Category Archives: Scholarship Roundup

Hamid, “Temptations of Power”

9780199314058_450Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East by Shadi Hamid (Brookings Doha Center). The publisher’s description follows.

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously declared that we had reached “the end of history,” and that liberal democracy would be the reigning ideology from now on. But Fukuyama failed to reckon with the idea of illiberal democracy. What if majorities, working through the democratic process, decide they would rather not accept gender equality and other human rights norms that Western democracies take for granted? Nowhere have such considerations become more relevant than in the Middle East, where the Arab uprisings of 2011 swept the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties into power. Since then, one question has been on everyone’s mind: what do Islamists really want?

In Temptations of Power, noted Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with Islamist leaders and rank-and-file activists to offer an in-depth look at the past, present, and future of Islamist parties across the Arab world. The oldest and most influential of these groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, initially dismissed democracy as a foreign import, but eventually chose to participate in Egyptian and Jordanian party politics in the 1980s. These political openings proved short-lived. As repression intensified, though, Islamist parties did not — as one may have expected — turn to radicalism. Rather, they embraced the tenets of democratic life, putting aside their dreams of an Islamic state, striking alliances with secular parties, and reaching out to Western audiences for the first time.

When the 2011 revolutions took place, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one they were unprepared for. Up until then, the prospect of power had seemed too remote. But, now, freed from repression and with the political arena wide open, they found themselves with an unprecedented opportunity to put their ideas into practice across the region. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of political parties and religious movements. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society and the state. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and, at times, significant backlash, as the tragic events in Egypt following the military takeover demonstrated.

While the coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist “project,” premature obituaries of political Islam, a running feature of commentary since the 1950s, usually turn out to be just that – premature. In countries as diverse as Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen, Islamist groups will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power.

Drawing from interviews with figures like ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, Hamid’s account will serve as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region’s varied Islamist groups have come from, and where they might be headed.

Center Sponsors Successful Joint Colloquium with Villanova Law School

Here’s an article, from the St. John’s Law School website, on the inaugural session of the Joint Colloquium in Law and Religion, which the Center hosted with Villanova Law School this semester. The Joint Colloquium, which featured leading law and religion scholars, used innovative “virtual classroom” technology to allow students and faculty at both schools to participate simultaneously through a synchronous video link.

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Joint Colloquium with Michael Walzer

From the article:

Michael Walzer (Institute for Advanced Studies) discussed the ethics of war in classical and contemporary Jewish law. Legal historian Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania) explained how the availability of the corporate form empowered African-American congregations in the early national period. Kristine Kalanges (Notre Dame University School of Law) explored the relationship between Islamic law and contemporary ideas about constitutionalism and human rights. Kent Greenawalt (Columbia Law School) and Donald L. Drakeman (Cambridge University) both presented papers on Originalism. Greenawalt argued that factors other than the original understanding inevitably will and should play an important role in constitutional interpretation. Drakeman offered a methodological middle ground, one that takes account of both original intent and original meaning. Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego School of Law) critiqued the standard account of American religious freedom, and asked whether religious freedom in America today is suffering a decline.

The virtual classroom enriched the discussions by allowing for a fruitful exchange between participants at the two host schools. After the speakers presented their papers, students had the opportunity to ask questions and present their own insights and opinions on the issues.

This was our first experience with virtual classroom technology, and it was highly successful. You can read more about the joint colloquium, and view a photo gallery, here. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, and see you next time!

 

Johnson, “Monastic Women and Religious Orders in Late Medieval Bologna”

Next month, Cambridge will publish Monastic Women and 9781107060852Religious Orders in Late Medieval Bologna, by Sherri Franks Johnson (University of California, Riverside). The publisher’s description follows.

Sherri Franks Johnson explores the roles of religious women in the changing ecclesiastical and civic structure of late medieval Bologna, demonstrating how convents negotiated a place in their urban context and in the church at large. During this period Bologna was the most important city in the Papal States after Rome. Using archival records from nunneries in the city, Johnson argues that communities of religious women varied in the extent to which they sought official recognition from the male authorities of religious orders. While some nunneries felt that it was important to their religious life to gain recognition from monks and friars, others were content to remain local and autonomous. In a period often described as an era of decline and the marginalization of religious women, Johnson shows instead that they saw themselves as active participants in their religious orders, in the wider church and in their local communities.

Schroeder, “Deborah’s Daughters: Gender Politics and Biblical Interpretation”

Next month, Oxford will publish Deborah’s Daughters: Gender Politics9780199991044_140 and Biblical Interpretation, by Joy A. Schroeder (Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary). The publisher’s description follows.

