Monday, December 31, 2007

"The Hunt for Nazi Spies"

Recently from the University of Chicago Press: The Hunt for Nazi Spies: Fighting Espionage in Vichy France by Simon Kitson.

About the book, from the publisher:
From 1940 to 1942, French secret agents arrested more than two thousand spies working for the Germans and executed several dozen of them—all despite the Vichy government’s declared collaboration with the Third Reich. A previously untold chapter in the history of World War II, this duplicitous activity is the gripping subject of The Hunt for Nazi Spies, a tautly narrated chronicle of the Vichy regime’s attempts to maintain sovereignty while supporting its Nazi occupiers.

Simon Kitson informs this remarkable story with findings from his investigation—the first by any historian—of thousands of Vichy documents seized in turn by the Nazis and the Soviets and returned to France only in the 1990s. His pioneering detective work uncovers a puzzling paradox: a French government that was hunting down left-wing activists and supporters of Charles de Gaulle’s Free French forces was also working to undermine the influence of German spies who were pursuing the same Gaullists and resisters. In light of this apparent contradiction, Kitson does not deny that Vichy France was committed to assisting the Nazi cause, but illuminates the complex agendas that characterized the collaboration and shows how it was possible to be both anti-German and anti-Gaullist.

Combining nuanced conclusions with dramatic accounts of the lives of spies on both sides, The Hunt for Nazi Spies adds an important new dimension to our understanding of the French predicament under German occupation and the shadowy world of World War II espionage.
Read an excerpt from The Hunt for Nazi Spies.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Beyond Citizenship"

New from Oxford University Press: Beyond Citizenship: American Identity After Globalization by Peter J. Spiro.

About the book, from the publisher:
American identity has always been capacious as a concept but narrow in its application. Citizenship has mostly been about being here, either through birth or residence. The territorial premises for citizenship have worked to resolve the peculiar challenges of American identity. But globalization is detaching identity from location. What used to define American was rooted in American space. Now one can be anywhere and be an American, politically or culturally. Against that backdrop, it becomes difficult to draw the boundaries of human community in a meaningful way. Longstanding notions of democratic citizenship are becoming obsolete, even as we cling to them. Beyond Citizenship charts the trajectory of American citizenship and shows how American identity is unsustainable in the face of globalization.

Peter J. Spiro describes how citizenship law once reflected and shaped the American national character. Spiro explores the histories of birthright citizenship, naturalization, dual citizenship, and how those legal regimes helped reinforce an otherwise fragile national identity. But on a shifting global landscape, citizenship status has become increasingly divorced from any sense of actual community on the ground. As the bonds of citizenship dissipate, membership in the nation-state becomes less meaningful. The rights and obligations distinctive to citizenship are now trivial. Naturalization requirements have been relaxed, dual citizenship embraced, and territorial birthright citizenship entrenched -- developments that are all irreversible. Loyalties, meanwhile, are moving to transnational communities defined in many different ways: by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation. These communities, Spiro boldly argues, are replacing bonds that once connected people to the nation-state, with profound implications for the future of governance.

Learned, incisive, and sweeping in scope, Beyond Citizenship offers a provocative look at how globalization is changing the very definition of who we are and where we belong.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Doomsday Men"

New from St. Martin's Press: Doomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon by P.D. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:

This is the gripping, untold story of the doomsday bomb—the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. In 1950, Hungarian-born scientist Leo Szilard made a dramatic announcement on American radio: science was on the verge of creating a doomsday bomb. For the first time in history, mankind realized that he had within his grasp a truly God-like power, the ability to destroy life itself. The shockwave from this statement reverberated across the following decade and beyond.

If detonated, Szilard's doomsday device—a huge cobalt-clad H-bomb—would pollute the atmosphere with radioactivity and end all life on earth. The scientific creators of such apocalyptic weapons had transformed the laws of nature into instruments of mass destruction and for many people in the Cold War there was little to distinguish real scientists from that “fictional master of megadeath,” Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. Indeed, as PD Smith’s chilling account shows, the dream of the superweapon begins in popular culture. This is a story that cannot be told without the iconic films and fictions that portray our deadly fascination with superweapons, from H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds to Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Although scientists admitted it was possible to build the cobalt bomb, no superpower would admit to having created one. However, it remained a terrifying possibility, striking fear into the hearts of people around the world. The story of the cobalt bomb is an unwritten chapter of the Cold War, but now PD Smith reveals the personalities behind this feared technology and shows how the scientists responsible for the twentieth century’s most terrible weapons grew up in a culture dreaming of superweapons and Wellsian utopias. He argues that, in the end, the doomsday machine became the ultimate symbol of humanity’s deepest fears about the science of destruction.

