Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Barcelona Nights (O. Liebert)

Morning in Albuquerque. We flew in late last night, picked up a blue Ford Taurus which will be our home for the next eight days and began looking for “Barcelona Suites”. After some exciting driving through the dark (severely jetlagged) we found this sad Mexican styled motel.

The flight down here from D.C. yesterday was spectacular, especially the last hours and the descent into Phoenix International Skyharbor. As we flew west, the quintessential American survey landscape was slowly transformed into red mountains, perfect circles of irrigation and fantasy mountains. Came to think of Corner and MacLean's book.

Now time for breakfast.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

37000 feet over Greenland

A very short post. Right now cruising at 37000 feet over Greenland at a speed of 861 km/h. It has been a smooth ride this far. The cabin lights have been dimmed as we are currently about four hours into the flight. And yes, it is a tragedy of sorts that the SK in-flight-wireless service will be discontinued in January.

oh and by the way, I am blogging craaaazy

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Euphoria

As if it were the last evening before a long, long journey:
You have the ticket in your pocket and finally everything is packed.
And you can sit and sense the nearness of the distant land,
sense how all is in all, both its end and its beginning,
sense that here and now is both you departure and return,
sense how death and life are as strong as wine inside you!


(Gunnar Ekelöf, Färjesång 1941)

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Abstract for ECPR Joint Sessions

Done. What here follows is the condensed abstract of a paper entitled "Beyond the Rawlsian monologue". If accepted, I will be able to present the paper in Helsinki in May 2007.

"Recent works have advanced our theoretical understanding of the proper scope, shape, and currency of intergenerational contractual justice. But as attention is drawn to the task of formulating practical policy-options capable of providing a sustainable trajectory into the future, the monological reasoning of these contractual theories seems to offer little guidance.

Instead of trying to distillate one single fair path to the future, this paper emphasizes the democratic necessity of accepting a plurality of views about what the deep future should be like. Beyond this argument, the paper explores to what extent theories of intergenerational justice can be used to assess the fairness and sustainability of different trajectories."

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wikitravel

Still suffering from a sore throat. So I decided to not bicycle down to the department and instead spend this rainy Thursday marking exams and once again go over my ECPR abstract. Writing that abstract has turned out to be a lot trickier than I first thought but tomorrow I will submit it no matter what.

Tomorrow evening I will also go to Malmö Opera to experience The Battleship Potemkin with live music (link unfortunately only in Swedish).

According to the weather forecast we will see some strong winds coming in over Scandinavia tonight. I can hear it in the trees outside already. I remember January 2005 when I came back from Italy just in time to experience Gudrun. That was truly a storm with sustained wind speeds of 126 km/h, making parts of Sweden look very post-nuclear!

Italy, right, that brings me back to the title of this post. Wikitravel. As I was surfing the Internet in preparation for the US trip I discovered that the article about Positano (one of my favourite Italian cities) lacked a photo. So I "plunged forward" and added a picture which may be familiar to some of you!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Maybe the Moon

Proofreading my IJESD article together with Nilla. Discovering numerous unconscious mistakes, repeated words and phrases that are embarrassingly Swedish in origin. Content-wise I feel quite happy about it, the piece complements my O&E-article from June by contextualizing the same dilemma in the vocabulary of sustainable development.

As I write in the abstract, two strands of thought on sustainable development have emerged over the years, often identified as ecologism and environmentalism respectively. In the article I suggest that there exists a third rhetorically excluded option, namely large-scale industrial expansion into space. Access to raw materials found on the Moon as well as unfiltered solar energy would dramatically increase the stock of resources and energy while providing unlimited sinks for pollutants; thus satisfying two of the determining factors of sustainability.


Traditionally, the dilemma of resource scarcity has been a concern for environmentalists calling for a reduction of energy and material flows. Correspondingly, the promise of space exploration has been limited to technological optimists whose economic framework rarely acknowledges any such scarcity. By reconciling the politics of scarcity with technological optimism, the article proposes a unifying political vision for the 21st century.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Snapshots

With less than 100 hours to go, both Nilla and I have caught nasty colds :-( So, I went home early today, cooked a hot Indian meal (vindaloo with tomato and cayenne) and let the evening drift away in front of a good movie. Nine Lives by Rodrigo García.

Next to it we still have Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046. What else to expect in the home of a futurist? Following my trip to Hong Kong this spring I discovered Chungking Express so naturally I am very excited about 2046, the moment before Hong Kong’s self-regulated status finally ends.

Retreating in front of the computer with a cup of earl grey (with extra bergamot oil) and a digestive biscuit loaded with numerous slices of Spanish chorizo. The autumn rain keeps falling outside. I reach for the bookshelf to find some poetry to conclude the day and the movie.

