Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"The Power of the Internet in China"

New from Columbia University Press: The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online by Guobin Yang.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has revolutionized popular expression in China, enabling users to organize, protest, and influence public opinion in unprecedented ways. Guobin Yang's pioneering study maps an innovative range of contentious forms and practices linked to Chinese cyberspace, delineating a nuanced and dynamic image of the Chinese Internet as an arena for creativity, community, conflict, and control. Like many other contemporary protest forms in China and the world, Yang argues, Chinese online activism derives its methods and vitality from multiple and intersecting forces, and state efforts to constrain it have only led to more creative acts of subversion. Transnationalism and the tradition of protest in China's incipient civil society provide cultural and social resources to online activism. Even Internet businesses have encouraged contentious activities, generating an unusual synergy between commerce and activism. Yang's book weaves these strands together to create a vivid story of immense social change, indicating a new era of informational politics.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Aging and the Indian Diaspora"

New from Indiana University Press: Aging and the Indian Diaspora: Cosmopolitan Families in India and Abroad by Sarah E. Lamb.

About the book, from the publisher:
Indian families cope with aging in a transnational era

"A timely investigation of remarkable, extraordinarily rapid, and previously unimaginable changes taking place within India's urban middle-class families.... Beautifully written and readable ... ethnographically rich and theoretically astute."
—Ann Grodzins Gold, Syracuse University

"Sarah Lamb's compassionate voice and reflexive insights weave around the moving narratives of Bengali elders in this beautifully written, theoretically sophisticated ethnography. A classic in the anthropology of India, comparative modernities, and aging."
—Kirin Narayan, author of My Family and Other Saints

The proliferation of old age homes and increasing numbers of elderly living alone are startling new phenomena in India. These trends are related to extensive overseas migration and the transnational dispersal of families. In this moving and insightful account, Sarah Lamb shows that older persons are innovative agents in the processes of social-cultural change. Lamb's study probes debates and cultural assumptions in both India and the United States regarding how best to age; the proper social-moral relationship among individuals, genders, families, the market, and the state; and ways of finding meaning in the human life course.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Germany 1945"

New from Harper: Germany 1945: From War to Peace by Richard Bessel.

About the book, from the publisher:
1945 was the most pivotal year in Germany's modern history. As World War II drew to a devastating and violent close, the German people were confronted simultaneously with making sense of the horrors just passed and finding the strength and hope to move forward and rebuild. Richard Bessel offers a provocative portrait of Germany's emergence from catastrophe, and he astutely portrays the defeated nation's own sense of victimhood after the war, despite the crimes it had perpetrated.

The last months of the war were its bloodiest, as the Allied assault on Nazi Germany reached its climax. .In January alone, as many as one million people died violent deaths. Bessel captures the terrible suffering of these months in the destroyed cities; the acts of vengeance inflicted on Germans by the conquering Soviets, French, and Americans; as well as death marches and the extreme brutality of the Nazi regime against its own people. In spite of this horrific violence, by the end of 1945 people were beginning to put their lives back together and create the foundations of a postwar social, economic, and political culture.

Authoritative and dramatic, Germany 1945 is groundbreaking history that brilliantly explores the devastation and remarkable rebirth of Germany at the end of World War II. Bessel's startling narrative depicts perhaps the most important transition of modern times: from the worst outburst of violence in human history to a period of relative peace, prosperity, and civilized behavior. Ultimately, it is a success story, a story of life after death.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"To Serve God and Wal-Mart"

New from Harvard University Press: To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise by Bethany Moreton.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the decades after World War II, evangelical Christianity nourished America’s devotion to free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. The history of Wal-Mart uncovers a complex network that united Sun Belt entrepreneurs, evangelical employees, Christian business students, overseas missionaries, and free-market activists. Through the stories of people linked by the world’s largest corporation, Bethany Moreton shows how a Christian service ethos powered capitalism at home and abroad.

While industrial America was built by and for the urban North, rural Southerners comprised much of the labor, management, and consumers in the postwar service sector that raised the Sun Belt to national influence. These newcomers to the economic stage put down the plough to take up the bar-code scanner without ever passing through the assembly line. Industrial culture had been urban, modernist, sometimes radical, often Catholic and Jewish, and self-consciously international. Post-industrial culture, in contrast, spoke of Jesus with a drawl and of unions with a sneer, sang about Momma and the flag, and preached salvation in this world and the next.