Visit P.D. Smith's website.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"American Sovereigns"

New from Cambridge University Press: American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War by Christian G. Fritz.

About the book, from the publisher:
American Sovereigns is a path-breaking interpretation of America's political history and constitutionalism that explores how Americans struggled over the idea that the people would rule as the sovereign after the American Revolution. National and state debates about government action, law, and the people's political powers reveal how Americans sought to understand how a collective sovereign-the people-could both play the role as the ruler and yet be ruled by governments of their own choosing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Franco and Hitler"

New from Yale University Press: Franco and Hitler: Spain, Germany, and World War II by Stanley G. Payne.

About the book, from the publisher:

Was Franco sympathetic to Nazi Germany? Why didn't Spain enter World War II? In what ways did Spain collaborate with the Third Reich? How much did Spain assist Jewish refugees?

This is the first book in any language to answer these intriguing questions. Stanley Payne, a leading historian of modern Spain, explores the full range of Franco’s relationship with Hitler, from 1936 to the fall of the Reich in 1945. But as Payne brilliantly shows, relations between these two dictators were not only a matter of realpolitik. These two titanic egos engaged in an extraordinary tragicomic drama often verging on the dark absurdity of a Beckett or Ionesco play.

Whereas Payne investigates the evolving relationship of the two regimes up to the conclusion of World War II, his principal concern is the enigma of Spain’s unique position during the war, as a semi-fascist country struggling to maintain a tortured neutrality. Why Spain did not enter the war as a German ally, joining with Hitler to seize Gibraltar and close the Mediterranean to the British navy, is at the center of Payne’s narrative. Franco’s only personal meeting with Hitler, in 1940 to discuss precisely this, is recounted here in groundbreaking detail that also sheds significant new light on the Spanish government’s vacillating policy toward Jewish refugees, on the Holocaust, and on Spain’s German connection throughout the duration of the war.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Experiments in Ethics"

Coming in January from Harvard University Press: Experiments in Ethics by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

About the book, from the publisher:

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Wounds of Memory"

New from Cambridge University Press: Wounds of Memory: The Politics of War in Germany by Maja Zehfuss.

About the book, from the publisher:
German memories of the Second World War are controversial, and they are used to justify different positions on the use of military force. In this book, Maja Zehfuss studies the articulation of memories in novels in order to discuss and challenge arguments deployed in political and public debate. She explores memories that have generated considerable controversy, such as the flight and expulsion of Germans from the East, the bombing of German cities and the ‘liberation’ of Germany in 1945. She shows how memory retrospectively produces a past while claiming merely to invoke it, drawing attention to the complexities and contradictions within how truth, ethics, emotion, subjectivity and time are conceptualised. Zehfuss argues that the tensions and uncertainties revealed raise political questions that must be confronted, beyond the safety net of knowledge. This is a compelling book which pursues an original approach in exploring the politics of invocations of memory.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife"

New from the University of Chicago Press: On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife by David Grazian.

About the book, from the publisher:
It’s nighttime in the city and everybody’s working a hustle. Winking bartenders and smiling waitresses flirt their way to bigger tips. Hostesses and bouncers hit up the crowd of would-be customers for bribes. And on the other side of the velvet rope, single men and women are on a perpetual hunt to score — or at least pick up a phone number. Every night of the week they all play the same game, relentlessly competing for money, sex, self-esteem, and status.

