contract's decision to remain in the space of the European nation-state, the connection between the development of this space's industry, culture, civilization, and the material and cultural contributions of Afro-Asia and the Americas is denied, so it seems as if this space and its denizens are peculiarly rational and industrious, differentially endowed with qualities that have enabled them to dominate the world." (p. 74)

"...in a racially structured polity, the only people who can find it psychologically possible to deny the centrality of race are those who are racially privileged, for whom race is invisible precisely because the world is structured around them, whiteness as the ground against which the figures of other races—those who, unlike us, are raced—appear. The fish does not see the water, and whites do not see the racial nature of a white polity because it is natural to them, the element in which they move." (p. 76)

"Whiteness is not really a color at all, but a set of power relations." (p. 127) 


Waqf in the Islamic World

In an earlier post I commented on the remarkable amount of land and resources managed by charitable foundations / endowments in the Middle East and North Africa, but was also challenged to find the primary source for that data (despite digging from reference to reference, only to hit dead ends). To look into the waqf (pl. awqaf) institutions of charitable foundations / endowments further I picked up Held in Trust: Waqf in the Islamic World (2011), edited by Pascale Ghazaleh and published by the American University in Cairo Press. The chapters provide some detailed case studies, which are fascinating for those interested in the topic. A few generic notes on the structure of the waqf:

"For centuries, waqfs (endowments or foundations) were a crucial part of the political, economic, and social history of the Arab and Muslim world. As service-providing institutions, waqfs were a major source of education, health care, and employment... Generally speaking, they had to consist of two main elements: first, a source of revenue, such as a building rented out for residential or commercial purposes, agricultural land that generated taxes, a public bath, or a warehouse; and second, a beneficiary, such as a mosque, a hospital, the poor, members of the founder's family, freed slaves, or any other recipient of the founder's choosing. To be valid, a waqf had to consist of an object or objects originally held in full property; the founder had to be of sound mind and body, and able to dedicate the property in question to God (in other words, a waqf could not be established by a bankrupt founder seeking to protect his property from confiscation); and the waqf had to be permanent, which meant that the revenue it generated had to be renewable, the property had to be subject to renewal or renovation, and the founder had to stipulate means of ensuring the perpetuity of the waqf and the continual disbursement of its revenues." (p. 1-2, from the editor)

"In the medieval Islamic world, many of the services today provided by modern governments and municipalities were left to 'civil agents' such as waqfs and charitable institutions. States were to provide security, against both internal and external threats, and to distribute and maintain justice. Services such as education, health, relief of poverty, public and religious constructions (mosques, ablution pools, cemeteries, baths), and infrastructure projects (water supply, bridges, roads) were all provided by the waqf system." (p. 23, from Riza Yildirim)

For the details on how these operated, the contributions to this book cover different geographies, time periods, and waqf structures. Well worth picking up for those interested.


Ending the Crisis of Capitalism, or Ending Capitalism?

I have covered several of Samir Amin works, including Unequal Development (1976), Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (1997) and The Liberal Virus (2004). This post covers his book Ending the Crisis of Capitalism, or Ending Capitalism? (originally published in French in 2009, and the translation I have was published in 2011 by Pambazuka Press). An longer set of notes:

"The principle of endless accumulation that defines capitalism is synonymous with exponential growth and the latter, like cancer, leads to death." (p. 1)

"The fundamental questioning of capitalism - which our contemporary thinkers in their overwhelming majority deem neither possible nor desirable - is nonetheless the inescapable condition for the emancipation of the dominated workers and the peoples (those of the peripheries, that is 80 per cent of mankind). And the two dimensions of this challenge are inextricably linked with one another. There will be no exit from capitalism solely by way of the struggle of the people of the North, or solely by the struggle of the dominated people of the South. There will only be an exist from capitalism if and when these two dimensions of the challenge combine with one another. It is far from certain that this will occur, in which case capitalism will be overcome by the destruction of civilization." (p. 16-17)