This extraordinary biography of Wal-Mart’s world shows how a Christian pro-business movement grew from the bottom up as well as the top down, bolstering an economic vision that sanctifies corporate globalization.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"Peaceable Kingdom Lost"

New from Oxford University Press: Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Holy Experiment by Kevin Kenny.

About the book, from the publisher:
William Penn established Pennsylvania in 1682 as a "holy experiment" in which Europeans and Indians could live together in harmony. In this book, historian Kevin Kenny explains how this Peaceable Kingdom--benevolent, Quaker, pacifist--gradually disintegrated in the eighteenth century, with disastrous consequences for Native Americans.

Kenny recounts how rapacious frontier settlers, most of them of Ulster extraction, began to encroach on Indian land as squatters, while William Penn's sons cast off their father's Quaker heritage and turned instead to fraud, intimidation, and eventually violence during the French and Indian War. In 1763, a group of frontier settlers known as the Paxton Boys exterminated the last twenty Conestogas, descendants of Indians who had lived peacefully since the 1690s on land donated by William Penn near Lancaster. Invoking the principle of "right of conquest," the Paxton Boys claimed after the massacres that the Conestogas' land was rightfully theirs. They set out for Philadelphia, threatening to sack the city unless their grievances were met. A delegation led by Benjamin Franklin met them and what followed was a war of words, with Quakers doing battle against Anglican and Presbyterian champions of the Paxton Boys. The killers were never prosecuted and the Pennsylvania frontier descended into anarchy in the late 1760s, with Indians the principal victims. The new order heralded by the Conestoga massacres was consummated during the American Revolution with the destruction of the Iroquois confederacy. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the United States confiscated the lands of Britain's Indian allies, basing its claim on the principle of "right of conquest."

Based on extensive research in eighteenth-century primary sources, this engaging history offers an eye-opening look at how colonists--at first, the backwoods Paxton Boys but later the U.S. government--expropriated Native American lands, ending forever the dream of colonists and Indians living together in peace.
Writers Read: Kevin Kenny.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Stripping Gypsy"

New from Oxford University Press: Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee by Noralee Frankel.

About the book, from the publisher:
Whenever stripper Gypsy Rose Lee encountered public criticism, she spoke frankly in her own defense. "Thousands have seen me at my--ah--best; and thousands have made no objections."

Noralee Frankel's lively biography, Stripping Gypsy, the first ever published about the highly mythologized Gypsy, examines the struggles Lee faced in making a lucrative and unconventional career for herself while maintaining a sense of dignity and social value. Frankel shows that the famous Miss Lee was an enigma, clearly struggling with her choices and her desire to be respected and legitimized. Those who know Gypsy Rose Lee only from the musical and film based on her rise to stardom will be surprised by what they uncover in Stripping Gypsy. In all ways, Lee trafficked in the incongruous: she was at once sex object, intellectual, and activist. In addition to her highly successful strip-tease act and film career, she published two mystery novels and a memoir, wrote two plays, and showed her original artwork in famed Modern Art-impresario Peggy Guggenheim's gallery. Lee also gained notoriety for her participation in liberal politics. As photographer Arnold Newman said, "She was a lady, a brilliant, bright woman who was the friend of many writers and intellectuals." Though she wasn't above using her femininity to full advantage, Lee aspired to much more than admiration for her physical beauty.

Frankel places Lee's life in social and political context while detailing a fascinating entertainment career, in which Lee created and recreated her own identity to fit changing times. Frankel's biography transcends the sensationalism of stripping and asks the public to see the woman beneath the costume, a woman who always kept a little of herself shrouded in mystery.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Jesus and Justice"

New from Yale University Press: Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics by Peter Goodwin Heltzel.

About the book, from the publisher:
This timely book investigates the increasing visibility and influence of evangelical Christians in recent American politics with a focus on racial justice. Peter Goodwin Heltzel considers four evangelical social movements: Focus on the Family, the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Community Development Association, and Sojourners.