David Grazian’s riveting tour of downtown Philadelphia and its newly bustling nightlife scene reveals the city as an urban playground where everyone dabbles in games of chance and perpetrates elaborate cons. Entertainment in the city has evolved into a professional industry replete with set designers, stage directors, and method actors whose dazzling illusions tempt even the shrewdest of customers. Public relations consultants, event planners, and a new breed of urban hustler—the so-called “reality marketer” who gets paid to party — all walk a fine line between spinning hype and outright duplicity. For the young and affluent, nightlife is a sport — a combative game of deception and risk complete with pregame drinking rituals and trendy uniforms. They navigate the dangers and delights of the city with a combination of wide-eyed optimism and streetwise savvy, drawing from their own bag of tricks that include everything from the right makeup and costume to fake IDs, counterfeit phone numbers, and wingmen.

As entertaining and illuminating as the confessional stories it recounts, David Grazian’s On the Make is a fascinating exposé of the smoke and mirrors employed in the city at night.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"The Origins of Reasonable Doubt"

New from Yale University Press: The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial by James Q. Whitman.

About the book, from the publisher:
To be convicted of a crime in the United States, a person must be proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But what is reasonable doubt? Even sophisticated legal experts find this fundamental doctrine difficult to explain. In this accessible book, James Q. Whitman digs deep into the history of the law and discovers that we have lost sight of the original purpose of “reasonable doubt.” It was not originally a legal rule at all, he shows, but a theological one.

The rule as we understand it today is intended to protect the accused. But Whitman traces its history back through centuries of Christian theology and common-law history to reveal that the original concern was to protect the souls of jurors. In Christian tradition, a person who experienced doubt yet convicted an innocent defendant was guilty of a mortal sin. Jurors fearful for their own souls were reassured that they were safe, as long as their doubts were not “reasonable.” Today, the old rule of reasonable doubt survives, but it has been turned to different purposes. The result is confusion for jurors, and a serious moral challenge for our system of justice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment by Carrie N. Baker.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment examines how a diverse grassroots social movement created public policy on sexual harassment in the 1970s and 1980s. The collaboration of women from varying racial, economic, and geographic backgrounds strengthened the movement by representing the perspectives and activism of a broad range of women. Based on interviews and voluminous original research, this book is the first to show how the movement against sexual harassment fundamentally changed American life in ways that continue to advance women's opportunities today.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Torture and the Twilight of Empire"

New from Princeton University Press: Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad by Marnia Lazreg.

About the book, from the publisher:

Torture and the Twilight of Empire looks at the intimate relationship between torture and colonial domination through a close examination of the French army's coercive tactics during the Algerian war from 1954 to 1962. By tracing the psychological, cultural, and political meanings of torture at the end of the French empire, Marnia Lazreg also sheds new light on the United States and its recourse to torture in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This book is nothing less than an anatomy of torture -- its methods, justifications, functions, and consequences. Drawing extensively from archives, confessions by former torturers, interviews with former soldiers, and war diaries, as well as writings by Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and others, Lazreg argues that occupying nations justify their systematic use of torture as a regrettable but necessary means of saving Western civilization from those who challenge their rule. She shows how torture was central to guerre révolutionnaire, a French theory of modern warfare that called for total war against the subject population and which informed a pacification strategy founded on brutal psychological techniques borrowed from totalitarian movements. Lazreg seeks to understand torture's impact on the Algerian population -- especially women -- and also on the French troops who became their torturers. She explores the roles Christianity and Islam played in rationalizing these acts, and the ways in which torture became not only routine but even acceptable.

Written by a preeminent historical sociologist, Torture and the Twilight of Empire holds particularly disturbing lessons for us today as we carry out the War on Terror.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"On Deep History and the Brain"

New from the University of California Press: On Deep History and the Brain by Daniel Lord Smail.

About the book, from the publisher:
When does history begin? What characterizes it? This brilliant and beautifully written book dissolves the logic of a beginning based on writing, civilization, or historical consciousness and offers a model for a history that escapes the continuing grip of the Judeo-Christian time frame. Daniel Lord Smail argues that, in the wake of the decade of the brain and the bestselling historical work of scientists like Jared Diamond, the time has come for fundamentally new ways of thinking about our past. He shows how recent work in evolution and paleohistory makes it possible to join the deep past with the recent past and abandon, once and for all, the idea of prehistory. Making an enormous literature accessible to the general reader, he lays out a bold new case for bringing neuroscience and neurobiology into the realm of history.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Law and Crime in the Roman World"

New from Cambridge University Press: Law and Crime in the Roman World by Jill Harries.

