Saturday, May 31, 2008

"A Choice of Enemies"

New from PublicAffairs: A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East by Lawrence Freedman.

About the book, from the publisher:
It is in the Middle East that the U.S. has been made to confront its attitudes on the use of force, the role of allies, and international law. The history of the U.S. in the Middle East, then, becomes an especially revealing mirror on America's view of its role in the wider world.

In this wise, objective, and illuminating history, Lawrence Freedman shows how three key events in 1978–79 helped establish the foundations for U.S. involvement in the Middle East that would last for thirty years, without offering any straightforward or bloodless exit options: the Camp David summit leading to the Israel-Egypt Treaty; the Iranian Islamic revolution leading to the Shah's departure followed by the hostage crisis; and the socialist revolution in Afghanistan, resulting in the doomed Soviet intervention.

Freedman makes clear how America's strategic choices in those and subsequent crises led us to where we are today. A Choice of Enemies is essential reading for anyone concerned with the complex politics of the region or with the future of American foreign policy.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher by Neil Gross.

About the book, from the publisher:
On his death in 2007, Richard Rorty was heralded by the New York Times as “one of the world’s most influential contemporary thinkers.” Controversial on the left and the right for his critiques of objectivity and political radicalism, Rorty experienced a renown denied to all but a handful of living philosophers. In this masterly biography, Neil Gross explores the path of Rorty’s thought over the decades in order to trace the intellectual and professional journey that led him to that prominence.

The child of a pair of leftist writers who worried that their precocious son “wasn’t rebellious enough,” Rorty enrolled at the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. There he came under the tutelage of polymath Richard McKeon, whose catholic approach to philosophical systems would profoundly influence Rorty’s own thought. Doctoral work at Yale led to Rorty’s landing a job at Princeton, where his colleagues were primarily analytic philosophers. With a series of publications in the 1960s, Rorty quickly established himself as a strong thinker in that tradition—but by the late 1970s Rorty had eschewed the idea of objective truth altogether, urging philosophers to take a “relaxed attitude” toward the question of logical rigor. Drawing on the pragmatism of John Dewey, he argued that philosophers should instead open themselves up to multiple methods of thought and sources of knowledge—an approach that would culminate in the publication of Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, one of the most seminal and controversial philosophical works of our time.

In clear and compelling fashion, Gross sets that surprising shift in Rorty’s thought in the context of his life and social experiences, revealing the many disparate influences that contribute to the making of knowledge. As much a book about the growth of ideas as it is a biography of a philosopher, Richard Rorty will provide readers with a fresh understanding of both the man and the course of twentieth-century thought.
Read an excerpt from Richard Rorty: The Making of an American Philosopher.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Environmental Reform in the Information Age"

New from Cambridge University Press: Environmental Reform in the Information Age: The Contours of Informational Governance by Arthur P. J. Mol.

About the book, from the publisher:
As the information revolution continues to accelerate, the environment remains high on public and political agendas around the world. These two topics are rarely connected, but information - its collection, processing, accessibility and verification - is crucial in dealing with environmental challenges such as climate change, unsustainable consumption, biodiversity conservation and waste management. The information society (encompassing entities such as the internet, satellites, interactive television and surveillance cameras) changes the conditions and resources which are involved in environmental governance: old modes and concepts are increasingly being replaced by new, informational ones. Arthur P. J. Mol explores how the information revolution is changing the way we deal with environmental issues; to what extent and where these transformations have (and have not) taken place; and what the consequences are for democracy and power relations. This book will appeal to scholars and students of environmental studies and politics, political sociology, geography and communications studies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"The Pact"

New from Oxford University Press: The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation by Steven M. Gillon.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most Americans saw President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich as staunch foes--"the polar extremes of Pennsylvania Avenue." But as Steven Gillon reveals in The Pact, these powerful adversaries formed a secret alliance in 1997, a pact that would have rocked the political landscape, had it not foundered in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal.

