Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"The Anatomy of Blackness"

New from the Johns Hopkins University Press: The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment by Andrew S. Curran.

About the book, from the publisher:
This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew S. Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences, describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era's understanding of black Africans, and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the "black body" itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and often brutalized.

Penetrating and comprehensive, The Anatomy of Blackness shows that, far from being a monolithic idea, eighteenth-century Africanist discourse emerged out of a vigorous, varied dialogue that involved missionaries, slavers, colonists, naturalists, anatomists, philosophers, and Africans themselves.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Germ Gambits"

New from Stanford University Press: Germ Gambits: The Bioweapons Dilemma, Iraq and Beyond by Amy Smithson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Arms control and nonproliferation treaties are among the fingers in the dike preventing the unthinkable nuclear, biological, and chemical catastrophe. For decades the ability to ascertain whether states are hiding germ weapons programs has been nonexistent because the 1975 bioweapons ban has no inspection measures. Yet, in 1995 a small United Nations inspection corps pulled off a spectacular verification feat in the face of concerted resistance from Iraq's Saddam Hussein and popular skepticism that it was even possible to conduct effective biological inspections. Working from sketchy intelligence—and hampered by the Iraqis' extensive concealment and deception measures—the inspectors busted open Iraq's cover stories and wrested a confession of biowarfare agent production from Baghdad. This rigorously researched book tells that compelling story through the firsthand accounts of the inspectors who, with a combination of intrepidness, ingenuity, and a couple of lucky breaks, took the lid off Iraq's bioweapons program and pulled off an improbable victory for peace and international security. The book concludes by drawing lessons from this experience that should be applied to help arrest future bioweapons programs, by placing the Iraq bioweapons saga in the context of other manmade biological risks, and by making recommendations to reduce those risks.

While written as an engaging, analytical historical narrative that explains what the biological inspectors knew, when and how they knew it, and how they outmaneuvered the Iraqis, this book's real contributions are the inspectors' blueprint to "get it right" with regard to the verification challenges associated with the bioweapons ban, and the author's roadmap to address the overall biological threats facing the world today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"With Our Backs to the Wall"

New from Harvard University Press: With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 by David Stevenson.

About the book, from the publisher:
With so much at stake and so much already lost, why did World War I end with a whimper—an arrangement between two weary opponents to suspend hostilities? After more than four years of desperate fighting, with victories sometimes measured in feet and inches, why did the Allies reject the option of advancing into Germany in 1918 and taking Berlin? Most histories of the Great War focus on the avoidability of its beginning. This book brings a laser-like focus to its ominous end—the Allies’ incomplete victory, and the tragic ramifications for world peace just two decades later.

In the most comprehensive account to date of the conflict’s endgame, David Stevenson approaches the events of 1918 from a truly international perspective, examining the positions and perspectives of combatants on both sides, as well as the impact of the Russian Revolution. Stevenson pays close attention to America’s effort in its first twentieth-century war, including its naval and military contribution, army recruitment, industrial mobilization, and home-front politics. Alongside military and political developments, he adds new information about the crucial role of economics and logistics.

The Allies’ eventual success, Stevenson shows, was due to new organizational methods of managing men and materiel and to increased combat effectiveness resulting partly from technological innovation. These factors, combined with Germany’s disastrous military offensive in spring 1918, ensured an Allied victory—but not a conclusive German defeat.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"The Tender Cut"

New from the NYU Press: The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury by Patricia A. Adler and Peter Adler.

About the book, from the publisher:
Cutting, burning, branding, and bone-breaking are all types of self-injury, or the deliberate, non-suicidal destruction of one’s own body tissue, a practice that emerged from obscurity in the 1990s and spread dramatically as a typical behavior among adolescents. Long considered a suicidal gesture, The Tender Cut argues instead that self-injury is often a coping mechanism, a form of teenage angst, an expression of group membership, and a type of rebellion, converting unbearable emotional pain into manageable physical pain.