The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.


(Broken Dreams by W.B. Yeats)

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Songs of something else

It rustles in my poem
Words do their duty and lie there
Dust falls over them, dust or dew

Reading some Ekelöf in the old university library, "Absentia animi". An English translation by Leonard Nathan and James Larson as the rain continues to pour down. I am done with marking the exams, 18 passed and 3 failed.

This morning I learned that the F/A's strike at CPH has finally been called off. So if everything goes well we will indeed depart at 12.20 with SK925 on Saturday. Resfeber. Långresa. Hard to put into English.

As already announced to some of you through my Googletalk status bar, I have been listening extensively to Elin Sigvardsson over the weekend. I know, it only adds further to Åsa’s case, that I am trapped with all these melancholic singer/songwriters born in the 70’s. Ebba Forsberg, Sophie Zelmani, Edith Söderström, Lisa Ekdahl, Britta Persson, Norah Jones.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Buddhist blogging

Do not speak unless you can improve on silence.

A stringent code of conduct as the afternoon passes away and I grow tired of marking exams. About half way through. I should go down to the vending machine, spend some coins on a Twix bar or something to accompany my cup of wishy-washy coffee.

Back. Happy to find my new business cards waiting for me. I hope they will turn out useful as I travel west and meet people to prepare for my coming semester in the US.



Ann Arbor nights last August. The relentless energy, the demanding workload which made me feel alive, the long running sessions through the arboretum. I am not certain but I just might have some pictures stored on my web server, yes, here they are. As many left-liberals I feel a lot of ambiguity towards America these days. Still I shiver when I open Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, there must still be hope:

I heard that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle,
the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy;

Therefore I send you my poems, that you behold in them what you wanted.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Late night at Eden

Returning to my office after some Italian food with a good friend in Malmö. Empty corridors. Very different from my first year in the PhD programme when we still had some colleagues around who knew how to burn the midnight oil.

So silence. Down in Malmö we talked about weblogging, something we both do. The ever recurrent questions: who is the audience? what style should one use? and, how can we understand the relationship to John Locke and the commonplace books of the 15th century?

Today I got back all the exams from my "fire fighters". About 200 pages to mark before I can set off to the US. So silence.

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Streetville forever

One frequent criticism against the welfare state is that it pacifies and befuddles its subjects. The solution, in contemporary political discourse, is often seen as empowerment and strategies that allow underprivileged groups to govern themselves.

In today’s research seminar, Katharine Tyler from the University of Surrey, presented her paper Streetville forever: Ethnicity, Collective Action and the State. In the paper she criticizes this approach, arguing that the advanced liberal state uses it as a tool to turn social-economic improvement into self-improvement. Instead of addressing the root causes of poverty, different experts and specialists are parachuted into neighbourhoods in order to “empower” the people living there.

Drawing on her extensive fieldwork in a British city, Tyler discusses how these policies risk overlooking existing forums in their eagerness to create new ones which better conform to the "handbook". And more importantly, how it risks turning activism into discipline by channelling it into these more harmless forums.

Spontaneously I tend to agree with Tyler’s analysis. Though we always have to be aware of the spectre of paternalism it is clear that the liberal state can do a lot more to fight poverty than today. It cannot simple be that we have to accept the current levels of global and domestic poverty as "natural". We are still far from a Rawlsian situation in which any remaining inequalities are to "the benefits of the least advantaged".

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

40 years with Star Trek

Thanks to my dear sister I discovered a great article in the IHT this morning. As I was busy working on my abstract for the ECPR Joint Sessions in Helsinki, the article by Ronald D Moore gave me a thrust of well-needed inspiration.

Read it:

Star Trek at 40: Still a beacon of hope

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Terminal

Late Sunday afternoon and I am already at Arlanda Airport though my flight to Copenhagen is scheduled to leave first at 8 p.m. I am sitting in front of a large window in the new F-pier with aircrafts taxiing outside. People walking hectically behind me, I hear someone assuring "I will call you as soon as I land in Switzerland".

My life has recently been filled with international travel. I have been to Asia, to the US and all over Europe. As I for almost two years commuted between Sweden and Austria I started to feel, in a sense, more at home in the international aerospace limbo than in either countries.

An MD-80 is being parked at the gate as a Lufthansa Airbus starts its climb towards the horizon and Frankfurt.