About the book, from the publisher:
What was crime in ancient Rome? Was it defined by law or social attitudes? How did damage to the individual differ from offences against the community as a whole? This book explores competing legal and extra-legal discourses in a number of areas, including theft, official malpractice, treason, sexual misconduct, crimes of violence, homicide, magic and perceptions of deviance. It argues that court practice was responsive to social change, despite the ingrained conservatism of the legal tradition, and that judges and litigants were in part responsible for the harsher operation of justice in Late Antiquity. Consideration is also given to how attitudes to crime were shaped not only by legal experts but also by the rhetorical education and practices of advocates, and by popular and even elite indifference to the finer points of law.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"American Transcendentalism: A History"

New from Hill & Wang: American Transcendentalism: A History by Philip F. Gura.

About the book, from the publisher:
The First Comprehensive History of Transcendentalism

American Transcendentalism is a comprehensive narrative history of America’s first group of public intellectuals, the men and women who defined American literature and indelibly marked American reform in the decades before and following the America Civil War. Philip F. Gura masterfully traces their intellectual genealogy to transatlantic religious and philosophical ideas, illustrating how these informed the fierce local theological debates that, so often first in Massachusetts and eventually throughout America, gave rise to practical, personal, and quixotic attempts to improve, even perfect the world. The transcendentalists would painfully bifurcate over what could be attained and how, one half epitomized by Ralph Waldo Emerson and stressing self-reliant individualism, the other by Orestes Brownson, George Ripley, and Theodore Parker, emphasizing commitment to the larger social good.

By the 1850s, the uniquely American problem of slavery dissolved differences as transcendentalists turned ever more exclusively to abolition. Along with their early inheritance from European Romanticism, America’s transcendentalists abandoned their interest in general humanitarian reform. By war’s end, transcendentalism had become identified exclusively with Emersonian self-reliance, congruent with the national ethos of political liberalism and market capitalism.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Remaking U.S. Trade Policy"

New from Cornell University Press: Remaking U.S. Trade Policy: From Protectionism to Globalization by Nitsan Chorev.

About the book, from the publisher:
The emergence of globalization was neither accidental nor inevitable. To make the “free flow” of commodities, capital, and money possible, governments first had to introduce a new political infrastructure. In Remaking U.S. Trade Policy, Nitsan Chorev focuses on trade liberalization in the United States from the 1930s to the present as she explores the political origins of today's global economy.

The ability of the U.S. government to impose its preferences on other governments is an important part of the story of globalization, but what is central to Chorev's analysis is understanding why the nation's leaders supported trade liberalization in the first place. For Chorev, the explanation lies in domestic political struggles. Advocates of free trade prevailed in the struggle with protectionists by working to change the institutions governing trade policy, replacing institutional arrangements that favored protectionism with new ones that favored a free-market approach.

The new institutional arrangements shifted authority from a protectionist Congress to liberal agencies at the executive branch and to the World Trade Organization. These transformations entailed a move from a politicized location, in which direct negotiations and debates dominate the process of decision-making, to bureaucratic and judicial arenas where a legal logic dominates and the citizens have little voice.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Messengers of Sex"

New from Cambridge University Press: Messengers of Sex: Hormones, Biomedicine and Feminism by Celia Roberts.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since the early twentieth century, hormones have commonly been understood as 'messengers of sex'. They are seen as essential to the development and functioning of healthy reproductive male and female bodies; millions take them as medications in the treatment of fertility, infertility and ageing. However, in contemporary society, hormones are both disturbed and disturbing; invading our environments and bodies through plastics, food and water, environmental estrogens and other chemicals, threatening irreversible, inter-generational bodily change. Using a wide range of sources, from physiology textbooks to popular parenting books and pharmaceutical advertisements, Celia Roberts analyses the multiple ways in which sex hormones have come to matter to us today. Bringing feminist theories of the body into dialogue with science and technology studies, she develops tools to address one of the most important questions facing feminism today: how is biological sex conceivable?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"The Shifting Grounds of Race"

New from Princeton University Press: The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles by Scott Kurashige.

