The Things I Have to Put Up With

February 16, 2009

“Since we know that the need to frequent museums or churches is conditional on frequenting museums and churches, and that assiduous frequentation supposes the need to frequent, it is clear that breaking the circle of the first entry into a church or museum requires a predisposition towards frequentation which, short of a miraculous predestination, can only be the family disposition to cause frequenting by frequenting sufficiently to produce a lasting disposition to frequent.”

Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture, 2d ed., trans., Richard Nice [London: Sage, 1977], 38.




February 10, 2009

I’m playing with a free jazz/noise/experimental/etc. group called Diva Abrasiva. Two drummers, two guitars, and a bassist/electronics dude. It’s pretty cool. Anyway, for the one person out there who might find this interesting, here’s a recording of our recent concert in Glasgow.

Two Things Which Please Me

January 30, 2009

(1) The new Star Trek trailer. Okay, maybe it’s not that new, but today was my first time to see it. It was also my first time to click on an advertisement embedded in a website; well, sometimes I click on them if I think it will help keep a site running, but it was my first time to click on one out of interest in the content. Anyway…how much does this rule! Okay, the voiceover is pretty cheesy, but that’s to be expected. The guy who is playing Young Spock does not look like he could ever grow up to be as cool as Leonard Nimoy, but who could? Regardless, I’m quite pleased about this. Even the website is pretty rad (albeit without much content at this point).

(2) The fact that people regularly find this site by typing “caballo sex” into a search engine. Pretty much every time I check the blog stats, someone has come here for that very reason. For a while I flattered myself with the thought that people found my post “Sex Evangelism” interesting, but couldn’t remember the URL for the blog. And although that may account for some of the traffic, you’d have to really want to read that post to wade through three pages (at least on Google) of…well, you can imagine.

Larry, You Cynical Bastard

January 29, 2009

This quote is old, but still….

Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of dirty industries to the LDCs [less developed countries]? I can think of three reasons: 1) The measurement of the costs of health-impairing pollution depends on the forgone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that. 2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low costs. I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted; their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. . . 3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income-elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostate cancer than in a country where under-five mortality is 200 per thousand. . .

–Lawrence Summers, then Chief Economist of the World Bank, in The Economist, 8 February 1992 (quoted in Michael Löwy, “What is Ecosocialism?” Capitalism Nature Socialism 16:2 [June 2005], 22). Summers is currently head of the White House National Economic Council.

Rick, My Alma Frater

January 21, 2009

Rick Warren and I went to the same seminary, so I guess that makes us alma fratris. Indeed, watching his inaugural prayer was not unlike visiting friends from my evangelical past, friends I still consider family. His demeanor and oratorical style were pure Southern California mega-pastor–though I recognize his pronunciation of “Malia and…SASHA!” was hilarious, it was a totally typical way for one of these guys to pray. Though a lot of people, especially here in demure Britain, probably found Warren a bit odd–and his theology off-putting–millions of Americans saw one of their own up there. A master stroke for Obama. (Lisa Miller in Newsweek provides the best analysis of the speech I’ve found).

If Obama can hold on to his own “progressive” convictions yet remain in a fruitful though tensive relation with the likes of Warren, then he has a chance to create some of the unity he promises. But if he vacilates either in his convictions or in his outreach efforts to conservatives, then he will be thrown to the wolves. From my perspective, a good, post-Warren step for Obama in demonstrating his commitment to “progressive” convictions would be to take some significant stand for gay rights. This can be a typically-Obama, moderating, coalition-building stand–but we need some evidence that he plans to fulfil his promise to “fight hard” as president for the 1,100 rights currently denied gay couples.

Ravel and the Scherzo

January 20, 2009

I know very little about classical music, but I’ve been waking up to BBC 3 (the classical music station here in Britain) for the last week or so. Most of the music on their “Breakfast” program is pretty innocuous, which makes it nice to wake up to, read the paper to, etc. But yesterday my mind was blown open by some recording of a scherzo by Ravel. I’ve never heard Ravel before, and didn’t really know what a scherzo was, but this recording was pretty much amazing. Thanks to the world’s eighth wonder, Spotify, I’ve been listening nonstop to Ravelian scherzos since yesterday. Does anybody know if his other stuff is good? (I’m listening to Bolero now; I enjoy it, but can see why he repudiated it.) Do all scherzo’s rule, or just Ravel’s?

