Monday, January 31, 2011

Oxbridge Elites

The BBC has recently featured articles on the narrow social elite dominating British politics and music. The former particularly annoyed me, because it started out noting the trend for posh public school boys to dominate the top jobs - even noting Howard Wilson (grammar school boy and alumnus of Jesus College, Oxford) had seemed like an end to such public school domination. Around half way through, however, it suddenly switches its attention to Oxbridge.

While it's true that Oxbridge has a disproportionate number of public school students, that's largely attributable to application and qualification rates. Oxbridge entry is by academic merit - as this BBC piece highlights - and, in my experience, there's certainly no bias in favour of those from posh backgrounds. You can't simply buy your way in to Oxbridge and it doesn't (currently at least) cost more than most other universities. Thus, Oxbridge is more analogous to grammar schools than public schools.

It seems that the original BBC article misleading conflates a social (class) elite with meritocratic intellectual elite. I'd certainly hope that the politicians running the country are some of the smartest people around and, as such, it doesn't surprise me if many of them went to Oxbridge (any more than that a presumably disproportionate number are graduates). I'd be far less welcoming to rule by a narrow social elite, both because of worries about class-biased legislation and the likely implication than some of our smartest potential politicians were being denied the potential to contribute because of the accident of their lowly birth.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Burns Night

I've never been to a Burns Night celebration before. Apparently quite a few colleges in Oxford mark the occasion, but Jesus celebrates St David's Day instead and for some reason I missed out in my two years at Corpus. Nonetheless, now I'm in Scotland it seems that the occasion couldn't pass unmarked, so Eloise just made a very tasty vegetarian haggis that we had for lunch.

The BBC feature here tells us how it should be done. (H/t Alice Walla.) I can just imagine it in a hall like in Oxford. My favourite part, however, was the line that "At a more egalitarian gathering - with no high table - the chair can simply bang on the table to draw attention to the start of the evening's proceedings." I guess more is after all comparative...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spanish Republicanism

How's this for research impact? Philip Pettit's republicanism seems to have taken off in Spain. If only everyone recognized the potential of 'philosopher kings'...

h/t Matthew Kramer, who points out the blatant falsehood of his claim that liberals cannot care about domination. They may not see it as itself diminishing freedom, but it certainly suggests a threat to freedom. A good classical utilitarian response, arguing that the problem is seen as one of security rather than liberty, can be found in the Journal of Political Ideologies here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Initial Results of Thom Brooks' Journal Survey

Thom Brooks reports the initial results of his journal survey here (see his post for an explanation of the methodology, and try the survey yourself here). Here's a quick summary of some of those most relevant to me (i.e. political philosophy):

1. Journal of Philosophy 87
2. Philosophical Review 84
3. Philosophy & Phenomenological Research 83
3. Nous 83
5. Mind 82
6. Ethics 80
7. Philosophical Studies 79
8. Philosophy & Public Affairs 77
10. Analysis 76
10. Philosophical Quarterly 76
10. American Philosophical Quarterly 76
10. Philosophers' Imprint 76
10. Monist 76
10. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 76
16. Journal of the History of Philosophy 75
16. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 75
20. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74
25. Philosophy 70
25. Ratio 70
28. Journal of Moral Philosophy 69
33. Journal of Ethics 66
42. Journal of Political Philosophy 62
49. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy 60
53. Ethical Theory & Moral Practice 57
56. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 56
57. Political Theory 55
57. Social Theory & Practice 55
57. Economics & Philosophy 55
62. Law & Philosophy 54
66. Journal of Applied Philosophy 53
70. Political Studies 51
71. Journal of Value Inquiry 51
76. Bioethics 48
78. Politics, Philosophy, Economics 47
90. Ratio Juris 38
97. Res Publica 35
109. Review Journal of Political Philosophy 30
114. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 28

As Thom notes in his own analysis, specialist journals (and a fortiori those that aren't really philosophy journals at all, even if they may publish philosophical work, e.g. Political Studies) seem to fare worse than might be expected. I speculate as to why this might be so in my comment:

I had a few goes at this and have one observation that might explain the poorer than expected showing for Political Studies - namely, we were asked to compare two journals *as philosophy journals*.

Had I been asked to compare Political Studies to, say, The Journal of Value Inquiry (which tied in your poll), I probably would have said that the latter is better qua philosophy journal, even if I regard the former as a better journal simpliciter.

Maybe the poll would have produced less surprising results if we'd been asked not to rank the journals as a whole but asked how we'd rank an average philosophical paper in each journal. (Though then I guess someone might complain that there are no philosophical papers in some.)

Also, I'm inclined to think that, when being asked to rank how good some journal is, qua philosophy journal, it's not unreasonable to favour a more general journal, because it will be of interest to a wider range of philosophers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Controversy Around My Articles

A sizeable section of the latest issue of Politics seems to be given over to my views on compulsory voting: two critiques of my earlier article and a reply by me to one of them (I don't know why I was only invited to reply to one).

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Stirling Albion Need Footballers

Sadly, despite the University of Stirling's sporting reputation, I haven't played football since leaving Oxford. It's a shame that I'm currently down south, because it looks like Stirling Albion are desperate to bring in some ringers for their upcoming games against Falkirk. Guess I don't really count as a free agent or recently retired player though...