Archive for August, 2013

Exploitation and Economic Justice in the Liberal Capitalist State

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Guest Author: Mark R. Reiff

My PictureI have been thinking about the issues addressed in Exploitation and Economic Justice in the Liberal Capitalist State for a number of years. My work on these did not begin in earnest, however, until the financial crisis hit in the summer of 2008. My thinking was that because the concept of exploitation had been so associated with Marxism, non-Marxists had tended to avoid relying on this concept when devising theories of economic justice for liberal capitalist societies.  For example, the concept of exploitation played no role whatsoever in the theories of economic justice of John Rawls, or Robert Nozick, or Ronald Dworkin, or in the work of any of the political theorists who built upon their works. And while “analytical Marxists” such as G. A. Cohen and John Roemer attempted to take Marx’s theory of exploitation forward and revise it in ways that would allow its application to and provide a justification for democratic socialism, almost no one attempted to develop and defend a theory of exploitation that would regulate but not prohibit inequalities in a liberal capitalist welfare state.

But that is what I have attempted to do in this book. My aim was to develop a new, non-Marxist, liberal theory of exploitation that could compete with the two theories of economic justice that currently dominate the liberal landscape—the difference principle, from John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, and luck egalitarianism, an approach inspired primarily by the work of Ronald Dworkin—but which can also be seen as consistent with both left and right libertarianism. In constructing my theory, I have relied on two key concepts or toolsExploitation (Book cover) new: the just price, and intolerable unfairness.  The first has a long history; indeed the idea of the just price can trace its roots back through medieval to ancient times. The concept of intolerable unfairness, in contrast, is largely my own invention.  But as I hope the book makes clear, this is what makes my theory liberal—it is the interaction between toleration—a key feature of political liberalism—and my re-conceived notion of the just price that allows my theory of exploitation to regulate but not prohibit the inequalities that capitalism would otherwise invariably produce.

Accordingly, my book should be considered a work of political philosophy, or, to be slightly more specific, of political economy. But that does not mean the book is an exercise in formal economics. Indeed, the book has almost no formal economics in it. It is a book about economic justice, designed to be accessible to all those who are concerned about the moral status of our current economic relations and what we might do to put those relations right. What I argue is that there are good reasons to believe that we can have full or close to full employment and an equitable or at least substantially less inequitable distribution of wealth and income in our society without compromising any of the fundamental principles of either economics or political morality that most of us already accept, and our failure to restrain the growth of economic inequality much less reverse it is in large part due to our failure to take principles we already accept seriously enough.

The book

  • Develops the first wholly new, liberal theory of economic justice since the theories proposed by John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and other theorists in the 1970s and early 80s
  • Offers a theory that can function as either a replacement for or a supplement to the difference principle and luck egalitarianism, the most popular liberal egalitarian theories of economic justice of the day
  • Contains a comprehensive discussion of the history and development of the doctrine of the just price from Aristotle through the present day
  • Develops a new, non-Marxist theory of exploitation that is designed to be a creature of capitalism, not a critique of it, and shows why and how we can regulate economic inequality using the presuppositions of capitalism and political liberalism that we already accept
  • Provides a new, highly-topical moral justification not only for increasing the minimum wage, but also for imposing a maximum wage, one that tells us not only why but to what extent we should limit the kinds of corporate bonuses we all find intuitively excessive
  • Provides a new and specific moral justification for continuation of the estate tax on the wealthiest members of society, those with estates in excess of (at least) $2 million
  • Provides a timely and new specific moral justification for the prohibition of certain kinds of speculative trading, including trading in most kinds of the now infamous credit default swap, trading which contributed greatly to the advent of the current financial crisis
  • Provides an explanation and a new specific moral justification for dealing with certain aspects of climate change now regardless of what other nations do
  • Suggests that the theory presented can be the subject of an overlapping consensus of not only for liberal egalitarians but also for right and left libertarians too

The book also contains numerous references to other works that readers can consult if they want to go deeper into the history or intellectual background of any of these matters. 

Author’s Bio:

Mark R. Reiff is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. In addition to Exploitation and Economic Justice in the Liberal Capitalist State (Oxford University Press, 2013),  he is the author of and Punishment, Compensation, and Law: A Theory of Enforceability (Cambridge University Press, 2005), as well as various papers on topics within legal, political, and moral philosophy.  During the 2008-09 academic year, Dr. Reiff was a Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He is currently completing work on his third book, On Unemployment

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Thursday, August 29th, 2013

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Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K Rowling: An Engrossing Mystery Novel

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

1308160502306yS49k38The Cuckoo’s Calling is a Debut crime fiction penned by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. This is an elegant suspense novel in a classic vein steeped in the atmosphere of London featuring a hard-luck private investigator- Cormoran Strike who lost his half-leg in Afghan War; his recently engaged rich and smart Secretary Robin Ellacotto; and an ostensibly cultured but anxious new client named John Bristow, the adopted brother of famous young supermodel Lula Landry.

