Reason Papers vol. 38:2 now available

I’m happy to report that Reason Papers vol. 38:2 (Winter 2016) has just come out online. The journal is published in a Free Open Access format, so the content in it can be accessed for free without a subscription or registration. If you want to access individual articles, use this link, which takes you to the journal’s Archive page (you may have to scroll down a few clicks). If you’d rather read the whole issue as a single PDF (131 pages), try this link.

The issue begins with a Symposium on Andrew Jason Cohen’s 2014 book, Toleration; the symposiasts are Emily M. Crookston (Philosophy, Coastal Carolina University) and David Kelley (Atlas Society). Danny Frederick has an Article on the nature and definition of “freedom”; Gary Jason (Philosophy, Cal State Fullerton) has the first of a multi-part series on the memorialization of genocide in film. The issue ends with three longish review essays: Richard Salsman (Political Science, Duke) reviews three books on the American founders; Kanan Makiya (Islamic and Middle East Studies, Brandeis) reviews a recent English translation of the late Sadik al Azm’s Self-Criticism After the Defeat, an analysis of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War; and Salim Rashid (Economics, Universiti Utari Malaysia) reviews Timur Kuran’s celebrated book, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East.

Though I highly recommend reading the whole issue, I feel a particular gratification at convincing Kanan Makiya to review Self-Criticism After the Defeat in this Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, also the “Jubilee Year” of the Israeli occupation. Sadik Al Azm, a mentor to both of us, passed away in December. Though Sadik was pleased to learn that Makiya was reviewing Self-Criticism (I mentioned it to him when Makiya first agreed to write the review), I regret that he didn’t live to see the review, but I’m nonetheless glad that it was written. Having finally read Self-Criticism this past summer in Palestine, where I had first-hand occasion to experience and contemplate the consequences of the 1967 War, I have some criticisms to make of both al Azm’s and Makiya’s take on the war, but will have to leave that for another occasion.

Timur Kuran’s Long Divergence came out in 2011, and stirred up some intense controversy when it did. On the whole, the book seems to have gotten an eager reception in the United States, confirming as it does the widely shared intuition that Islamic law has served to retard economic progress in the Arab-Islamic world.

Though I don’t know enough about the subject to have an informed view, I have to say that I enjoyed Rashid’s unapologetic attack on the book, if only in the way that some people love to watch mixed martial arts or boxing: it’s that kind of review. The reviewer in Foreign Affairs (by coincidence, a former professor of mine) describes Long Divergence as “a fine feast…to be chewed and digested” rather than merely “tasted.” Meanwhile, Rashid puts things this way:

The same attention to detail is wanting when Kuran tells us that Muslim partnerships were risky because they could be terminated unilaterally and were automatically terminated by death. What happened if a partner died while the caravan was in India? How was the “immediate” termination effected? We are left guessing. Kuran tells us that heirs could demand a share of every asset, but was that in money or in kind? How was this law different in Europe? When obvious questions are neither asked nor answered, one has to wonder.

We don’t mince words at Reason Papers.

I’m sad to report that this issue will be my last on the editorial staff. Carrie-Ann Biondi and I were Managing Editors from 2006 to 2010, then took over as Editors-in-Chief from 2011 to 2015. In 2015, I stepped down as Co-Editor to become Editor-at-Large, from which position I’m now stepping down, not quite to die (editorially speaking), but in MacArthuresque fashion to fade away. Though I’ve loved all three jobs, and am proud of the work I did for the journal, I’m finding it increasingly hard to give Reason Papers the time and attention it deserves. So with the next issue, I will join Tibor Machan and Aeon Skoble on the masthead as an “Editor Emeritus,” and hand things over entirely to Carrie-Ann and her co-editor Shawn Klein.

My heartfelt thanks to Aeon Skoble for giving Carrie-Ann and me free rein to re-imagine and re-shape Reason Papers back in 2011, and above all to Carrie-Ann for the work she put into the journal, and continues to put into it. I’ve often thought that if the post-2011 Reason Papers had been a train, I was the engine, but she was the engineer: without her, the journal would have been a runaway train, powered by my aspirations for it, but running right off the track. I’m grateful to her for keeping things on track, and look forward to many more enjoyable years with Reason Papers, not as an editor, but merely as a reader and occasional contributor–which is how I first encountered the journal as a fledgling graduate student some thirty years ago. Here’s to another thirty years of “interdisciplinary normative studies” at Reason Papers as interesting as the last thirty.

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