Based on the largest, qualitative, non-clinical population of self-injurers ever gathered, noted ethnographers Patricia and Peter Adler draw on 150 interviews with self-injurers from all over the world, along with 30,000-40,000 internet posts in chat rooms and communiqués. Their 10-year longitudinal research follows the practice of self-injury from its early days when people engaged in it alone and did not know others, to the present, where a subculture has formed via cyberspace that shares similar norms, values, lore, vocabulary, and interests. An important portrait of a troubling behavior, The Tender Cut illuminates the meaning of self-injury in the 21st century, its effects on current and former users, and its future as a practice for self-discovery or a cry for help.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Erotic Capital"

New from Basic Books: Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2010, pioneering sociologist Catherine Hakim shocked the world with a provocative new theory: In addition to the three recognized personal assets (economic, cultural, and social capital), each individual has a fourth asset—erotic capital—that he or she can, and should, use to advance within society. In this bold and controversial book, Hakim explores the applications and significance of erotic capital, challenging the disapproval meted out to women and men who use sex appeal to get ahead in life. Social scientists have paid little serious attention to these modes of personal empowerment, despite overwhelming evidence of their importance. In Erotic Capital, Hakim marshals a trove of research to show that rather than degrading those who employ it, erotic capital represents a powerful and potentially equalizing tool—one that we scorn only to our own detriment.
Visit Catherine Hakim's website.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Britain's War Machine"

New from Oxford University Press: Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War by David Edgerton.

About the book, from the publisher:
The familiar image of the British in the Second World War is that of the plucky underdog taking on German might. David Edgerton's bold, compelling new history shows the conflict in a new light, with Britain as a very wealthy country, formidable in arms, ruthless in pursuit of its interests, and in command of a global production system. Rather than belittled by a Nazi behemoth, Britain arguably had the world's most advanced mechanized forces. It had not only a great empire, but allies large and small.

Edgerton shows that Britain fought on many fronts and its many home fronts kept it exceptionally well supplied with weapons, food and oil, allowing it to mobilize to an extraordinary extent. It created and deployed a vast empire of machines, from the humble tramp steamer to the battleship, from the rifle to the tank, made in colossal factories the world over. Scientists and engineers invented new weapons, encouraged by a government and prime minister enthusiastic about the latest technologies. The British, indeed Churchillian, vision of war and modernity was challenged by repeated defeat at the hands of less well-equipped enemies. Yet the end result was a vindication of this vision. Like the United States, a powerful Britain won a cheap victory, while others paid a great price.

Putting resources, machines and experts at the heart of a global rather than merely imperial story, Britain's War Machine demolishes timeworn myths about wartime Britain and gives us a groundbreaking and often unsettling picture of a great power in action.
David Edgerton is the Hans Rausing Professor at Imperial College London where he was the Founding Director of its Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

The Page 69 Test: David Edgerton's The Shock of the Old.

Writers Read: David Edgerton (May 2007).

Thursday, August 25, 2011


New from Princeton University Press: Oversight: Representing the Interests of Blacks and Latinos in Congress by Michael D. Minta.

About the book, from the publisher:
Oversight answers the question of whether black and Latino legislators better represent minority interests in Congress than white legislators, and it is the first book on the subject to focus on congressional oversight rather than roll-call voting. In this important book, Michael Minta demonstrates that minority lawmakers provide qualitatively better representation of black and Latino interests than their white counterparts. They are more likely to intervene in decision making by federal agencies by testifying in support of minority interests at congressional oversight hearings. Minority legislators write more letters urging agency officials to enforce civil rights policies, and spend significant time and effort advocating for solutions to problems that affect all racial and ethnic groups, such as poverty, inadequate health care, fair housing, and community development.

In Oversight, Minta argues that minority members of Congress act on behalf of broad minority interests--inside and outside their districts--because of a shared bond of experience and a sense of linked fate. He shows how the presence of black and Latino legislators in the committee room increases the chances that minority perspectives and concerns will be addressed in committee deliberations, and also how minority lawmakers are effective at countering negative stereotypes about minorities in policy debates on issues like affirmative action and affordable housing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Foreigners and Their Food"

New from the University of California Press: Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law by David M. Freidenreich.

About the book, from the publisher:
Foreigners and Their Food explores how Jews, Christians, and Muslims conceptualize “us” and “them” through rules about the preparation of food by adherents of other religions and the act of eating with such outsiders. David M. Freidenreich analyzes the significance of food to religious formation, elucidating the ways ancient and medieval scholars use food restrictions to think about the “other.” Freidenreich illuminates the subtly different ways Jews, Christians, and Muslims perceive themselves, and he demonstrates how these distinctive self-conceptions shape ideas about religious foreigners and communal boundaries. This work, the first to analyze change over time across the legal literatures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, makes pathbreaking contributions to the history of interreligious intolerance and to the comparative study of religion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Rebel Rulers"

New from Cornell University Press: Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life during War by Zachariah Cherian Mampilly.