John walks through Strike’s door with a startling story that the death of his sister Lula Landry, known to her friends as Cuckoo, who fell down from the third-floor of the “five-star” Mayfair apartment, is not a suicide but a murder. Initially dubious and reluctant to reopen the case, Strike takes on the case only to relieve the damage on his stressed finances. However, this case plunges him into the posh world of multimillionaire supermodels, estranged wives, desperate fashion designers, odious film producers, and rock-star boyfriends. Each person whom Strike encounters tells their recollections of Lula that makes him to realize that the events surrounding Lula’s death are more confusing than he imagined.

Although the book received many favorable reviews in various trade publications, yet the sales remained fewer than 1,500 copies. However, after the revelation of the true identity of its author (J.K. Rowling) on 14 July 2013, the succeeding publicity of the book is instantly surged from non-selling murkiness into worldwide best-seller.

Unlike her Harry Potter series that hold a lot of magic and numerous wizards or witches and tackled good and evil, The Cuckoo’s Calling by the world-renowned storyteller Ms. Rowling is based on the mundane issues, like midlife crises, class envy, the pressures of fame, and the social anthropology of modern London. It reads very much like Rowling wants to try something different from her routine writing for her own pleasure.

The things that make the story more compelling still are the characterizations, and particularly a charming protagonist, who’s in no doubt to be the leading light of many sequels to come. Rowling has done an excellent job of infusing main character with enough unselfconscious appeal that it does work. The portrayal of Strike and Robin in contrasts of the London life is subtly masterful.

With this highly entertaining murder mystery novel, Rowling takes us on an exciting ride of London where we see the affluent and famous alongside the downtrodden. She not only portrays through her novel the world of chic parties and stylish possessions but also the sordid world of poverty- a world that she had lived in while she wrote her first Harry Potter novel. She represents each scene with as much information as possible in order to give the reader an opportunity to experience the London’s very old charm.

On the whole, Ms. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling is an entertaining read that prove to be utterly convincing in its portrayal of different aspects of this world. Moreover, the tightly moulded plotline, well-chosen dialogues, and all the social content with lots of twists and suspense make the story intriguing.

RIP Elmore Leonard- The ‘Dickens of Detroit’

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

elmoreThe legendary American crime novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard passed away on Tuesday at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan following complications from a stroke at the age of 87.  

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1925 the great crime novelist began his career in the Navy, where he served with the Seabees, just after graduating from the University of Detroit in 1943. His pared down style and sparse use of dialogue was admired by celebrated writers and his works left an indelible imprint on many film adaptations and popular crime genres. His many admirers had often dubbed Leonard as “The Dickens of Detroit” because of his intimate portrayal of people from the town.

Starting out his writing career in the early fifties, the prolific author Leonard—or “Dutch,” as he often called- wrote more than forty books a couple of screenplays. However, he got first giant success in 1951 when an American pulp magazine “Argosy” published his short story “Trail of the Apaches“. He wrote several short stories primarily in pulp Westerns. Eventually, he turned his writing to crime, and more topical genres, as well as screenwriting in the 1960 as he earned his status for creating memorable characters and strong dialogue.

He credited author George V. Higgins for inspiring him to write mystery novels. He often considered Ernest Hemingway as one of his leading inspirations, and simultaneously criticized Hemingway for sternness. Among his acclaimed works are “Get Shorty,” Hombre, “,”52 Pick Up” “Mr. Majestyk” and “Rum Punch,” which was adapted into a movie titled Jackie Brown. Two of his Western stories The Tall T and 3:10 to Yuma were translated into movies. His 1953 Western short story 3:10 to Yuma was remade into a film starring Russell Crowe in 2007 while his book The Switch being in production into a film starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins is scheduled to debut this year as Life of Crime. His gallant character US Marshal Raylan Givensm, inspired the current TV series on FX, “Justified.”

He won numerous awards including the Grand Master Edgar Award in 1992, the Louisiana Writer Award in 2006, the F Scott Fitzgerald award in 2008, and Peabody Award for his FX’s Justified in 2011. He received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Leonard said he did not intend to end his life’s work after achieving further National Book Award lifetime achievement last year .