The political motives and actions of evangelical groups are founded upon their conceptions of Jesus Christ, Heltzel contends. He traces the roots of contemporary evangelical politics to the prophetic black Christianity tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the socially engaged evangelical tradition of Carl F. H. Henry. Heltzel shows that the basic tenets of King’s and Henry’s theologies have led their evangelical heirs toward a prophetic evangelicalism in a shade of blue green—blue symbolizing the tragedy of black suffering in the Americas, and green symbolizing the hope of a prophetic evangelical engagement with poverty, AIDS, and the environment. This fresh theological understanding of evangelical political groups shines new light on the ways evangelicals shape and are shaped by broader American culture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The American War in Contemporary Vietnam"

New from Indiana University Press: The American War in Contemporary Vietnam: Transnational Remembrance and Representation by Christina Schwenkel.

About the book, from the publisher:
Transnational politics of war and remembrance

"A significant achievement, and one that does much to demonstrate the complexity of sites of war memory.... [Offers insights] that have an eerie resonance for today's political debates over the purpose and legitimacy of U.S. actions in the Middle East."—Geoffrey White, University of Hawaii

"The study of memory has been a common pursuit of historians of war and its aftermath, but Christina Schwenkel’s insightful and brilliantly written ethnography of the visual, political and semiotic processes that shape memory in Vietnam offers a new and transnational dimension to the field. Going far beyond the simple dichotomy of looking at 'both sides' of the war, her study of the commemorative concerns of both Americans and Vietnamese reveals the deep ambivalence over their 'shared history' and offers a profound window onto the present contemporary Vietnamese reality."
—Nora A. Taylor, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Christina Schwenkel's absorbing study explores how the "American War" is remembered and commemorated in Vietnam today—in official and unofficial histories and in everyday life. Schwenkel analyzes visual representations found in monuments and martyrs' cemeteries, museums, photography and art exhibits, battlefield tours, and related sites of "trauma tourism." In these transnational spaces, American and Vietnamese memories of the war intersect in ways profoundly shaped by global economic liberalization and the return of American citizens as tourists, pilgrims, and philanthropists.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"The State of Jones"

New from Doubleday: The State of Jones by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer.

About the book, from the publisher:
New York Times bestselling author Sally Jenkins and distinguished Harvard professor John Stauffer mine a nearly forgotten piece of Civil War history and strike gold in this surprising account of the only Southern county to secede from the Confederacy.

The State of Jones is a true story about the South during the Civil War—the real South. Not the South that has been mythologized in novels and movies, but an authentic, hardscrabble place where poor men were forced to fight a rich man’s war for slavery and cotton. In Jones County, Mississippi, a farmer named Newton Knight led his neighbors, white and black alike, in an insurrection against the Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. Knight’s life story mirrors the little-known story of class struggle in the South—and it shatters the image of the Confederacy as a unified front against the Union.

This riveting investigative account takes us inside the battle of Corinth, where thousands lost their lives over less than a quarter mile of land, and to the dreadful siege of Vicksburg, presenting a gritty picture of a war in which generals sacrificed thousands through their arrogance and ignorance. Off the battlefield, the Newton Knight story is rich in drama as well. He was a man with two loves: his wife, who was forced to flee her home simply to survive, and an ex-slave named Rachel, who, in effect, became his second wife. It was Rachel who cared for Knight during the war when he was hunted by the Confederates, and, later, when members of the Knight clan sought revenge for the disgrace he had brought upon the family name.

Working hand in hand with John Stauffer, distinguished chair and professor of the History of American Civilization at Harvard University, Sally Jenkins has made the leap from preeminent sportswriter to a historical writer endowed with the accuracy, drive, and passion of Doris Kearns Goodwin. The result is Civil War history at its finest.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?'"

New from Bloomsbury USA: 'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?': Jimmy Carter, America's 'Malaise,' and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country by Kevin Mattson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1979 the country was poised for great change, as it is now, and in an effort to right our national malaise Jimmy Carter delivered a speech that risked his reputation and the future of the Democratic Party, changing the course of American politics for the next 25 years.

At a critical moment in Jimmy Carter's presidency, he gave a speech that should have changed the country, instead it led to his downfall and ushered in the rise of the Conservative movement in America. Kevin Mattson gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the weeks leading up to the speech, a period of great upheaval in the US: the energy crisis had generated mile-long gas lines, inciting suburban riots and violence, the country's morale was low and Carter's ratings were even lower. The administration, wracked by its own crises, was in constant turmoil and conflict. What came of their great internal struggle, which Mattson conveys with the excitement of a political thriller, was a speech that deserves a place alongside Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" or FDR's First Inaugural. Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle play important roles, including President Jimmy Carter, Vice President Walter Mondale, and speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg, within the administration, and Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, and Ted Kennedy, without. Like the best of political writing, Mattson provides great insight into the workings of the Carter White House as well as the moral crisis that ushered in a new, conservative America.
Visit Kevin Mattson's website and blog.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"The View of the Courts from the Hill"

New from the University of Virginia Press: The View of the Courts from the Hill: Interactions between Congress and the Federal Judiciary by Mark C. Miller.

