Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility"

New from the Johns Hopkins University Press: Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility: A Four-Nation Study by Dale R. Herspring.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dale R. Herspring considers the factors that allow some civilian and military organizations to operate more productively in a political context than others, bringing into comparative study for the first time the military organizations of the U.S., Russia, Germany, and Canada. Refuting the work of scholars such as Samuel P. Huntington and Michael C. Desch, Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility approaches civil-military relations from a new angle, military culture, arguing that the optimal form of civil-military relations is one of shared responsibility between the two groups.

Herspring outlines eight factors that contribute to conditions that promote and support shared responsibility among civilian officials and the military, including such prerequisites as civilian leaders not interfering in the military's promotion process and civilian respect for military symbols and traditions. He uses these indicators in his comparative treatment of the U.S., Russian, German, and Canadian militaries.

Civilian authorities are always in charge and the decision on how to treat the military is a civilian decision. However, Herspring argues, failure by civilians to respect military culture will antagonize senior military officials, who will feel less free to express their views, thus depriving senior civilian officials, most of whom have no military experience, of the expert advice of those most capable of assessing the far-reaching forms of violence. This issue of civilian respect for military culture and operations plays out in Herspring's country case studies.

Scholars of civil-military relations will find much to debate in Herspring's framework, while students of civil-military and defense policy will appreciate Herspring's brief historical tour of each countries' post–World War II political and policy landscapes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

"Radicals on the Road"

New from Cornell University Press: Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era by Judy Tzu-Chun Wu.

About the book, from the publisher:
Traveling to Hanoi during the U.S. war in Vietnam was a long and dangerous undertaking. Even though a neutral commission operated the flights, the possibility of being shot down by bombers in the air and antiaircraft guns on the ground was very real. American travelers recalled landing in blackout conditions, without lights even for the runway, and upon their arrival seeking refuge immediately in bomb shelters. Despite these dangers, they felt compelled to journey to a land at war with their own country, believing that these efforts could change the political imaginaries of other members of the American citizenry and even alter U.S. policies in Southeast Asia.

In Radicals on the Road, Judy Tzu-Chun Wu tells the story of international journeys made by significant yet underrecognized historical figures such as African American leaders Robert Browne, Eldridge Cleaver, and Elaine Brown; Asian American radicals Alex Hing and Pat Sumi; Chicana activist Betita Martinez; as well as women's peace and liberation advocates Cora Weiss and Charlotte Bunch. These men and women of varying ages, races, sexual identities, class backgrounds, and religious faiths held diverse political views. Nevertheless, they all believed that the U.S. war in Vietnam was immoral and unjustified.

In times of military conflict, heightened nationalism is the norm. Powerful institutions, like the government and the media, work together to promote a culture of hyperpatriotism. Some Americans, though, questioned their expected obligations and instead imagined themselves as "internationalists," as members of communities that transcended national boundaries. Their Asian political collaborators, who included Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Foreign Minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government Nguyen Thi Binh and the Vietnam Women’s Union, cultivated relationships with U.S. travelers. These partners from the East and the West worked together to foster what Wu describes as a politically radical orientalist sensibility. By focusing on the travels of individuals who saw themselves as part of an international community of antiwar activists, Wu analyzes how actual interactions among people from several nations inspired transnational identities and multiracial coalitions and challenged the political commitments and personal relationships of individual activists.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age"

New from Princeton University Press: Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Nikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America's first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla's private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an "idealist" inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla's visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

"Animal Oppression and Human Violence"

New from Columbia University Press: Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict by David A. Nibert.

About the book, from the publisher:
Jared Diamond and other leading scholars have argued that the domestication of animals for food, labor, and tools of war has advanced the development of human society. But by comparing practices of animal exploitation for food and resources in different societies over time, David A. Nibert reaches a strikingly different conclusion. He finds in the domestication of animals, which he renames “domesecration,” a perversion of human ethics, the development of large-scale acts of violence, disastrous patterns of destruction, and growth-curbing epidemics of infectious disease.

Nibert centers his study on nomadic pastoralism and the development of commercial ranching, a practice that has been largely controlled by elite groups and expanded with the rise of capitalism. Beginning with the pastoral societies of the Eurasian steppe and continuing through to the exportation of Western, meat-centered eating habits throughout today’s world, Nibert connects the domesecration of animals to violence, invasion, extermination, displacement, enslavement, repression, pandemic chronic disease, and hunger. In his view, conquest and subjugation were the results of the need to appropriate land and water to maintain large groups of animals, and the gross amassing of military power has its roots in the economic benefits of the exploitation, exchange, and sale of animals. Deadly zoonotic diseases, Nibert shows, have accompanied violent developments throughout history, laying waste to whole cities, societies, and civilizations. His most powerful insight situates the domesecration of animals as a precondition for the oppression of human populations, particularly indigenous peoples, an injustice impossible to rectify while the material interests of the elite are inextricably linked to the exploitation of animals.