About the book, from the publisher:
Rebel groups are often portrayed as predators, their leaders little more than warlords. In conflicts large and small, however, insurgents frequently take and hold territory, establishing sophisticated systems of governance that deliver extensive public services to civilians under their control. From police and courts, schools, hospitals, and taxation systems to more symbolic expressions such as official flags and anthems, some rebels are able to appropriate functions of the modern state, often to great effect in generating civilian compliance. Other insurgent organizations struggle to provide even the most basic services and suffer from the local unrest and international condemnation that result.

Rebel Rulers is informed by Zachariah Cherian Mampilly's extensive fieldwork in rebel-controlled areas. Focusing on three insurgent organizations—the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) in Congo, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in Sudan—Mampilly’s comparative analysis shows that rebel leaders design governance systems in response to pressures from three main sources. They must take into consideration the needs of local civilians, who can challenge rebel rule in various ways. They must deal with internal factions that threaten their control. And they must respond to the transnational actors that operate in most contemporary conflict zones. The development of insurgent governments can benefit civilians even as they enable rebels to assert control over their newly attained and sometimes chaotic territories.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy:Business, Power, and the Environment in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles by Sarah S. Elkind.

About the book, from the publisher:
Focusing on five Los Angeles environmental policy debates between 1920 and 1950, Sarah Elkind investigates how practices in American municipal government gave business groups political legitimacy at the local level as well as unanticipated influence over federal politics.

Los Angeles's struggles with oil drilling, air pollution, flooding, and water and power supplies expose the clout business has had over government. Revealing the huge disparities between big business groups and individual community members in power, influence, and the ability to participate in policy debates, Elkind shows that business groups secured their political power by providing Los Angeles authorities with much-needed services, including studying emerging problems and framing public debates. As a result, government officials came to view business interests as the public interest. When federal agencies looked to local powerbrokers for project ideas and political support, local business interests influenced federal policy, too. Los Angeles, with its many environmental problems and its dependence upon the federal government, provides a distillation of national urban trends, Elkind argues, and is thus an ideal jumping-off point for understanding environmental politics and the power of business in the middle of the twentieth century.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"No Man's Land"

New from Princeton University Press: No Man's Land: Jamaican Guestworkers in America and the Global History of Deportable Labor by Cindy Hahamovitch.

About the book, from the publisher:
From South Africa in the nineteenth century to Hong Kong today, nations around the world, including the United States, have turned to guestworker programs to manage migration. These temporary labor recruitment systems represented a state-brokered compromise between employers who wanted foreign workers and those who feared rising numbers of immigrants. Unlike immigrants, guestworkers couldn't settle, bring their families, or become citizens, and they had few rights. Indeed, instead of creating a manageable form of migration, guestworker programs created an especially vulnerable class of labor.

Based on a vast array of sources from U.S., Jamaican, and English archives, as well as interviews, No Man's Land tells the history of the American "H2" program, the world's second oldest guestworker program. Since World War II, the H2 program has brought hundreds of thousands of mostly Jamaican men to the United States to do some of the nation's dirtiest and most dangerous farmwork for some of its biggest and most powerful agricultural corporations, companies that had the power to import and deport workers from abroad. Jamaican guestworkers occupied a no man's land between nations, protected neither by their home government nor by the United States. The workers complained, went on strike, and sued their employers in class action lawsuits, but their protests had little impact because they could be repatriated and replaced in a matter of hours.

No Man's Land puts Jamaican guestworkers' experiences in the context of the global history of this fast-growing and perilous form of labor migration.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


New from Yale University Press: Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America by Craig Harline.

About the book, from the publisher:
This powerful and innovative work by a gifted cultural historian explores the effects of religious conversion on family relationships, showing how the challenges of the Reformation can offer insight to families facing similarly divisive situations today.

Craig Harline begins with the story of young Jacob Rolandus, the son of a Dutch Reformed preacher, who converted to Catholicism in 1654 and ran away from home, causing his family to disown him. In the companion story, Michael Sunbloom, a young American, leaves his family's religion in 1973 to convert to Mormonism, similarly upsetting his distraught parents. The modern twist to Michael's story is his realization that he is gay, causing him to leave his new church, and upsetting his parents again—but this time the family reconciles.