About the book, from the publisher:
The View of the Courts from the Hill explores the current interactions and relationship between the U.S. Congress and federal courts using a “governance as dialogue” approach, which argues that constitutional interpretation in the United States is a continuous and complex conversation among all the institutions of government. Expanding on his previous work on this important theme, Mark C. Miller has interviewed numerous key players specifically for this book. His subjects include members of Congress, federal judges, congressional staff, employees of the judicial branch, lobbyists, and others with an interest in the courts. Their candid and thorough comments provide an invaluable resource for students and scholars eager to explore the dynamics between congressional and judicial forces as they have evolved over the past two decades.

The book examines customary interactions between Congress and the federal courts—especially the U.S. Supreme Court—as well as extraordinary conflicts between the two branches of government both today and throughout American history. Miller gives special attention to recent attempts by social conservatives in Congress to silence the voice of the courts in the inter-institutional dialogue through the use of court-stripping measures, threats of impeachment of federal judges, and a proposal for an inspector general for the courts. Particular focus is placed on the interactions between the courts and the House Judiciary Committee under Republican control, as well as the approach taken by the Religious Right toward federal judges and the federal courts in general. The book concludes with a call for the protection of judicial independence in order to preserve the voice of the federal courts in the constitutional interpretation dialogue.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Bugs and the Victorians"

New from Yale University Press: Bugs and the Victorians by John F. McDiarmid Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, the impulse to name and classify the natural world accelerated, and insects presented a particularly inviting challenge. This lively book explores how science became increasingly important in nineteenth-century British culture and how the systematic study of insects permitted entomologists to engage with the most pressing questions of Victorian times: the nature of God, mind, and governance, and the origins of life.

By placing insects in a myriad of contexts—politics, religion, gender, and empire—John F. McDiarmid Clark demonstrates the impact of Victorian culture on the science of insects and on the systematic knowledge of the natural world. Through engaging accounts of famous and eccentric innovators who sought to define social roles for themselves through a specialist study of insects—among them a Tory clergyman, a banker and member of Parliament, a wealthy spinster, and an entrepreneurial academic—Clark highlights the role of insects in the making of modern Britain and maintains that the legacy of Victorian entomologists continues to this day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"China's Cosmopolitan Empire"

New from Harvard University Press: China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty by Mark Edward Lewis.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Tang dynasty is often called China’s “golden age,” a period of commercial, religious, and cultural connections from Korea and Japan to the Persian Gulf, and a time of unsurpassed literary creativity. Mark Lewis captures a dynamic era in which the empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Chinese rule, painting and ceramic arts flourished, women played a major role both as rulers and in the economy, and China produced its finest lyric poets in Wang Wei, Li Bo, and Du Fu.

The Chinese engaged in extensive trade on sea and land. Merchants from Inner Asia settled in the capital, while Chinese entrepreneurs set off for the wider world, the beginning of a global diaspora. The emergence of an economically and culturally dominant south that was controlled from a northern capital set a pattern for the rest of Chinese imperial history. Poems celebrated the glories of the capital, meditated on individual loneliness in its midst, and described heroic young men and beautiful women who filled city streets and bars.

Despite the romantic aura attached to the Tang, it was not a time of unending peace. In 756, General An Lushan led a revolt that shook the country to its core, weakening the government to such a degree that by the early tenth century, regional warlordism gripped many areas, heralding the decline of the Great Tang.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"The Myth of the Rational Market"

New from HarperBusiness: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street by Justin Fox.

About the book, from the publisher:
Chronicling the rise and fall of the efficient market theory and the century-long making of the modern financial industry, Justin Fox's The Myth of the Rational Market is as much an intellectual whodunit as a cultural history of the perils and possibilities of risk. The book brings to life the people and ideas that forged modern finance and investing, from the formative days of Wall Street through the Great Depression and into the financial calamity of today. It's a tale that features professors who made and lost fortunes, battled fiercely over ideas, beat the house in blackjack, wrote bestselling books, and played major roles on the world stage. It's also a tale of Wall Street's evolution, the power of the market to generate wealth and wreak havoc, and free market capitalism's war with itself.