Commended by critics for his sly, calm, humorous and sometimes surprising voice, Mr. Leonard at times took liberties with language rules in the concern of pacing with the story. His “10 Rules for Writing” published in the New York Times in 2001, contained such constructive admonishments that are essential to any serious author and editor. His 10 rules should be pinned above the writing desk of everyone who terms himself or herself a writer.  

He survived by five children– three daughters and two sons, all born from his first wife Beverly Claire Cline before divorcing in 1977, as well as 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. He married and divorced his third wife Christine in 2012. At the time of his hospitalization for a stroke earlier this month, he was working on his yet another novel.

Our earnest condolences and best wishes go out to Leonard’s family, colleagues and fans all around the world.

Review: Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane : A Darkly Disturbing Yet Magical Reminiscence Of Childhood

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

15783514The Ocean at the End of the lane by renowned fantasy author Neil Gaiman is a brilliantly imaginative and moving tale that explores the shadowy spaces of myth, memory, and identity through the otherworldly journey of a man. First adult novel since Gaiman’s bestselling book Anansi Boys released in 2005, it is a captivating tale concerning the baffling gulf between the childhood and adulthood. More specifically, the author incorporated a few events that took place in his own life such as stealing of a car belonging to main character’s father and the thief committed suicide in the car. Debuted at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, this novel will lure you, amaze you, and make you feel on the edge.

The novel is told from the point of view of a middle-aged anonymous narrator returning to the place where he and his sister grew up. Recalled by his adult self, the man revisits his childhood house in Sussex, England where he is suddenly overwhelmed by memories of being seven-year-old boy and powerless, when the lodger stole his father’s car, drove it to the end of the lane and committed suicide in the back seat. This death stirring up ancient powers, chief among them a gorgeous grey-eyed woman named Ursula Monkton, who tried to tempt narrator’s father.

He also remembers a good-hearted young girl named Lettie Hempstock, who lives with her grandmother, Old Mrs. Hempstock, and her mother Ginnie Hempstock on an old farm at the end of the lane. The mysterious eleven-year-old girl- Lettie- introduces him to the pond behind her house, which she deems an ocean. The narrator finds himself entangled in a paranormal conflict by the powerful and dangerous creatures from the outer world that have gathered to destroy his family. A strange set of events are put into motion, and only the Lettie and her family can help set things right again. The narrator returns to the present at the end of novel and stops remembering all the past events. However, the statement of Hempstock shocks him that he had visited this house at least twice during his adult years.

The author has fantastically represented in his novel the helplessness of childhood and the reliance on adults. The fantasy world portrayed by Neil Gaiman is weird but utterly real that will transport you back to your childhood in a way that you feel the same fear and wonder that the protagonist experiences. Though, the novel is written from the perspective of a seven-year-old boy, it isn’t a story for kids as it includes various upsetting images, scenes of nudity and child abuse, and discussions of physical chastisement.

Entirely captivating and perfectly rendered, it’s a short story that explores numerous iconic depictions of childhood memories. The author has an uncanny ability to depict human traits such as the unbreakable bond of Hempstock women together. As this is a fantasy piece, many memories seem unreal, and yet the author infuses the reality and the amorphous dream-like states in a way that will move the reader deeply. The Ocean at the end of the Lane is the best-written book by the storytelling genius Neil Gaiman that is haunting, fascinating, profoundly perceptive as well as lyrical.

Remembering Erwin Schrödinger–A Pioneer of Quantum Physics

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

schrodingerToday is the 126th Birth Anniversary of Erwin Schrödinger- the Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist whose stationary and time-dependent eponymous equation formed the basis of quantum wave mechanics. Born in Vienna, Austria on August 12, 1887, to Catholic father and his half-Austrian and half-English wife, Schrödinger was a gifted child who showed great interest in science and philosophy and made significant contributions to nearly all its branches.

His interests and strengths lay not only in the physics, religions and pantheism but also in languages, both modern and ancient, as well as poetry, which were strong influences on his views. He also authored numerous books in various fields of physics including “Space-Time Structure,” “Statistical Thermodynamics,” “Nature and the Greeks and Science and Humanism,” My View of the World,” and many more. In addition, he wrote on philosophical aspects of science and theoretical biology. His well-received 1944 non-fiction science book, What Is Life?, was based on the course of public lectures delivered by him, introduced the problems of genetics, observing life from the point of view of physics.   

