Ain’t Going to Goa by Alabama Three

This song has been around for a while but it has only just been brought to my attention. It’s an anti-hippie song which reflects a more conservative approach to the 1960s, to spirituality etc. Posted here for info only.

I believe I’m gonna
Shut down my chakras, shift Shiva offa my shelf
Take down my tie dyes, my Tibetan bells
Cool down my karma with a can of O.P.T.
Ain’t no call for Casteneda in my frontline library.

There’s one thing I know, Lord above,
I ain’t gonna go,
I ain’t goin’ to Goa, Ain’t goin’ to Goa now
Ain’t goin’ to Goa, Ain’t gonna Goa now.

Ain’t dancin’ trance, no thanx, no chance to tranquilize me.
Ain’t sippin’ no smart bar drinks, you, that don’t satisfy me.
Dosing up my dharma, with a drop of gasoline,
I ain’t down with Mr. McKenna, tantric mantra talkin’ don’t move me.

I don’t need no freaky, deeky, fractal geometry, crystal silicon chip.
I ain’t walking on lay lines, reading no High Times put me on another bad trip.
Timothy Leary, just check out this theory,
He sold acid for the F.B.I.
Well, he ain’t no website wonder, the guru just went under,
You can keep your California Sunshine.

‘Cause the righteous truth is, there ain’t nothing worse than
Some fool lying on some Third World beach wearing
Spandex, psychedelic trousers, smoking damn dope
Pretending he gettin’ consciousness expansion. I want
Consciousness expansion, I go to my local tabernacle
An’ I sing with the brothers and sisters

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Sacred Stones and Bodies Seminar at USW

Maria_23_28thFeb2017-minJackie_13_28thFeb2017-min Our recent seminar at the University of South Wales, ‘Sacred Stones and Bodies’, held on 28 February 2017, examined the material culture and some of the sacred loci of modern arts and performance festivals.  The speakers talked about the sacred stones at the Glastonbury Festival, as well as the rituals associated with ‘festival bodies’.
Dr Jacqui Mulville, a Reader in Bioarchaeology at Cardiff University, talked about ‘Festival Archaeology’, showing how Bioarcheology can  be used to explore the way in which the Stone Circle at Glastonbury can take part in the construction of festival Identities.  Jacqui examined how festivals can be researched through the application of archaeology.  She showed how archaeological evidence is called upon to construct festival identities, both physically, such as the stone circle at Glastonbury, and socially, in the re-creation of ‘ancient traditions’.  Jacqui posited that contemporary participatory archaeological research is beginning to map festival journeys and examine the material culture of festival identities.
Dr Maria Nita, at University of South Wales, talked about ‘Bodies, Rituals and the Glastonbury Festival’, attempting to show that the festival journey can be both a solitary one, in which the festival goer establishes a ritualized itinerary through the festival fields, and a communal (ritual) experience.  Maria discussed her current research on the Glastonbury festival, focusing on the significance and ritualistic treatment of the  body for the duration of the festival. She examined some historical findings that show how Woodstock’s, and conversely Glastonbury’s, iconic naked bodies both displayed a  nostalgic memorialisation of the past and ignited the imagination of a generation about the future.
We are grateful to the Research Institute at the University of South Wales for their support.
Dr Brian Ireland, Dr Sharif Gemie and Dr Maria Nita
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Industrial accidents in Bangladesh are another symptom of an unequal society

Contributed by Palash Kamruzzaman, Research Fellow

This article first appeared in The Conversation, September 21, 2016

Bangladesh, once dismissed as a “basket case” for development, has made remarkable progress in many aspects of human and economic development in the last couple of decades.

The people of Bangladesh are a key element in this remarkable advancement. They work hard on scarce farming land, risk their lives in ready-made garment factories and other labour-intensive industries, and take on low-skilled jobs abroad to send money home.

But as well as being one of the key drivers for making Bangladesh an emerging success story, the general population is the group that often pay the heaviest price for development.

Death and destruction hit workers at factories in Rana Plaza in 2013 (official death toll: 1,126) and Tazreen Fashion in 2012 (official death toll: 117). The latest addition to this grim list is the explosion at a packaging factory Tampaco Foils in September 2016, where the reported number of dead people was 34, with many others critically injured.