Nibert links domesecration to some of the most critical issues facing the world today, including the depletion of fresh water, topsoil, and oil reserves; global warming; and world hunger, and he reviews the U.S. government’s military response to the inevitable crises of an overheated, hungry, resource-depleted world. Most animal-advocacy campaigns reinforce current oppressive practices, Nibert argues. Instead, he suggests reforms that challenge the legitimacy of both domesecration and capitalism.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"The Allure of Order"

New from Oxford University Press: The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling by Jal Mehta.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush agreed on little, but united behind the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Passed in late 2001, it was hailed as a dramatic new departure in school reform. It would make the states set high standards, measure student progress, and hold failing schools accountable. A decade later, NCLB has been repudiated on both sides of the aisle. According to Jal Mehta, we should have seen it coming. Far from new, it was the same approach to school reform that Americans have tried before.

In The Allure of Order, Mehta recounts a century of attempts at revitalizing public education, and puts forward a truly new agenda to reach this elusive goal. Not once, not twice, but three separate times-in the Progressive Era, the 1960s and '70s, and NCLB-reformers have hit upon the same idea for remaking schools. Over and over again, outsiders have been fascinated by the promise of scientific management and have attempted to apply principles of rational administration from above. Each of these movements started with high hopes and ambitious promises, but each gradually discovered that schooling is not easy to "order" from afar: policymakers are too far from schools to know what they need; teachers are resistant to top-down mandates; and the practice of good teaching is too complex for simple external standardization.

The larger problem, Mehta argues, is that reformers have it backwards: they are trying to do on the back-end, through external accountability, what they should have done on the front-end: build a strong, skilled and expert profession. Our current pattern is to draw less than our most talented people into teaching, equip them with little relevant knowledge, train them minimally, put them in a weak welfare state, and then hold them accountable when they predictably do not achieve what we seek. What we want, Mehta argues, is the opposite approach which characterizes top-performing educational nations: attract strong candidates into teaching, develop relevant and usable knowledge, train teachers extensively in that knowledge, and support these efforts through a strong welfare state.

The Allure of Order boldly challenges conventional wisdom with a sweeping, empirically rich account of the last century of education reform, and offers a new path forward for the century to come.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Animals and the Limits of Postmodernism"

New from Columbia University Press: Animals and the Limits of Postmodernism by Gary Steiner.

About the book, from the publisher:
While postmodern approaches to politics and ethics have offered some intriguing and influential insights in philosophy and theory, Gary Steiner illuminates the fundamental inability of these approaches to arrive at viable ethical and political principles. Ethics require notions of self, agency, and value that are not available to postmodernists. Therefore much of what is published under the rubric of theory lacks a proper basis for a systematic engagement with ethics.

Steiner provocatively critiques postmodernist approaches to the moral status of animals against the background of a broader indictment of postmodern thought and its inability to establish clear principles for action. He revisits the work of Derrida, Foucault, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, together with recent work by their American interpreters, and shows that the basic terms of postmodern thought are incompatible with any definitive claims about the moral status or rights of animals -- and humans. Steiner acknowledges the failures of liberal humanist thought regarding the moral status of animals; but instead of following postmodern thinkers who reject humanist thought outright, he argues for the need to rethink humanist notions in a way that avoids the anthropocentric limitations of traditional humanist thought. Drawing on the achievements of the Stoics and Kant, Steiner builds on his earlier work, developing his ideas of cosmic holism and non-anthropocentric cosmopolitanism in order to arrive at a more concrete foundation for animal rights.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Cosmopolitan Sex Workers"

New from Oxford University Press: Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City by Christine B.N. Chin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Cosmopolitan Sex Workers is a groundbreaking look into the phenomenon of non-trafficked women who migrate from one global city to another to perform paid sexual labor in Southeast Asia. Through a new, innovative framework, Christine B.N. Chin shows that as neoliberal economic restructuring processes create pathways connecting major cities throughout the world, competition and collaboration between cities creates new avenues for the movement of people, services and goods. Loosely organized networks of migrant labor grow in tandem with professional-managerial classes, and sex workers migrate to different parts of cities, depending on the location of the clientele to which they cater.

But while global cities create economic opportunities for migrants (and depend on the labor they provide), states react with new forms of securitization and surveillance. As a result, migrants must negotiate between appropriating and subverting the ideas that inform global economic restructuring. Chin argues that migration allows women to develop intercultural skills that help them to make these negotiations.

Cosmopolitan Sex Workers is innovative not only in its focus on non-trafficked women, but in its analysis of the complex relationship between global economic processes and migration for sex work. Through fascinating interviews with sex workers in Kuala Lumpur, Chin shows that sex work can provide women with the means of earning income for families, for education, and even for their own businesses. It also allows women the means to travel the world - a form of cosmopolitanism "from below."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"The Genius of Earth Day"

New from Hill and Wang: The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation by Adam Rome.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first Earth Day is the most famous little-known event in modern American history. Because we still pay ritual homage to the planet every April 22, everyone knows something about Earth Day. Some people may also know that Earth Day 1970 made the environmental movement a major force in American political life. But no one has told the whole story before.

The story of the first Earth Day is inspiring: it had a power, a freshness, and a seriousness of purpose that are difficult to imagine today. Earth Day 1970 created an entire green generation. Thousands of Earth Day organizers and participants decided to devote their lives to the environmental cause. Earth Day 1970 helped to build a lasting eco-infrastructure—lobbying organizations, environmental beats at newspapers, environmental-studies programs, ecology sections in bookstores, community ecology centers.