A fascinating look at politics American-style, The Pact offers a riveting account of two of America's most charismatic and influential leaders, detailing both their differences and their striking similarities, and highlighting the profound and lasting impact the tumultuous 1960s had on both their personal and political lives. With the cooperation of both President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich, interviews with key players who have never before spoken about their experiences, along with unprecedented access to Gingrich's private papers, Gillon not only offers a behind-the-scenes look at the budget impasse and the government shutdown in 1995--the famous face-off between Clinton and Gingrich--but he also reveals how the two moved closer together after 1996--closer than anyone knew. In particular, the book illuminates their secret efforts to abandon the liberal and conservative wings of their own parties and strike a bi-partisan deal to reform the "third rail of American politics"--Social Security and Medicare. That potentially groundbreaking effort was swept away by the highly charged reaction to the Lewinsky affair, ending an initiative that might have transformed millions of American lives.

Packed with compelling new revelations about two of the most powerful and intriguing figures of our time, this book will be must reading for everyone interested in politics or current events.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Whatever Happened to Thrift?"

New from Yale University Press: Whatever Happened to Thrift?: Why Americans Don't Save and What to Do about It by Ronald T. Wilcox.

About the book, from the publisher:
It is no secret that Americans save very little: every economic index confirms as much. But to solve the real mystery, we must ask the questions, “Why?” “What are the effects on our economy?” and “What can be done about it?”

In this thoroughly researched and thought-provoking book, Ronald T. Wilcox clearly describes not only how the “savings crisis” adversely influences personal lifestyles over the long term but also how it can undermine our national wealth and standard of living. Wilcox cogently explains that savings are essential to fuel our nation’s economic growth, whether it’s putting money in the bank or in the form of direct loans to the government as savings bonds, for example. And, he presents unambiguous facts showing that a high proportion of current wage earners simply will not have enough money for self-support during retirement—and that the government safety nets for income and health can no longer be counted on. Most important, Wilcox examines the many rational and irrational reasons behind individuals’ failures to put money away, what third parties such as corporations and government can do to help, and the steps people can take today to help themselves.

The book is an attempt to reinvent thrift in the United States, to find practical ways to help people consume less and save more now so that we can be a richer people in the future and a more prosperous nation. It is a must-read for every corporate executive, policy maker, and concerned citizen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Holding Bishops Accountable"

New from Harvard University Press: Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse by Timothy D. Lytton.

About the book, from the publisher:
The sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy is arguably the most acute crisis Catholicism has faced since the Reformation. The prevalence of clergy sexual abuse and its shocking cover-up by church officials have obscured the largely untold story of the tort system’s remarkable success in bringing the scandal to light, focusing attention on the need for institutional reform, and spurring church leaders and public officials into action.

Stories of the tort system as an engine of social justice are rare. Holding Bishops Accountable tells one such story by revealing how pleadings, discovery documents, and depositions fueled media coverage of the scandal. Timothy Lytton shows how the litigation strategy of plaintiffs’ lawyers gave rise to a widespread belief that the real problem was not the actions of individual priests but rather the church’s massive institutional failure. The book documents how church and government policymakers responded to the problem of clergy sexual abuse only under the pressure of private lawsuits.

As Lytton deftly demonstrates, the lessons of clergy sexual abuse litigation give us reason to reconsider the case for tort reform and to look more closely at how tort litigation can enhance the performance of public and private policymaking institutions.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

"The Problem of Punishment"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Problem of Punishment by David Boonin.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this book, David Boonin examines the problem of punishment, and particularly the problem of explaining why it is morally permissible for the state to treat those who break the law in ways that would be wrong to treat those who do not. Boonin argues that there is no satisfactory solution to this problem and that the practice of legal punishment should therefore be abolished. Providing a detailed account of the nature of punishment and the problems that it generates, he offers a comprehensive and critical survey of the various solutions that have been offered to the problem and concludes by considering victim restitution as an alternative to punishment. Written in a clear and accessible style, The Problem of Punishment will be of interest to anyone looking for a critical introduction to the subject as well as to those already familiar with it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"A Question of Balance"

New from Yale University Press: A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies by William Nordhaus.

About the book, from the publisher:
As scientific and observational evidence on global warming piles up every day, questions of economic policy in this central environmental topic have taken center stage. But as author and prominent Yale economist William Nordhaus observes, the issues involved in understanding global warming and slowing its harmful effects are complex and cross disciplinary boundaries. For example, ecologists see global warming as a threat to ecosystems, utilities as a debit to their balance sheets, and farmers as a hazard to their livelihoods.

