Monday, February 28, 2011

"Familiar Objects and their Shadows"

New from Cambridge University Press: Familiar Objects and their Shadows by Crawford L. Elder.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most contemporary metaphysicians are sceptical about the reality of familiar objects such as dogs and trees, people and desks, cells and stars. They prefer an ontology of the spatially tiny or temporally tiny. Tiny microparticles 'dog-wise arranged' explain the appearance, they say, that there are dogs; microparticles obeying microphysics collectively cause anything that a baseball appears to cause; temporal stages collectively sustain the illusion of enduring objects that persist across changes. Crawford L. Elder argues that all such attempts to 'explain away' familiar objects project downwards, onto the tiny entities, structures and features of familiar objects themselves. He contends that sceptical metaphysicians are thus employing shadows of familiar objects, while denying that the entities which cast those shadows really exist. He argues that the shadows are indeed really there, because their sources – familiar objects – are mind-independently real.
Read an excerpt from Familiar Objects and their Shadows.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability"

New from the University of Illinois Press: Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability by Michele P. Claibourn.

About the book, from the publisher:
In investigating the presidential campaigns and early administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability shows how campaign promises are realized in government once the victor is established in the Oval Office. To measure correlations between presidential campaigns and policy-making, Michele P. Claibourn closely examines detailed campaign advertising information, survey data about citizen's responses to campaigns, processes that create expectations among constituents, and media attention and response to candidates.

Disputing the notion that presidents ignore campaign issues upon being elected, Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability contends that candidates raise issues that matter and develop ideas to address these issues based on voter reactions. Conventional disappointment in presidential campaigns stems from a misunderstanding of the role that presidents play in a system of separate institutions sharing power, and Claibourn forces us to think about presidential campaigns in the context of the presidency--what the president realistically can and cannot do. Based on comparisons of the Clinton, Bush, and Obama campaigns and the first years of the subsequent presidential administrations, Claibourn builds a generalized theory of agenda accountability, showing how presidential action is constrained by campaign agendas.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"The Tribal Imagination"

New from Harvard University Press: The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind by Robin Fox.

About the book, from the publisher:
We began as savages, and savagery has served us well—it got us where we are. But how do our tribal impulses, still in place and in play, fit in the highly complex, civilized world we inhabit today? This question, raised by thinkers from Freud to Levi-Strauss, is fully explored in this book by the acclaimed anthropologist Robin Fox. It takes up what he sees as the main—and urgent—task of evolutionary science: not so much to explain what we do, as to explain what we do at our peril.

Ranging from incest and arranged marriage to poetry and myth to human rights and pop icons, Fox sets out to show how a variety of human behaviors reveal traces of their tribal roots, and how this evolutionary past limits our capacity for action. Among the questions he raises: How real is our notion of time? Is there a human “right” to vengeance? Are we democratic by nature? Are cultural studies and fascism cousins under the skin? Is evolutionary history coming to an end—or just getting more interesting? In his famously informative and entertaining fashion, drawing links from Volkswagens to Bartok to Woody Guthrie, from Swinburne to Seinfeld, Fox traces our ongoing struggle to maintain open societies in the face of profoundly tribal human needs—needs which, paradoxically, hold the key to our survival.
Visit Robin Fox's website.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Capitalism, For and Against"

New from Cambridge University Press: Capitalism, For and Against: A Feminist Debate by Ann Cudd and Nancy Holmstrom.

About the book, from the publisher:
Political philosophy and feminist theory have rarely examined in detail how capitalism affects the lives of women. Ann Cudd and Nancy Holmstrom take up opposing sides of the issue, debating whether capitalism is valuable as an ideal and whether as an actually existing economic system it is good for women. In a discussion covering a broad range of social and economic issues, including unequal pay, industrial reforms and sweatshops, they examine how these and other issues relate to women and how effectively to analyze what constitutes 'capitalism' and 'women's interests'. Each author also responds to the opposing arguments, providing a thorough debate of the topics covered. The resulting volume will interest a wide range of readers in philosophy, political theory, women's studies and global affairs.
Read an excerpt from Capitalism, For and Against.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"The Detroit School Busing Case"

New from the University of Kansas Press: The Detroit School Busing Case: Milliken v. Bradley and the Controversy over Desegregation by Joyce A. Baugh.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, racial equality in American public education appeared to have a bright future. But, for many, that brightness dimmed considerably following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Milliken v. Bradley (1974). While the literature on Brown is voluminous, Joyce Baugh’s measured and insightful study offers the only available book-length analysis of Milliken, the first major desegregation case to originate outside the South.

As Baugh chronicles, when the city of Detroit sought to address school segregation by busing white students to black schools, a Michigan statute signed by Gov. William Milliken overruled the plan. In response, the NAACP sued the state on behalf of Ronald Bradley and other affected parents. The federal district court sided with the plaintiffs and ordered the city and state to devise a “metropolitan” plan that crossed city lines into the suburbs and encompassed a total of fifty-four school districts. The state, however, appealed that decision all the way to the Supreme Court.