Joy A. Schroeder offers the first in-depth exploration of the biblical story of Deborah, an authoritative judge, prophet, and war leader. For centuries, Deborah’s story has challenged readers’ traditional assumptions about the place of women in society. 

Schroeder shows how Deborah’s story has fueled gender debates throughout history. An examination of the prophetess’s journey through nearly two thousand years of Jewish and Christian interpretation shows how the biblical account of Deborah was deployed against women, for women, and by women who aspired to leadership roles in church and society. Numerous women—and men who supported women’s aspirations to leadership—used Deborah’s narrative to justify female claims to political and religious authority. Opponents to women’s public leadership endeavored to define Deborah’s role as ”private” or argued that she was a divinely authorized exception, not to be emulated by future generations of women.

Deborah’s Daughters provides crucial new insight into the the history of women in Judaism and Christianity, and into women’s past and present roles in the church, synagogue, and society.

Herringer, “Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85″

Next month, Manchester University Press will publish Victorians and the Virgin Mary: Religion and Gender in England 1830-85 by Carol Engelhardt Herringer (Wright State University). The publisher’s description follows.

This interdisciplinary study of competing representations of the Virgin Mary examines how anxieties about religious and gender identities intersected to create public controversies that, whilst ostensibly about theology and liturgy, were also attempts to define the role and nature of women. Drawing on a variety of sources, this book seeks to revise our understanding of the Victorian religious landscape, both retrieving Catholics from the cultural margins to which they are usually relegated, and calling for a reassessment of the Protestant attitude to the feminine ideal. This book will be useful to advanced students and scholars in a variety of disciplines including history, religious studies, Victorian studies, women’s history and gender studies.

Rice,”Contraception and Persecution”

Next month, St. Augustine’s Press will publish Contraception and Persecution by Charles Rice (University of Notre Dame Law School). The publisher’s description follows.

“Contraceptive sex,” wrote social science researcher Mary Eberstadt in 2012, “is the fundamental social fact of our time.” In this important and pointed book, Charles E. Rice, of the Notre Dame Law School, makes the novel claim that the acceptance of contraception is a prelude to persecution. He makes the striking point that contraception is not essentially about sex. It is a First Commandment issue: Who is God? It was at the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930 when for the first time a Christian denomination said that contraception could ever be a moral choice. The advent of the Pill in the 1960s made the practice of contraception practically universal. This involved a massive displacement of the Divine Law as a normative measure of conduct, not only on sex but across the board. Nature abhors a vacuum. The State moved in to occupy the place formerly held by God as the ultimate moral Lawgiver. The State put itself on a collision course with religious groups and especially with the Catholic Church, which continues to insist on that traditional teacher. A case in point is the Obama Regime’s Health Care Mandate, coercing employees to provide, contrary to conscience, abortifacients and contraceptives to their employees. The first chapter describes that Mandate, which the Catholic bishops have vowed not to obey. Rice goes on to show that the duty to disobey an unjust law that would compel you to violate the Divine Law does not confer a general right to pick and choose what laws you will obey. The third chapter describes the “main event,” which is the bout to determine whether the United States will conform its law and culture to the homosexual (LGBTQ) lifestyle in all its respects. “The main event is well underway and LGBTQ is well ahead on points.” Professor Rice follows with a clear analysis of the 2013 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Part II presents some “underlying causes” of the accelerating persecution of the Catholic Church. The four chapter headings in this part outline the picture: The Dictatorship of Relativism; Conscience Redefined; The Constitution: Moral Neutrality; and The Constitution: Still Taken Seriously? The answer to the last question, as you might expect, is: No. Part III, the controversial heart of the book, presents contraception as “an unacknowledged cause” of persecution. The first chapter argues that contraception is not just a “Catholic issue.” The next chapter describes the “consequences” of contraception and the treatment of women as objects. The third chapter spells out in detail the reality that contraception is a First Commandment issue and that its displacement of God as the ultimate moral authority opened the door for the State to assume that role, bringing on a persecution of the Church. The last chapter, “A Teaching Untaught,” details the admitted failure of the American Catholic bishops to teach Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. But Rice offers hope that the bishops are now getting their act together Part IV offers as a “response” to the persecution of the Church three remedies: Speak the Truth with clarity and charity; Trust God; and, most important, Pray. As the last sentence in the book puts it: “John Paul II wrote in a letter to U.S. bishops in 1993: ‘America needs much prayer – lest it lose its soul.’” This readable and provocative book is abundantly documented with a detailed index of names and subjects.