The only son of knowledgeable parents, Schrödinger was taught at home as a child, until he was 11. He then went on to study theoretical physics at the Vienna University, studied under Friedrich Hasenöhrl and Franz S. Exner, where he remained until World War I. He undertook voluntary military service on the Italian front, later went back to academia to study experimental physics. Due to the strong impact of Arthur Schopenhauer’s works at a very early age, he became extremely interested throughout his life in philosophy and color theory.

Most productive and creative moments in his career were those six years he spent in Zurich, though he did not start the tour de force for which he was renowned worldwide–quantum wave mechanics–until 1925. Einstein’s revolutionary papers on relativity sparked his curiosity. H1304140920137Z44ae49e examined the movement of electron in an atom as a wave. By 1926, he published his masterpiece, which was released after a long theoretical research of six-months, providing hypothetical foundations for the atomic model. Lies at the heart of Quantum mechanics, his extremely groundbreaking discovery of wave equation earned him the Noble prize in physics in 1933. However, he received noble prize for his amazing series of six papers but his most popular contribution to the field of quantum physics came in 1935, when he developed cat-in-a-box thought experiment. Schrödinger’s cat is his most enduring legacy that allowed him to pose a question to Copenhagen interpretations of quantum wave mechanics to everyday objects by using the paradox.

Many scientists were influenced by the speculations of Erwin Schrödinger. One of them is James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953 stated in his memoir- DNA that Schrödinger’s book- the Secret of Life inspired him to research gene. Contributed profoundly to the understanding of subatomic behavior, the legendary physicist had a very long official name- Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger.

Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger’s had to relocate a number of times, looking for a society that would accept his ménage a trois  and a nation in which to work that provided religious tolerance.

After warfare and foreign employment had receded from Austria in 1956, he came back to Vienna. He suffered from tuberculosis the following year and died on January 1961 left a widow, Anny, and was buried in the western Austrian village of Alpbach.

10 All Time Bestselling Books

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Best-selling books of all time are those books, which span several centuries and cover many genres and unique languages. Comic and textbooks have not been included in best-selling list.  Even the religious and political books like The Bible, the Qur’an, which are widely accounted as the most-printed and most-distributed books all over the world, have also been excluded from the list of best-selling books due to their unreliable printing figures.

Today, we are providing our readers a list of 10 best-selling books- fiction and nonfiction, of all time reported in the most reliable and independent source–Wikipedia. These books are listed according to their highest estimated sales figures. Have a look:

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens’s A tale of Two cities is a classic narrative of one A Tale of Two Citiesfamily’s struggles and sufferings before and during the French Revolution. First published in 1859, this historical novel ranks high as one of the most famous works in the history of fictional literature. Set against the backdrop of Paris, London, England, and France, Charles masterpiece of bravery, drama, and adventure featuring the plight of Charles Darnay-a man mistakenly accused of treason. With well over 200 million copies sold, this novel has been a bestseller for decades.

Author: Charles Dickens

First Published: 1859

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: London: Chapman & Hall

Approximate Sale: 200 million

The Lord of The Rings

The lord of the ringsOne of the bestselling books of recent times, The Lord of the Rings is an epic fantasy novel that inspired, and continues to inspire movies, artwork, television and ensuing literature. This classic saga began as a sequel to Tolkien’s earlier work The Hobbit, published in 1937. Written much of it during World War II, this epic tale, with over 150 million copies sold, enjoys immense popularity to the present day. The J.R.R. Tolkien’s definitive novel is published in three volumes encompassing The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

First Published: 1954-1955

Genre: Fantasy and Adventure

Publisher: George Allen & Unwin

Approximate Sale: 150 million

Dream of the Red Chamber

Written during the Qing Dynasty in 18th century, Dream of the Red Chamber is Dream of the Red Chambera masterpiece by Cao Xueqin that is generally accepted to be the pinnacle of Chinese fiction. Originally written in Chinese, the novel is believed to be a semi-autobiographical, detailing the specific and thorough detail of the rise and fall of author Cao Xueqin’s family. Cao Xueqin wrote the first 80 chapters of this novel while his partner Gao E added 40 more chapters in it later to complete the novel.

Author: Tsao Hsueh-Chin

First Published: 1754-1791

Genre: Fiction

Approximate Sale: 100 million

The Hobbit

The prelude to J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, a fairy tale, wasThe Hobbit being nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Set in a time” Between the Dominion of Men and the Dawn of Faerie, this great modern classic follows the magnificent expedition of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins to a sinister territory watched over by the dragon, Smaug. However, The Hobbit is lighter in tone than the trilogy that follows; it remains popular and classic in the children literature. Its long-term legacy encompasses several adaptations for radio, video games, television, films, and stage. New York Herald Tribune awarded a prize to this epic novel for best juvenile fiction.