Recounting these stories in short, alternating chapters, Harline underscores the parallel aspects of the two far-flung families. Despite different outcomes and forms, their situations involve nearly identical dynamics and heart-wrenching choices. Through the author's deeply informed imagination, the experiences of a seventeenth-century European family are transformed into immediately recognizable terms.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Nationalism in Europe and America"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Nationalism in Europe and America: Politics, Cultures, and Identities since 1775 by Lloyd Kramer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Examining the history of nationalism's pervasive influence on modern politics and cultural identities, Lloyd Kramer discusses how nationalist ideas gained emotional and cultural power after the revolutionary upheavals in the late eighteenth-century Atlantic world.

Nationalism in Europe and America analyzes the multiple historical contexts and intellectual themes that have shaped modern nationalist cultures, including the political claims for national sovereignty, the emergence of nationalist narratives in historical writing and literature, the fusion of nationalism and religion, and the overlapping conceptions of gender, families, race, and national identities. Kramer emphasizes the similarities in American and European nationalist thought, showing how European ideas about land, history, and national destiny flourished in the United States while American ideas about national independence and political rights reappeared among European nationalists and also influenced the rise of anticolonial nationalisms in twentieth-century Asia and Africa. By placing nationalist ideas and conflicts within the specific, cross-cultural framework of Atlantic history and extending his analysis to the twentieth-century world wars, Kramer offers readers a thoughtful perspective on nationalism's enduring political and cultural importance throughout the modern world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation"

New from Knopf: American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation by Michael Kazin.

About the book, from the publisher:
A panoramic yet intimate history of the American left—of the reformers, radicals, and idealists who have fought for a more just and humane society, from the abolitionists to Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky—that gives us a revelatory new way of looking at two centuries of American politics and culture.

Michael Kazin—one of the most respected historians of the American left working today—takes us from abolitionism and early feminism to the labor struggles of the industrial age, through the emergence of anarchists, socialists, and communists, right up to the New Left in the 1960s and ’70s. While the history of the left is a long story of idealism and determination, it has also been, in the traditional view, a story of movements that failed to gain support from mainstream America. In American Dreamers, Kazin tells a new history: one in which many of these movements, although they did not fully succeed on their own terms, nonetheless made lasting contributions to American society that led to equal opportunity for women, racial minorities, and homosexuals; the celebration of sexual pleasure; multiculturalism in the media and the schools; and the popularity of books and films with altruistic and antiauthoritarian messages.

Deeply informed, at once judicious and impassioned, and superbly written, American Dreamers is an essential book for our times and for anyone seeking to understand our political history and the people who made it.
The Page 69 Test: Michael Kazin's "A Godly Hero".

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"The Freedom to Be Racist?"

New from Oxford University Press: The Freedom to Be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism by Erik Bleich.

About the book, from the publisher:
We love freedom. We hate racism. But what do we do when these values collide? In this wide-ranging book, Erik Bleich explores policies that the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and other liberal democracies have implemented when forced to choose between preserving freedom and combating racism. Bleich's comparative historical approach reveals that while most countries have increased restrictions on racist speech, groups and actions since the end of World War II, this trend has resembled a slow creep more than a slippery slope. Each country has struggled to achieve a balance between protecting freedom and reducing racism, and the outcomes have been starkly different across time and place. Building on these observations, Bleich argues that we should pay close attention to the specific context and to the likely effects of any policy we implement, and that any response should be proportionate to the level of harm the racism inflicts. Ultimately, the best way for societies to preserve freedom while fighting racism is through processes of public deliberation that involve citizens in decisions that impact the core values of liberal democracies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Patriots for Profit"

New from Stanford University Press: Patriots for Profit: Contractors and the Military in U.S. National Security by Thomas Bruneau.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book develops a new approach to the analysis of civil-military relations by focusing on the effectiveness of the armed forces in fulfilling roles & missions, and on their efficiency in terms of cost. The approach is applied to the United States using official documents and interviews with policy-makers. In addition to analyzing the impact of defense reform initiatives over the past thirty years, the book includes the recent phenomenon of "contracting-out" security that has resulted in greater numbers of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than uniformed military personnel.

