Long ago a prominent and still respected American thinker, Reinhold Niebuhr, with a hint of bitterness noted that the considerable moral and political confusion of his day was due to a failure to draw a sharp distinction between the moral and social behavior of individuals and of social groups (national, racial and economic). This argument has its grounds. Even non-expert observations could grasp that sometimes collective political agencies take measures or adopt policies which the individual ethics or consciousness would find repugnant. Or, they harness the emotive potential of individual ethics to justify deeds which are rooted in the much more interest-driven rationality of their own.
These days, in the midst of perplexingly intermingling voices on the possible attack on Syria, we witness the same old discursive overlaps
There is a Marxist-influenced reading of history which insists that there is an essential connection between history and technological advancement - that, to put it a little differently, change in social and political conditions follows from change in material conditions. So, for instance, the stirrup led to the rise of feudalism, the printing press led to the Reformation, newspapers give rise to the imagined community of the nation-state, industrialisation brought about the proletariat and heralded the possibility of socialism. And Facebook heralds - well, heralds what exactly?
For his new book, Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty, Austin Sarat, a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College researched the history of botched executions in the United States. And there have been plenty.
Students in Massachusetts are doing great compared to their international peers, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Students in Alabama, Mississippi, and D.C., however, are languishing.
The crisis of civilization, which we face today, has been produced by the rapidity with which science and technology have developed. Our institutions and ideas adjust too slowly to the change. The great challenge which history has given to our generation is the task of building new international political structures, which will be in harmony with modern technology. We must abolish war and stabilize the global population. At the same time, we must develop a new global ethic, which will replace our narrow loyalties by loyalty to humanity as a whole.
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