This endless stream makes up the embryo of what one day can be become a truly planetary civilization. However, these are transitional times. Presenting my paper in Karlstad made me once again aware of how immense the challenges are and how unsustainable everything I see outside my window in fact is.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another futuristic train ride

The conference is over and I am now heading north aboard another futuristic train equipped with blogging-friendly wireless internet. Before leaving Karlstad this morning I presented my paper "A fair path to the future" and, as hoped for, it provoked a heated methodological and theorethical debate. Thanks everyone, I will take your suggestions with me as I revise the paper for presentation at WPSA in March.

The journey from Karlstad to Gävle has finally given me time to read Ernest Partridge’s article in Upstream/Downstream – Issues in Environmental Ethics. Having done that I am, even more than before, looking forward to meeting Ernest in the US. It seems that he, in this surprisingly overlooked piece, has given some very important contributions to, what I call, the procedural dimension of intergenerational justice.

Yes, the United States. Today it is exactly two weeks.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

New Publication

The first day of the annual meeting turned out to be really interesting with loads of stimulating discussions. As today’s sessions are about to start I will have to write a short post. So, the news! This morning I received a long-awaited e-mail from Joyce Chow at the Centre for Urban Planning and Environment Management at the University of Hong Kong.

The paper I presented in Hong Kong this spring has now received its final go for publication! This is good news indeed, the journal in question, International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development, is well renowned and published together with the UN Environment Programme. And the paper? I promise, I will come back with a further presentation.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Early bird

Travelling north on one of the first morning services with X2000. As announced, I am on my way to Karlstad for the annual meeting of the Swedish Political Science Association. There I will be discussant on a paper written by Ronnie Hjorth, senior lecturer at Linköping University, and also present my own research.

Hjorth’s paper is on the concept of equality in international society. Working within the English school of international relations theory, Hjorth explores the idea of equality between states through a historical literature survey. Clearly the principle of equality has for a long time been fundamental to both diplomatic practice and international law. Hjorth comes up with some fruitful analytic categories which illustrate how our understanding of equality between states has shifted from a natural and moral interpretation (as with Thomas Aquinas) to an interpretation which emphasizes the pragmatic and constructed nature of the concept.

One great thing with going to conferences is the challenge of having to comment on papers that are outside your own field. And though I can see many connections between Hjorth’s paper and for instance the debate on Rawls’s The Law of Peoples, or more recently Simon Caney’s excellent Justice Beyond Borders, his paper is still quite remote from what I normally do.

During the meeting in Karlstad I am also looking forward to meeting a few friends of mine. Marcus Ohlström, who now is a PhD candidate at Växjö University is coming and so is Ed Page from the University of Warwick. Page, who has been on a Marie Curie Research Fellowship to Lund and who I also had the pleasure of meeting in Birmingham some time ago, has been a great source of inspiration to my own thinking. For those of you who do not know, it is worth mentioning that Page has recently finished his monograph Climate Change, Justice and Future Generations which I can highly recommend.

Finally, I have to say something about the technology which makes this weblog-session possible. Currently, I am travelling close to 200 km/h aboard a Swedish high-speed train, enjoying a cup of coffee while surfing the Internet. It is cool.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The search for talent

The latest issue of The Economist came with a special report on "The battle for brainpower". Though authoritative as always, it is easy to see that the authors had a hard time hiding their fascination with the emerging global meritocracy, those cosmocrats who live "in a social-cultural bubble full of other super-achievers like themselves". Still, the report brings up many important questions about what kind of society that we want to have in the future.

I must say that I was happy to see references to Michael Young’s classic science-fiction novel The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033: An Essay on Education and Equality. It is a great book and thanks to Alibris I will soon own a copy for just $2.95. Anyway, the book made me think about to what an extent poor people living in the US today tend to accept their misfortunes. Unlikely Europeans, they have somehow come to individualize and internalize their collective problems; convinced that they deserve any failure and that it is their own fault that they do not get rich from their McJobs. In Europe on the other hand, some may say that we are keen on turning individual problems into collective ones.

In university cities, like Cambridge, we are now seeing how inequality is rapidly increasing with the talented elite at the top, service workers at the bottom and nothing much in between. This creates a polarized society with minimal social and economic circulation. Often these inequalities have a strong ethnical component.

Progressive taxation should be the appropriate response. But, as we are seeing especially in the US, the opposite is currently happening with massive tax breaks for the rich. Depressing as this may be I am still optimistic about the future. As egalitarian liberals we hold the better arguments. For those searching for ammunition in this ongoing battle of ideas I can only recommend Brian Barry’s excellent new study Why Social Justice Matters.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The little electrician

Today I installed a new lamp. In its simplicity it reflects distant experiences; a deserted colonial house in Shanghai during the 1930’s or a post-apocalyptic Denmark deep into the future.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Into the rain

Left Lund early yesterday morning. For two days I would be on an unusual mission: a non-revenue transfer on behalf of a car rental company from Helsingborg to Stockholm-Arlanda and then back with another free car to Malmö. After a week of intensive teaching, article writing and blogging this was a great opportunity to clear my mind and do something different. Especially as my sister wanted to get up to Stockholm and a friend wanted to get his stuff down here.