While the book demonstrates that democratic civilian control of the military in the U.S. is not at issue, it reveals that there is little public control over Private Security Contractors due to a combination of the current restricted interpretation of what is an "inherently governmental function" and limited legal authority. This is despite the fact that PSCs have taken on roles and missions that were previously the responsibility of the uniformed military. Further, despite numerous efforts to redress the problem, current political and institutional barriers to reform are not likely to be overcome soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America by Kate Haulman.

About the book, from the publisher:
In eighteenth-century America, fashion served as a site of contests over various forms of gendered power. Here, Kate Haulman explores how and why fashion--both as a concept and as the changing style of personal adornment--linked gender relations, social order, commerce, and political authority during a time when traditional hierarchies were in flux.

In the see-and-be-seen port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, fashion, a form of power and distinction, was conceptually feminized yet pursued by both men and women across class ranks. Haulman shows that elite men and women in these cities relied on fashion to present their status but also attempted to undercut its ability to do so for others. Disdain for others' fashionability was a means of safeguarding social position in cities where the modes of dress were particularly fluid and a way to maintain gender hierarchy in a world in which women's power as consumers was expanding. Concerns over gendered power expressed through fashion in dress, Haulman reveals, shaped the revolutionary-era struggles of the 1760s and 1770s, influenced national political debates, and helped to secure the exclusions of the new political order.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Contesting Democracy"

New from Yale University Press: Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe by Jan-Werner Müller.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book is the first major account of political thought in twentieth-century Europe, both West and East, to appear since the end of the Cold War. Skillfully blending intellectual, political, and cultural history, Jan-Werner Müller elucidates the ideas that shaped the period of ideological extremes before 1945 and the liberalization of West European politics after the Second World War. He also offers vivid portraits of famous as well as unjustly forgotten political thinkers and the movements and institutions they inspired.

Müller pays particular attention to ideas advanced to justify fascism and how they relate to the special kind of liberal democracy that was created in postwar Western Europe. He also explains the impact of the 1960s and neoliberalism, ending with a critical assessment of today's self-consciously post-ideological age.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Climate Change and Migration"

New from Oxford University Press: Climate Change and Migration: Security and Borders in a Warming World by Gregory White.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the modern era, two types of international migration have consumed our attention: politically induced migration to flee war, genocide, and instability, and migration for economic reasons. Recently, though, another force has generated a new wave of refugees-global warming. Climate change has altered terrains and economies throughout the tropical regions of the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to Central America to South and Southeast Asia. In Climate Change and Migration, Greg White provides a rich account of the phenomenon. Focusing on climate-induced migration from Africa to Europe, White shows how global warming's impact on international relations has been significant, enhancing the security regimes in not only the advanced economies of the North Atlantic, but in the states that serve as transit points between the most advanced and most desperate nations. Furthermore, he demonstrates that climate change has altered the way the nations involved view their own sovereignty, as tightening or defining borders in both Europe and North Africa leads to an increase of the state's reaches over society. White closes by arguing that a serious and comprehensive program to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change is the only long-term solution. With an in-depth coverage of both environmental and border policy from a global perspective, Climate Change and Migration provides a provocative and much-needed link between two of the most pressing issues in contemporary international politics.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"The Closed Commercial State"

New from Princeton University Press: The Closed Commercial State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte by Isaac Nakhimovsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book presents an important new account of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's Closed Commercial State, a major early nineteenth-century development of Rousseau and Kant's political thought. Isaac Nakhimovsky shows how Fichte reformulated Rousseau's constitutional politics and radicalized the economic implications of Kant's social contract theory with his defense of the right to work. Nakhimovsky argues that Fichte's sequel to Rousseau and Kant's writings on perpetual peace represents a pivotal moment in the intellectual history of the pacification of the West. Fichte claimed that Europe could not transform itself into a peaceful federation of constitutional republics unless economic life could be disentangled from the competitive dynamics of relations between states, and he asserted that this disentanglement required transitioning to a planned and largely self-sufficient national economy, made possible by a radical monetary policy. Fichte's ideas have resurfaced with nearly every crisis of globalization from the Napoleonic wars to the present, and his book remains a uniquely systematic and complete discussion of what John Maynard Keynes later termed "national self-sufficiency." Fichte's provocative contribution to the social contract tradition reminds us, Nakhimovsky concludes, that the combination of a liberal theory of the state with an open economy and international system is a much more contingent and precarious outcome than many recent theorists have tended to assume.
Read an excerpt from The Closed Commercial State.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"A Contest for Supremacy"

New from W.W. Norton: A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia by Aaron L. Friedberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
An explosive examination of the fast-escalating Sino-American struggle for geopolitical predominance.

