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by Jacob T. Levy

A couple of things worth noting:

Phoebe Maltz on that very strange Tony Judt essay in the London Review of Books, an essay that purports to be a complaint about liberals silencing themselves, but really seems to be a complaint about them saying things with which he disagrees. How odd for someone who claims to be calling liberalism back to its true self to write:

In the European case this trend is an unfortunate by-product of the intellectual revolution of the 1980s, especially in the former Communist East, when 'human rights' displaced conventional political allegiances as the basis for collective action. The gains wrought by this transformation in the rhetoric of oppositional politics were considerable. But a price was paid all the same. A commitment to the abstract universalism of 'rights'--and uncompromising ethical stands taken against malign regimes in their name--can lead all too readily to the habit of casting every political choice in binary moral terms.

It does not automatically follow from the abstract universalism of human rights that any particular actor ought to take any particular action against a given violator of human rights. Those who share the ethical principal can disagree wildly about the best courses of political action. But here Judt doesn't complain about a propensity to invade all malign regimes; he complains about the very "uncompromising ethical stands taken against them," as if refusing to call authoritarian rights-violating regimes by their right names was a liberal virtue. Yes, the liberal commitment to abstract universal rights does entail that one pass unkind ethical judgment on regimes that violate those rights--and that's not somehow proof that liberalism has lost its way.

We had lots of discussion about Damon Linker's new book The Theocons. The most interesting review I've read is by Russell Arben Fox, a political theorist and blogger known for his thoughtful and subtle treatment of questions about religion and politics.

For those who haven't seen this yet: Brendan Nyahn's short-lived experience with The American Prospect.

Finally, while I asusme most of our readers also read Crooked Timber, I can't resist linking to this important and entertaining post of Kieran Healy's about publication bias in political science.