In this important work, William Nordhaus integrates the entire spectrum of economic and scientific research to weigh the costs of reducing emissions against the benefits of reducing the long-run damages from global warming. The book offers one of the most extensive analyses of the economic and environmental dynamics of greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change and provides the tools to evaluate alternative approaches to slowing global warming. The author emphasizes the need to establish effective mechanisms, such as carbon taxes, to harness markets and harmonize the efforts of different countries. This book not only will shape discussion of one the world’s most pressing problems but will provide the rationales and methods for achieving widespread agreement on our next best move in alleviating global warming.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Fixing Failed States"

Recently from Oxford University Press: Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart.

About the book, from the publisher:
Today between forty and sixty nations, home to over a billion people, have either collapsed or are teetering on the brink of failure. The world's worst problems--terrorism, drugs and human trafficking, absolute poverty, ethnic conflict, disease, genocide--originate in such states, and the international community has devoted billions of dollars to solving the problem. Yet by and large the effort has not succeeded.

Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart have taken an active part in the effort to save failed states for many years, serving as World Bank officials, as advisers to the UN, and as high-level participants in the new government of Afghanistan. Now, in Fixing Failed States, they describe the issue--vividly and convincingly--offering an on-the-ground picture of why past efforts have not worked and advancing a groundbreaking new solution to this most pressing of global crises. Military force, while certainly necessary on occasion, cannot solve the fundamental problems, and humanitarian interventions cost billions yet do not leave capable states in their wake. Ghani and Lockhart argue that only an integrated state-building approach can heal these failing countries. As they explain, many of these countries already have the resources they need, if only we knew how to connect them to global knowledge and put them to work in the right way. Their state-building strategy, which assigns responsibility equally among the international community, national leaders, and citizens, maps out a clear path to political and economic stability. The authors provide a clear, practical framework for achieving these ends, supporting their case with first-hand examples of struggling territories such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo and Nepal as well as the world's success stories--Singapore, Ireland, and even the American South.

The battle against terror, poverty, climate change, and much more cannot be won unless we can save these nations. In Fixing Fixed States, two of the world's foremost authorities offer a way out of the current crisis--a framework for re-imagining the international system. It is a book that is unique in its essential optimism--an optimism that the authors have earned through their own substantial real-world efforts in failed states.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"The Flash Press"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York by Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, in association with the American Antiquarian Society.

About the book, from the publisher:
Obscene, libidinous, loathsome, lascivious. Those were just some of the ways critics described the nineteenth-century weeklies that covered and publicized New York City’s extensive sexual underworld. Publications like the Flash and the Whip—distinguished by a captivating brew of lowbrow humor and titillating gossip about prostitutes, theater denizens, and sporting events—were not the sort generally bound in leather for future reference, and despite their popularity with an enthusiastic readership, they quickly receded into almost complete obscurity. Recently, though, two sizable collections of these papers have resurfaced, and in The Flash Press three renowned scholars provide a landmark study of their significance as well as a wide selection of their ribald articles and illustrations.

Including short tales of urban life, editorials on prostitution, and moralizing rants against homosexuality, these selections epitomize a distinct form of urban journalism. Here, in addition to providing a thorough overview of this colorful reportage, its editors, and its audience, the authors examine nineteenth-century ideas of sexuality and freedom that mixed Tom Paine’s republicanism with elements of the Marquis de Sade’s sexual ideology. They also trace the evolution of censorship and obscenity law, showing how a string of legal battles ultimately led to the demise of the flash papers: editors were hauled into court, sentenced to jail for criminal obscenity and libel, and eventually pushed out of business. But not before they forever changed the debate over public sexuality and freedom of expression in America’s most important city.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"A Government Ill Executed"

New from Harvard University Press: A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It by Paul Light.

About the book, from the publisher:
The federal government is having increasing difficulty faithfully executing the laws, which is what Alexander Hamilton called “the true test” of a good government. This book diagnoses the symptoms, explains their general causes, and proposes ways to improve the effectiveness of the federal government. Employing Hamilton’s seven measures of an energetic federal service, Paul Light shows how the government is wanting in each measure.