Machiavelli’s Civil Religion

This review by Professor Cary Nederman of Professor Maurizio Viroli’s Redeeming the Prince: The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece is very interesting (h/t Matt Lister). I have not read Viroli’s book yet (saving it for the summer!), but his reading of Machiavelli–and in particular his interpretation of the famously perplexing Chapter 26 (“Exhortatio ad capessendam Italiam in liberatemque a barbaris vindicandam”)–makes a fine textualist case for a kind of civil religion in his work. Here, Machiavelli pleads for an Italian redeemer who–”favorita da Dio e dalla Chiesa” (“favored by God and the Church”)–will deliver Italy from its present troubles. The troubles are pretty bad: “sanza capo, sanza ordine, battuta, spogliata, lacera, corsa, e avessi sopportato d’ogni sorte ruina” (“without a head, without order, beaten, denuded, wounded, run down, and having sustained all manner of ruin”). Here’s a bit from the review concerning what Machiavelli had in mind concerning the divine agent who would unify Italy and redeem its national promise:

In contrast to most scholars, for whom Chapter 26 cannot be reconciled with the previous body of the text, Viroli insists that Machiavelli’s “Exhortation” represents the very crescendo of The Prince. How does Viroli arrive at such an unconventional reading?….His overarching insight, I take it, is that we ought to take Machiavelli at his word when he speaks of religious matters and, in particular, mentions the workings of God. The prevailing tendency, of course, has been to dismiss such references as reflective of either his impiety or his wicked sense of humor. On this important point, I believe Viroli to be largely correct. Scholars have all-too-often filtered their readings of Machiavelli through a set of preconceived notions or impressions of what they assume he was saying, according to his longstanding reputation, rather than what the text actually states. This does not mean that Machiavelli’s political thought lacks an underlying agenda, but rather that we must always commence our investigations by taking the words he wrote seriously and at face value….

In particular, Machiavelli’s invocation of prophetic wording in Chapter 26, according to Viroli, reflects the overarching purpose of The Prince: the call for a redeemer, presumably Lorenzo de’ Medici, to unify Italy in order to remove the foreign elements that have dominated its politics. Machiavelli says that such a redeemer is sanctioned by God, who has rendered the moment propitious for such action. Viroli insists that we must take Machiavelli at his word in this regard, rather than dismissing it as incompatible with the general message of The Prince.

That supposed “general message” helps us to grasp the sense in which Machiavelli may be characterized as a realist for Viroli. Specifically, Viroli asserts that Machiavelli adopts the stance of a “realist with imagination.” By this he means that Machiavelli perfectly well understood the situation of Italy as it existed in his own day; this is his “realist” dimension. Yet he posits that Machiavelli was also engaged in an imaginative way to change such reality by promoting a savior, a redeemer, capable of instituting the reforms necessary to transform the realities of his day. On Viroli’s account, Machiavelli pursued this agenda by mythologizing the great men of bygone times as well as some of his contemporaries. Thus, he mythologizes the redeemers whom he lauds in Chapters 6 and 26 — such as Moses, Cyrus and Theseus — as well as recent political figures such as Caterina Sforza and (especially) Cesare Borgia, both of whom he had encountered during his days in the Florentine civil service. Their deeds are transformed by him without regard to their actual behavior, for which Machiavelli has no use. Machiavelli’s realism, then, is not confined to an effort to analyze and explain political events and personalities, past and present, in the manner of a political scientist. Rather, he renders his favored subjects larger than life, with the purpose of exhorting the redeemer to aim at their example, even if he falls short.

The Weekly Five

This week’s collection of five new articles from SSRN includes Corinna Lain’s history of Engel v. Vitale, the school prayer case; Anna Su’s review of Steve Smith’s new book on the decline of religious freedom; and pieces on corporate social responsibility in Asia; Christianity and other foundations of international law; and the will to live.

1. John D. Haskell (Mississippi College-School of Law), The Traditions of Modernity within International Law and Governance: Christianity, Liberalism and Marxism. According to Haskell, three traditions constitute “modernity” in international legal scholarship—Christianity, Liberalism, and Marxism. These three traditions differ from one another but also have some similarities. He writes, “my hope is that in studying each tradition, we can find a new synthesis that allows fresh analytical tools to conceive the dynamics of global governance today and how they might be addressed.”