The efficient market hypothesis—long part of academic folklore but codified in the 1960s at the University of Chicago—has evolved into a powerful myth. It has been the maker and loser of fortunes, the driver of trillions of dollars, the inspiration for index funds and vast new derivatives markets, and the guidepost for thousands of careers. The theory holds that the market is always right, and that the decisions of millions of rational investors, all acting on information to outsmart one another, always provide the best judge of a stock's value. That myth is crumbling.

Celebrated journalist and columnist Fox introduces a new wave of economists and scholars who no longer teach that investors are rational or that the markets are always right. Many of them now agree with Yale professor Robert Shiller that the efficient markets theory “represents one of the most remarkable errors in the history of economic thought.” Today the theory has given way to counterintuitive hypotheses about human behavior, psychological models of decision making, and the irrationality of the markets. Investors overreact, underreact, and make irrational decisions based on imperfect data. In his landmark treatment of the history of the world's markets, Fox uncovers the new ideas that may come to drive the market in the century ahead.
Visit Justin Fox's website.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Alcatraz: The Gangster Years"

New from the University of California Press: Alcatraz: The Gangster Years by David Ward with Gene Kassebaum.

About the book, from the publisher:
Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, Alvin Karpis, "Dock" Barker—these were just a few of the legendary "public enemies" for whom America's first supermax prison was created. In Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, David Ward brings their stories to life along with vivid accounts of the lives of other infamous criminals who passed through the penitentiary from 1934 to 1948. Ward, who enjoyed unprecedented access to FBI, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Federal Parole records, conducted interviews with one hundred former Alcatraz convicts, guards, and administrators to produce this definitive history of "The Rock." Alcatraz is the only book with authoritative answers to questions that have swirled about the prison: How did prisoners cope psychologically with the harsh regime? What provoked the protests and strikes? How did security flaws lead to the sensational escape attempts? And what happened when these "habitual, incorrigible" convicts were finally released? By shining a light on the most famous prison in the world, Ward also raises timely questions about today's supermax prisons.

Monday, June 15, 2009


New from Metropolitan Books: Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin.

About the book, from the publisher:
The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.

Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford’s early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia’s eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.

More than a parable of one man’s arrogant attempt to force his will on the natural world, Fordlandia depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch. As Greg Grandin shows in this gripping and mordantly observed history, Ford’s great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Slavery's Constitution"

New from Hill and Wang: Slavery's Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification by David Waldstreicher.

About the book, from the publisher:
Taking on decades of received wisdom, David Waldstreicher has written the first book to recognize slavery’s place at the heart of the U.S. Constitution. Famously, the Constitution never mentions slavery. And yet, of its eighty-four clauses, six were directly concerned with slaves and the interests of their owners. Five other clauses had implications for slavery that were considered and debated by the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and the citizens of the states during ratification. This “peculiar institution” was not a moral blind spot for America’s otherwise enlightened framers, nor was it the expression of a mere economic interest. Slavery was as important to the making of the Constitution as the Constitution was to the survival of slavery.

By tracing slavery from before the revolution, through the Constitution’s framing, and into the public debate that followed, Waldstreicher rigorously shows that slavery was not only actively discussed behind the closed and locked doors of the Constitutional Convention, but that it was also deftly woven into the Constitution itself. For one thing, slavery was central to the American economy, and since the document set the stage for a national economy, the Constitution could not avoid having implications for slavery. Even more, since the government defined sovereignty over individuals, as well as property in them, discussion of sovereignty led directly to debate over slavery’s place in the new republic.

Finding meaning in silences that have long been ignored, Slavery’s Constitution is a vital and sorely needed contribution to the conversation about the origins, impact, and meaning of our nation’s founding document.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Orientalism and Islam"

New from Cambridge University Press: Orientalism and Islam: European Thinkers on Oriental Despotism in the Middle East and India by Michael Curtis.

About the book, from the publisher:
Through an historical analysis of the theme of Oriental despotism, Michael Curtis reveals the complex positive and negative interaction between Europe and the Orient. The book also criticizes the misconception that the Orient was the constant victim of Western imperialism and the view that Westerners cannot comment objectively on Eastern and Muslim societies. The book views the European concept of Oriental despotism as based not on arbitrary prejudicial observation, but rather on perceptions of real processes and behavior in Eastern systems of government. Curtis considers how the concept developed and was expressed in the context of Western political thought and intellectual history, and of the changing realities in the Middle East and India. The book includes discussion of the observations of Western travelers in Muslim countries and analysis of the reflections of six major thinkers: Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Tocqueville, James and John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Max Weber.
Read an excerpt from Orientalism and Islam.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Morality Without God?"