It seems that people die in large numbers in Bangladesh, especially in industrial accidents. Accidents do happen but when such a trend persists it is worth questioning the social structure behind it.

Any of these incidents, in an advanced democracy, would have resulted in a major governmental shake up. Sadly, in Bangladesh, this is not the case. Apart from a bit of rhetoric about investigations, a few messages of sympathy from political leaders, and some compensation packages for victims’ families, no meaningful changes follow.

This clearly highlights a significant lack of democratic accountability – and a poor state of national law and order.

Investigations into these accidents take years. Perpetrators are often never brought to justice and issues are swept under the carpet thanks to political patronage and high level connections between the worlds of business and politics.

Understandably, delays in justice also prompt fears of denial of justice. It remains to be seen how long it will take to investigate what happened at Tampaco Foils and whether anyone will be held accountable. The owners of Tazreen fashion were only formally indicted and ordered to stand trial for negligence after nearly three years (the case is still continuing).

The Bangladesh paradox

Power, money, and political connections can offer a form of indemnity for some. High profile cases in other crimes such as murder in which perpetrators remain at large or are yet to be brought to justice also loom in the public consciousness for their connection to power or wealth. As a consequence, a sense of lawlessness is growing in Bangladesh.

Ordinary people seem to accept that fairness in trials and justice for them are highly unlikely. In fact, the state of disillusionment in the justice system is so high, that some people don’t even want the pretence of justice to play a role in their tragedies. One university professor, the father of a murdered publisher, recently declared: “I don’t want justice”. This is a shocking development for any society in the 21st century.

Bustling Dhaka. Shutterstock
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The Bangladesh paradox, in which its visible successes exist so visibly next to its social failures, deserves to be analysed. While the country is definitely making great progresses in some areas, it is also true that there is a democratic deficit, politics is dysfunctional, corruption is rife, and public accountability is low. Nepotism and political allegiance matter more than anyone’s capability and merit.

Tragic accidents in labour-intensive industries do not lead to positive changes because power, money and political connections suppress opinions and oppress the victims. The poor continue to die in their hundreds and thousands, and suffer ill treatment and a lack of job security. This subjects them to further poverty and a precarious future.

The apparent inevitability of major accidents is embedded in an emerging social structure that protects the elites, and pays little attention to the safety and lives of the poor. Social justice does not exist.

And when social justice does not exist, it is sometimes replaced with a cold and hostile environment which can breed even more lawlessness and violence. In light of recent terrorist activities in the country (in which the government has denied any international involvement), one also wonders whether home grown radical terror groups are just the latest destructive force borne out of the current socio-political state of the country.

Contact

Author – palash.kamruzzaman@southwales.ac.uk

 

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February is LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month. Even the name is controversial. We used to talk just about “gay people” and “gay history”, but in recent years there is a growing recognition that human sexuality takes many different forms. To assume that … Continue reading
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Book Cover

It looks very much like this will be the cover of our book! 🙂

hippytrail01B

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Is Bangladesh descending into lawlessness?

Contributed by Dr Palash Kamruzzaman, Research Fellow, University of South Wales

This piece first appeared in The Conversation, 30th November, 2015

An Italian priest has been wounded by gunmen in Bangladesh, the latest in a wave of attacks on foreigners there. Only weeks before, an Italian citizen working with a development organisation was shot in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone – one of the most heavily guarded places in the country. A few days later, a Japanese citizen was murdered in northern Bangladesh in a similar style.

The motives for these murders are not yet clear, but political leaders have rushed to suggest who could be behind these killings without presenting any credible and concrete evidence. Another spin-off of these events is to create an atmosphere of panic, which has been greatly heightened by Islamic State (IS) apparently claiming responsibilityfor these incidents – including the bombing of a Shia procession on 24 October 2015.

Initially, the government of Bangladesh denied it was aware of any such threats, but it soon transpired that some foreign consulates did actually inform the government about credible risk against Western citizens in the country.

Broadly speaking, security is a major issue in Bangladesh, with several murders reported in the national newspapers every day. Many of these murders are taking place because of political rivalries, extortion, and everyday quarrels – and alarmingly, a great many of them never see anyone brought to justice.