There may be no denying China's growing economic strength, but its impact on the global balance of power remains hotly contested. Political scientist Aaron L. Friedberg argues that our nation's leaders are failing to act expeditiously enough to counter China's growing strength. He explains how the United States and China define their goals and reveals the strategies each is now employing to achieve its ends. Friedberg demonstrates in this provocative book that the ultimate aim of Chinese policymakers is to "win without fighting," displacing the United States as the leading power in Asia while avoiding direct confrontation. The United States, on the other hand, sends misleading signals about our commitments and resolve, putting us at risk for a war that might otherwise have been avoided. A much-needed wake-up call to U.S. leaders and policymakers, A Contest for Supremacy is a compelling interpretation of a rivalry that will go far to determine the shape of the twenty-first century.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Conversation and Responsibility"

New from Oxford University Press: Conversation and Responsibility by Michael McKenna.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this book Michael McKenna advances a new theory of moral responsibility, one that builds upon the work of P.F. Strawson. As McKenna demonstrates, moral responsibility can be explained on analogy with a conversation. The relation between a morally responsible agent and those who hold her morally responsible is similar to the relation between a speaker and her audience. A responsible agent's actions are bearers of meaning -- agent meaning -- just as a speaker's utterances are bearers of speaker meaning. Agent meaning is a function of the morally quality of the will with which the agent acts. Those who hold an agent morally responsible for what she does do so by responding to her as if in a conversation. By responding with certain morally reactive attitudes, such as resentment or indignation, they thereby communicate their regard for the meaning taken to be revealed in that agent's actions. It is then open for the agent held responsible to respond to those holding her responsible by offering an apology, a justification, an excuse, or some other response, thereby extending the evolving conversational exchange.

The conversational theory of moral responsibility that McKenna develops here accepts two features of Strawson's theory: that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal -- so that being responsible must be understood by reference to the nature of holding responsible -- and that the moral emotions are central to holding responsible. While upholding these two aspects of Strawson's theory, McKenna's theory rejects a further Strawsonian thesis, which is that holding morally responsible is more fundamental or basic than being morally responsible. On the conversational theory, the conditions for holding responsible are dependent on the nature of the agent who is responsible. So holding responsible cannot be more basic than being responsible. Nevertheless, the nature of the agent who is morally responsible is to be understood in terms of sensitivity to those who would make moral demands of her, thereby holding her responsible. Being responsible is therefore also dependent on holding responsible. Thus, neither being nor holding morally responsible is more basic than the other. They are mutually dependent.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Markets in the Name of Socialism"

New from Stanford University Press: Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism by Johanna Bockman.

About the book, from the publisher:
The worldwide spread of neoliberalism has transformed economies, polities, and societies everywhere. In conventional accounts, American and Western European economists, such as Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, sold neoliberalism by popularizing their free-market ideas and radical criticisms of the state. Rather than focusing on the agency of a few prominent, conservative economists, Markets in the Name of Socialism reveals a dialogue among many economists on both sides of the Iron Curtain about democracy, socialism, and markets. These discussions led to the transformations of 1989 and, unintentionally, the rise of neoliberalism.

This book takes a truly transnational look at economists' professional ideas over 100 years across the capitalist West and the socialist East. Clearly translating complicated economic ideas and neoliberal theories, it presents a significant reinterpretation of Cold War history, the fall of communism, and the rise of today's dominant economic ideology.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"The Empire Reformed"

New from the University of Pennsylvania Press: The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution by Owen Stanwood.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Empire Reformed tells the story of a forgotten revolution in English America—a revolution that created not a new nation but a new kind of transatlantic empire. During the seventeenth century England's American colonies were remote, disorganized outposts with reputations for political turmoil. Colonial subjects rebelled against authority with stunning regularity, culminating in uprisings that toppled colonial governments in the wake of England's "Glorious Revolution" in 1688-89. Nonetheless, after this crisis authorities in both England and the colonies successfully rebuilt the empire, providing the cornerstone of the great global power that would conquer much of the continent over the following century.