New from Oxford University Press: Morality Without God? by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
Some argue that atheism must be false, since without God, no values are possible, and thus "everything is permitted." Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that God is not only not essential to morality, but that our moral behavior should be utterly independent of religion. He attacks several core ideas: that atheists are inherently immoral people; that any society will sink into chaos if it is becomes too secular; that without morality, we have no reason to be moral; that absolute moral standards require the existence of God; and that without religion, we simply couldn't know what is wrong and what is right.

Sinnott-Armstrong brings to bear convincing examples and data, as well as a lucid, elegant, and easy to understand writing style. This book should fit well with the debates raging over issues like evolution and intelligent design, atheism, and religion and public life as an example of a pithy, tightly-constructed argument on an issue of great social importance.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"A Right to Discriminate?"

New from Yale University Press: A Right to Discriminate?: How the Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale Warped the Law of Free Association by Andrew Koppelman with Tobias Barrington Wolff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Should the Boy Scouts of America and other noncommercial associations have a right to discriminate when selecting their members?

Does the state have a legitimate interest in regulating the membership practices of private associations? These questions-- raised by Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts had a right to expel gay members-- are at the core of this provocative book, an in-depth exploration of the tension between freedom of association and antidiscrimination law.

The book demonstrates that the “right” to discriminate has a long and unpleasant history. Andrew Koppelman and Tobias Wolff bring together legal history, constitutional theory, and political philosophy to analyze how the law ought to deal with discriminatory private organizations.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"The Rewards of Punishment"

New from Stanford University Press: The Rewards of Punishment: A Relational Theory of Norm Enforcement by Christine Horne.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Rewards of Punishment describes a new social theory of norms to provide a compelling explanation why people punish. Identifying mechanisms that link interdependence with norm enforcement, it reveals how social relationships lead individuals to enforce norms, even when doing so makes little sense.

This groundbreaking book tells the whole story, from ideas, to experiments, to real-world applications. In addition to addressing longstanding theoretical puzzles—such as why harmful behavior is not always punished, why individuals enforce norms in ways that actually hurt the group, why people enforce norms that benefit others rather than themselves, why groups punish behavior that has only trivial effects, and why atypical behaviors are sometimes punished and sometimes not—it explores the implications of the theory for substantive issues, including norms regulating sex, crime, and international human rights.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Inventing Autopia"

New from the University of California Press: Inventing Autopia: Dreams and Visions of the Modern Metropolis in Jazz Age Los Angeles by Jeremiah B. C. Axelrod.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1920, as its population began to explode, Los Angeles was a largely pastoral city of bungalows and palm trees. Thirty years later, choked with smog and traffic, the city had become synonymous with urban sprawl and unplanned growth. Yet Los Angeles was anything but unplanned, as Jeremiah B.C. Axelrod reveals in this compelling, visually oriented history of the metropolis during its formative years. In a deft mix of cultural and intellectual history that brilliantly illuminates the profound relationship between imagination and place, Inventing Autopia shows how the clash of irreconcilable utopian visions and dreams resulted in the invention of an unforeseen new form of urbanism—sprawling, illegible, fractured—that would reshape not only Southern California but much of the nation in the years to come.
Visit the Inventing Autopia website.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South by Anne C. Rose.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the American South at the turn of the twentieth century, the legal segregation of the races and psychological sciences focused on selfhood emerged simultaneously. The two developments presented conflicting views of human nature. American psychiatry and psychology were optimistic about personality growth guided by the new mental sciences. Segregation, in contrast, placed racial traits said to be natural and fixed at the forefront of identity. In a society built on racial differences, raising questions about human potential, as psychology did, was unsettling.

As Anne Rose lays out with sophistication and nuance, the introduction of psychological thinking into the Jim Crow South produced neither a clear victory for racial equality nor a single-minded defense of traditional ways. Instead, professionals of both races treated the mind-set of segregation as a hazardous subject. Psychology and Selfhood in the Segregated South examines the tensions stirred by mental science and restrained by southern custom.

