“Liberalism in Neoliberal Times: Dimensions, Contradictions, Limits” (Abraham-Hamanoiel et al. eds)

Pity the poor neoliberal. He is today besieged by both right and left, as fissures in the Bad Neoliberalismfusionist and “liberal-tarian” camps are all too visible. Neoliberalism has become one of those near-dog-whistle-level epithets for those of more traditional progressive or conservative outlooks. Here is a volume whose authors’ aim clearly is to distinguish a progressive liberalism from a libertarian-infused liberalism–that is, a classical liberalism. Not too much explicitly about religion in the description; indeed, usually religion makes its appearance in the ‘defusionist’ literature, rather than this type of book. But still of interest to readers of this blog. The publisher is MIT. The description is below.

What does it mean to be a liberal in neoliberal times? This collection of short essays attempts to show how liberals and the wider concept of liberalism remain relevant in what many perceive to be a highly illiberal age. Liberalism in the broader sense revolves around tolerance, progress, humanitarianism, objectivity, reason, democracy, and human rights. Liberalism’s emphasis on individual rights opened a theoretical pathway to neoliberalism, through private property, a classically minimal liberal state, and the efficiency of “free markets.” In practice, neoliberalism is associated less with the economic deregulation championed by its advocates than the re-regulation of the economy to protect financial capital. Liberalism in Neoliberal Times engages with the theories, histories, practices, and contradictions of liberalism, viewing it in relation to four central areas of public life: human rights, ethnicity and gender, education, and the media. The contributors explore the transformations in as well as the transformative aspects of liberalism and highlight both its liberating and limiting capacities.

The book contends that liberalism—in all its forms— continues to underpin specific institutions such as the university, the free press, the courts, and, of course, parliamentary democracy. Liberal ideas are regularly mobilized in areas such as counterterrorism, minority rights, privacy, and the pursuit of knowledge. This book contends that while we may not agree on much, we can certainly agree that an understanding of liberalism and its emancipatory capacity is simply too important to be left to the liberals.

H.G. Wells, “The Rights of Man”

I’ve never much cared for H.G. Wells’s science fiction–a combination of preachy and Wells.jpegperiod-piece utopian. As to his religious views, there is a credible argument that he was a proto-None (see his “God the Invisible King”). But while I did know that his contributions spanned nonfiction as well as fiction, I was not aware that he had written a tract on human rights. In this book, first published in 1940 and recently reissued by Penguin Random House, Wells is said to have previewed many of the ideas that made their way into the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Here is the description.

H. G. Wells’s passionate and influential manifesto—never before available in the United States—was first published in England in 1940 in response to World War II. The progressive ideas Wells set out were instrumental in the creation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UK’s Human Rights Act. In the face of a global miscarriage of justice, The Rights of Man made a clear statement of mankind’s responsibilities to itself.

Seventy-five years later we are again witnessing a humanitarian crisis, with human rights in developed nations under threat and millions of refugees displaced. A new introduction to Wells’s work by award-winning novelist Ali Smith underlines the continuing urgency and relevance of one of the most important humanitarian texts of the twentieth century.

Falkeid, “The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena”

One can find historical discussion of the separation of church and state in the most Avignon Papacy.jpgwonderfully unexpected of places. Here’s a very interesting looking treatment of it by Professor Unn Falkeid in the context of the Avignon Papacy–that fascinating period of Franco-Roman conflict during the 14th century, denominated “the Babylonian Captivity,” when the popes resided in Avignon, not Rome. The publisher is Harvard University Press, and the description is below.

The Avignon papacy (1309–1377) represented the zenith of papal power in Europe. The Roman curia’s move to southern France enlarged its bureaucracy, centralized its authority, and initiated closer contact with secular institutions. The pope’s presence also attracted leading minds to Avignon, transforming a modest city into a cosmopolitan center of learning. But a crisis of legitimacy was brewing among leading thinkers of the day. The Avignon Papacy Contested considers the work of six fourteenth-century writers who waged literary war against the Catholic Church’s increasing claims of supremacy over secular rulers—a conflict that engaged contemporary critics from every corner of Europe.

Unn Falkeid uncovers the dispute’s origins in Dante’s Paradiso and Monarchia, where she identifies a sophisticated argument for the separation of church and state. In Petrarch’s writings she traces growing concern about papal authority, precipitated by the curia’s exile from Rome. Marsilius of Padua’s theory of citizen agency indicates a resistance to the pope’s encroaching power, which finds richer expression in William of Ockham’s philosophy of individual liberty. Both men were branded as heretics. The mystical writings of Birgitta of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, in Falkeid’s reading, contain cloaked confrontations over papal ethics and church governance even though these women were later canonized.