After assessing the federal report card, Light offers a comprehensive agenda for reform, including new laws limiting the number of political appointees, reducing the layers of government management, reducing the size of government as its baby-boom employees retire, revitalizing the federal career, and reducing the heavy outsourcing of federal work. Although there are many ways to fix each of the seven problems with government, only a comprehensive agenda will bring the kind of reform needed to reverse the overall erosion of the capacity to faithfully execute all the laws.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"China's Struggle for Status"

New from Cambridge University Press: China's Struggle for Status: The Realignment of International Relations by Yong Deng.

About the book, from the publisher:
At the end of the Cold War the People's Republic of China found itself in an international crisis, facing severe problems in both domestic politics and foreign policy. Nearly two decades later, Yong Deng provides an original account of China’s remarkable rise from the periphery to the center stage of the post-Cold War world. Deng examines how the once beleaguered country has adapted to, and proactively realigned, the international hierarchy, great-power politics, and its regional and global environment in order to carve out an international path within the globalized world. Creatively engaging with mainstream international relations theories and drawing extensively from original Chinese material, this is a well-grounded assessment of the promises and challenges of China’s struggle to manage the interlacing of its domestic and international transitions and the interactive process between its rise and evolving world politics.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"All Can Be Saved"

New from Yale University Press: All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World by Stuart B. Schwartz.

About the book, from the publisher:
It would seem unlikely that one could discover tolerant religious attitudes in Spain, Portugal, and the New World colonies during the era of the Inquisition, when enforcement of Catholic orthodoxy was widespread and brutal. Yet this groundbreaking book does exactly that. Drawing on an enormous body of historical evidence—including records of the Inquisition itself—the historian Stuart Schwartz investigates the idea of religious tolerance and its evolution in the Hispanic world from 1500 to 1820. Focusing on the attitudes and beliefs of common people rather than those of intellectual elites, the author finds that no small segment of the population believed in freedom of conscience and rejected the exclusive validity of the Church.

The book explores various sources of tolerant attitudes, the challenges that the New World presented to religious orthodoxy, the complex relations between “popular” and “learned” culture, and many related topics. The volume concludes with a discussion of the relativist ideas that were taking hold elsewhere in Europe during this era.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"In The Name of Love"

New from Oxford University Press: In The Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims by Aaron Ben-Ze'ev and Ruhama Goussinsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
We yearn to experience the idealized love in so many novels, movies, poems, and popular songs. Ironically, it is the idealization of love that arms it with its destructive power. Popular media consistently remind us that love is all we need, but statistics concerning the rate of depression and suicides after divorce or romantic break up remind us what might happen if "all that we need" is taken away. This book is about our ideals of love, our experiences of love, the actual disparity between the two, and the manners of coping with this disparity. A major study case of the book concerns men who have murdered their wives or partners allegedly "out of love." It is estimated that over 30% of all female murder victims in the United States die at the hands of former or present spouses or boyfriends. How can murdering a loved one be associated with the assumed moral and altruistic love? Not only is love intrinsically ambivalent, but it can also give rise to dangerous consequences. Some of the worst evils have been committed in the name of love. A unique collaboration between a leading philosopher in the field of emotions and a social scientist, In the Name of Love presents fascinating insights into romantic love and it's future in modern society.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Dishonorable Passions"

New from Viking: Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 by William N. Eskridge, Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fascinating one-of-a-kind history of the government’s regulation of sexual behavior

From the Pentagon to the wedding chapel, there are few issues more controversial today than gay rights. As William Eskridge persuasively demonstrates in Dishonorable Passions, there is nothing new about this political and legal obsession. The American colonies and the early states prohibited sodomy as the “crime against nature,” but rarely punished such conduct if it took place behind closed doors. By the twentieth century, America’s emerging regulatory state targeted “degenerates” and (later) “homosexuals.” The witch hunts of the McCarthy era caught very few Communists but ruined the lives of thousands of homosexuals. The nation’s sexual revolution of the 1960s fueled a social movement of people seeking repeal of sodomy laws, but it was not until the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that private sex between consenting adults was decriminalized. With dramatic stories of both the hunted (Walt Whitman and Margaret Mead) and the hunters (Earl Warren and J. Edgar Hoover), Dishonorable Passions reveals how American sodomy laws affected the lives of both homosexual and heterosexual Americans. Certain to provoke heated debate, Dishonorable Passions is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of sexuality and its regulation in the United States.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Evidence and Evolution"

Recently from Cambridge University Press: Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science by Elliott Sober.