"And are the progressive social forces strong enough to impose such a transformation? In my humble opinion, they are not. The real alternative involves overturning the exclusive power of the oligopolies, which is inconceivable without finally nationalising them for management that is in line with a progressive democratic socialisation. The end of capitalism? I don't think so. I think, on the other hand, that new patterns of social power relationships can force capital to make adjustments in response to the claims of the popular classes and peoples, this on the condition that the social struggles - still fragmented and on the whole defensive - succeed in drawing up a coherent political alternative. If so, the beginning of the long transition from capitalism to socialism becomes possible." (p. 36)

"Historical capitalism must be overtaken and this cannot be done unless the societies in the peripheries (the great majority of humanity) set to work out systematic strategies of delinking from the global system and reconstructing themselves on an autonomous basis, thus creating the conditions for an alternative globalisation, engaged on the long road to world socialism." (p. 58)

"Niger is a textbook example of this. This country receives aid that covers 50 per cent of its budget. This aid is 'indispensable' for its survival although it is perfectly ineffective: the country remains close to the bottom of the list of the poorest countries in the world. But Niger is the third largest exporter of uranium in the world. Situated between Algeria, Libya and Nigeria, it could be tempted, through nationalism, to recover control over this wealth. Areva, the French firm that exploits the uranium mine, knows this very well. It is not difficult to believe that aid to Niger has no other objective than to maintain the country as a client state." (p. 137)

"Liberal globalisation wants to build another world which is in the process of emerging, based on an apartheid at the world level, still more barbaric than what we have experienced since the end of the Second World War... This pursuit, against all odds, by the oligarchy of the imperialist Triad to continue their domination over the world system involves the recourse to permanent, armed violence through the military control of the planet." (p. 185)

On food and land:

"The United States and Europe have well understood the importance of food sovereignty and have successfully implemented it through systematic economic policies. But, apparently, what is good for them is not so for others! The World Bank, the OECD, and the European Union try to impose an alternative, which is 'food security'. According to them, the Third World countries do not need food sovereignty and should rely on international trade to cover deficit - however large - in their food requirements. This may seem easy for those countries which are large exporters of national resources (oil, uranium, etc). For others, the advice of the western powers is to specialise, as much as possible, in the production of agricultural commodities for export (cotton, tropical drinks and oils, agrofuels in the future). The defenders of food security (for others, not for themselves) do not consider the fact that this specialisation, which has been practised since colonisation, has not made it possible to improve the miserable food rations of the peoples concerned (especially the peasants)." (p. 107)

"What the dominant discourse at the moment means by reform of the land tenure system is the exact opposite of what is required for the building of an authentic alternative based on a prosperous peasant economy. What this discourse, conveyed by the propaganda instruments of collective imperialism - the World Bank, many development institutions, but also a number of NGOs that are richly endowed - means by land reform is the acceleration of the privatisation of land, and nothing more. The aim is clear: to create the conditions that would enable some modern islands of agribusiness (foreign and local) to take over the land they require to expand." (p. 121-122)

"...it is not possible to accept that agricultural and food production, as well as land, should be treated as ordinary 'goods' and thus allow them to be integrated into the project of globalised liberalisation promoted by the dominant powers and transnationalised capital. The World Trade Organization agenda must just be rejected, pure and simple. Opinion in Asia and Africa must be convinced of this, and particularly the need for food sovereignty, beginning with the peasant organisations but also all the other social and political forces that defend the interests of the popular classes and of the nation." (p. 124)

On Marxist critique:

"Being Marxist in this spirit is to begin with Marx and not to stop with him, or Lenin or Mao, as conceived and practiced by the historical Marxists of the previous century. It is to render unto Marx that which is owed to him: the intelligence to have begun a modern critical thinking, a critique of capitalist reality and a critique of its political, ideological and cultural representations. A creative Marxist must pursue the goal of enriching this critical thinking par excellence." (p. 18)

"...Nor is 'social justice' a scientific concept. It is vague, imprecise by nature, and the means for achieving it go no further than listing measures that are not integrated (and are incapable of being integrated) into a coherent strategy. The contrast with the language of revolutionary France and of Marx, who called for equality and emphasised its contradictory complementarity with liberty (itself also associated with property) shows how our thinking has regressed with this discourse on social justice. The nonsense of the North American jurist John Rawls, the sermons of Amartya Sen (a Nobel prize winner) and the 'practical' proposals of Joseph Stiglitz (the rebel of the World Bank) cannot save this miserable non-thinking." (p. 133)