In The Genius of Earth Day, the prizewinning historian Adam Rome offers a compelling account of the rise of the environmental movement. Drawing on his experience as a journalist as well as his expertise as a scholar, he explains why the first Earth Day was so powerful, bringing one of the greatest political events of the twentieth century to life.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Jane Austen, Game Theorist"

New from Princeton University Press: Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe.

About the book, from the publisher:
Game theory--the study of how people make choices while interacting with others--is one of the most popular technical approaches in social science today. But as Michael Chwe reveals in his insightful new book, Jane Austen explored game theory's core ideas in her six novels roughly two hundred years ago. Jane Austen, Game Theorist shows how this beloved writer theorized choice and preferences, prized strategic thinking, argued that jointly strategizing with a partner is the surest foundation for intimacy, and analyzed why superiors are often strategically clueless about inferiors. With a diverse range of literature and folktales, this book illustrates the wide relevance of game theory and how, fundamentally, we are all strategic thinkers.

Although game theory's mathematical development began in the Cold War 1950s, Chwe finds that game theory has earlier subversive historical roots in Austen's novels and in "folk game theory" traditions, including African American folktales. Chwe makes the case that these literary forebears are game theory's true scientific predecessors. He considers how Austen in particular analyzed "cluelessness"--the conspicuous absence of strategic thinking--and how her sharp observations apply to a variety of situations, including U.S. military blunders in Iraq and Vietnam.

Jane Austen, Game Theorist brings together the study of literature and social science in an original and surprising way.
Visit the Jane Austen, Game Theorist website.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Waiting for José: The Minutemen's Pursuit of America"

New from Princeton University Press: Waiting for José: The Minutemen's Pursuit of America by Harel Shapira.

About the book, from the publisher:
They live in the suburbs of Tennessee and Indiana. They fought in Vietnam and Desert Storm. They speak about an older, better America, an America that once was, and is no more. And for the past decade, they have come to the U.S. / Mexico border to hunt for illegal immigrants. Who are the Minutemen? Patriots? Racists? Vigilantes?

Harel Shapira lived with the Minutemen and patrolled the border with them, seeking neither to condemn nor praise them, but to understand who they are and what they do. Challenging simplistic depictions of these men as right-wing fanatics quick on the trigger, Shapira discovers a group of men who long for community and embrace the principles of civic engagement. Yet these desires and convictions have led them to a troubling place.

Shapira takes you to that place--a stretch of desert in southern Arizona, where he reveals that what draws these men to the border is not simply racism or anti-immigrant sentiments, but a chance to relive a sense of meaning and purpose rooted in an older life of soldiering. They come to the border not only in search of illegal immigrants, but of lost identities and experiences.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

"The Importance of Being Civil"

New from Princeton University Press: The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency by John A. Hall.

About the book, from the publisher:
Civility is desirable and possible, but can this fragile ideal be guaranteed? The Importance of Being Civil offers the most comprehensive look at the nature and advantages of civility, throughout history and in our world today. Esteemed sociologist John Hall expands our understanding of civility as related to larger social forces--including revolution, imperialism, capitalism, nationalism, and war--and the ways that such elements limit the potential for civility. Combining wide-ranging historical and comparative evidence with social and moral theory, Hall examines how the nature of civility has fluctuated in the last three centuries, how it became lost, and how it was reestablished in the twentieth century following the two world wars. He also considers why civility is currently breaking down and what can be done to mitigate this threat.

Paying particular attention to the importance of individualism, of rules allowing people to create their own identities, Hall offers a composite definition of civility. He focuses on the nature of agreeing to differ over many issues, the significance of fashion and consumption, the benefits of inclusive politics on the nature of identity, the greater ability of the United States in integrating immigrants in comparison to Europe, and the conditions likely to assure peace in international affairs. Hall factors in those who are opposed to civility, and the various methods with which states have destroyed civil and cooperative relations in society.

The Importance of Being Civil is a decisive and sophisticated addition to the discussion of civility in its modern cultural and historical contexts.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Foreign Fighters"

New from Oxford University Press: Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts by David Malet.

About the book, from the publisher:
In conflict zones around the world, the phenomenon of foreign insurgents fighting on behalf of local rebel groups is a common occurrence. They have been an increasing source of concern because they engage in deadlier attacks than local fighters do. They also violate international laws and norms of citizenship. And because of their zeal, their adversaries - often the most powerful countries in the world - are frequently incapable of deterring them.

Foreign fighters have made headlines in recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, and the term is widely equated with militant Islamists. However, foreign fighters are not a new phenomenon. Throughout modern history, outside combatants have fought on behalf of causes ranging from international communism to aggrieved ethnic groups. Analyzing the long history of foreign fighters in the modern era helps us understand why they join insurgencies, what drives their behavior, and what policymakers can do in response.