In The Empire Reformed historian Owen Stanwood illustrates this transition in a narrative that moves from Boston to London to Barbados and Bermuda. He demonstrates not only how the colonies fit into the empire but how imperial politics reflected—and influenced—changing power dynamics in England and Europe during the late 1600s. In particular, Stanwood reveals how the language of Catholic conspiracies informed most colonists' understanding of politics, serving first as the catalyst of rebellions against authority, but later as an ideological glue that held the disparate empire together. In the wake of the Glorious Revolution imperial leaders and colonial subjects began to define the British empire as a potent Protestant union that would save America from the designs of French "papists" and their "savage" Indian allies. By the eighteenth century, British Americans had become proud imperialists, committed to the project of expanding British power in the Americas.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"The Gender of Memory"

New from the University of California Press: The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past by Gail Hershatter.

About the book, from the publisher:
What can we learn about the Chinese revolution by placing a doubly marginalized group—rural women—at the center of the inquiry? In this book, Gail Hershatter explores changes in the lives of seventy-two elderly women in rural Shaanxi province during the revolutionary decades of the 1950s and 1960s. Interweaving these women’s life histories with insightful analysis, Hershatter shows how Party-state policy became local and personal, and how it affected women’s agricultural work, domestic routines, activism, marriage, childbirth, and parenting—even their notions of virtue and respectability. The women narrate their pasts from the vantage point of the present and highlight their enduring virtues, important achievements, and most deeply harbored grievances. In showing what memories can tell us about gender as an axis of power, difference, and collectivity in 1950s rural China and the present, Hershatter powerfully examines the nature of socialism and how gender figured in its creation.
Read an excerpt from The Gender of Memory.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"The Sources of Intentionality"

New from Oxford University Press: The Sources of Intentionality by Uriah Kriegel.

About the book, from the publisher:
What do thoughts, hopes, paintings, words, desires, photographs, traffic signs, and perceptions have in common? They are all about something, are directed, are contentful - in a way chairs and trees, for example, are not. This book inquires into the source of this power of directedness that some items exhibit while others do not. An approach to this issue prevalent in the philosophy of the past half-century seeks to explain the power of directedness in terms of certain items' ability to reliably track things in their environment. A very different approach, with a venerable history and enjoying a recent resurgence, seeks to explain the power of directedness rather in terms of an intrinsic ability of conscious experience to direct itself. This book attempts a synthesis of both approaches, developing an account of the sources of such directedness that grounds it both in reliable tracking and in conscious experience.
Visit Uriah Kriegel's webspage.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"States of Credit"

New from Princeton University Press: States of Credit: Size, Power, and the Development of European Polities by David Stasavage.

About the book, from the publisher:
States of Credit provides the first comprehensive look at the joint development of representative assemblies and public borrowing in Europe during the medieval and early modern eras. In this pioneering book, David Stasavage argues that unique advances in political representation allowed certain European states to gain early and advantageous access to credit, but the emergence of an active form of political representation itself depended on two underlying factors: compact geography and a strong mercantile presence.

Stasavage shows that active representative assemblies were more likely to be sustained in geographically small polities. These assemblies, dominated by mercantile groups that lent to governments, were in turn more likely to preserve access to credit. Given these conditions, smaller European city-states, such as Genoa and Cologne, had an advantage over larger territorial states, including France and Castile, because mercantile elites structured political institutions in order to effectively monitor public credit. While creditor oversight of public funds became an asset for city-states in need of finance, Stasavage suggests that the long-run implications were more ambiguous. City-states with the best access to credit often had the most closed and oligarchic systems of representation, hindering their ability to accept new economic innovations. This eventually transformed certain city-states from economic dynamos into rentier republics.

Exploring the links between representation and debt in medieval and early modern Europe, States of Credit contributes to broad debates about state formation and Europe's economic rise.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


New from Oxford University Press: Homesickness: An American History by Susan J. Matt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Homesickness today is dismissed as a sign of immaturity, what children feel at summer camp, but in the nineteenth century it was recognized as a powerful emotion. When gold miners in California heard the tune "Home, Sweet Home," they sobbed. When Civil War soldiers became homesick, army doctors sent them home, lest they die. Such images don't fit with our national mythology, which celebrates the restless individualism of colonists, explorers, pioneers, soldiers, and immigrants who supposedly left home and never looked back.