In 2012, a journalist couple were murdered in their bedroom, and the murder of an innocent man by the student wing of the ruling party was captured on live television. In 2013, a young student was said to have been murdered by the relatives of influential members of the ruling party.

Then 2014 saw the sensational “seven murder” case. Members of the country’s special elite forces were apparently involved, allegedly taking a bribe from the mastermind of the incident. Some of the violence has been religious, too: in the last two years, a number of secularist bloggers have been killed by Islamist extremists.

And in the meantime, no-one has yet been brought to justice for the 2013 disaster at Rana Plaza in which over 1250 workers died.

Don’t go there

As is all too common in Bangladesh, the investigations into most of these cases are still dragging on after an agonisingly long time. The failure to secure justice for these incidents and thousands more like them creates a sense of lawlessness, where local gangs, muggers, and terrorist groups feel that with strong political patronage and power it is possible to get away with serious crimes, including murder.

This has all hardly flattered Bangladesh’s image, and the consequences have already been humiliating in many ways. In autumn 2015, Cricket Australia (CA) cancelled a scheduled tour in Bangladesh citing credible threats by militant groups against Westerners. The CA raised the security concern and delayed the team’s departure while working on a “revised security plan” with the Bangladesh Cricket Board and top level Bangladeshi security forces.

The uptick in attacks on foreigners only made the situation worse, and the tour was finally cancelled despite Bangladesh offering VVIP security (given to the visiting Presidents of other countries) to each player. The Chief Executive of the CA said that in the end, it was simply not possible to proceed with the tour, because:

The safety of our players and officials is our highest priority. We had hoped the security concerns would fade, but unfortunately the advice we have received from government, our own security experts and independent security advisors has clearly indicated that there are now high risks to our people should they make the trip.

Soon after, the South African Women’s cricket team cancelled their Bangladesh tour too, and a number of foreign textile buyers and research teams have also written off their planned visits. Most of the Western embassies have warned their citizens to be careful.

Crying wolf

Paradoxically, this is nothing less than blowback from years of cynical propaganda on the part of Bangladesh’s leaders, who deliberately maintain this culture of impunity and denial. They have also used brazen fearmongering to score political support from the rest of the world.


Chaos reigns. joiseyshowaa/flickr, CC BY-SA

Let’s not forget that the present government’s mandate is questionable in the eyes of many; at the last election more than half of its MPs were elected unopposed, and only a reported 5% of voters turned out. And yet its senior figures maintain that their government has to remain in power to stop ill-defined “militants” overrunning the country.

The unresolved murders of foreign citizens have simply given them more fodder for this self-serving rhetoric, even though what they most clearly demonstrate is the impotence of Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies.

And on October 24, amid the heightened tension and ramped-up security, a Shiite procession was bombed, with two people killed and over a hundred injured – even after national newspapers published stories saying the government had in fact predicted just such an event.

There are, of course, a range of groups in Bangladesh espousing violent fundamentalist ideologies, and over the years, scores of people have been arrested for militant activities – including suspected members of IS and al-Qaeda. But the state has never been able to prove that a genuine offshoot of IS or al-Qaeda is actually operating in Bangladesh.

Nonetheless, the government’s fearmongering seems to be serving it well, and its complacency has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This sense of lawlessness, coupled with a tense political environment in which governing and dissenting parties both resort to violence, means that Bangladesh is becoming a highly conducive environment for radical terrorism.

Superficially reinforced security and policing is all very well, but if the law and order situation does not improve and exploitation of a culture of fear continues, Bangladesh might become a story of the boy who cried wolf.