In Foreign Fighters, David Malet examines how insurgencies recruit individuals from abroad who would seem to have no direct connection to a distant war. Remarkably, the same recruiting strategies have been employed successfully in all foreign fighter cases, regardless of the particular circumstances of a conflict. Malet also catalogues foreign fighters in civil wars over the past two centuries, providing data indicating that they are disproportionately successful and growing in number. Detailed case histories constructed from archival material and original interviews demonstrate the same recruitment patterns in highly diverse conflicts including the Texas Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Israeli War of Independence, and the Afghanistan War. The results show that foreign fighters from Davy Crockett to George Orwell to Osama bin Laden create and respond to strategically crafted appeals to defend transnational communities under dire threat.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Doing Bad by Doing Good"

New from Stanford University Press: Doing Bad by Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails by Christopher Coyne.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2010, Haiti was ravaged by a brutal earthquake that affected the lives of millions. The call to assist those in need was heard around the globe. Yet two years later humanitarian efforts led by governments and NGOs have largely failed. Resources are not reaching the needy due to bureaucratic red tape, and many assets have been squandered. How can efforts intended to help the suffering fail so badly? In this timely and provocative book, Christopher J. Coyne uses the economic way of thinking to explain why this and other humanitarian efforts that intend to do good end up doing nothing or causing harm.

In addition to Haiti, Coyne considers a wide range of interventions. He explains why the U.S. government was ineffective following Hurricane Katrina, why the international humanitarian push to remove Muammar Gaddafi in Libya may very well end up causing more problems than prosperity, and why decades of efforts to respond to crises and foster development around the world have resulted in repeated failures.

In place of the dominant approach to state-led humanitarian action, this book offers a bold alternative, focused on establishing an environment of economic freedom. If we are willing to experiment with aid—asking questions about how to foster development as a process of societal discovery, or how else we might engage the private sector, for instance—we increase the range of alternatives to help people and empower them to improve their communities. Anyone concerned with and dedicated to alleviating human suffering in the short term or for the long haul, from policymakers and activists to scholars, will find this book to be an insightful and provocative reframing of humanitarian action.
Visit Christopher Coyne's website.

The Page 99 Test: Christopher Coyne's After War.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"The Republic of Rock"

New from Oxford University Press: The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture by Michael J. Kramer.

About the book, from the publisher:
In his 1967 megahit "San Francisco," Scott McKenzie sang of "people in motion" coming from all across the country to San Francisco, the white-hot center of rock music and anti-war protests. At the same time, another large group of young Americans was also in motion, less eagerly, heading for the jungles of Vietnam.

Now, in The Republic of Rock, Michael Kramer draws on new archival sources and interviews to explore sixties music and politics through the lens of these two generation-changing places--San Francisco and Vietnam. From the Acid Tests of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters to hippie disc jockeys on strike, the military's use of rock music to "boost morale" in Vietnam, and the forgotten tale of a South Vietnamese rock band, The Republic of Rock shows how the musical connections between the City of the Summer of Love and war-torn Southeast Asia were crucial to the making of the sixties counterculture. The book also illustrates how and why the legacy of rock music in the sixties continues to matter to the meaning of citizenship in a global society today. Going beyond clichéd narratives about sixties music, Kramer argues that rock became a way for participants in the counterculture to think about what it meant to be an American citizen, a world citizen, a citizen-consumer, or a citizen-soldier. The music became a resource for grappling with the nature of democracy in larger systems of American power both domestically and globally.

For anyone interested in the 1960s, popular music, and American culture and counterculture, The Republic of Rock offers new insight into the many ways rock music has shaped our ideas of individual freedom and collective belonging.
Visit Michael J. Kramer's website.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks"

New from Cornell University Press: Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory by Penny Lewis.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the popular imagination, opposition to the Vietnam War was driven largely by college students and elite intellectuals, while supposedly reactionary blue-collar workers largely supported the war effort. In Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks, Penny Lewis challenges this collective memory of class polarization. Through close readings of archival documents, popular culture, and media accounts at the time, she offers a more accurate "counter-memory" of a diverse, cross-class opposition to the war in Southeast Asia that included the labor movement, working-class students, soldiers and veterans, and Black Power, civil rights, and Chicano activists.

Lewis investigates why the image of antiwar class division gained such traction at the time and has maintained such a hold on popular memory since. Identifying the primarily middle-class culture of the early antiwar movement, she traces how the class interests of its first organizers were reflected in its subsequent forms. The founding narratives of class-based political behavior, Lewis shows, were amplified in the late 1960s and early 1970s because the working class, in particular, lacked a voice in the public sphere, a problem that only increased in the subsequent period, even as working-class opposition to the war grew. By exposing as false the popular image of conservative workers and liberal elites separated by an unbridgeable gulf, Lewis suggests that shared political attitudes and actions are, in fact, possible between these two groups.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Making the World Safe"

New from Oxford University Press: Making the World Safe: The American Red Cross and a Nation's Humanitarian Awakening by Julia F. Irwin.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Making the World Safe, historian Julia Irwin offers an insightful account of the American Red Cross, from its founding in 1881 by Clara Barton to its rise as the government's official voluntary aid agency. Equally important, Irwin shows that the story of the Red Cross is simultaneously a story of how Americans first began to see foreign aid as a key element in their relations with the world.