Remember Nunberg: liberalism means Volvo-driving these days

Picked up sister in Båstad, after that continuous rain

Sushi-eating and aircraft spotting at ARN

Further down the road, 1400 km in total...

Home and time to return the second car

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Abroad at home

Born in the late 1970’s, I am definitely part of the "eurotrash generation", you know the kind of people you meet at parties in Warsaw, London or Salamanca? People who have studied, worked or simply lived a considerable time in another European country. In my case it has been Cambridge, U.K., and Vienna, Austria.

It is a basic psychological mechanism that, while living abroad, you tend to think with nostalgia about life back home. Often you discover that you miss the most unexpected things, like Kavli räkost (soft cheese spread with shrimp). However, having been back in Lund for half a year, there is clearly an equally strong reverse psychological mechanism: I cannot but miss the mornings at Café Sperl or lunch at the orchard in Grantchester.

So, what to do? Simulate of course! This morning, doing exactly that, I was pondering how to finish my upcoming paper for the annual meeting of the Swedish Political Science Association. The paper is an attempt to formulate the theoretical ideas behind my doctoral dissertation in just a few concise pages. Drawing on all the transnational inspiration which came from the espresso above, I think I now have a version which can be submitted. And that is good since the deadline is today.

Feel free to read:

A fair path to the future (PDF, 83 kb)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shamelessly promoting myself

Life in Academia is a lot about promoting yourself. This autumn I have been busy writing applications for different scholarships. In these applications I tell people how original my research is, how many articles I have managed to get published in leading journals, how appreciated I am as a teacher and, finally, what a really nice guy I am.


- Gah! I feel fed up with it! So, I relax by taking a few minutes off, browsing the internet, just to find myself setting up a profile at Linkedin! And now, weblogging! I fear that even this is about conveying a certain image of my life.

At the bottom of this page (yes, I will activate "archiving" soon), you can read that I was a bit doubtful about starting a weblog without having a clearly defined purpose. But, as the number of posts has grown, I have come to more and more appreciate the concept. In a way, I am creating a personal archive of everyday reflections, much like writing a diary, only that I have to struggle to make my thoughts intelligible to the outside world. And that is good! When navigating the blogosphere, it seems like beneath all the commercial/pornographic dung, a new "republic of letters" is slowly manifesting itself. Add to that a good dose of citizen journalism and I think there is hope that the media landscape of the future may hold a lot more than Metro...

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tag der Deutschen Einheit

16 years ago today, Germany was officially reunified. A moment to celebrate with Haxe, Sauerkraut and a Radeberger. Still, every time I visit Germany, as last weekend in Rostock and Berlin, I become aware of just how complicated, painful and incomplete the process of reunification has been.

In many ways, the remaining division between East and West has come to reflect and amplify an ambiguity which I think is felt all over the continent. I remember quite vividly a long conversation I had this summer at the Keele Postgraduate Association with a friend of mine, Oliver Fritsch. Oliver, who is now doing his PhD at the University of Osnabrück, grew up and studied in Leipzig, Saxony. Like many other talented young professionals he has left the East and what is generally perceived as a mentality of passivity, welfare dependence and lack of "Unternehmungsgeist". At the same time he agreed to my analysis that part of the problem with the reunification has been the paternalistic arrogance by which the West Germans set out to transform the old GDR.

Oliver told me over again how much that has changed in the last fifteen years and in what profound sense the lives of ordinary people have been disrupted by unemployment, the onslaught of neoliberalism and economic globalization. I remember his surprise when I told him that many people in Sweden would say the same about the last fifteen years here. At least to me, the difference between Sweden and Germany is more a difference in degree than one in kind.

In the last national elections in September, the Swedish populist party, Sverigedemokraterna, had their greatest electoral success yet. With their xenophobic, welfare chauvinistic agenda they feed on the same kind of fears and racist undercurrents which gave the German NDP close to seven percent in the regional elections of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. These are important warning signals. As I have argued elsewhere, I believe that we, as egalitarian liberals, have to confront this feeling of ontological insecurity with a politics of radical engagement. By offering a compelling vision of the future we can tap in on the remaining idealism of "die Wende" and show that the future can be one of open borders, flourishing democracy and growing prosperity through ecological responsibility.

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