Max Scheler and Adam Smith on Sympathy


THE REVIEW OF POLITICS, Volume 79, Issue 3

Abstract: Recent efforts to theorize the role of emotions in political life have stressed the importance of sympathy, and have often recurred to Adam Smith to articulate their claims. In the early twentieth-century, Max Scheler disputed the salutary character of sympathy, dismissing it as an ultimately perverse foundation for human association. Unlike later critics of sympathy as a political principle, Scheler rejected it for being ill equipped to salvage what, in his opinion, should be the proper basis of morality, namely, moral value. Even if Scheler’s objections against Smith’s project prove to be ultimately mistaken, he had important reasons to call into question its moral purchase in his own time. Where the most dangerous idol is not self-love but illusory self-knowledge, the virtue of self-command will not suffice. Where identification with others threatens the social bond more deeply than faction, “standing alone” in moral matters proves a more urgent task.

Democracy and Unfreedom: Revisiting Tocqueville and Beaumont in America


SAGE JOURNALS, Volume 45, Issue 4

Abstract: This essay reexamines the famous 1831 prison tours of Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont. It reads the three texts that emerged from their collective research practice as a trilogy, one conventionally read in different disciplinary homes (Democracy in America in political science, On the Penitentiary in criminology, and Marie, Or Slavery: A Novel of Jacksonian America in literature). I argue that in marginalizing the trilogy’s important critique of slavery and punishment, scholars have overemphasized the centrality of free institutions and ignored the unfree institutions that also anchor American political life. The article urges scholars in political theory and political science to attend to this formative moment in mass incarceration and carceral democracy.

Adam Smith on Justice, Social Justice, and Ultimate Justice



Abstract: Adam Smith argues that virtue falls into two broad categories: “justice,” which he calls a “negative” virtue because it principally comprises restraint from harming or injuring others; and “beneficence,” which he calls “positive” because it comprises the actions we ought to take to improve others’ situations. Smith’s conception of justice is thus quite “thin,” and some critics argue that it is indeed too thin, since it fails to incorporate substantive concerns for the well-being of others. In this essay, I lay out Smith’s conception of justice and offer a way to understand it that attempts to comprehend the various things he says about it. I then offer a cluster of objections drawing on criticisms that might fall under the heading of “social justice.” Finally, I suggest how Smith might respond to the criticisms by outlining a Smithian conception of what I call “ultimate justice.”

Judaism and Liberalism: Israel’s Economic Problem with its Haredim


ECONOMIC AFFAIRS, Volume 37, Issue 2

Abstract: This article argues that, in the arrangements for the public provision of welfare for the poor and a basic education for all in both biblical and post-biblical times, Judaism is more closely in accord with classical liberalism than it is with those variants of liberalism which favour no more than the minimal night-watchman state as well as those which favour the extensive welfare states of contemporary Western social democracies. To the extent that Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews (its Haredim) have been able to secure more by way of state subsidies (through exploiting the leverage their country’s national system of proportional representation has given them, which often leaves them holding the balance of power), not only are they endangering Israel’s viability as a vibrant, developed liberal democracy, they are also guilty of departing from the religious teachings and tradition of Jewish orthodoxy.

Hume on Education



Abstract: Hume claims that education is ‘disclaimed by philosophy, as a fallacious ground of assent to any opinion’ (T and that it is ‘never . . . recogniz’d by philosophers’ (T He is usually taken to be referring here to indoctrination. I argue, however, that his main concern is with association and those philosophers who emphasize the epistemic dangers of the imagination. These include Locke, Hutcheson and Descartes, but not Hume himself. Hume praises education, highlighting its role in the formation of general rules, and in fostering social conditions that encourage the growth of knowledge and moral virtue.

Colonization and Democracy: Tocqueville Reconsidered



Abstract: The prominence of colonization in Tocqueville’s life and works has been widely noted, yet scholars disagree about its importance. The perceived tension between Tocqueville’s analysis of democracy and his advocacy of colonization continues to be the subject of heated scholarly debate. Revisiting Tocqueville’s analytical and practical engagement with colonization, this essay reexamines its relationship to Tocqueville’s account of democracy. It argues that, while lending political support to the French empire, Tocqueville was a clairvoyant critic of colonial rule; and that his involvement with colonization could only be properly understood in light of the historical and civilizational vista that informs his oeuvre as a whole. Proposing that Tocqueville viewed European expansionism as an instrument of the global movement toward democratic equality, the essay concludes with an assessment of the significance of Tocqueville’s colonial writings for his “new political science,” and their relevance today.

Misjudging the character of the welfare state: Hayek, generality, and the knowledge problem



Abstract: What are the limits of collective action? As James Buchanan famously worried, is it possible to empower the productive state without lapsing into the predatory state? This paper uses insights from F.A. Hayek to address problems of public goods and the role of the state. Hayek convincingly argued that no central planner has sufficient knowledge to run an economy. Yet Hayek also allowed for state provision of some goods beyond the prevention of coercion. The question, then, is whether Hayek’s safeguards offer a satisfactory response to Buchanan’s worry. This paper contends that Hayek violated his own conditions for permissible government activity. Nevertheless, he offers a serious research agenda for limiting state abuses.