About the book, from the publisher:

Los Angeles has attracted intense attention as a "world city" characterized by multiculturalism and globalization. Yet, little is known about the historical transformation of a place whose leaders proudly proclaimed themselves white supremacists less than a century ago. In The Shifting Grounds of Race, Scott Kurashige highlights the role African Americans and Japanese Americans played in the social and political struggles that remade twentieth-century Los Angeles.

Linking paradigmatic events like Japanese American internment and the Black civil rights movement, Kurashige transcends the usual "black/white" dichotomy to explore the multiethnic dimensions of segregation and integration. Racism and sprawl shaped the dominant image of Los Angeles as a "white city." But they simultaneously fostered a shared oppositional consciousness among Black and Japanese Americans living as neighbors within diverse urban communities.

Kurashige demonstrates why African Americans and Japanese Americans joined forces in the battle against discrimination and why the trajectories of the two groups diverged. Connecting local developments to national and international concerns, he reveals how critical shifts in postwar politics were shaped by a multiracial discourse that promoted the acceptance of Japanese Americans as a "model minority" while binding African Americans to the social ills underlying the 1965 Watts Rebellion. Multicultural Los Angeles ultimately encompassed both the new prosperity arising from transpacific commerce and the enduring problem of race and class divisions.

This extraordinarily ambitious book adds new depth and complexity to our understanding of the "urban crisis" and offers a window into America's multiethnic future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Practical Mystic"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington by Matthew Stanley.

About the book
, from the publisher:
Science and religion have long been thought incompatible. But nowhere has this apparent contradiction been more fully resolved than in the figure of A. S. Eddington (1882–1944), a pioneer in astrophysics, relativity, and the popularization of science, and a devout Quaker. Practical Mystic uses the figure of Eddington to shows how religious and scientific values can interact and overlap without compromising the integrity of either.

Eddington was a world-class scientist who not only maintained his religious belief throughout his scientific career but also defended the interrelation of science and religion while drawing inspiration from both for his practices. For instance, at a time when a strict adherence to deductive principles of physics had proved fruitless for understanding the nature of stars, insights from Quaker mysticism led Eddington to argue that an outlook less concerned with certainty and more concerned with further exploration was necessary to overcome the obstacles of incomplete and uncertain knowledge.

By examining this intersection between liberal religion and astrophysics, Practical Mystic questions many common assumptions about the relationship between science and spirituality. Matthew Stanley’s analysis of Eddington’s personal convictions also reveals much about the practice, production, and dissemination of scientific knowledge at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"The Work of Global Justice"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Work of Global Justice: Human Rights as Practices by Fuyuki Kurasawa.

About the book, from the publisher:
Human rights have been generally understood as juridical products, organizational outcomes or abstract principles that are realized through formal means such as passing laws, creating institutions or formulating ideals. In this book, Fuyuki Kurasawa argues that we must reverse this 'top-down' focus by examining how groups and persons struggling against global injustices construct and enact human rights through five transnational forms of ethico-political practice: bearing witness, forgiveness, foresight, aid and solidarity. From these, he develops a new perspective highlighting the difficult social labour that constitutes the substance of what global justice is and ought to be, thereby reframing the terms of debates about human rights and providing the outlines of a critical cosmopolitanism centred around emancipatory struggles for an alternative globalization.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"The Case for Greatness"

New from Yale University Press: The Case for Greatness: Honorable Ambition and Its Critics by Robert Faulkner.

About the book, from the publisher:

The Case for Greatness is a spirited look at political ambition, good and bad, with particular attention to honorable ambition. Robert Faulkner contends that too many modern accounts of leadership slight such things as determination to excel, good judgment, justice, and a sense of honor — the very qualities that distinguish the truly great. And here he offers an attempt to recover “a reasonable understanding of excellence,” that which distinguishes a Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Lincoln from lesser leaders.