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‘Sacred Stones and Bodies’, Festival Studies Network Research Seminar

University of South Wales, Cardiff
Tue 28 Feb 2017
This short seminar will examine the material culture and some of the sacred loci of modern arts and performance festivals.  The blank canvases of the festival fields, which in their majority contain ephemeral yet well established, storied, structures, such as the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, have some permanent residents: ‘sacred stones’. What are their relationships with the festival bodies that rest, play, sing and dance among them?
14:30 Introductions 
14:40 Dr Jacqui Mulville, Cardiff University: Current Research Projects and the Festival Research Network (20 mins and 10 mins for questions) 
15:10 Zé Aruanã Kouyaté Cardiff University: ‘Every – Body – Festival’ (20 mins and 10 mins for questions) 
15:40 Group discussion with online participation: Proposals and suggestions from Dr Florence Ayisi, John Morrow and Adeola Dewis.
17:00 Seminar ends
This seminar will be streamed online, link will follow.
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More young professionals are key to helping the elderly

No one who has a relative or friend that has required a care or nursing home bed in recent times can be unaware of the problems now being set out so graphically (Overstretched, underfunded. Care of the Elderly is in Crisis … Special Report last … Continue reading
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Thailand Flood Hacks. Plastic Bottles, Expatiation and Innovation

Contributed by Chris Bolton from the Good Practice Exchange, Wales Audit Office

Everything is wrong with this picture. There is no cat I’ve ever known that would permit me (or anyone else) to:

  1. Put a vest on it,
  2. Sew plastic water-bottles into the vest, and
  3. Sit around to have its picture taken wearing the offending garment (it does have its back to the camera though).

 

Thai Flood Hacks. To be fair to the cat these were unusual circumstances and this may have been a concession until normal ‘cat like’ behaviour could be resumed.

The floods that inundated Thailand in 2011 were a disaster that caused death, suffering and huge economic damage. In response to extreme circumstances people will often do extraordinary things to save lives or make everyday living a little bit easier. Necessity, frequently is, the Mother of Invention.

To help share the knowledge about some of the clever solutions that people created a site called Thai Flood Hacks sprang up in 2011 (link here). Basically people ‘hacked’ what they had available and used it for variety of purposes to alleviate the dangers posed by the rising flood waters. The ‘hacks’ covered a numbers of areas including:

  • protecting life (plastic bottle vests for cats and dogs)
  • protecting property (huge plastic bags for cars) and
  • getting about in the flood water (modified vehicles and plastic bottle boats).

Two things stand out for me on the site; just how much you can do with a plastic bottle and, the emergence of exaptation.

 

What is Exaptation? The most basic explanation of exaptation (I understand) is: something that has been created for a specific purpose, is picked up and is used for a completely different purpose.

The idea originates in biology and was first introduced to me by Dave Snowden who has written about it here.

Examples from biology include the idea of feathers, originally developed as a cooling mechanism, before being exapted for the purpose of flight.

Another good example is the electromagnetic radiation that ‘leaked’ from early radar equipment, melted the chocolate bar in Engineer Percy Spencer’s pocket, and was eventually exapted into the microwave oven. You can see the full story in the video below.

 

Video Link: Radar – Father of the Microwave Oven

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h1ESUz2H3E

 

When you look at the Thai Flood hacks site you can see some very clear examples of exaptation, things successfully used for purposes they were never intended for. It’s not all imaginative uses of plastic bottles. Protecting your car from the floodwaters by driving it into the large plastic bag your sofa was delivered in is genius.

 

You can do anything with a plastic bottle. I’ve got to talk about plastic drinks bottles for a moment. If you have looked at the Thai Flood Hacks site you will see they feature a lot. I suppose that once you’ve made the link between the need to stay afloat and the abundance of plastic containers that hold air, there is no end of uses you can put them to.

The fun with plastic bottles doesn’t end there though. I’ve been browsing the internet for ‘interesting / alternative uses for plastic bottles’. There are absolutely dozens of things you can do with a plastic bottle and a little imagination. Have a look at this article on life hack.org; 30 Ways to Upcycle Plastic Bottles, lots of alternative uses, but are they really exaptation?

 

The Trouble With Exaptation. The problem with exaptation is that it is incredibly difficult to plan for. How do you know that electromagnetic radiation is going to be useful for warming your lunch? How do you make that leap between having a drink of water and tying the empty bottles onto the side of your dog?

A lot of exaptation comes down to about four things as far as I can understand; deep curiosity, wide diversity, the willingness to experiment and acceptance of mess and failure:

  • Deep Curiosity. Continually asking the question why and looking for new answers might just lead you to the answer you never thought of.
  • Wide Diversity. The more sand you sift the more likely you are to find a diamond.
  • Experimentation. When you spot an opportunity, test to see if it might work.
  • Accepting the Mess. This is unlikely to be a process where everything goes to plan and often fails.

