Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Posts Tagged ‘History’

Constructive Confrontation: The case of Henry Louis Gates

In Africa, Domestic Politics on April 23, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Our times are extremely interesting–in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse. We have so much going on that there is ample opportunity for the likes of Rahm Emmanuel not to let this crisis go to waste. As we have come to chant, when the President came to office he faced two wars, the great recession, a crisis in health financing, climate change and the burden of a dysfunctional financial system among other things. And yet amid all of this, the key issue of our decade may be the ongoing challenge of racial reconciliation. In this grand spectacle, no figure other than the President himself has loomed as large as Henry Louis Gates. In Gates, we have one of the best examples of how ideas and their makers have consequences–in this case for the good.

Not only was Gates in the center of a public drama now known as the beer summit, which I believe was one of the major facilitators of the ethno-racial dimension of the Tea Party movement, but today he has published an op-ed in the New York Times that is only astonishing for the fact of its publication. His confrontation with Officer Crowley has helped to surface residual ethno-political tensions that we now have a chance to engage head-on to expose racially biased misconceptions, while in today’s confrontation with history, we find Gates engaging what must be one of the most contentious topics in the American record, namely responsibility for African slavery, with a balanced and historical view on how the practice developed.

In Gates’ story, there is excess blame to go around for the sins of the peculiar institution. We find the usual deserving suspects implicated, but we also find here a eerie tale of inter-ethic opportunism among Africans themselves. It is said that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan, but the reality is often the reverse. The fathers of the tragedy of institutionalized racism that we are only now beginning to extirpate are more numerous than we typically suppose. Similarly Read the rest of this entry »


In the Air: Economics and the Social Sciences

In Intellectual History on March 26, 2010 at 9:11 am

In response to a request by ICAR’s communications guru, Paul Snodgrass, I will say a few words about the David Brooks column today. He must have read Kristof yesterday as well, because he has a really fascinating column on the history of Economics that gets us thinking. I think that Brooks’ call for a great history of economics is wanting right now. Of course, there are many good examples out there. One that bears noting is Joseph Schumpeter’s  History of Economic Analysis. If you read this posthumously published book, you see that there is quite a bit of diversity concealed in Brooks’ first act. His history is a bit truncated. In fact, there are many sciences of economics out there (and I hear at least one colleague quietly condemning me for my last post for overemphasizing fresh water schools). We could spend time with the now forgotten methodenstreit in Germany, which produced Max Weber among other things. We could remember John R. Commons and his Wisconsin institutionalism that helped to give birth to the Social Security Act and much more. This is alive today mainly in Transaction cost economics, which I once quipped did not inherit the lion’s share of Commons estate. There is today Read the rest of this entry »