Faulkner finds the most telling diagnoses in antiquity and examines closely Aristotle’s great-souled man, two accounts of the spectacular and dubious Athenian politician Alcibiades, and the life of the imperial conqueror Cyrus the Great. There results a complex and compelling picture of greatness and its problems. Faulkner dissects military and imperial ambition, the art of leadership, and, in the later example of George Washington, ambition in the service of popular self-government. He also addresses modern indictments of even the best forms of political greatness, whether in the critical thinking of Hobbes, the idealism of Kant, the relativism and brutalism of Nietzsche, or the egalitarianism of Rawls and Arendt. He shows how modern philosophy came to doubt and indeed disdain even the best forms of ambition. This book is a nuanced defense of admirable ambition and the honor-seeking life, as well as an irresistible invitation to apply these terms to our own times and leaders.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


New from Oxford University Press: Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law by Douglas Husak.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the US, one out of every 138 residents is incarcerated. The size of the prison population has quadrupled since 1980. Approximately 2.4% of Americans are either on probation and parole. The US has the highest rate of criminal punishment in the Western world. The problem with American criminal law, as the philosopher of law Douglas Husak and many others see it, is that there is simply too much of it. Recent years have seen a dramatic expansion in the amount of criminal statutes, and in the resulting reliance on punishment for convictions under those laws. Husak argues that this is regrettable for several reasons, but most importantly, he says that much of the resulting punishment is unjust, excessive, and disproportionate. He also claims that it is destructive to the rule of law and undermines the principle of legality. What should be done?

Husak's goal in this book is to formulate a normative theory of criminalization that will allow us to distinguish which criminal laws are justified, and which are not -- something he sees as essential in order to reverse the trend towards too many criminal laws. The first part of his book makes the case that there is both too much criminal law and too much punishment, and clarifies the relationship between the two using empirical data. He then provides examples of dubious criminal laws enacted by legislatures, in particular statutes on drugs possession and guns. The latter part of the book develops his theory, which establishes principles that should set limits (both external and internal to the criminal law) on what we can and should criminalize.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

"Church and State in America"

New from Cambridge University Press: Church and State in America: The First Two Centuries by James H. Hutson.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book describes American ideas about and policies toward the relationship between government and religion from the founding of Virginia in 1607 to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837. Four principles were paramount during this period: the importance of religion to the public welfare; the resulting obligation of government to support religion; liberty of conscience and voluntaryism; the requirement that churches be supported by free will gifts, not taxation. The relevance of the concept of the separation of church and state during this period is examined in detail.

Friday, December 7, 2007

"That Neutral Island"

New from Harvard University Press: That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War by Clair Wills.

About the book, from the publisher:

When the world descended into war in 1939, few European countries remained neutral; but of those that did, none provoked more controversy than Ireland.

Despite Winston Churchill's best efforts to the contrary, the Irish premier Eamon de Valera stuck determinedly to Ireland's right to remain outside a conflict in which it had no enemies. Accusations of betrayal and hypocrisy poisoned the media; legends of Nazi spies roaming the country depicted Ireland as a haven for Hitler's friends. Where previous histories of Ireland in the war years have focused on high politics, That Neutral Island mines deeper layers of experience. Sean O'Faolain, Kate O'Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O'Brien and Louis MacNeice are a handful of writers whose stories, letters, and diaries illuminate this small country as it suffered rationing, censorship, the threat of invasion, and a strange detachment from the war.

Clair Wills brings to life the atmosphere of a country forced largely to do without modern technology. She describes the work of those who recovered the bodies of British sailors and airmen from the sea. She unearths the motivations of thousands who left to join the British forces. And she shows how ordinary people struggled to make sense of the Nazi threat through the lens of antagonism to Britain, the former colonial power. She acutely targets the sleight-of-hand that hovers around the Irish definition of "neutrality."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Black and Blue"

New from Princeton University Press: Black and Blue: African Americans, the Labor Movement, and the Decline of the Democratic Party by Paul Frymer.

About the book, from the publisher:

In the 1930s, fewer than one in one hundred U.S. labor union members were African American. By 1980, the figure was more than one in five. Black and Blue explores the politics and history that led to this dramatic integration of organized labor. In the process, the book tells a broader story about how the Democratic Party unintentionally sowed the seeds of labor's decline.

The labor and civil rights movements are the cornerstones of the Democratic Party, but for much of the twentieth century these movements worked independently of one another. Paul Frymer argues that as Democrats passed separate legislation to promote labor rights and racial equality they split the issues of class and race into two sets of institutions, neither of which had enough authority to integrate the labor movement.