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

First Published: 1937

Genre: Epic Fantasy and Children Literature

Publisher: George Allen & Unwin

Approximate Sale: 100 million

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie- The Queen of Mystery wrote the most shockingly nifty andAnd Then There Were None impudent novel- And Then There Were None. First published in 1939, with a different title- Ten Little Indians, the book has sold millions of copies all over the world, making it the world’s best-selling mystery book. This detective fiction starts with ten strangers, who have been invited to a mansion on the fictional soldier island by a mysterious host. These guests are mysteriously killed off one by one in that isolated island in a number of ways including by drowning, poisoning, hanging, hammering and shooting.

Author: Agatha Christie

First Published: 1939

Genre: Crime Novel

Publisher: Collins Crime Club

Approximate Sale: 100 million

The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 It was 1950 when this famous fantasy fiction first published in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956) series of seven novels, and written by one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century- C.S. Lewis. Set in the fictitious land of Narnia, the novel introduces us to a land inhabited by mythical beings and animals that can talk, and ruled by a White Witch, who has ruled for 100 years of deep winter. Nominated as the best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005 by Time magazine, the book tells the adventurous journey of four siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy who accidently visit Narnia- an enchanted world upon finding its secret entry from a wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house.

Author: C. S. Lewis

First Published: 1950

Genre: Children’s fantasy novel, Christian literature

Publisher: Geoffrey Bles

Approximate Sale: 85 million

She: A History of Adventure

SHEShe: A History of Adventure by Henry Rider Haggard is one of the most fundamental works of imaginative literature and the best-selling books of all time. Set in a lost African Kingdom, this fantasy adventure classic expresses various racial and evolutionary conceptions of British colonialism, mainly ideas of racial decline and degeneration. Placed firmly in the imperialist literature of 19th century, the novel opens with the journey of Horace Holly and his ward Leo Vincey to South Africa, ruled by a mysterious white queen, Ayesha. In the form of She, the novel received equal praise and criticism for its portrayal of female authority and feminine behavior.

Author: H. Rider Haggard

First Published: 1887

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance and Gothic

Publisher: Longmans

Approximate Sale: 83 million

The Da Vinci Code

Published in 2003, The Da Vinci Code is a highly enthralling myThe Da Vinci Codestery-detective novel written by Dan Brown that provides rich food for thought. Despite being a subject of controversy, the book became a bestseller worldwide with 80 million copies sold as of 2009. The author has masterfully concocts an intelligent, lightning-paced and intricately layered thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a wide collection of stunning esoterica chosen from 2,000 years of Western history. It appears that the clandestine Vatican-sanctioned Catholic sect Opus Dei has now made its move.  Translated into more than 44 languages, the book has also been adapted into a movie by Sony’s Columbia Pictures.

Author: Dan Brown

First Published: 2003

Genre: Crime, Thriller & Adventure

Publisher: Doubleday (US) and Transworld & Bantam Books (UK)

Approximate Sales: 80 Million

Think and Grow Rich

Published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is an outstanding self-help book by Think and Grow RichNapolean Hill that unearthed the success secrets of millionaires and billionaires of his time. After interviewing more than 500 millionaires, Hill imparts real-world examples that can be applied by anybody to succeed in life. A significant book for all age groups that helps in understanding how to see every fault or mistake as a learning opportunity and move ahead in life to fulfill dreams. 

Author: Napoleon Hill

First Published: 1937

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: The Ralston Society

Approximate Sales: 70  Million

The Catcher in the Rye

Published in 1951, J.D. Salinger’s, “The Catcher in the Rye is one of the greatest Catcher in the ryeworks of American literature. The most influential story revolves around the life of 16-year old novel’s protagonist and antihero, Holden Caufield, who has been expelled from his boarding school for flunking most of his courses. Despite being in the center of controversy for its liberal use of profane ideas and sexual content, 250,000 copies of this novel are sold each year due to its popular demand. Translated into various major languages, the novel has been considered as one of the 100 best-written English novels of the 20th century.

Author: J.D. Salinger

First Published: 1951

Genre: Fiction, First-Person Narrative

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Approximate Sales: 65 Million

Have you read any of these books on the list? What’s your pick? Let us know in the comments below.

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