Using letters, diaries, memoirs, medical records, and psychological studies, this wide-ranging book uncovers the profound pain felt by Americans on the move from the country's founding until the present day. Susan Matt shows how colonists in Jamestown longed for and often returned to England, African Americans during the Great Migration yearned for their Southern homes, and immigrants nursed memories of Sicily and Guadalajara and, even after years in America, frequently traveled home. These iconic symbols of the undaunted, forward-looking American spirit were often homesick, hesitant, and reluctant voyagers. National ideology and modern psychology obscure this truth, portraying movement as easy, but in fact Americans had to learn how to leave home, learn to be individualists. Even today, in a global society that prizes movement and that condemns homesickness as a childish emotion, colleges counsel young adults and their families on how to manage the transition away from home, suburbanites pine for their old neighborhoods, and companies take seriously the emotional toll borne by relocated executives and road warriors. In the age of helicopter parents and boomerang kids, and the new social networks that sustain connections across the miles, Americans continue to assert the significance of home ties.

By highlighting how Americans reacted to moving farther and farther from their roots, Homesickness: An American History revises long-held assumptions about home, mobility, and our national identity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Fixing the Facts"

New from Cornell University Press: Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence by Joshua Rovner.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is the role of intelligence agencies in strategy and policy? How do policymakers use (or misuse) intelligence estimates? When do intelligence-policy relations work best? How do intelligence-policy failures influence threat assessment, military strategy, and foreign policy? These questions are at the heart of recent national security controversies, including the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq. In both cases the relationship between intelligence and policy broke down—with disastrous consequences.

In Fixing the Facts, Joshua Rovner explores the complex interaction between intelligence and policy and shines a spotlight on the problem of politicization. Major episodes in the history of American foreign policy have been closely tied to the manipulation of intelligence estimates. Rovner describes how the Johnson administration dealt with the intelligence community during the Vietnam War; how President Nixon and President Ford politicized estimates on the Soviet Union; and how pressure from the George W. Bush administration contributed to flawed intelligence on Iraq. He also compares the U.S. case with the British experience between 1998 and 2003, and demonstrates that high-profile government inquiries in both countries were fundamentally wrong about what happened before the war.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"The Passionate Triangle"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Passionate Triangle by Rebecca Zorach.

About the book, from the publisher:
Triangles abounded in the intellectual culture of early modern Europe—the Christian Trinity was often mapped as a triangle, for instance, and perspective, a characteristic artistic technique, is based on a triangular theory of vision. Renaissance artists, for their part, often used shapes and lines to arrange figures into a triangle on the surface of a painting—a practice modern scholars call triangular composition. But is there secret meaning in the triangular arrangements artists used, or just a pleasing symmetry? What do triangles really tell us about the European Renaissance and its most beguiling works of art?

In this book, Rebecca Zorach takes us on a lively hunt for the triangle’s embedded significance. From the leisure pursuits of Egyptian priests to Jacopo Tintoretto’s love triangles, Zorach explores how the visual and mathematical properties of triangles allowed them to express new ideas and to inspire surprisingly intense passions. Examining prints and paintings as well as literary, scientific, and philosophical texts, The Passionate Triangle opens up an array of new ideas, presenting unexpected stories of the irrational, passionate, melancholic, and often erotic potential of mathematical thinking before the Scientific Revolution.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"The Impossibility of Perfection"

New from Oxford University Press: The Impossibility of Perfection: Aristotle, Feminism, and the Complexities of Ethics by Michael Slote.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most people think that the difficulty of balancing career and personal/family relationships is the fault of present-day society or is due to their own inadequacies. But in this major new book, eminent moral philosopher Michael Slote argues that the difficulty runs much deeper, that it is due to the essential nature of the divergent goods involved in this kind of choice. He shows more generally that perfect human happiness and perfect virtue are impossible in principle, a view originally enunciated by Isaiah Berlin, but much more thoroughly and synoptically defended here than ever before.

Ancient Greek and modern-day Enlightenment thought typically assumed that perfection was possible, and this is also true of Romanticism and of most recent ethical theory. But if, as Slote maintains, imperfection is inevitable, then our inherited categories of virtue and personal good are far too limited and unqualified to allow us to understand and cope with the richer and more complex life that characterizes today's world. And The Impossibility of Perfection argues in particular that we need some new notions, new distinctions, and even new philosophical methods in order to distill some of the ethical insights of recent feminist thought and arrive at a fuller and more realistic picture of ethical phenomena.