While each of the six writers responded creatively to the implications of the Avignon papacy, they shared a concern for the breakdown of secular order implied by the expansion of papal power and a willingness to speak their minds.

Supreme Court End of Term Podcast

In this podcast, Mark and I discuss three law and religion cases either decided by the Supreme Court this term or to be decided next term: Trinity Lutheran, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and IRAP v. Trump.

“The War on Sex” (Halperin & Hoppe, eds.)

It is an interesting feature of the culture wars that frequently partisans on both sidesSex book.jpg believe that it is only those on the other side who are doing the warring. But this new book of essays, “The War on Sex,” edited by David M. Halperin and Trevor Hoppe, puts me in mind of a line by Philip Rieff: culture is the form of fighting before the firing begins. The authors of these essays do not in the least believe that the culture wars are over. Not, at any rate, if the book’s description generally reflects their views. The publisher’s description is below.

The past fifty years are conventionally understood to have witnessed an uninterrupted expansion of sexual rights and liberties in the United States. This state-of-the-art collection tells a different story: while progress has been made in marriage equality, reproductive rights, access to birth control, and other areas, government and civil society are waging a war on stigmatized sex by means of law, surveillance, and social control. The contributors document the history and operation of sex offender registries and the criminalization of HIV, as well as highly punitive measures against sex work that do more to harm women than to combat human trafficking. They reveal that sex crimes are punished more harshly than other crimes, while new legal and administrative regulations drastically restrict who is permitted to have sex. By examining how the ever-intensifying war on sex affects both privileged and marginalized communities, the essays collected here show why sexual liberation is indispensable to social justice and human rights.

“The Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Jurisprudence” (Duke & George eds.)

Natural law jurisprudence, which spans back more than a thousand years, is one of the Natural Lawcentral philosophical/jurisprudential traditions. This new volume from Cambridge, edited by Professors George Duke and Robert George (one of the preeminent exponents of the so-called “new” natural law), treats many important subjects, including the foundations of natural law; practical reason, normativity, and ethics; and law and politics. The contributors are a virtual who’s who of leading thinkers about natural law. A very helpful contribution for the law student who is interested in learning about this important jurisprudential school. Here is the description.

This collection provides an intellectually rigorous and accessible overview of key topics in contemporary natural law jurisprudence, an influential yet frequently misunderstood branch of legal philosophy. It fills a gap in the existing literature by bringing together leading international experts on natural law theory to provide perspectives on some of the most pressing issues pertaining to the nature and moral foundations of law. Themes covered include the history of the natural law tradition, the natural law account of practical reason, normativity and ethics, natural law approaches to legal obligation and authority and constitutional law. Creating a dialogue between leading figures in natural law thought, the Companion is an ideal introduction to the main commitments of natural law jurisprudence, whilst also offering a concise summary of developments in current scholarship for more advanced readers.

Morrow, “An Introduction to Biblical Law”

Continuing the theme of religious law that I had noted on Wednesday, here’s a new book, Biblical Law.jpegAn Introduction to Biblical Law, by William S. Morrow, that looks like a helpful volume for learning about law in the Pentateuch. The description by the publisher, Eerdmans, is below.

In this book William Morrow surveys four major law collections in Exodus–Deuteronomy and shows how they each enabled the people of Israel to create and sustain a community of faith.

Treating biblical law as dynamic systems of thought facilitating ancient Israel’s efforts at self-definition, Morrow describes four different social contexts that gave rise to biblical law: (1) Israel at the holy mountain (the Ten Commandments); (2) Israel in the village assembly (Exodus 20:22–23:19); (3) Israel in the courts of the Lord (priestly and holiness rules in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers); and (4) Israel in the city (Deuteronomy).

Including forthright discussion of such controversial subjects as slavery, revenge, gender inequality, religious intolerance, and contradictions between bodies of biblical law, Morrow’s study will help students and other serious readers make sense out of texts in the Pentateuch that are often seen as obscure.

Zuckert, “The Spirit of Religion and the Spirit of Liberty”

In the fall of 2013, Professor Robert Delahunty wrote a wonderful blog series for us about Tocqueville’s view of religion in America (here is the first post). One of the conclusions Robert reached in that series was that Tocqueville believed the Protestantism of early America would eventually change into, first, a type of “natural religion” and, next, what he (Tocqueville) called “pantheism”–a kind of “cosmic egalitarianism” that becomes especially attractive in democratic societies:

Man is obsessed with the idea of unity. He seeks it in every direction; when he believes he has found it, he willingly rests in its arms. Not content with discovering that there is but one creation and one Creator in the world, he is still irritated by this primary division of things and he seeks to expand and simplify his thought by enclosing God and the universe in a single entity. If there is a philosophic system according to which things material and immaterial, visible and invisible within the world are to be considered only as the separate parts of an immense being who alone remains eternal in the continuous shift and constant change of everything which is within it, I shall have no difficulty reaching the conclusion that a similar system, although it destroys human individuality, or rather because it destroys it, will have secret attractions for men who live in a democracy.