As the American Century dawned, more and more Americans saw the need to engage in world affairs and to make the world a safer place--not by military action but through humanitarian aid. It was a time perfectly suited for the rise of the ARC. Irwin shows how the early and vigorous support of William H. Taft--who was honorary president of the ARC even as he served as President of the United States--gave the Red Cross invaluable connections with the federal government, eventually making it the official agency to administer aid both at home and abroad. Irwin describes how, during World War I, the ARC grew at an explosive rate and extended its relief work for European civilians into a humanitarian undertaking of massive proportions, an effort that was also a major propaganda coup. Irwin also shows how in the interwar years, the ARC's mission meshed well with presidential diplomatic styles, and how, with the coming of World War II, the ARC once again grew exponentially, becoming a powerful part of government efforts to bring aid to war-torn parts of the world.

The belief in the value of foreign aid remains a central pillar of U.S. foreign relations. Making the World Safe reveals how this belief took hold in America and the role of the American Red Cross in promoting it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Confucianism as a World Religion"

New from Princeton University Press: Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities by Anna Sun.

About the book, from the publisher:
Is Confucianism a religion? If so, why do most Chinese think it isn't? From ancient Confucian temples, to nineteenth-century archives, to the testimony of people interviewed by the author throughout China over a period of more than a decade, this book traces the birth and growth of the idea of Confucianism as a world religion.

The book begins at Oxford, in the late nineteenth century, when Friedrich Max Müller and James Legge classified Confucianism as a world religion in the new discourse of "world religions" and the emerging discipline of comparative religion. Anna Sun shows how that decisive moment continues to influence the understanding of Confucianism in the contemporary world, not only in the West but also in China, where the politics of Confucianism has become important to the present regime in a time of transition. Contested histories of Confucianism are vital signs of social and political change.

Sun also examines the revival of Confucianism in China today and the social significance of the ritual practice of Confucian temples. While the Chinese government turns to Confucianism to justify its political agenda, Confucian activists have started a movement to turn Confucianism into a religion. Confucianism as a world religion might have begun as a scholarly construction, but are we witnessing its transformation into a social and political reality?

With historical analysis, extensive research, and thoughtful reflection, Confucianism as a World Religion will engage all those interested in religion and global politics at the beginning of the Chinese century.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"From Stone to Flesh"

New from University of Chicago Press: From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha by Donald S. Lopez Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
We have come to admire Buddhism for being profound but accessible, as much a lifestyle as a religion. The credit for creating Buddhism goes to the Buddha, a figure widely respected across the Western world for his philosophical insight, his teachings of nonviolence, and his practice of meditation. But who was this Buddha, and how did he become the Buddha we know and love today?

Leading historian of Buddhism Donald S. Lopez Jr. tells the story of how various idols carved in stone—variously named Beddou, Codam, Xaca, and Fo—became the man of flesh and blood that we know simply as the Buddha. He reveals that the positive view of the Buddha in Europe and America is rather recent, originating a little more than a hundred and fifty years ago. For centuries, the Buddha was condemned by Western writers as the most dangerous idol of the Orient. He was a demon, the murderer of his mother, a purveyor of idolatry.

Lopez provides an engaging history of depictions of the Buddha from classical accounts and medieval stories to the testimonies of European travelers, diplomats, soldiers, and missionaries. He shows that centuries of hostility toward the Buddha changed dramatically in the nineteenth century, when the teachings of the Buddha, having disappeared from India by the fourteenth century, were read by European scholars newly proficient in Asian languages. At the same time, the traditional view of the Buddha persisted in Asia, where he was revered as much for his supernatural powers as for his philosophical insights. From Stone to Flesh follows the twists and turns of these Eastern and Western notions of the Buddha, leading finally to his triumph as the founder of a world religion.
See Donald S. Lopez's five best books about Buddhism.

The Page 99 Test: Donald S. Lopez, Jr's Buddhism and Science.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Being American in Europe, 1750–1860"

New from the Johns Hopkins University Press: Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 by Daniel Kilbride.

About the book, from the publisher:
While visiting Europe In 1844, Harry McCall of Philadelphia wrote to his cousin back home of his disappointment. He didn't mind Paris, but he preferred the company of Americans to Parisians. Furthermore, he vowed to be "an American, heart and soul" wherever he traveled, but "particularly in England." Why was he in Europe if he found it so distasteful? After all, travel in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was expensive, time consuming, and frequently uncomfortable.

Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 tracks the adventures of American travelers while exploring large questions about how these experiences affected national identity. Daniel Kilbride searched the diaries, letters, published accounts, and guidebooks written between the late colonial period and the Civil War. His sources are written by people who, while prominent in their own time, are largely obscure today, making this account fresh and unusual.

Exposure to the Old World generated varied and contradictory concepts of American nationality. Travelers often had diverse perspectives because of their region of origin, race, gender, and class. Americans in Europe struggled with the tension between defining the United States as a distinct civilization and situating it within a wider world. Kilbride describes how these travelers defined themselves while they observed the politics, economy, morals, manners, and customs of Europeans. He locates an increasingly articulate and refined sense of simplicity and virtue among these visitors and a gradual disappearance of their feelings of awe and inferiority.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"After Cloven Tongues of Fire"

New from Princeton University Press: After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History by David A. Hollinger.

