For the basic mission and focus of the blog, take a look at the inaugural post: And They’re Off! In a nutshell: we are looking at the peculiar ethical and political challenges arising from (or within) “deliberately adversarial institutions.” These are institutions or practices in which we structure and regulate competitions in order to produce better results than we could by attempting to deliver goods or services directly through a more non-adversarial administrative institution (like, say, a municipal school system, a police force, or a public housing project).
In most modern states, we use deliberately adversarial institutions for economic markets, criminal and civil law, electoral politics, legislative politics, and sports; to name but a few major social institutions.
This blog will keep an eye out for problematic cases of actors gaming the rules within adversarial institutions, and of debates on how to reform the rules and regulations governing these competitions.
We begin this project with several bloggers. The founders are four philosophers who, in one capacity another, have crossed paths in Montreal, and more specifically in a blessedly non-adversarial institution known as CREUM (the Centre de recherche en éthique de l’Université de Montréal). Wayne Norman held a Chair in Business Ethics there in the mid-2000s, before moving on to the philosophy department and Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. (Wayne also blogs on related issues over at This Sporting Life.) Chris MacDonald, who runs the most popular business ethics blog in the world, is a philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, and was a visiting fellow a CREUM a couple of years ago. Chris is now also now a non-resident fellow at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, and a visiting scholar at the Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics and Board Effectiveness at the University of Toronto. Pierre-Yves Néron is currently a post-doc at CREUM. And Dominic Martin is completing his PhD there, finishing up a dissertation that focusses on adversarial ethics. All four of these founders had their curiosity in this topic sparked by Joseph Heath, now a professor in philosophy and in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto, but earlier a founding member of CREUM.
In addition, for at least the first few months of 2011, these four will be joined by several undergraduate students in Wayne’s course on Adversarial Ethics at Duke University. The students in this seminar-style course are expected to blog, on a regular basis, about issues they see arising in their assigned readings, in other courses, in current events, and in adversarial institutions they are most intrigued with.
Comments, and pointers to issues, are always most welcome.