Rose highlights the role of southern black intellectuals who embraced psychological theories as an instrument of reform; their white counterparts, who proved wary of examining the mind; and northerners eager to change the South by means of science. She argues that although psychology and psychiatry took root as academic disciplines, all these practitioners were reluctant to turn the sciences of the mind to the subject of race relations.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce.

About the book, from the publisher:
Scientists have long counseled against interpreting animal behavior in terms of human emotions, warning that such anthropomorphizing limits our ability to understand animals as they really are. Yet what are we to make of a female gorilla in a German zoo who spent days mourning the death of her baby? Or a wild female elephant who cared for a younger one after she was injured by a rambunctious teenage male? Or a rat who refused to push a lever for food when he saw that doing so caused another rat to be shocked? Aren’t these clear signs that animals have recognizable emotions and moral intelligence? With Wild Justice Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce unequivocally answer yes.

Marrying years of behavioral and cognitive research with compelling and moving anecdotes, Bekoff and Pierce reveal that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity. Underlying these behaviors is a complex and nuanced range of emotions, backed by a high degree of intelligence and surprising behavioral flexibility. Animals, in short, are incredibly adept social beings, relying on rules of conduct to navigate intricate social networks that are essential to their survival. Ultimately, Bekoff and Pierce draw the astonishing conclusion that there is no moral gap between humans and other species: morality is an evolved trait that we unquestionably share with other social mammals.

Sure to be controversial, Wild Justice offers not just cutting-edge science, but a provocative call to rethink our relationship with—and our responsibilities toward—our fellow animals.
Read an excerpt from Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"The Rise and Fall of Communism"

New from Ecco: The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the internationally acclaimed Oxford authority on Communism comes a definitive history that examines the origins of the ideology, its development in different nations, its collapse in many of those countries following perestroika, and its current incarnations around the globe. The Rise and Fall of Communism explores how and why Communists came to power; how they were able, in a variety of countries on different continents, to hold on to power for so long; and what brought about the downfall of so many Communist systems.

For this comprehensive and illuminating work, Brown draws on more than forty years of research and on a wealth of new sources. Tracing the story of Communism from its nineteenth-century roots, Brown explains both its expansion and its decline in the twentieth century. Even today, although Communism has been widely discredited in the West, more than a fifth of humanity still lives under its rule.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Practical Intelligence and the Virtues"

New from Oxford University Press: Practical Intelligence and the Virtues by Daniel C. Russell.

About the book, from the publisher:
One of the most important developments in modern moral philosophy is the resurgence of interest in the virtues. In this new book, Daniel Russell explores two important hopes for such an approach to moral thought: that starting from the virtues should cast light on what makes an action right, and that notions like character, virtue, and vice should yield a plausible picture of human psychology. Russell argues that the key to each of these hopes is an understanding of the cognitive and deliberative skills involved in the virtues. If right action is defined in terms of acting generously or kindly, then these virtues must involve skills for determining what the kind or generous thing to do would be on a given occasion. Likewise, Russell argues that understanding virtuous action as the intelligent pursuit of virtuous goals yields a promising picture of the psychology of virtue. This book develops an Aristotelian account of the virtue of practical intelligence or "phronesis"--an excellence of deliberating and making choices--which Russell argues is a necessary part of every virtue. This emphasis on the roots of the virtues in the practical intellect contrasts with ambivalence about the practical intellect in much recent work on the virtues--a trend Russell argues is ultimately perilous for virtue theory. This book also takes a penetrating look at issues like the unity of the virtues, responsibility for character, and that elusive figure, 'the virtuous person'. Written in a clear and careful manner, Practical Intelligence and the Virtues will appeal to philosophers and students alike in moral philosophy and moral psychology.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"American Passage"

New from Harper: American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato.

About the book, from the publisher:
For most of New York's early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today the small island stands alongside Plymouth Rock in our nation's founding mythology as the place where many of our ancestors first touched American soil. Ellis Island's heyday—from 1892 to 1924—coincided with one of the greatest mass movements of individuals the world has ever seen, with some twelve million immigrants inspected at its gates. In American Passage, Vincent J. Cannato masterfully illuminates the story of Ellis Island from the days when it hosted pirate hangings witnessed by thousands of New Yorkers in the nineteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century when massive migrations sparked fierce debate and hopeful new immigrants often encountered corruption, harsh conditions, and political scheming.