In its controversial 5-4 decision, the Court’s new conservative majority ruled that, since there was no evidence that the suburban school districts had deliberately engaged in a policy of segregation, the lower court’s remedy was “wholly impermissible” and not justified by Brown—which the Court said could only address de jure, not de facto segregation. While the Court’s majority expressed concern that the district court’s remedy threatened the sanctity of local control over schools, the minority contended that the decision would allow residential segregation to be used as a valid excuse for school segregation.

To reconstruct the proceedings and give all claims a fair hearing, Baugh interviewed lawyers representing both sides in the case, as well as the federal district judge who eventually closed the litigation; plumbed the papers of Justices Blackmun, Brennan, Douglas, and Marshall; talked with the main reporter who covered the case; and researched the NAACP files on Milliken. What emerges is a detailed account of how and why Milliken came about, as well as its impact on the Court’s school-desegregation jurisprudence and on public education in American cities.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Savoring Disgust"

New from Oxford University Press: Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics by Carolyn Korsmeyer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Disgust is among the strongest of aversions, characterized by involuntary physical recoil and even nausea. Yet paradoxically, disgusting objects can sometimes exert a grisly allure, and this emotion can constitute a positive, appreciative aesthetic response when exploited by works of art -- a phenomenon labelled here "aesthetic disgust." While the reactive, visceral quality of disgust contributes to its misleading reputation as a relatively "primitive" response mechanism, it is this feature that also gives it a particular aesthetic power when manifest in art.

Most treatments of disgust mistakenly interpret it as only an extreme response, thereby neglecting the many subtle ways that it operates aesthetically. This study calls attention to the diversity and depth of its uses, analyzing the emotion in detail and considering the enormous variety of aesthetic forms it can assume in works of art and --unexpectedly-- even in foods.

In the process of articulating a positive role for disgust, this book examines the nature of aesthetic apprehension and argues for the distinctive mode of cognition that disgust affords -- an intimate apprehension of physical mortality. Despite some commonalities attached to the meaning of disgust, this emotion assumes many aesthetic forms: it can be funny, profound, witty, ironic, unsettling, sorrowful, or gross. To demonstrate this diversity, several chapters review examples of disgust as it is aroused by art. The book ends by investigating to what extent disgust can be discovered in art that is also considered beautiful.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"After Defeat"

New from Cambridge University Press: After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West by Ayşe Zarakol.

About the book, from the publisher:
Not being of the West; being behind the West; not being modern enough; not being developed or industrialized, secular, civilized, Christian, transparent, or democratic – these descriptions have all served to stigmatize certain states through history. Drawing on constructivism as well as the insights of social theorists and philosophers, After Defeat demonstrates that stigmatization in international relations can lead to a sense of national shame, as well as auto-Orientalism and inferior status. Ayşe Zarakol argues that stigmatized states become extra-sensitive to concerns about status, and shape their foreign policy accordingly. The theoretical argument is supported by a detailed historical overview of central examples of the established/outsider dichotomy throughout the evolution of the modern states system, and in-depth studies of Turkey after the First World War, Japan after the Second World War, and Russia after the Cold War.
Read an excerpt from After Defeat.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"The Economics of Enough"

New from Princeton University Press: The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as If the Future Matters by Diane Coyle.

About the book, from the publisher:
The world's leading economies are facing not just one but many crises. The financial meltdown may not be over, climate change threatens major global disruption, economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century, and government and business are widely distrusted. At the same time, many people regret the consumerism and social corrosion of modern life. What these crises have in common, Diane Coyle argues, is a reckless disregard for the future--especially in the way the economy is run. How can we achieve the financial growth we need today without sacrificing a decent future for our children, our societies, and our planet? How can we realize what Coyle calls "the Economics of Enough"?

Running the economy for tomorrow as well as today will require a wide range of policy changes. The top priority must be ensuring that we get a true picture of long-term economic prospects, with the development of official statistics on national wealth in its broadest sense, including natural and human resources. Saving and investment will need to be encouraged over current consumption. Above all, governments will need to engage citizens in a process of debate about the difficult choices that lie ahead and rebuild a shared commitment to the future of our societies.

Creating a sustainable economy--having enough to be happy without cheating the future--won't be easy. But The Economics of Enough starts a profoundly important conversation about how we can begin--and the first steps we need to take.
The Page 69 Test: Diane Coyle's The Soulful Science.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Desert Hell"

New from Harvard University Press: Desert Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia by Charles Townshend.