"Debt reduction, presented almost as a charitable act (as is clear from the diplomatic jargon in which the decision was couched) certainly does not merit being included as aid. The legitimate response to this question, and not only from the moral viewpoint, should lead to an audit of all the debts in question - private and public, on the side of the lender and on that of the borrower. The debts recognised as immoral (among others, because of their association with corrupt operations on one side or the other), illegitimate (poorly disguised political support, as for the South African apartheid regime), usurious (rates fixed unilaterally by the so-called markets, by integral reimbursement of their capital - and well beyond it): all these debts must be annulled and the victims, the debtor countries, recompensed for having overpaid." (p. 140)


Democracy in Chains

Nearly on a weekly basis during the Trump years we heard pundits proclaim something along the lines of "who saw it coming?!" While the specifics were not predictable, the trend was clear. One of those for whom the writing was on the wall was historian and public policy expert Nancy MacLean, who published Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, in 2017. The book is contested, not surprisingly given its claims and highly political nature. For readers, approaching any book as being biased (by its topic, framing, research questions, etc) and engaging it critically is important. A few notes:

"In his first big gift to Buchanan's program, Charles Koch signaled his desire for the work he funded to be conducted behind the backs of the majority. "Since we are greatly outnumbered," Koch conceded to the assembled team, the movement could not win simply by persuasion. Instead, the cause's insiders had to use their knowledge of "the rules of the game"—that game being how modern democratic governance works—"to create winning strategies." A brilliant engineer with three degrees from MIT, Koch warned, "The failure to use our superior technology ensures failure." Translation: the American people would not support their plans, so to win they had to work behind the scenes, using a covert strategy instead of open declaration of what they really wanted." (p. xxii)

"The goal of the cause, Buchanan announced to his associates, should no longer be to influence who makes the rules, to vest hopes in one party or candidate. The focus must shift from who rules to changing the rules." (p. xxvii)

"Their cause, they say, is liberty. But by that they mean the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government, and the takeover of what was long public (schools, prisons, western lands, and much more) by corporations, a system that would radically reduce the freedom of the many. In a nutshell, they aim to hollow out democratic resistance. And by its own lights, the cause is nearing success." (p. xxx)

"...back in the county where Barbara Rose Johns first organized for fair treatment, and where officials continued to insist that they would abandon public education entirely rather than submit to "dictation" by federal courts, the Board of Supervisors voted a few weeks later to close the schools. That September, they padlocked every public school and opened new private schools for the white children while leaving some eighteen hundred black children with no formal education whatsoever. "It's the nation's first county," reported the Wall Street Journal, "to go completely out of the public school business." Local black youth remained schoolless from 1959 to 1964, when a federal court intervened to stop the abuse." (p. 72)

"Buchanan's experiences at UCLA left a far deeper legacy, one that ultimately explains why, in our time, governors and state legislators under the influence of the capitalist radical right have been moving aggressively to transform public higher education in states where they are in control. After 2010, as the Koch-funded project moved forward in the states, its representatives sought to slash their states' public university budgets while simultaneously raising tuition, ending need-based scholarships, limiting or curtailing tenure protections, reducing faculty governance, and undermining support for the liberal arts curriculum (particularly those parts of it most known for dissent)." (p. 103)

"In the view of the libertarian economist [Buchanan], Jesus was mistaken. Conscripting the Good Samaritan story, Buchanan made his case that "modern man [had] 'gone soft'": he lacked the "strategic courage" needed to restore the market to its proper ordering. By this logic, what seemed to be the ethical thing to do—help someone in need—was not, after all, the correct thing to do, because the assistance would encourage the recipient to "exploit" the giver rather than to solve his own problems." (p. 143)