 

I spoke about this challenge at the All Wales Continuous Improvement Community recently where I offered a few suggestions around how you might ‘normalise innovation’ and have a better chance of spotting exaptation opportunities. These included:

In addition there is some work happening at the Cynefin Centre in Bangor University to put some structure around the area which has been called; Managing for Emergence or Managing for Serendipity. More of that in future posts, but this slideshare from Marc Rettig on Managing Emergence gives a good idea of some of the challenges.

 

In Summary

  1. Necessity can be the Mother of Invention. Extreme situations can lead to some incredible innovations and exaptation.
  2. Exaptation is difficult to ‘manage’. How do you plan for the unknown? Is it possible to create an environment where exaptation flourishes?
  3. Activities like hackathons and crowdsourcing can create the environment where ideas flow and there is opportunity for expatiation to emerge. The trick is recognising it.

 

Chris can be contacted on Chris.Bolton@audit.wales, Twitter – @whatsthepont

 

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Disability, Well-Being, and False Consciousness: Conflicting Approaches to Rationality and Reasonableness in Moral Discourse and Promoting the Social Model of Disability

Summary of argument

Broadly speaking, two approaches to rationality and reasonableness in moral discourse, can be found in recommendations for radical political change. These approaches reflect conflicts between analytical and continental philosophy and their different interpretations of ‘false consciousness’ (i.e. what are viewed as mistaken beliefs concerning the ‘true interests’ of oppressed or marginalised groups).1 However, the recommendation here is to hold this conflict in tension, recognising that this pulls radical politics in opposite directions, particularly when applied to disability issues and how the social model of disability is understood and promoted.

 

The analytical approach

Risking oversimplification, analytical philosophers tend to reflect the political, economic, and social goals of modernity and the European Enlightenment derived from certain assumptions about the role of rationality and reasonableness in moral discourse. Their main claim is that using rationality in logical argument and scientific enquiry, combined with an appeal to reasonableness when defining the parameters of moral engagement with other human beings, provides a secure foundation for understanding human progress and human relations in various social, economic and political spheres. Radical politics, born from this approach, emphasises the importance of using standards of rationality and reasonableness as a universal moral yardstick for critiquing oppressive and exploitative regimes. For example, this might include measuring the extent to which oppressed and disadvantaged groups are exploited under certain social and economic conditions through examining and scientifically measuring their diminished access to opportunities or ‘life chances’.

 

The continental approach

Continental philosophers, on the other hand, are generally more sceptical about the possibility of making these kinds of objective claims for rationality and reasonableness in moral discourse. The use of rationality and reasonableness, despite its apparent benign character in underpinning a moral critique of existing regimes, is regarded as potentially oppressive and exploitative. This oppression and exploitation occurs because the very categories of rationality and reasonableness are defined and imposed through dominant institutional norms and practices. The imposition results in many groups being social excluded and marginalised if they do not conform to the so-called universal criteria of rationality and reasonableness which falsely underpin a set of ‘ideals’ about what is a ‘best’ or ‘better’ life to maintain and pursue. Consequently, the radical politics, born from this approach, promotes these marginalised identities as a challenge to these dominant norms and practices, not by appealing to rationality and reasonableness, but rather through promoting methods of social and political assertion and engagement which variously challenge these ‘ideals’.

 

Contrasting attitudes to false consciousness and well-being

From the above we can see that many analytical philosophers promote a version of ‘false consciousness’ based on an objective description of what is viewed as ‘true’, with this truth being considered universally comprehensible, given it can, in principle, be understood by every rational person. This claim for objectivity provides a universal moral yardstick to measure and critically evaluate the normative deficiencies of the world we presently live in, which leads to an objective description of a ‘better world’ and what can best enhance an individual’s and/or group’s well-being. Moreover, any objective description of this ‘better world’ will tend be future-orientated insofar as it not only allows for the depiction and objective description of a future ‘better world’, but also recommends moral and political strategies to bring this ‘better world’ about.