About the book, from the publisher:
The U.S.-led conquest and occupation of Iraq have kept that troubled country in international headlines since 2003. For America’s major Coalition ally, Great Britain, however, this latest incursion into the region played out against the dramatic backdrop of imperial history: Britain’s fateful invasion of Mesopotamia in 1914 and the creation of a new nation from the shards of war.

The objectives of the expedition sent by the British Government of India were primarily strategic: to protect the Raj, impress Britain’s military power upon Arabs chafing under Ottoman rule, and secure the Persian oil supply. But over the course of the Mesopotamian campaign, these goals expanded, and by the end of World War I Britain was committed to controlling the entire region from Suez to India. The conquest of Mesopotamia and the creation of Iraq were the central acts in this boldly opportunistic bid for supremacy. Charles Townshend provides a compelling account of the atrocious, unnecessary suffering inflicted on the expedition’s mostly Indian troops, which set the pattern for Britain’s follow-up campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next seven years. He chronicles the overconfidence, incompetence, and dangerously vague policy that distorted the mission, and examines the steps by which an initially cautious strategic operation led to imperial expansion on a vast scale.

Desert Hell is a cautionary tale for makers of national policy. And for those with an interest in imperial history, it raises searching questions about Britain’s quest for global power and the indelible consequences of those actions for the Middle East and the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Declarations of Dependence"

New from The University of North Carolina Press: Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908 by Gregory Downs.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this highly original study, Gregory Downs argues that the most American of wars, the Civil War, created a seemingly un-American popular politics, rooted not in independence but in voluntary claims of dependence. Through an examination of the pleas and petitions of ordinary North Carolinians, Declarations of Dependence contends that the Civil War redirected, not destroyed, claims of dependence by exposing North Carolinians to the expansive but unsystematic power of Union and Confederate governments, and by loosening the legal ties that bound them to husbands, fathers, and masters.

Faced with anarchy during the long reconstruction of government authority, people turned fervently to the government for protection and sustenance, pleading in fantastic, intimate ways for attention. This personalistic, or what Downs calls patronal, politics allowed for appeals from subordinate groups like freed blacks and poor whites, and also bound people emotionally to newly expanding postwar states. Downs's argument rewrites the history of the relationship between Americans and their governments, showing the deep roots of dependence, the complex impact of the Civil War upon popular politics, and the powerful role of Progressivism and segregation in submerging a politics of dependence that--in new form--rose again in the New Deal and persists today.

Friday, February 18, 2011


New from Harvard University Press: Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science by Philip Mirowski.

About the book, from the publisher:
This trenchant study analyzes the rise and decline in the quality and format of science in America since World War II.

During the Cold War, the U.S. government amply funded basic research in science and medicine. Starting in the 1980s, however, this support began to decline and for-profit corporations became the largest funders of research. Philip Mirowski argues that a powerful neoliberal ideology promoted a radically different view of knowledge and discovery: the fruits of scientific investigation are not a public good that should be freely available to all, but are commodities that could be monetized.

Consequently, patent and intellectual property laws were greatly strengthened, universities demanded patents on the discoveries of their faculty, information sharing among researchers was impeded, and the line between universities and corporations began to blur. At the same time, corporations shed their in-house research laboratories, contracting with independent firms both in the States and abroad to supply new products. Among such firms were AT&T and IBM, whose outstanding research laboratories during much of the twentieth century produced Nobel Prize–winning work in chemistry and physics, ranging from the transistor to superconductivity.

Science-Mart offers a provocative, learned, and timely critique, of interest to anyone concerned that American science—once the envy of the world—must be more than just another way to make money.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Is a Little Pollution Good for You?"

New from Oxford University Press: Is a Little Pollution Good for You?: Incorporating Societal Values in Environmental Research by Kevin C. Elliott.

About the book, from the publisher:
Could low-level exposure to polluting chemicals be analogous to exercise-a beneficial source of stress that strengthens the body? Some scientists studying the phenomenon of hormesis (beneficial or stimulatory effects caused by low-dose exposure to toxic substances) claim that that this may be the case. Is A Little Pollution Good For You? critically examines the current evidence for hormesis. In the process, it highlights the range of methodological and interpretive judgments involved in environmental research: choices about what questions to ask and how to study them, decisions about how to categorize and describe new information, judgments about how to interpret and evaluate ambiguous evidence, and questions about how to formulate public policy in response to debated scientific findings. The book also uncovers the ways that interest groups with deep pockets attempt to influence these scientific judgments for their benefit. Several chapters suggest ways to counter these influences and incorporate a broader array of societal values in environmental research: (1) moving beyond conflict-of-interest policies to develop new ways of safeguarding academic research from potential biases; (2) creating deliberative forums in which multiple stakeholders can discuss the judgments involved in policy-relevant research; and (3) developing ethical guidelines that can assist scientific experts in disseminating debated and controversial phenomena to the public. Kevin C. Elliott illustrates these strategies in the hormesis case, as well as in two additional case studies involving contemporary environmental research: endocrine disruption and multiple chemical sensitivity. This book should be of interest to a wide variety of readers, including scientists, philosophers, policy makers, environmental ethicists and activists, research ethicists, industry leaders, and concerned citizens.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Peddling Protectionism"