About the book, from the publisher:
How should the concept of evidence be understood? And how does the concept of evidence apply to the controversy about creationism as well as to work in evolutionary biology about natural selection and common ancestry? In this rich and wide-ranging book, Elliott Sober investigates general questions about probability and evidence and shows how the answers he develops to those questions apply to the specifics of evolutionary biology. Drawing on a set of fascinating examples, he analyzes whether claims about intelligent design are untestable; whether they are discredited by the fact that many adaptations are imperfect; how evidence bears on whether present species trace back to common ancestors; how hypotheses about natural selection can be tested, and many other issues. His book will interest all readers who want to understand philosophical questions about evidence and evolution, as they arise both in Darwin's work and in contemporary biological research.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"Archaeology as Political Action"

New from the University of California Press: Archaeology as Political Action by Randall H. McGuire.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book develops a theory and framework to describe how archaeology can contribute to a more humane world. Recognizing that archaeology is an inherently political activity, Randall H. McGuire builds on the history of archaeological theory and Marxist dialectical theory to point out how archaeologists can use their craft to evaluate interpretations of the real world, construct meaningful histories for communities, and challenge the persistent legacies of colonialism and class struggle. McGuire bases his discussion on his own extensive fieldwork in the United States and Mexico, citing fascinating case studies to develop the idea of archaeology as a class-based endeavor.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Fighting Traffic"

New from the MIT Press: Peter D. Norton's Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.

About the book, from the publisher:
Before the advent of the automobile, users of city streets were diverse and included children at play and pedestrians at large. By 1930, most streets were primarily motor thoroughfares where children did not belong and where pedestrians were condemned as "jaywalkers." In Fighting Traffic, Peter Norton argues that to accommodate automobiles, the American city required not only a physical change but also a social one: before the city could be reconstructed for the sake of motorists, its streets had to be socially reconstructed as places where motorists belonged. It was not an evolution, he writes, but a bloody and sometimes violent revolution.

Norton describes how street users struggled to define and redefine what streets were for. He examines developments in the crucial transitional years from the 1910s to the 1930s, uncovering a broad anti-automobile campaign that reviled motorists as "road hogs" or "speed demons" and cars as "juggernauts" or "death cars." He considers the perspectives of all users--pedestrians, police (who had to become "traffic cops"), street railways, downtown businesses, traffic engineers (who often saw cars as the problem, not the solution), and automobile promoters. He finds that pedestrians and parents campaigned in moral terms, fighting for "justice." Cities and downtown businesses tried to regulate traffic in the name of "efficiency." Automotive interest groups, meanwhile, legitimized their claim to the streets by invoking "freedom"--a rhetorical stance of particular power in the United States.

Fighting Traffic offers a new look at both the origins of the automotive city in America and how social groups shape technological change.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Democracy's Prisoner"

New from Harvard University Press: Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent by Ernest Freeberg.

About the book, from the publisher:

Monday, May 12, 2008


New from Yale University Press: Yezhov: The Rise of Stalin's "Iron Fist", by J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov.

About the book, from the publisher:
Head of the secret police from 1937 to 1938, N. I. Yezhov was a foremost Soviet leader during these years, second in power only to Stalin himself. Under Yezhov’s orders, millions of arrests, imprisonments, deportations, and executions were carried out. This book, based upon unprecedented access to Communist Party archives and Yezhov’s personal archives, looks into the life and career of the enigmatic man who administered Stalin’s Great Terror.

J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov seek to answer a series of troubling questions. What kind of person calmly and efficiently sends thousands of innocent people to their deaths? What could prepare a man for such a role? How could a person whom acquaintances describe as friendly, pleasant, and even gallant carry out one of history’s most horrifying campaigns of terror? The authors uncover the full details of Yezhov’s rise to power and conclude that he was not merely Stalin’s tool but a skillful maneuverer in his own right. The historical documents provide a thorough portrait of Yezhov and reveal a man of fanatical dedication to his leader and his party—a man who became a willing murderer. Readers will find his story chilling, the more so in our own times, when the impulse to terror that engulfed Yezhov seems neither surprising nor unfamiliar.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Dangerous Frames"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Dangerous Frames: How Ideas about Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion by Nicholas J. G. Winter.

