top of page

NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 56, No. 3 (Fall 1989)

Arien Mack, Editor

Examines how attitudes devaluing the status of women have been reflected in the US Census since the nineteenth century, reviewing the evolution before 1940 of the concept of "gainful occupations," which devalues nonwage labor, and the more recent inclusion of a question involving the "head of household."

Social analysts have long been concerned with the changing workplace and its consequences for society and for individual workers. Today as well, under conditions of global technological and organizational transformation, work and its contents and discontents pose new questions for research and social policy.

The American welfare state has always been at least as much focused on preventing poverty as on relieving it. In this paper, I want to explore the dilemmas of one kind of prevention-the well-intentioned, morally laudable, and often successful effort to prevent disease and disability. These are two conditions that often lead to poverty and, in any event, that the state recognizes as grounds for legitimate claims on social aid.

Boris Pasternak in "Translating Shakespeare" speaks of Hamlet as one whom chance has allocated "the role of judge of his own times and servant of the future," the high destiny of "a life devoted ... To a heroic task." Hans Jonas is filling such a role for our times.

Reviews three books that explore the demise of American culture: Russell Jacoby's The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (1987), E. D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987), and Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students (1987).

Discussions of contemporary Western culture sometimes carry the flavor of a postscript or epitaph. Adopting the dispassionate stance of the ethnologist or archaeologist, observers occasionally survey Western traditions like the remnants of the forum Romanum. To some extent, the archaeological posture is reflected in the adopted terminology-- especially in the flurry of hyphenated or composite terms, from poststructuralism and postmetaphysics to postindustrial society and postmodernism.

Arguing for justice is arguing for principles and practices which are to be justified on the basis of disinterested or impartial considerations. This, of course, is not all it is, but still in arguing for anything that could conceivably count as justice it is irreducibly at least that.

What we have taken ourselves to be for many centuries and how we have invested this self-interpretation in our legal, political, and moral practices is today being challenged. There have, obviously, always been challenges to the way of life, understandings, and practices promoted by liberal democracy.

Comments


bottom of page