About the book, from the publisher:
The role of liberalized, ecumenical Protestantism in American history has too often been obscured by the more flamboyant and orthodox versions of the faith that oppose evolution, embrace narrow conceptions of family values, and continue to insist that the United States should be understood as a Christian nation. In this book, one of our preeminent scholars of American intellectual history examines how liberal Protestant thinkers struggled to embrace modernity, even at the cost of yielding much of the symbolic capital of Christianity to more conservative, evangelical communities of faith.

If religion is not simply a private concern, but a potential basis for public policy and a national culture, does this mean that religious ideas can be subject to the same kind of robust public debate normally given to ideas about race, gender, and the economy? Or is there something special about religious ideas that invites a suspension of critical discussion? These essays, collected here for the first time, demonstrate that the critical discussion of religious ideas has been central to the process by which Protestantism has been liberalized throughout the history of the United States, and shed light on the complex relationship between religion and politics in contemporary American life.

After Cloven Tongues of Fire brings together in one volume David Hollinger's most influential writings on ecumenical Protestantism. The book features an informative preface as well as concise introductions to each essay.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Edmund Burke in America"

New from Cornell University Press: Edmund Burke in America: The Contested Career of the Father of Modern Conservatism by Drew Maciag.

About the book, from the publisher:
The statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729–1797) is a touchstone for modern conservatism in the United States, and his name and his writings have been invoked by figures ranging from the arch Federalist George Cabot to the twentieth-century political philosopher Leo Strauss. But Burke's legacy has neither been consistently associated with conservative thought nor has the richness and subtlety of his political vision been fully appreciated by either his American admirers or detractors. In Edmund Burke in America, Drew Maciag traces Burke’s reception and reputation in the United States, from the contest of ideas between Burke and Thomas Paine in the Revolutionary period, to the Progressive Era (when Republicans and Democrats alike invoked Burke’s wisdom), to his apotheosis within the modern conservative movement.

Throughout, Maciag is sensitive to the relationship between American opinions about Burke and the changing circumstances of American life. The dynamic tension between conservative and liberal attitudes in American society surfaced in debates over the French Revolution, Jacksonian democracy, Gilded Age values, Progressive reform, Cold War anticommunism, and post-1960s liberalism. The post–World War II rediscovery of Burke by New Conservatives and their adoption of him as the "father of conservatism" provided an intellectual foundation for the conservative ascendancy of the late twentieth century. Highlighting the Burkean influence on such influential writers as George Bancroft, E. L. Godkin, and Russell Kirk, Maciag also explores the underappreciated impact of Burke’s thought on four U.S. presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. Through close and keen readings of political speeches, public lectures, and works of history and political theory and commentary, Maciag offers a sweeping account of the American political scene over two centuries.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Payback: The Case for Revenge"

New from the University Of Chicago Press: Payback: The Case for Revenge by Thane Rosenbaum.

About the book, from the publisher:
We call it justice—the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the incarceration of corrupt politicians or financiers like Rod Blagojevich and Bernard Madoff, and the climactic slaying of cinema-screen villains by superheroes. But could we not also call it revenge? We are told that revenge is uncivilized and immoral, an impulse that individuals and societies should actively repress and replace with the order and codes of courtroom justice. What, if anything, distinguishes punishment at the hands of the government from a victim’s individual desire for retribution? Are vengeance and justice really so very different? No, answers legal scholar and novelist Thane Rosenbaum in Payback: The Case for Revenge—revenge is, in fact, indistinguishable from justice.

Revenge, Rosenbaum argues, is not the problem. It is, in fact, a perfectly healthy emotion. Instead, the problem is the inadequacy of lawful outlets through which to express it. He mounts a case for legal systems to punish the guilty commensurate with their crimes as part of a societal moral duty to satisfy the needs of victims to feel avenged. Indeed, the legal system would better serve the public if it gave victims the sense that vengeance was being done on their behalf. Drawing on a wide range of support, from recent studies in behavioral psychology and neuroeconomics, to stories of vengeance and justice denied, to revenge practices from around the world, to the way in which revenge tales have permeated popular culture—including Hamlet, The Godfather, and Braveheart—Rosenbaum demonstrates that vengeance needs to be more openly and honestly discussed and lawfully practiced.

Fiercely argued and highly engaging, Payback is a provocative and eye-opening cultural tour of revenge and its rewards—from Shakespeare to The Sopranos. It liberates revenge from its social stigma and proves that vengeance is indeed ours, a perfectly human and acceptable response to moral injury. Rosenbaum deftly persuades us to reconsider a misunderstood subject and, along the way, reinvigorates the debate on the shape of justice in the modern world.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace"

New from NYU Press: Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women's Activism, 1890-1940 by Melissa R. Klapper.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace explores the social and political activism of American Jewish women from approximately 1890 to the beginnings of World War II.

