Political Animal Magazine2019-03-27T14:53:23+00:00

SPOTLIGHT

What Are Rights? Two Early Modern Attempts at an Answer

December 6th, 2019|

By: Brandy Harrison

You only have to turn on the television or glance at the news headlines to encounter it: the rhetoric of human rights. Maybe it’s an editorial in the New York Times worrying about the possible erosion of “women’s rights” under the Trump presidency, or perhaps there is a story about “human rights violations” that has gone viral on social media this morning, destined to provoke outraged responses from people all around the world moved by the plight of civilians in, say, Syria, or horrified by a so-called honor killing in rural Pakistan. There have been heated debates in recent years concerning our “right” to freedom of speech, especially in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacres in France. The language of human rights is, as Richard Tuck (1) and Michael Ignatieff have noted (7), of immense importance in contemporary political and international relations, but what exactly do we mean when we talk about our rights? What are rights? Where do they come from? Who gets to determine which rights we have, who gets to have them, and what – if any – limitations should be placed upon them? How do our conceptions of rights differ from those held by our ancestors? (more…)

Silence as Speech: Reading Sor Juana’s Primero Sueño in the Light of her Final Silence

May 4th, 2016|

By: Rich Frontjes

Speakers and Listeners in Public Discourse

American public discourse is theoretically founded on the freedom of speech.  This freedom to speak, however, in no way guarantees entry into conversations where the common good is considered, assessed, or decided.  Free speech is the freedom to speak publicly—but participation in public discourse requires inclusion.  And inclusion is variously brokered: depending on the conversation, its participants, and the power dynamics at work, any given stream of public discourse involves a boundary.  On one side are the participants, and on the other side are the listeners—or, frequently, those whose attention is focused elsewhere.

In contemporary society, the boundary between participants and listeners exists partly as a function of access to media.  Individuals or groups with the (financial or other) power to gain access to media increase their chances of entering the public discourse.  The powerless, of course, are typically also voiceless.  But financial power has not always been the key that opened the door to participation in public discourse: various epochs and cultural moments have likewise had various modes of adjudicating participation in public discourse.

The present power of media outlets to perform this boundary-keeping function once resided largely within other institutions.  The Roman Catholic Church and its functionaries exercised considerable control over public discourse for centuries of European history and cultural development.  Exploring how participation in public discourse has been adjudicated in a specific past instance elucidates a dynamic which clarifies the nature of contemporary public speech.  In the example of the Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), we discover a turn of events in which ecclesial power brokers attempted to enforce silence upon an otherwise astoundingly prolific poet.[1] (more…)

THEORY

Arguing Dialectically about Abortion

By |August 23rd, 2019|0 Comments

How do we talk about abortion? How do we make arguments about a topic that evokes such strong reactions? In opposing articles, Nathan Nobis and Kristina Grob and Hendrick van der Breggen, approach the issue dialectically. One approach is to think dialectically--to critically examine arguments pro or con, in order to uncover the assumptions and grounds they rest on, and develop new arguments that respond to the faults we find in our prior positions.

Untangling popular “pro-choice” claims and arguments concerning abortion

By |August 23rd, 2019|3 Comments

I favor the pro-life position on the abortion issue, all the while realizing that many good and decent people disagree with me. Why do they disagree? It seems they are influenced by popular claims and arguments favoring the pro-choice view. I intend no disrespect to anyone in saying this, but I think that many popular claims and arguments favoring the choice for abortion consist of knots of illogic that should be untangled.

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PRACTICE

Jagmeet Singh, Abortion, and Illogic

By |October 18th, 2019|0 Comments

I favor the pro-life position on the abortion issue, all the while realizing that many good and decent people disagree with me. Why do they disagree? It seems they are influenced by popular claims and arguments favoring the pro-choice view. I intend no disrespect to anyone in saying this, but I think that many popular claims and arguments favoring the choice for abortion consist of knots of illogic that should be untangled.

Long Walk to Freedom: Xenophobia Continues Against African Migrants in Johannesburg, South Africa

By |October 4th, 2019|0 Comments

South Africans need to have a national dialogue about what it means to have immigrants in their midst and what part of this falls outside the country’s earlier vision of being a Rainbow Nation. South African cannot continue to preach the gospel of African Renaissance while it practices the talk of xenophobia

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JUSTICE

Social Contract Theory

By |February 1st, 2019|0 Comments

When you make an agreement of some significance (e.g., to rent an apartment, or join a gym, or divorce), you typically agree to certain terms: you sign a contract. This is for your benefit, and for the the other party’s benefit: everyone’s expectations are clear, as are the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

Plato’s Crito: When should we break the law?

By |January 11th, 2019|0 Comments

Plato’s Crito describes a conversation that takes place in 399 B.C.E. in an Athens prison, where Socrates awaits execution.Not long before, an assembly of more than 500 Athenian citizens convicted Socrates of corrupting the youth and impiety, essentially failing to respect the gods of the city.

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ARTS & LETTERS

Freud, Woodstock, and Crowd Behavior

By |July 25th, 2019|0 Comments

When you have a master or a leader, there’s always another master somewhere fighting them off or trying to contest them. The masters of other people can look pretty annoying to you, if not contemptible, irrelevant, reprehensible. I think about Beatlemania, where people were just horrified — What the hell is going on? These four guys with weird floppy haircuts. Or with Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the other rock stars. The disgust and terror that people have that others are caught up.

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