POLST 337.3
Topics in Political Thought - Canadian Political Thought

Announcements Archive


2003 Section

Policy Change on Online Notes

In class today (10.14.03) I announced a change in policy regarding class notes posted online. Effective immediately, handouts provided for student presentations and notes for classes led by the instructor will be made available in class only. The reason for this change bears careful explanation.

As a matter of principle I think that students ought to be treated, so far as possible, as autonomous grown-ups. This means, inter alia, that I do not normally award marks for attendance or participation, particularly in senior courses. Participation, it seems to me, ought to be left up to the will and motivation of students. In small class like ours, however, spotty attendance and lack of participation is a drag for everyone (student presenters receive less feedback, discussions lack momentum, etc.). This policy change is intended to help motivate attendance and hence rectify this. It is NOT intended as a punishment or as a means of singling anybody out.

Notes already posted will remain available (since there is no sense in trying to change the past). From here on out, however, handouts for student presentations will be made available after the fact at the sole discretion of the student presenter. Notes for classes led by the instructor will not normally be made available after the fact.


2002 Section

I've been thinking about Blair's remark in the class on Carens. Yes, on reflection, it seems to me that laws governing removal and/or extradition of non-citizens from other countries are indeed susceptible to some of the same liberal, cosmopolitan objections that Carens raises in connection with immigration. In particular, legal principles such as the rule in Johnson v. Eisentrager (USSC, 1950) could be criticized as denying non-citizens access to justice in the same way that immirgration restrictions deny non-citizens access to opportunity. The warrant for both sorts of principle is essentially the same, namely, that such rules serve the interest of the political community that endorses them.

The case that we were discussing -- the Taliban and al Qaeda combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- is nicely summarized from a legal perspective in the following article:

What is an 'Unlawful Combatant', And Why it Matters: The Status Of Detained Al Qaeda and Taliban Fighters, Michael C. Dorf, FindLaw.com, January 23, 2002.

Especially interesting, I think, is Dorf's summary of the case law that underlies recent political decisions --in particular, the tidy way in which the rule in Ex Parte Quirin (1942) can be used to further restrict the applicability of the rule in Eisentrager.

And in related news ...

Bush Proposes Tracking System for Noncitizens
Washington Post, January 25, 2002

Never mind liberal/cosmopolitan arguments to the effect that this may amount to unjustifiable discrimination. Fear for yourself. As Phil Agre has pointed out, an infrastructure for tracking people, once set up, will find other uses.

This Saturday (02.09.02), my friend Andrew Potter (Philosophy, Trent University) was on CBC Radio One's Definitely Not The Opera offering some opinions on nationalism and the Olympics:

(0.98 Mb., RealPlayer required)

I bring this to your attention because it's timely, as much as anything else. And also because Potter's piece serves as nice example of how political philosophers, when you put a microphone in front of them, have to strike a balance between intelligibility and having something worthwhile to say. (When you let CBC Saskatoon stick a mike in your face you end up having to choose between the two. Potter has the right idea: Meet them on your terms, contribute an editorial instead. )

But there is something course-related to be seen here as well. The Olympics can serve as a kind of limit case for seeing just how far we can follow cosmopolitan liberals like Carens. In particular, why do we insist on seeing the Olympics as a competition between countries?

Hans-Georg Gadamer dies, aged 102
(TheTimes UK, March 16, 2002)

Gadamer appears in this course as coiner of the phrase "fusion of horizons." That phrase, you'll recall, is employed by Taylor in describing the justifiable sort of multicultural society.

A recent poll conducted by Leger Marketing suggests that Ontarians and
British Columbians are more likely than other Canadians to identify themselves
first and foremost with Canada instead of with their province or city.

Who Are We?
Saskatoon StarPhoenix, March 26, 2002

Of special interest for us, perhaps, is the echo of Laforest's claim about how the
term "Canada" is understood by Quebecers (see the remarks by Robin Philpot
toward the end of the piece).

"Mr. Perestroika" and the American Political Science Review

The following batch of URLs pertain to some rather strange goings on in the professional world of US political science over past few months. These began with a mass e-mail campaign by one "Mr. Perestroika" in late 2000 and have recently snowballed into a kind of self-conscious reform movement that is really quite rare in academe. The movement is most often described as a revolt against the mathematicization of political science, and against the alleged dominance of game theory, rational choice theory and quantitative studies in APSR editorial policy. But, in my opinion, it can also be understood as a perfectly ordinary intramural dispute about favoritism, sour grapes, and intellectual fashions. In any case, this is an interesting example for comparing the state of the discipline in the US and Canada.


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Last Updated: 14.11.2003