Mark S. Weiner

Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Overcoming Feud in the Oresteia

In India, Law and literature, Rule of law, Rule of the Clan on January 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm

This afternoon, a question posed to me about Aeschylus by an outstanding college student sent me to an essay by Michael Dirda titled “The Oresteia: Law & Order,” which appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly. The following lines struck me, and for readers familiar with some of the issues I discuss in The Rule of the Clan, I thought I’d post them here:

“In the broadest sense, Aeschylus’ plays trace a progress from a culture of bloody, multigenerational vendettas to a culture based on jury trials in a court of law. Because of impossibly contradictory yet divinely appointed sanctions—you must revenge the death of a family member, you must not murder a family member—there has finally emerged a solution that shifts the responsibility of punishment from the individual to the state. The Oresteia ends, in scholar George Thomson’s phrase, ‘with the ratification of a new social contract, which is just because it is democratic.’ Athens is transformed: the polis will now rely on the so-called Areopagite court for the proper redress of murder.

“The chief impetus behind this new social contract has been the judicious and reasonable Athena. She represents the middle ground—a compromise between feuding parties as well as feuding sexes—being neither wife nor mother and having been conceived without sexual intercourse. (She emerged full-grown from Zeus’ forehead.) Nonetheless, her actual explanation for why she acquits Orestes still arouses controversy and argument.”

I’ll be thinking of this description as I continue to read about recent events in South Sudan, and about the latest headline-making abuse of a khaap panchayat in rural West Bengal—and the ongoing effort of the Indian government to put an end to vigilantism (which I discuss in my book).

I’ll be thinking about it as well in the wake of the recent warning by Chief Justice Roberts that budget cuts have imperiled the ability of federal courts in the United States to deliver prompt justice—and could “pose a genuine threat to public safety.”

I’ll be thinking also about writer Jillian Abbott’s argument in an article published this week in the Irish Times: that without robust government, western democracies can become “a paradise for predators.”

On February 15, I’ll be speaking at the eighth annual Telos conference, “The Difficulty of Democracy: Diagnoses and Prognoses.” My talk is called “The Legal Foundations of Individualism,” which will be the subject of my next non-fiction book.

Why Clans Now? An Interview on Concurring Opinions

In Conversations, Guest Posts, India, Rule of the Clan on March 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm

The blog Concurring Opinions has published this interview with me about The Rule of the Clan conducted by Deven Desai. I talk with Deven about some of the ideas in the book and how I came to write it.

My only regret is that we sensibly decided to cut part of the interview in which I warn Deven that my ability to sing Bollywood songs in the original Hindi has expanded beyond this classic—and that he’ll be subjected to my expanded repertoire the next time he visits Connecticut:

Indian friends will know the meaning of the words.

Distraction from the Storm

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Border regions, Constitutional law, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Environment, India, Law and film, Law and literature, Pakistan, Psychoanalysis, Supreme Court on October 31, 2012 at 8:59 pm

As hurricane Sandy bore down on the eastern seaboard, my wife and I thought that the best distraction from the howling wind and crack of breaking branches would be to curl up and watch movies. It didn’t take long for us to settle on Alfred Hitchcock.

And so after we made up our inflatable bed in the living room—the safest place, we figured, if one of the tall trees in the backyard crashed through the roof—and brought up our emergency kit from the basement—stove, check; fuel, check; tent, check; food and water, check—we unfurled the projector screen we normally use to display academic PowerPoint slides, made a bowl of buttered popcorn, and poured ourselves a beer.

All things considered, it seemed like the sort of thing that one would want to have been doing in the final moments before disaster.

Here’s a picture of our outpost in the storm:

The film on the screen is “North by Northwest”—there’s Carry Grant furtively walking through Penn Station.

Now that we’ve come through the storm safe and sound (a miracle), in this post I’d like to pull on a small thread in the film we saw last night, “Rear Window.” It’s a legal thread, and one that also happens to be entwined with an environmental theme.

There’s not much we can do for our friends in New York and New Jersey, who faired much worse than we did, but if they are able to read it, perhaps this distraction will be welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

Between India and France

In Affirmative action, Constitutional law, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, France, India, Race on October 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has begun its new term (it does so the first Monday of each October), and it soon will hear oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. The Court’s decision in the case could be a turning-point in its jurisprudence of affirmative action, and perhaps a political turning-point for the nation. At issue is the legality of using race as a basis for preferring one candidate over another in college and university admissions.

A great deal has and will be written about the doctrinal questions at issue Fisher, particularly how the case differs from those the justices have considered in previous disputes about racial preferences. I’d like to offer a global, comparative view.

The issue in Fisher, in essence, is whether from a constitutional perspective the United States ought to resemble India or France. For years, the United States has pursued a middle course between the two nations with regard to race-based preferences. The current Court is now likely to hold that the United States ought to resemble France—which will be something of an irony given the Court’s conservative majority (conservatives in the United States not being known for their Francophilia). Read the rest of this entry »