About the book, from the publisher:
In addition to their obvious roles in American politics, race and gender also work in hidden ways to profoundly influence the way we think—and vote—about a vast array of issues that don’t seem related to either category. As Nicholas Winter reveals in Dangerous Frames, politicians and leaders often frame these seemingly unrelated issues in ways that prime audiences to respond not to the policy at hand but instead to the way its presentation resonates with their deeply held beliefs about race and gender. Winter shows, for example, how official rhetoric about welfare and Social Security has tapped into white Americans’ racial biases to shape their opinions on both issues for the past two decades. Similarly, the way politicians presented health care reform in the 1990s divided Americans along the lines of their attitudes toward gender. Combining cognitive and political psychology with innovative empirical research, Dangerous Frames ultimately illuminates the emotional underpinnings of American politics.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"The Anti-Intellectual Presidency"

New from Oxford University Press: The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush by Elvin T. Lim.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why has it been so long since an American president has effectively and consistently presented well-crafted, intellectually substantive arguments to the American public? Why have presidential utterances fallen from the rousing speeches of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, and FDR to a series of robotic repetitions of talking points and sixty-second soundbites, largely designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate?

In The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, Elvin Lim draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents' ability to communicate with the public. Lim argues that the ever-increasing pressure for presidents to manage public opinion and perception has created a "pathology of vacuous rhetoric and imagery" where gesture and appearance matter more than accomplishment and fact. Lim tracks the campaign to simplify presidential discourse through presidential and speechwriting decisions made from the Truman to the present administration, explaining how and why presidents have embraced anti-intellectualism and vague platitudes as a public relations strategy. Lim sees this anti-intellectual stance as a deliberate choice rather than a reflection of presidents' intellectual limitations. Only the smart, he suggests, know how to dumb down. The result, he shows, is a dangerous debasement of our political discourse and a quality of rhetoric which has been described, charitably, as "a linguistic struggle" and, perhaps more accurately, as "dogs barking idiotically through endless nights."

Sharply written and incisively argued, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency sheds new light on the murky depths of presidential oratory, illuminating both the causes and consequences of this substantive impoverishment.
Visit Elvin Lim's blog.

Friday, May 9, 2008

"Building the International Criminal Court"

New from Cambridge University Press: Building the International Criminal Court by Benjamin Schiff.

About the book, from the publisher:
The ICC is the first and only standing international court capable of prosecuting humanity’s worst crimes: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It faces huge obstacles. It has no police force; it pursues investigations in areas of tremendous turmoil, conflict, and death; it is charged both with trying suspects and with aiding their victims; and it seeks to combine divergent legal traditions in an entirely new international legal mechanism.

International law advocates sought to establish a standing international criminal court for more than 150 years. Other, temporary, single-purpose criminal tribunals, truth commissions, and special courts have come and gone, but the ICC is the only permanent inheritor of the Nuremberg legacy.

In Building the International Criminal Court, Oberlin College Professor of Politics Ben Schiff analyzes the ICC, melding historical perspective, international relations theories, and observers’ insights to explain the Court’s origins, creation, innovations, dynamics, and operational challenges.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Moral Clarity"

New from Harcourt: Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists by Susan Neiman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Susan Neiman is a moral philosopher committed to making the tools of her trade relevant to real life. In Moral Clarity, she shows how resurrecting a moral vocabulary—good and evil, heroism and nobility—can steer us clear of the dogmas of the right and the helpless pragmatism of the left. In search of a framework for forming clear opinions and taking responsible action on today’s urgent political and social questions, Neiman reaches back to the eighteenth century, retrieving a set of virtues—happiness, reason, reverence, and hope—that were held high by every Enlightenment thinker. She shows that the pursuit of moral clarity is not a matter of religious faith but is open to all who are committed to these ideals, believers and nonbelievers alike. And she draws on literature, evolutionary theory, and other contemporary research to show why, by keeping before us the distinction between the real and the possible, these ideals continue to guide and inspire.
Visit Susan Neiman's website.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Heredity and Hope"

New from Harvard University Press: Heredity and Hope: The Case for Genetic Screening by Ruth Schwartz Cowan.