Democracy in America, 521.

The eminent political theorist, Michael P. Zuckert, has a wonderful looking new book on Tocqueville.jpgTocqueville’s understanding of religion–specifically focusing, it seems from the description, on church-state matters: The Spirit of Religion and the Spirit of Liberty: The Tocqueville Thesis Revisited. The publisher is University of Chicago Press, and the description is below.

Tocqueville’s thesis on the relation between religion and liberty could hardly be timelier. From events in the Middle East and the spread of Islamist violence in the name of religion to the mandated coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the interaction between religion and politics has once again become central to political life. Tocqueville, facing the coming of a new social and political order within the traditional society that was France, faced this relation between politics and religion with freshness and relevance. He was particularly interested in reporting to his French compatriots on how the Americans had successfully resolved what, to many Frenchmen, looked to be an insuperable conflict. His surprising thesis was that the right kind of arrangement—a certain kind of separation of church and state that was not also a complete separation of religion and politics—could be seen in nineteenth century America to be beneficial to both liberty and religion. This volume investigates whether Tocqueville’s depiction was valid for the America he investigated in the 1830s and whether it remains valid today.

Bray & Hobbins, “Genesis 1-11”

One of the first conferences that Mark and I put together several years ago concerned Genesis“religious legal theory”–the nature of religious law and comparative approaches within and among religious traditions. The study of religious law remains a focus of our Center. Here’s a wonderful new translation of Genesis 1-11 authored in part by UCLA law professor Samuel Bray (a participant in the first leg of our Tradition Project last year) and Hebrew scholar John F. Hobbins, whose subtitle is “A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators.”

How does this new translation relate to law? Principally because law is all about words and their uses to convey meaning. But for more, you should check out Sam’s wonderfully interesting posts at the Volokh Conspiracy, which cover issues ranging from the Tower of Babel to those of “double translation” and its pitfalls. And the translation itself has something that should appeal to textualists–great faithfulness to the original. The publisher’s description is below.

This translation of Genesis 1-11 follows the Hebrew text closely and leaves in what many translations leave out: physicality, ambiguity, repetition, even puns. Bray and Hobbins also draw deeply from the long history of Jewish and Christian interpretation. Their translation and notes offer the reader wisdom and delight.

Bennett, “Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement”

Conservative Christianity has been and continues to be an important movement in Defending FaithAmerican law. But it is difficult to read an even-handed account of it, since academic treatments tend to view it as a force of evil that must be identified, guarded against, and hopefully obliterated, and non-academic treatments are too often hagiographic in nature. Here’s an effort that appears to do better–political scientist Daniel Bennett’s new “Defending Faith: The Politics of the Christian Conservative Legal Movement,” which will be released by U. Kansas Press next month. Here’s the description.

When, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court held that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution, Christian conservative legal organizations (CCLOs) decried the ruling. Foreseeing an “assault against Christians,” Liberty Counsel president Mat Staver declared, “We are entering a cultural civil war.” Many would argue that a cultural war was already well underway; and yet, as this timely book makes clear, the stakes, the forces engaged, and the strategies employed have undergone profound changes in recent years.

In Defending Faith, Daniel Bennett shows how the Christian legal movement (CLM) and its affiliated organizations arrived at this moment in time. He explains how CCLOs advocate for issues central to Christian conservatives, highlights the influence of religious liberty on the CLM’s broader agenda, and reveals how the Christian Right has become accustomed to the courts as a field of battle in today’s culture wars. On one level a book about how the Christian Right mobilized and organized an effective presence on an unavoidable front in battles over social policy, the courtroom, Defending Faith is also a case study of interest groups pursuing common goals while maintaining unique identities. As different as these proliferating groups might be, they are alike in increasingly construing their efforts as a defense of religious freedom against hostile forces throughout American society—and thus as benefitting society as a whole rather than limiting the rights of certain groups. The first holistic, wide-angle picture of the Christian legal movement in the United States, Bennett’s work tells the story of the growth of a powerful legal community and of the development of legal advocacy as a tool of social and political engagement.

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