 

In contrast, continental philosophers tend to promote ‘false consciousness’ as a denial of the positive and life-enhancing aspects of marginalised ‘subjective identities’ as these occur presently and so underpinning their well-being as it is presently experienced. This contemporising of subjectivity and well-being, which include many of the beliefs persons who are marginalised have about themselves, are positively asserted now as a radical alternative to presently occurring dominant norms and practices. Therefore, positively promoting these marginalised identities, reflects a force for change that is often beyond what can be rationally or reasonably comprehended by dominant groups. This is because the latter groups are committed to exclusionary paradigms which maintain particular logical structures for interpreting the world that are opposed to these radical critiques, and, in the process, falsely ‘legitimate’ the exclusion of minority groups based on the view that the present experience of members of these groups are necessarily diminished or ‘less than ideal’.

 

Two interpretations of the social model of disability2, well-being and false consciousness

The first interpretation of the social model of disability can be called the Politics of Disablement (POD) interpretation. Its central claim is that the opportunities of disabled people are reduced, not by their medical condition, but as a result of social causation processes which unjustly exclude disabled people from valued community activities, routinely enjoyed by non-disabled people. The POD interpretation will therefore compare the ways in which disabled people are unable to access social, political and economic resources on the same basis as non-disabled people. This state of affairs is understood by the POD to be unreasonable and unfair based on identifying what are seen as ‘objective measures’ of discrimination which are said to unjustly reduce the opportunities of disabled people.

 

Consistent with the arguments so far, it can be seen how the POD broadly reflects the analytical approach, for it uses objective and universal understandings of rationality and reasonableness as a template for increasing the future expectations and opportunities for disabled people, anticipating, by implication, that disabled people’s ‘objective’ well-being will be enhanced as a result.

 

However, there is a second interpretation of the social model which highlights, not so much the social causation of ‘objective conditions’ which unjustly undermine the capabilities and expectations of disabled people, but instead focuses on the ‘social construction of disablement’ (SCOD) as a particular kind of mis-description of presently occurring ‘subjective states’ or conditions. The central claim for the SCOD interpretation is that in a disablist society dominated by the medical model, disabled people’s subjective experiences and identities as disabled people now (which include the beliefs disabled people have about themselves), are defined or socially constructed as ‘less than ideal’ or ‘dysfunctional’ compared with the prevailing ‘universal norm’ of non-disablement. This social construction of disablement is, in turn, seen as oppressive and discriminatory.

 

Concluding thoughts

Following the other arguments presented here, it can be seen how the POD and SCOD interpretations broadly reflect the analytical and continental approaches to philosophy outlined above. The former interpretation stresses the ‘objective conditions’ of disabled people which diminish the well-being of disabled people now, and so looks forward to a future where the objectively measurable capabilities of disabled people are enhanced by a more inclusive and participatory society free from unfair discrimination against disabled people. The latter interpretation, on the other hand, stresses how the ‘subjective conditions’ of disabled people as these occur now challenge dominant medical norms and practices which define disability and necessarily ‘deficient’ and ‘dysfunctional’.

 

It is clear that these two different interpretations of the social model and, more broadly, the two different approaches to reasonableness and rationality in moral discourse, are conflicting. The argument here though is that we should not respond to this conflict by recommending an either/or choice between these two approaches. Instead, we should combine them, but recognising that these pull radical politics in opposite directions. However, this strategy will help us make better sense of the Disability Movement’s political demands and what it regards as ‘false consciousness’ of the medical model – that is, a consciousness which diminishes both the present experiences and future opportunities of disabled people.

 

This is a summary of working paper given at Treforest Campus, University of South Wales – November 23rd 2016 – Steve Smith – Professor of Political Philosophy and Social Policy

Notes

  1. Also see David West (2010) Continental Philosophy – An Introduction – 2nd edition (New Jersey: Wiley), for an excellent introduction to this distinction between analytical and continental approaches in philosophy.
  2. Also see my exploration of these two different interpretations of the social model in S.R. Smith (2009) ‘Social justice and disability: competing interpretations of the medical and social models’ in Kristjana Kristiansen, Simo Vehmas, and Tom Shakespeare (eds) Arguing about Disability: Philosophical Perspectives (London: Routledge). And see my arguments in S.R. Smith (2011) Equality and Diversity: Value Incommensurability and the Politics of Recognition. (Bristol: Policy Press).

 

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