American Passage captures a time and a place unparalleled in American immigration and history, and articulates the dramatic and bittersweet accounts of the immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers who all play an important role in Ellis Island's chronicle. Cannato traces the politics, prejudices, and ideologies that surrounded the great immigration debate, to the shift from immigration to detention of aliens during World War II and the Cold War, all the way to the rebirth of the island as a national monument. Long after Ellis Island ceased to be the nation's preeminent immigrant inspection station, the debates that once swirled around it are still relevant to Americans a century later.

In this sweeping, often heart-wrenching epic, Cannato reveals that the history of Ellis Island is ultimately the story of what it means to be an American.
Visit Vincent J. Cannato's website.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"The Fifth Freedom"

New from Princeton University Press: The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972 by Anthony S. Chen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Where did affirmative action in employment come from? The conventional wisdom is that it was instituted during the Johnson and Nixon years through the backroom machinations of federal bureaucrats and judges. The Fifth Freedom presents a new perspective, tracing the roots of the policy to partisan conflicts over fair employment practices (FEP) legislation from the 1940s to the 1970s. Drawing on untapped sources, Anthony Chen chronicles the ironic, forgotten role played by American conservatives in the development of affirmative action.

Decades before affirmative action began making headlines, millions of Americans across the country debated whether government could and should regulate job discrimination. On one side was an interfaith and interracial bloc of liberals, who demanded FEP legislation that would establish a centralized system for enforcing equal treatment in the labor market. On the other side was a bloc of business-friendly, small-government conservatives, who felt that it was unwise to "legislate tolerance" and who made common cause with the conservative wing of the Republican party. Conservatives ultimately prevailed, but their obstruction of FEP legislation unintentionally facilitated the rise of affirmative action, a policy their ideological heirs would find even more abhorrent.

Broadly interdisciplinary, The Fifth Freedom sheds new light on the role of parties, elites, and institutions in the policymaking process; the impact of racial politics on electoral realignment; the history of civil rights; the decline of New Deal liberalism; and the rise of the New Right.
Visit Anthony Chen's website.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Confronting the Bomb"

New from Stanford University Press: Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement by Lawrence S. Wittner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Confronting the Bomb tells the dramatic, inspiring story of how citizen activism helped curb the nuclear arms race and prevent nuclear war. This abbreviated version of Lawrence Wittner's award-winning trilogy, The Struggle Against the Bomb, shows how a worldwide, grassroots campaign—the largest social movement of modern times—challenged the nuclear priorities of the great powers and, ultimately, thwarted their nuclear ambitions. Based on massive research in the files of peace and disarmament organizations and in formerly top secret government records, extensive interviews with antinuclear activists and government officials, and memoirs and other published materials, Confronting the Bomb opens a unique window on one of the most important issues of the modern era: survival in the nuclear age. It covers the entire period of significant opposition to the bomb, from the final stages of the Second World War up to the present. Along the way, it provides fascinating glimpses of the interaction of key nuclear disarmament activists and policymakers, including Albert Einstein, Harry Truman, Albert Schweitzer, Norman Cousins, Nikita Khrushchev, Bertrand Russell, Andrei Sakharov, Linus Pauling, Dwight Eisenhower, Harold Macmillan, John F. Kennedy, Randy Forsberg, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helen Caldicott, E.P. Thompson, and Ronald Reagan. Overall, however, it is a story of popular mobilization and its effectiveness.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"Boundless Faith"

New from the University of California Press: Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches by Robert Wuthnow.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Boundless Faith, the first book to look systematically at American Christianity in relation to globalization, Robert Wuthnow shows that American Christianity is increasingly influenced by globalization and is, in turn, playing a larger role in other countries and in U.S. policies and programs abroad. These changes, he argues, can be seen in the growth of support at home for missionaries and churches in other countries and in the large number of Americans who participate in short-term volunteer efforts abroad. These outreaches include building orphanages, starting microbusinesses, and setting up computer networks. Drawing on a comprehensive survey that was conducted for this book, as well as several hundred in-depth interviews with church leaders, Wuthnow refutes several prevailing stereotypes: that U.S. churches have turned away from the global church and overseas missions, that congregations only look inward, and that the growing voice of religion in areas of foreign policy is primarily evangelical. This fresh and revealing book encourages Americans to pay attention to the grass-roots mechanisms by which global ties are created and sustained.