2. Corinna Lain (University of Richmond), God, Civic Virtue, and the American Way: Reconstructing Engel. In this history of Engel v. Vitale, the 1962 Supreme Court decision that struck down school prayer, the author argues that the conventional wisdom has the case wrong. Engel was not an example of the Court’s standing bravely against a popular majority. If the Justices had understood how controversial their decision would be, she maintains, they would not have taken the case to begin with. Instead, Engel demonstrates the power of judicial review in stimulating democratic deliberation on the Constitution—what some scholars call “popular constitutionalism.” She argues that popular antipathy to the decision resulted from misunderstandings provoked by the media.

3. Marvin Lim (Independent), A New Approach to the Ethics of Life: The “Will to Live” in Lieu of Traditionalists’ Notion of Natural/Rational and Progressives’ Autonomy/Consciousness. The author maintains that both traditionalist and progressive justifications for protecting human life are inconsistent and unconvincing. In their place, he argues for an ethic of the “will to live.” What ultimately matters is whether actions respect or violate this ethic. This approach would allow abortion and assisted suicide in at least some circumstances, he says.

4. Arjya B. Majumdar (Jindal Global Law School), Zakat, Dana and Corporate Social Responsibility. In this essay, the author traces the tradition of charity in Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism and explores the relevance of that tradition in corporate law. Especially in Asia, the author says, where corporations have relatively few shareholders and tend to be family or individual operations, religious traditions of charity can play an important role in boosting corporate social responsibility.

5. Anna Su (SUNY Buffalo), Separation Anxiety: The End of American Religious Freedom? This is a review of Steven D. Smith’s new book, The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom. Su disagrees with Smith that the Supreme Court’s twentieth-century Religion Clause cases threaten the existence of religious freedom. “These decisions,” she writes, though frustrating and incoherent as they might seem, in fact, are as responsible for the remarkable religious pluralism that exists in American society today as much as for the contemporary secular extremism that Smith deplores.”

Rubin, “Islam in the Balance”

Next month, Stanford University Press will publish Islam in the Balance: Ideational Threats in Arab Politics by Lawrence Rubin (Georgia Institute of Islam in the BalanceTechnology).  The publisher’s description follows.

Islam in the Balance: Ideational Threats in Arab Politics is an analysis of how ideas, or political ideology, can threaten states and how states react to ideational threats. It examines the threat perception and policies of two Arab, Muslim majority states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in response to the rise and activities of two revolutionary “Islamic states,” established in Iran (1979) and Sudan (1989).

Using these comparative case studies the book provides important insight about the role of religious ideology for the international and domestic politics of the Middle East and, in doing so, advances our understanding of how, why, and when ideology affects threat perception and state policy.

Rubin makes clear that transnational ideologies may present a greater and more immediate national security threat than shifts in the military balance of power: first because ideology, or ideational power, triggers threat perception and affects state policy; second because states engage in ideational balancing in response to an ideological threat.

The book has significant implications for international relations theory and engages important debates in comparative politics about authoritarianism and Islamic activism. Its findings about how an Islamist regime or state behaves will provide vital insight for policy creation by the US and its Middle East allies should another such regime or state emerge.

Shah,”The Army and Democracy”

This month, Harvard University Press publishes The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan by Aqil Shah (Princeton University).  The the army and democracypublisher’s description follows.

Since Pakistan gained independence in 1947, only once has an elected government completed its tenure and peacefully transferred power to another elected government. In sharp contrast to neighboring India, the Muslim nation has been ruled by its military for over three decades. Even when they were not directly in control of the government, the armed forces maintained a firm grip on national politics. How the military became Pakistan’s foremost power elite and what its unchecked authority means for the future of this nuclear-armed nation are among the crucial questions Aqil Shah takes up in The Army and Democracy.

Pakistan’s and India’s armies inherited their organization, training, and doctrines from their British predecessor, along with an ethic that regarded politics as outside the military domain. But Pakistan’s weak national solidarity, exacerbated by a mentality that saw war with India looming around every corner, empowered the military to take national security and ultimately government into its own hands. As the military’s habit of disrupting the natural course of politics gained strength over time, it arrested the development of democratic institutions.

Based on archival materials, internal military documents, and over 100 interviews with politicians, civil servants, and Pakistani officers, including four service chiefs and three heads of the clandestine Inter-Services Intelligence, The Army and Democracy provides insight into the military’s contentious relationship with Pakistan’s civilian government. Shah identifies steps for reforming Pakistan’s armed forces and reducing its interference in politics, and sees lessons for fragile democracies striving to bring the military under civilian control.