Written in an engaging style, the book demonstrates that no history of the birth control, suffrage, or peace movements in the United States is complete without analyzing the impact of Jewish women's presence. The volume is based on years of extensive primary source research in more than a dozen archives and among hundreds of primary sources, many of which have previously never been seen. Voluminous personal papers and institutional records paint a vivid picture of a world in which both middle-class and working-class American Jewish women were consistently and publicly engaged in all the major issues of their day and worked closely with their non-Jewish counterparts on behalf of activist causes.

This extraordinarily well researched volume makes a unique contribution to the study of modern women's history, modern Jewish history, and the history of American social movements.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Simpler: The Future of Government"

New from Simon & Schuster: Simpler: The Future of Government by Cass R. Sunstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
Simpler government arrived four years ago. It helped put money in your pocket. It saved hours of your time. It improved your children’s diet, lengthened your life span, and benefited businesses large and small. It did so by issuing fewer regulations, by insisting on smarter regulations, and by eliminating or improving old regulations. Cass R. Sunstein, as administrator of the most powerful White House office you’ve never heard of, oversaw it and explains how it works, why government will never be the same again (thank goodness), and what must happen in the future.

Cutting-edge research in behavioral economics has influenced business and politics. Long at the forefront of that research, Sunstein, for three years President Obama’s “regulatory czar” heading the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, oversaw a far-reaching restructuring of America’s regulatory state. In this highly anticipated book, Sunstein pulls back the curtain to show what was done, why Americans are better off as a result, and what the future has in store.

The evidence is all around you, and more is coming soon. Simplified mortgages and student loan applications. Scorecards for colleges and universities. Improved labeling of food and energy-efficient appliances and cars. Calories printed on chain restaurant menus. Healthier food in public schools. Backed by historic executive orders ensuring transparency and accountability, simpler government can be found in new initiatives that save money and time, improve health, and lengthen lives. Simpler: The Future of Government will transform what you think government can and should accomplish.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter"

New from Princeton University Press: The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes by Steven Nadler.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the Louvre museum hangs a portrait of a middle-aged man with long dark hair, a mustache, and heavy-lidded eyes, and he is dressed in the starched white collar and black coat of the typical Dutch burgher. The painting is now the iconic image of René Descartes, the great seventeenth-century French philosopher. And the painter of the work? The Dutch master Frans Hals--or so it was long believed, until the work was downgraded to a copy of an original. But where, then, is the authentic version located, and who painted it? Is the man in the painting--and in its original--really Descartes?

A unique combination of philosophy, biography, and art history, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter investigates the remarkable individuals and circumstances behind a small portrait. Through this image--and the intersecting lives of a brilliant philosopher, a Catholic priest, and a gifted painter--Steven Nadler opens up a fascinating portal into Descartes's life and times, skillfully presenting an accessible introduction to Descartes's philosophical and scientific ideas, and an illuminating tour of the volatile political and religious environment of the Dutch Golden Age. As Nadler shows, Descartes's innovative ideas about the world, about human nature and knowledge, and about philosophy itself, stirred great controversy. Philosophical and theological critics vigorously opposed his views, and civil and ecclesiastic authorities condemned his writings. Nevertheless, Descartes's thought came to dominate the philosophical world of the period, and can rightly be called the philosophy of the seventeenth century.

Shedding light on a well-known image, The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter offers an engaging exploration of a celebrated philosopher's world and work
The Page 99 Test: The Best of All Possible Worlds.

The Page 99 Test: A Book Forged in Hell.

Friday, April 5, 2013


New from Harvard University Press: Napalm: An American Biography by Robert M. Neer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Napalm, incendiary gel that sticks to skin and burns to the bone, came into the world on Valentine’s Day 1942 at a secret Harvard war research laboratory. On March 9, 1945, it created an inferno that killed over 87,500 people in Tokyo—more than died in the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It went on to incinerate sixty-four of Japan’s largest cities. The Bomb got the press, but napalm did the work.

After World War II, the incendiary held the line against communism in Greece and Korea—Napalm Day led the 1950 counter-attack from Inchon—and fought elsewhere under many flags. Americans generally applauded, until the Vietnam War. Today, napalm lives on as a pariah: a symbol of American cruelty and the misguided use of power, according to anti-war protesters in the 1960s and popular culture from Apocalypse Now to the punk band Napalm Death and British street artist Banksy. Its use by Serbia in 1994 and by the United States in Iraq in 2003 drew condemnation. United Nations delegates judged deployment against concentrations of civilians a war crime in 1980. After thirty-one years, America joined the global consensus, in 2011.
Visit Robert Neer’s website for Napalm: An American Biography.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"The Creation of Anne Boleyn"

New from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen by Susan Bordo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such extreme reactions? What did she really look like? Was she the flaxen-haired martyr of Romantic paintings or the raven-haired seductress of twenty-first-century portrayals? (Answer: neither.) And perhaps the most provocative questions concern Anne’s death more than her life. How could Henry order the execution of a once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and critical analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships.

Bordo also shows how generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers imagined and re-imagined Anne: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto “mean girl,” feminist icon, and everything in between. In this lively book, Bordo steps off the well-trodden paths of Tudoriana to expertly tease out the human being behind the competing mythologies.
Visit the official The Creation of Anne Boleyn website.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea"

New from Oxford University Press: Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth.

