Seyla Benhabib Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy Yale University November 9, 2006
In these two important lectures, distinguished political philosopher Seyla Benhabib argues that since the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, we have entered a phase of global civil society which is governed by cosmopolitan norms of universal justice--norms which are difficult for some to accept as legitimate since they are sometimes in conflict with democratic ideals. In her first lecture, Benhabib argues that this tension can never be fully resolved, but it can be mitigated through the renegotiation of the dual commitments to human rights and sovereign self-determination. Her second lecture develops this idea in detail, with special reference to recent developments in Europe (for example, the banning of Muslim head scarves in France). The EU has seen the replacement of the traditional unitary model of citizenship with a new model that disaggregates the components of traditional citizenship, making it possible to be a citizen of multiple entities at the same time. The volume also contains a substantive introduction by Robert Post, the volume editor, and contributions by Bonnie Honig (Northwestern University), Will Kymlicka (Queens University), and Jeremy Waldron (Columbia School of Law).
No history of the European imagination, and no understanding of America's meaning, would be complete without a record of the ideas, fantasies, and misconceptions the Old World has formed about the New. Europe's fascination with America forms a contradictory pattern of hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares, yearnings and forebodings. America and Americans--according to one of their more indulgent European critics--have long been considered "a fairlyland of happy lunatics and lovable monsters." In The Old World's New World, award-winning historian C. Vann Woodward has written a brilliant study of how Europeans have seen and discussed America over the last two centuries. Woodward shows how the character and the image of America in European writings often depended more upon Old World politics and ideology than upon New World realities. America has been seen both as human happiness resulting from the elimination of monarchy, aristocracy, and priesthood, and as social chaos and human misery caused by their removal. It was proof that democracy was the best form of government, or that mankind was incapable of self government. America was regularly used both as an inspiration for revolutionaries and as a stern warning against radicals of all kinds. Americans have been seen as uniformly materialistic, hot in pursuit of dollars: "Such unity of purpose," wrote Mrs. Trollope, "can, I believe, be found nowhere else except, perhaps, in an ants' nest." And they have been admired for their industry--one young Russian Communist visited New York in 1925 and wrote that America is "where the 'future,' at least in terms of industrialization, is being realized." Decade after decade, America has been hailed for its youth, and lambasted for its immaturity. It has been looked to as a model of liberty, and attacked for maintaining the tyranny of the majority. But always it has been a metaphor for the possibilities of human society--possibilities both bright and foreboding. After a year of heady talk of a "New World Order," of American victory in the Cold War, of a new American Century, The Old World's New World provides a thoughtful and sobering perspective on how America has been seen in centuries past. C. Vann Woodward is one of America's foremost living historians. His books have won every major history award--including the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Parkman prizes--and he has served as president of the American Historical Association as well as the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association. With this new book, he further enhances his reputation while making his vast learning accessible to a general audience.