About the book, from the publisher:
The secrets locked in our genes are being revealed, and we find ourselves both enthused and frightened about what that portends. We look forward to curing disease and alleviating suffering—for our children as well as for ourselves—but we also worry about delving too deeply into the double helix. Abuses perpetrated by eugenicists—from involuntary sterilization to murder—continue to taint our feelings about genetic screening.

Yet, as Ruth Schwartz Cowan reveals, modern genetic screening has been practiced since 1960, benefiting millions of women and children all over the world. She persuasively argues that new forms of screening—prenatal, newborn, and carrier testing—are both morally right and politically acceptable. Medical genetics, built on the desire of parents and physicians to reduce suffering and increase personal freedom, not on the desire to “improve the human race,” is in fact an entirely different enterprise from eugenics.

Cowan’s narrative moves from an account of the interwoven histories of genetics and eugenics in the first half of the twentieth century, to the development of new forms of genetic screening after mid-century. It includes illuminating chapters on the often misunderstood testing programs for sickle cell anemia, and on the world’s only mandated premarital screening programs, both of them on the island of Cyprus.

Neither minimizing the difficulty of the choices that modern genetics has created for us nor fearing them, Cowan bravely and compassionately argues that we can improve the quality of our own lives and the lives of our children by using the modern science and technology of genetic screening responsibly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Constitutional Conscience"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Constitutional Conscience: The Moral Dimension of Judicial Decision by H. Jefferson Powell.

About the book, from the publisher:
While many recent observers have accused American judges—especially Supreme Court justices—of being too driven by politics and ideology, others have argued that judges are justified in using their positions to advance personal views. Advocating a different approach—one that eschews ideology but still values personal perspective—H. Jefferson Powell makes a compelling case for the centrality of individual conscience in constitutional decision making.

Powell argues that almost every controversial decision has more than one constitutionally defensible resolution. In such cases, he goes on to contend, the language and ideals of the Constitution require judges to decide in good faith, exercising what Powell calls the constitutional virtues: candor, intellectual honesty, humility about the limits of constitutional adjudication, and willingness to admit that they do not have all the answers. Constitutional Conscience concludes that the need for these qualities in judges—as well as lawyers and citizens—is implicit in our constitutional practices, and that without them judicial review would forfeit both its own integrity and the credibility of the courts themselves.

Monday, May 5, 2008

"From the New Deal to the New Right"

New from Yale University Press: From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism by Joseph E. Lowndes.

About the book, from the publisher:
The role the South has played in contemporary conservatism is perhaps the most consequential political phenomenon of the second half of the twentieth century. The region’s transition from Democratic stronghold to Republican base has frequently been viewed as a recent occurrence, one that largely stems from a 1960s-era backlash against left-leaning social movements. But as Joseph Lowndes argues in this book, this rightward shift was not necessarily a natural response by alienated whites, but rather the result of the long-term development of an alliance between Southern segregationists and Northern conservatives, two groups who initially shared little beyond opposition to specific New Deal imperatives.

Lowndes focuses his narrative on the formative period between the end of the Second World War and the Nixon years. By looking at the 1948 Dixiecrat Revolt, the presidential campaigns of George Wallace, and popular representations of the region, he shows the many ways in which the South changed during these decades. Lowndes traces how a new alliance began to emerge by further examining the pages of the National Review and Republican party-building efforts in the South during the campaigns of Eisenhower, Goldwater, and Nixon. The unique characteristics of American conservatism were forged in the crucible of race relations in the South, he argues, and his analysis of party-building efforts, national institutions, and the innovations of particular political actors provides a keen look into the ideology of modern conservatism and the Republican Party.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"After Bush"

New from Cambridge University Press: After Bush: The Case for Continuity in American Foreign Policy by Timothy J. Lynch and Robert S. Singh.