By the way, just because I’ve never listened to Ravel doesn’t mean I’m a total philistine: I’m going to see the new piece by the god of Scottish classical music, James MacMillan, on Friday for Burn’s Night at the Royal Society. Ta.


January 14, 2009

I’ve been at this “Adam Smith as a Theologian” conference for the last two days. Incredibly frustrating but also great. This guy rules. This guy is pretty awesome, but often wrong. Have we really been discussing this book for two days? No, we’ve discussed more interesting topics and then some. Anyway, I’m supposed to give my paper in the morning, and haven’t really spent time with it since I wrote it.

I got this book in the mail today. I ordered it a couple months ago at AAR. Ridiculous.

Anybody that is anybody should listen to this record. It’s the best.

Okay. The pub-juice (I wish) is wearing off, so time to work.

How to Recruit Terrorists

January 6, 2009

Israel is currently doing a wonderful job at recruiting the next generation of Palestinian terrorists, as the front page video from El País demonstrates.* By wounding and killing Palestinian children all over Gaza, Israel is sure to inspire legions of young Palestinians with a virulent hatred that will extend the conflict for many years to come. Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, has jokingly stated that the current war aims at total elimination of the terrorist threat. We would take Barak seriously if he were not pursuing methods that run directly contrary to that aim. I suppose the present initiative could be a step towards genocide, but it rather seems to be a meaty bone thrown to the terrorists–the strengthening of martyr cults, the rage stoked by senseless injustice, the displacement of peoples into the poverty and landlessness which breeds violence. Barak’s sense of irony, of course, is not merely an Israeli trait, but can also be discerned in American campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the recent Sri Lankan “victory” over the Tamil stronghold, Kilinochchi.

*I’m guessing the audio in the El País video is messed up, but it’s perfect: a digital audio hell for an ersatz war.

Smith, Bourdieu and Yoder on Postlapsarian Morality

December 18, 2008

The paper I’m presenting at the “Adam Smith as a Theologian” Conference is entitled “On Not Over- or Underestimating the Fall: Prospects for a Moral Economy in Smith, Bourdieu and Yoder.” I’m about half-way through, but decided to go ahead and start posting some of the sections. Here’s the introduction:

“The realization of a moral economy faces many impediments, among which the most commonly cited are greed, natural disasters, and ill-planned economic systems. To these a Christian may add what she regards to be a more fundamental impediment: the fallen state of the world. For this Christian, economic immorality is simply a postlapsarian fact, a “natural” outcome of our race’s long rebellion against God. Where a non-Christian might see a series of unconnected injustices, the Christian sees an old, awful coherence. Between the Christian and non-Christian, however, we find a basic agreement that the extent to which moral practices of distribution and exchange are realizable at all, is related to a belief in the degree to which “sin” or oppression pervades our societies. Put simply, if  oppression is all-pervasive, there will be no moral economy; but if there are limits to oppression, then there may be a moral economy, however imperfect.

There is, of course, a spectrum of attitudes between denial of the possibility of a moral economy and blind optimism in the same. This paper locates three thinkers—Adam Smith, Pierre Bourdieu and John Howard Yoder—on that spectrum and assesses their positions in relation to a normative biblical account of morality after the Fall. The biblical account is developed first; here we suggest that the work of Christ both exposes the inadequacies of our moral efforts and births the hope of moral practice. We then turn to Smith to argue that in The Theory of Moral Sentiments he underestimates our moral inadequacies; his optimism in human moral systems approaches what the Christian tradition has typically branded Pelagianism. Alternatively, Bourdieu’s treatment of symbolic violence leaves little hope for moral practice. Though he presents clear standards for moral transformation, it is unclear if, within his own system, those standards can ever be met. It is Yoder, we argue, who more closely approximates the biblical understanding of morality after the Fall: Yoder’s theology of the powers depicts society as essentially rebellious, yet still subject to the reign of Christ. Affirming Yoder’s position may seem obvious—he is the only Christian among the three authors—but he is often accused of holding a position closer to Bourdieu’s. Contrary to these accusations, we believe Yoder’s theology provides  the appropriate amounts of hope and skepticism needed to construct a truly moral economy. “

The Dugg

December 15, 2008

Virginia Military Institute, my maternal grandfather’s alma mater, has a men’s basketball coach named Duggar Baucom. That is all. Oh, and he has a very thick neck.