Never saw the lecture, but I read his book by the same title. I realize this is blasphemy in the legal Academy where he’s a bit of a golden child, but I find him dilettantish (then again, a d.Phil is basically a dabbler’s doctorate by definition). A lot of historians didn’t think much of it either, fwiw, and I daresay historians have a much more rigorous attitude toward scholarship than law professors.
I would have liked, for example, to see a lot more backup of his notion that the tanzimat reforms of the 19th century Ottoman sultanate inadvertently froze the progress of sharia in place, an idea he’s reiterated since.
Fwiw, sharia as a check on secular tyrants has been the platform of lots of Islamist parties. It’s what the taliban ostensibly stood for. It’s written into the MB agenda. It’s why even secularists briefly took the akp seriously as a progressive force for turkey. It was why foucault had positive things to say about the Iranian revolution.
But has any country besides Tunisia yet demonstrated the ability of an Islamist party to peacefully share power with secular rivals in a pluralistic system? I don’t think that comes naturally to religious parties in places where pluralism and democracy are rudimentary ideas to begin with. I don’t think Christian parties manage it in half of Africa, and I’m increasingly skeptical of PM Modi though Indian democracy is a hell of a lot more developed than many potential countries of comparison. Hell, Israel has a pretty robust democratic spirit and their religious Zionist parties have a penchant for state sanctioned racism. So when does religious governance actually reduce state oppression?
Fun tidbit, he’s the guy they got to call me and try to talk me into Harvard Law school. They knew I had an interest in Islamic law and in Jewish law and he does both of those things in some capacity.
He also felt the need to make a big fucking public show of it when he perceived a slight from his modern orthodox Jewish high school, and retaliated with a nyt op-ed about how modern orthodoxy is a paradox doomed to failure. The proof is that he (incorrectly) thought his Asian wife was intentionally cropped out of a hs reunion picture because the small-minded parochial school disapproved of intermarriage. Of course, when you’re a prodigy in a small pond, you get used to thinking everything in the world is about you… Turns out there was no such cropping.
So, my impression of the guy preceded my firsthand experience of both his scholarship and his person considerably. On the phone he was just basically shilling for his institution. According to the plan, I was supposed to get a big ego boost and feel important from it, and therefore put myself a quarter million in debt to hold on to that preftige…
Man am I glad cults of personality underwhelm me.
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