About the book, from the publisher:
Governments today in both Europe and the United States have succeeded in casting government spending as reckless wastefulness that has made the economy worse. In contrast, they have advanced a policy of draconian budget cuts--austerity--to solve the financial crisis. We are told that we have all lived beyond our means and now need to tighten our belts. This view conveniently forgets where all that debt came from. Not from an orgy of government spending, but as the direct result of bailing out, recapitalizing, and adding liquidity to the broken banking system. Through these actions private debt was rechristened as government debt while those responsible for generating it walked away scot free, placing the blame on the state, and the burden on the taxpayer.

That burden now takes the form of a global turn to austerity, the policy of reducing domestic wages and prices to restore competitiveness and balance the budget. The problem, according to political economist Mark Blyth, is that austerity is a very dangerous idea. First of all, it doesn't work. As the past four years and countless historical examples from the last 100 years show, while it makes sense for any one state to try and cut its way to growth, it simply cannot work when all states try it simultaneously: all we do is shrink the economy. In the worst case, austerity policies worsened the Great Depression and created the conditions for seizures of power by the forces responsible for the Second World War: the Nazis and the Japanese military establishment. As Blyth amply demonstrates, the arguments for austerity are tenuous and the evidence thin. Rather than expanding growth and opportunity, the repeated revival of this dead economic idea has almost always led to low growth along with increases in wealth and income inequality. Austerity demolishes the conventional wisdom, marshaling an army of facts to demand that we recognize austerity for what it is, and what it costs us.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan"

New from Cornell University Press: 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan by Richard J. Samuels.

About the book, from the publisher:
On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by the shockwaves of a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake originating less than 50 miles off its eastern coastline. The most powerful earthquake to have hit Japan in recorded history, it produced a devastating tsunami with waves reaching heights of over 130 feet that in turn caused an unprecedented multireactor meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This triple catastrophe claimed almost 20,000 lives, destroyed whole towns, and will ultimately cost hundreds of billions of dollars for reconstruction.

In 3.11, Richard Samuels offers the first broad scholarly assessment of the disaster's impact on Japan’s government and society. The events of March 2011 occurred after two decades of social and economic malaise—as well as considerable political and administrative dysfunction at both the national and local levels—and resulted in national soul-searching. Political reformers saw in the tragedy cause for hope: an opportunity for Japan to remake itself. Samuels explores Japan’s post-earthquake actions in three key sectors: national security, energy policy, and local governance. For some reformers, 3.11 was a warning for Japan to overhaul its priorities and political processes. For others, it was a once-in-a-millennium event; they cautioned that while national policy could be improved, dramatic changes would be counterproductive. Still others declared that the catastrophe demonstrated the need to return to an idealized past and rebuild what has been lost to modernity and globalization.

Samuels chronicles the battles among these perspectives and analyzes various attempts to mobilize popular support by political entrepreneurs who repeatedly invoked three powerfully affective themes: leadership, community, and vulnerability. Assessing reformers’ successes and failures as they used the catastrophe to push their particular agendas—and by examining the earthquake and its aftermath alongside prior disasters in Japan, China, and the United States—Samuels outlines Japan’s rhetoric of crisis and shows how it has come to define post-3.11 politics and public policy.
Learn more about 3.11 at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan.

Monday, April 1, 2013

"Pen and Ink Witchcraft"

New from Oxford University Press: Pen and Ink Witchcraft: Treaties and Treaty Making in American Indian History by Colin G. Calloway.

About the book, from the publisher:
Indian peoples made some four hundred treaties with the United States between the American Revolution and 1871, when Congress prohibited them. They signed nine treaties with the Confederacy, as well as countless others over the centuries with Spain, France, Britain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Canada, and even Russia, not to mention individual colonies and states. In retrospect, the treaties seem like well-ordered steps on the path of dispossession and empire. The reality was far more complicated.

In Pen and Ink Witchcraft, eminent Native American historian Colin G. Calloway narrates the history of diplomacy between North American Indians and their imperial adversaries, particularly the United States. Treaties were cultural encounters and human dramas, each with its cast of characters and conflicting agendas. Many treaties, he notes, involved not land, but trade, friendship, and the resolution of disputes. Far from all being one-sided, they were negotiated on the Indians' cultural and geographical terrain. When the Mohawks welcomed Dutch traders in the early 1600s, they sealed a treaty of friendship with a wampum belt with parallel rows of purple beads, representing the parties traveling side-by-side, as equals, on the same river. But the American republic increasingly turned treaty-making into a tool of encroachment on Indian territory. Calloway traces this process by focusing on the treaties of Fort Stanwix (1768), New Echota (1835), and Medicine Lodge (1867), in addition to such events as the Peace of Montreal in 1701 and the treaties of Fort Laramie (1851 and 1868). His analysis demonstrates that native leaders were hardly dupes. The records of negotiations, he writes, show that "Indians frequently matched their colonizing counterparts in diplomatic savvy and tried, literally, to hold their ground."

Each treaty has its own story, Calloway writes, but together they tell a rich and complicated tale of moments in American history when civilizations collided.
Also see: Colin G. Calloway's five top books on Native Americans and colonizers.