"...it was Buchanan who guided Pinochet's team in how to arrange things so that even when the country finally returned to representative institutions, its capitalist class would be all but permanently entrenched in power. The first stage was the imposition of radical structural transformation influenced by Buchanan's ideas; the second stage, to lock the transformation in place, was the kind of constitutional revolution Buchanan had come to advocate. Whereas the US Constitution famously enshrined "checks and balances" to prevent majorities from abusing their power over minorities, this one, a Chilean critic later complained, bound democracy with "locks and bolts"." (p. 155)

"Many liberals then and since have tended to miss this strategic use of privatization to enchain democracy, at worst seeing the proposals as coming simply from dogma that preferred the private sector to the public. Those driving the train know otherwise. Privatization was a key element of the crab walk to the final, albeit gradual, revolution—the ends justify-the-means approach that allowed for using disingenuous claims to take terrain that would make the ultimate project possible." (p. 182) 


Ethiopia in the Wake of Political Reforms

Following years of protests, unrest and instability Abiy Ahmed became the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2018. After a year of optimism and positivity, the challenges put increasing pressure on a fragile transition. It was around this time that a group of scholars met to take stock of the situation and develop the ideas of what would become the book Ethiopia in the Wake of Political Reforms (2020), edited by Melaku Geboye Desta, Dereje Feyissa Dori and Mamo Esmelealem Mihretu. The collection, published by Tsehai, brings together a wide range of leading scholars, who contributed works on politics, economics, governance, foreign affairs and security. This is a 600+ page collection, beyond summary here. It is well worth picking up. 


Can Non-Europeans Think? (Dabashi)

I looked forward to Hamid Dabashi's Can Non-Europeans Think? (2015), with a forward by Walter Mignolo. Although the articles are interesting, they are a disconnected set of writings over a period of fifteen or so years. Most are former journalistic publications, which leaves academic readers wanting for references to follow-up on and dig deeper. The feature of the book is probably the exchanges that took place following a 2013 Al Jazeera article by Dabashi by the same title. I found Mignolo's forward and the opening contributions the most interesting, the others are on the topic of answer the book's question, or a demonstrations of it (yes, non-Europeans can think) but are more time and topic specific (e.g. on Edward Said, Iran, Arab Spring). Journalistic editorials, while interesting in the moment seem to lose their edge when the years have passed.

A few notes:

"This is "fast knowledge" produced on the model of "fast food," with plastic cups, plastic knives, plastic forks, bad nutrition, false satisfaction. The US invades Afghanistan and these think tanks produce a knowledge conducive to that project; then the US leads another invasion of Iraq and these think tanks begin producing knowledge about Iraq, with little or no connection with what they had said about Afghanistan, or what they might say about Iran. There is little or no epistemic consistency among the three – for these forms of knowledge are produced under duress (with tight deadlines) and are entirely disposable. You throw them out after one use." (p. 18)

"The question of Eurocentrism is now entirely blasé. Of course Europeans are Eurocentric and see the world from their vantage point, and why should they not? They are the inheritors of multiple (now defunct) empires, and they still carry within them the phantom hubris of those empires; they believe their particular philosophy is "philosophy" and their particular thinking is "thinking," while everything else is – as the great European philosopher Emmanuel Levinas was wont to say – "dancing."" (p. 33)

"A colonized mind is a colonized mind, whether it is occupied by the European right or by the cliché-ridden left: it is an occupied territory, devoid of detail, devoid of substance, devoid of love, devoid of a caring intellect. It smells of aging mothballs, and is nauseating." (p. 103-104)

"What unites Kant, Levinas, and Žižek (among many others) is that their self-universalizing philosophies are invariably predicated on denying others the capacity to think critically or creatively by way of enabling, authorizing, and empowering themselves to think for the world." (p. 259)

"Humanity needs new visionaries to shape its highest aspirations. The principal facts on the ground – acting as a beacon to those visionaries – are the wretched of the earth, the millions of human beings roaming the globe in search of the most basic necessities of life and liberty or else in fear of persecution. Muslims and Africans face the same ghastly discrimination in Europe as Latin American illegal immigrants do in the United States, as Afghan refugees do in Iran, as Palestinians (now joined by Africans) do in Israel, and as Filipino and Sri Lankan laborers do in the Arab world. That fact is the ground zero of principled moral positions." (p. 283-284)

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