From this division, the courts became the leading enforcers of workplace civil rights, threatening unions with bankruptcy if they resisted integration. The courts' previously unappreciated power, however, was also a problem: in diversifying unions, judges and lawyers enfeebled them financially, thus democratizing through destruction. Sharply delineating the double-edged sword of state and legal power, Black and Blue chronicles an achievement that was as problematic as it was remarkable, and that demonstrates the deficiencies of race- and class-based understandings of labor, equality, and power in America.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"Turning on the Mind"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Turning on the Mind: French Philosophers on Television by Tamara Chaplin.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1951, the eight o’clock nightly news reported on Jean-Paul Sartre for the first time. By the end of the twentieth century, more than 3,500 programs dealing with philosophy and its practitioners — including Bachelard, Badiou, Foucault, Lyotard, and Lévy — had aired on French television. According to Tamara Chaplin, this enduring commitment to bringing the most abstract and least visual of disciplines to the French public challenges our very assumptions about the incompatibility of elite culture and mass media. Indeed, it belies the conviction that television is inevitably anti-intellectual and the quintessential archenemy of the book.

Chaplin argues that the history of the televising of philosophy is crucial to understanding the struggle over French national identity in the postwar period. Linking this history to decolonization, modernization, and globalization, Turning On the Mind claims that we can understand neither the markedly public role that philosophy came to play in French society during the late twentieth century nor the renewed interest in ethics and political philosophy in the early twenty-first unless we acknowledge the work of television. Throughout, Chaplin insists that we jettison presumptions about the anti-intellectual nature of the visual field, engages critical questions about the survival of national cultures in a globalizing world, and encourages us to rethink philosophy itself, ultimately asserting that the content of the discipline is indivisible from the new media forms in which it has found expression.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"The Voices of the Dead"

New from Yale University Press: The Voices of the Dead: Stalin's Great Terror in the 1930s by Hiroaki Kuromiya.

About the book, from the publisher:
Swept up in the maelstrom of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937–1938, nearly a million people died. Most were ordinary citizens who left no records and as a result have been completely forgotten. This book is the first to attempt to retrieve their stories and reconstruct their lives, drawing upon recently declassified archives of the former Soviet Secret Police in Kiev. Hiroaki Kuromiya uncovers in the archives the hushed voices of the condemned, and he chronicles the lives of dozens of individuals who shared the same dehumanizing fate: all were falsely arrested, executed, and dumped in mass graves.

Kuromiya investigates the truth behind the fabricated records, filling in at least some of the details of the lives and deaths of ballerinas, priests, beggars, teachers, peasants, workers, soldiers, pensioners, homemakers, fugitives, peddlers, ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Koreans, Jews, and others. In recounting the extraordinary stories gleaned from the secret files, Kuromiya not only commemorates the dead and forgotten but also proposes a new interpretation of Soviet society that provides useful insights into the enigma of Stalinist terror.

Monday, December 3, 2007

"The Re-enchantment of the World"

New from Oxford University Press: The Re-enchantment of the World: Art versus Religion by Gordon Graham.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Re-enchantment of the World is a philosophical exploration of the role of art and religion as sources of meaning in an increasingly material world dominated by science. Gordon Graham takes as his starting point Max Weber's idea that contemporary Western culture is marked by a 'disenchantment of the world' -- the loss of spiritual value in the wake of religion's decline and the triumph of the physical and biological sciences. Relating themes in Hegel, Nietzsche, Schleiermacher, Schopenhauer, and Gadamer to topics in contemporary philosophy of the arts, Graham explores the idea that art, now freed from its previous service to religion, has the potential to re-enchant the world. In so doing, he develops an argument that draws on the strengths of both 'analytical' and 'continental' traditions of philosophical reflection.

The opening chapter examines ways in which human lives can be made meaningful as a background to the debates surrounding secularization and secularism. Subsequent chapters are devoted to painting, literature, music, architecture, and festival with special attention given to Surrealism, 19th-century fiction, James Joyce, the music of J. S. Bach and the operas of Wagner. Graham concludes that that only religion properly so called can 'enchant the world', and that modern art's ambition to do so fails.