About the book, from the publisher:
Towards the end of his second term, it appears George W. Bush’s foreign policy has won few admirers, with pundits and politicians eagerly and opportunistically bashing the tenets of the Bush Doctrine. This provocative account dares to counter the dogma of Bush’s Beltway detractors and his ideological enemies, boldly arguing that Bush’s policy deservedly belongs within the mainstream of the American foreign policy tradition. Though the shifting tide of public opinion has led many to anticipate that his successor will repudiate the actions of the past eight years, authors Timothy Lynch and Robert S. Singh suggest that there will—and should—be continuity in US foreign policy from his Presidency to those who follow. Providing a positive audit of the war on terror (which they contend should be understood as a Second Cold War) they charge that the Bush Doctrine has been consistent with past foreign policies—from Republican and Democratic presidencies—and that the key elements of Bush’s grand strategy will rightly continue to shape America’s approach in the future. Above all, they predict that his successors will pursue the war against Islamist terror with similar dedication.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"In Search of the Black Fantastic"

New from Oxford University Press: In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era by Richard Iton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Prior to the 1960s, when African Americans had little access to formal political power, black popular culture emerged as a tool to forge community and effect political change. However, with the new avenues opened to African Americans in the post-Civil Rights era, many believe the influence of black popular culture on the political sphere began to diminish steadily.

Yet as Richard Iton shows in this uniquely trenchant volume, despite the changes brought about by the Civil Rights movement--and contrary to the wishes of those committed to narrower conceptions of politics--black artists have continued to play a significant role in the making and maintenance of critical social spaces. Here, Iton offers an original portrait of the relationship between popular culture and institutionalized politics, tracing the connections between artists such as Paul Robeson, Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Pryor, Bob Marley, Erykah Badu, and those individuals working in the protest, electoral, and policymaking arenas. With an emphasis on questions of class, gender, and sexuality--and diaspora and coloniality--the author also illustrates how creative artists destabilize modern notions of the proper location of politics, and politics itself.

Ranging from theater to film, and comedy to literature and contemporary music, In Search of the Black Fantastic is an engaging and sophisticated examination of how black popular culture has challenged our understandings of the aesthetic and its relationship to politics.

Friday, May 2, 2008

"Coming of Age in Second Life"

New from Princeton University Press: Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human by Tom Boellstorff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Millions of people around the world today spend portions of their lives in online virtual worlds. Second Life is one of the largest of these virtual worlds. The residents of Second Life create communities, buy property and build homes, go to concerts, meet in bars, attend weddings and religious services, buy and sell virtual goods and services, find friendship, fall in love--the possibilities are endless, and all encountered through a computer screen. Coming of Age in Second Life is the first book of anthropology to examine this thriving alternate universe.

Tom Boellstorff conducted more than two years of fieldwork in Second Life, living among and observing its residents in exactly the same way anthropologists traditionally have done to learn about cultures and social groups in the so-called real world. He conducted his research as the avatar "Tom Bukowski," and applied the rigorous methods of anthropology to study many facets of this new frontier of human life, including issues of gender, race, sex, money, conflict and antisocial behavior, the construction of place and time, and the interplay of self and group.

Coming of Age in Second Life shows how virtual worlds can change ideas about identity and society. Bringing anthropology into territory never before studied, this book demonstrates that in some ways humans have always been virtual, and that virtual worlds in all their rich complexity build upon a human capacity for culture that is as old as humanity itself.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"How Judges Think"

New from Harvard University Press: How Judges Think by Richard A. Posner.

About the book, from the publisher:
A distinguished and experienced appellate court judge, Richard A. Posner offers in this new book a unique and, to orthodox legal thinkers, a startling perspective on how judges and justices decide cases. When conventional legal materials enable judges to ascertain the true facts of a case and apply clear pre-existing legal rules to them, Posner argues, they do so straightforwardly; that is the domain of legalist reasoning. However, in non-routine cases, the conventional materials run out and judges are on their own, navigating uncharted seas with equipment consisting of experience, emotions, and often unconscious beliefs. In doing so, they take on a legislative role, though one that is confined by internal and external constraints, such as professional ethics, opinions of respected colleagues, and limitations imposed by other branches of government on freewheeling judicial discretion. Occasional legislators, judges are motivated by political considerations in a broad and sometimes a narrow sense of that term. In that open area, most American judges are legal pragmatists. Legal pragmatism is forward-looking and policy-based. It focuses on the consequences of a decision in both the short and the long term, rather than on its antecedent logic. Legal pragmatism so understood is really just a form of ordinary practical reasoning, rather than some special kind of legal reasoning.

Supreme Court justices are uniquely free from the constraints on ordinary judges and uniquely tempted to engage in legislative forms of adjudication. More than any other court, the Supreme Court is best understood as a political court.