Monday, February 04, 2008

Minister of Ideas

Jim at Politics, Theory and Photography posts this news item about Roberto Unger, the Brazilian philosopher.
...I want to call your attention to this profile of Roberto Mangabeira Unger from The New York Times yesterday. As I have noted here repeatedly [1] [2] [3] [4] [5], I think Unger is quite interesting insofar as he is trying to export a quite radical version of American pragmatism to Brazil. I do not agree with Unger in all the details, but his views on institutional experimentation, radicalizing democracy and disentangling systemic political-economic reform from crisis all are crucially important.

Can you imagine a U.S. Presidential candidate who promised to appoint a 'minister of ideas' or a council of intellectual advisors who were not narrow-minded economists? Lula has appointed Unger in Brazil. And, in a similarly remarkable move, in France the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy has solicited the views of Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz [1] on what might be included in a plausible metric for economic growth only to be ridiculed by the anti-intellecctuals at The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. It is astounding how fearsome ideas and inquiry can be. In a country where we are hostage to neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologues, this is a fear I wish we could overcome.
If you're a regular reader of Phron, you know I agree. Tell me, who among the US presidential candidates could you see creating a cabinet position (or any space) for Philosophical Ideas?


jenhargis said...

In this stage of the game, this would be political suicide. They already seek counsel from religious leaders (or in Nancy Reagan's case, astrologists), but they don't have a cabinet position for it, and it is not widely publicized. In my opinion, political parties contain philosophy already and so our president already has an invisible cabinet member in the body of his political party.

MT said...

Ron Paul. And the minister would be flying around the country in a blimp that flashed the ideas as he or she had them.

helmut said...

Oh, awwwwesome! They'll be lining up for philosophy major, cap'n minor.