New from Princeton University Press: Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression by Douglas A. Irwin.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930, which raised U.S. duties on hundreds of imported goods to record levels, is America's most infamous trade law. It is often associated with--and sometimes blamed for--the onset of the Great Depression, the collapse of world trade, and the global spread of protectionism in the 1930s. Even today, the ghosts of congressmen Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley haunt anyone arguing for higher trade barriers; almost single-handedly, they made protectionism an insult rather than a compliment. In Peddling Protectionism, Douglas Irwin provides the first comprehensive history of the causes and effects of this notorious measure, explaining why it largely deserves its reputation for combining bad politics and bad economics and harming the U.S. and world economies during the Depression.

In four brief, clear chapters, Irwin presents an authoritative account of the politics behind Smoot-Hawley, its economic consequences, the foreign reaction it provoked, and its aftermath and legacy. Starting as a Republican ploy to win the farm vote in the 1928 election by increasing duties on agricultural imports, the tariff quickly grew into a logrolling, pork barrel free-for-all in which duties were increased all around, regardless of the interests of consumers and exporters. After Herbert Hoover signed the bill, U.S. imports fell sharply and other countries retaliated by increasing tariffs on American goods, leading U.S. exports to shrivel as well. While Smoot-Hawley was hardly responsible for the Great Depression, Irwin argues, it contributed to a decline in world trade and provoked discrimination against U.S. exports that lasted decades.

Peddling Protectionism tells a fascinating story filled with valuable lessons for trade policy today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire, 1713-1763"

New from The University of North Carolina Press: The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire, 1713-1763 by Paul W. Mapp.

About the book, from the publisher:
A truly continental history in both its geographic and political scope, The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire investigates eighteenth-century diplomacy involving North America and links geographic ignorance about the American West to Europeans' grand geopolitical designs. Breaking from scholars' traditional focus on the Atlantic world, Paul Mapp demonstrates the centrality of hitherto understudied western regions to early American history.

In the first two-thirds of the eighteenth century, imperial officials in London, Paris, or Madrid knew very little about western North America. Yet Europeans' competition to gain access to the Pacific Ocean and control trade to the Far East enhanced the importance of western American territories. Mapp reconstructs French, Spanish, British, and Amerindian ideas about these unknown regions, especially the elusive Northwest Passage, and shows that a Pacific focus is crucial to understanding the causes, course, and consequences of the Seven Years' War.

Mapp's work serves as a model for constructing a comprehensive colonial history of the continent. His book transcends artificially imposed boundaries of scholarly inquiry that did not exist in the diverse and interconnected early modern world and relates remote Pacific regions to the Atlantic aspects of the global Seven Years' War.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Monsters of the Gévaudan"

New from Harvard University Press: Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast by Jay M. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a brilliant, original rendition, Monsters of the Gévaudan revisits a spellbinding French tale that has captivated imaginations for over two hundred years, and offers the definitive explanation of the strange events that underlie this timeless story.

In 1764 a peasant girl was killed and partially eaten while tending a flock of sheep. Eventually, over a hundred victims fell prey to a mysterious creature, or creatures, whose cunning and deadly efficiency terrorized the region and mesmerized Europe. The fearsome aggressor quickly took on mythic status, and the beast of the Gévaudan passed into French folklore.

What species was this killer, why did it decapitate so many of its victims, and why did it prefer the flesh of women and children? Why did contemporaries assume that the beast was anything but a wolf, or a pack of wolves, as authorities eventually claimed, and why is the tale so often ignored in histories of the ancien régime? Smith finds the answer to these last two questions in an accident of timing. The beast was bound to be perceived as strange and anomalous because its ravages coincided with the emergence of modernity itself.

Expertly situated within the social, intellectual, cultural, and political currents of French life in the 1760s, Monsters of the Gévaudan will engage a wide range of readers with both its recasting of the beast narrative and its compelling insights into the allure of the monstrous in historical memory.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"The Mormon Menace"

New from Oxford University Press: The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South by Patrick Mason.

About the book, from the publisher:
"It incarnates every unclean beast of lust, guile, falsehood, murder, despotism and spiritual wickedness." So wrote a prominent Southern Baptist official in 1899 of Mormonism. Rather than the "quintessential American religion," as it has been dubbed by contemporary scholars, in the late nineteenth century Mormonism was America's most vilified homegrown faith. A vast national campaign featuring politicians, church leaders, social reformers, the press, women's organizations, businessmen, and ordinary citizens sought to end the distinctive Latter-day Saint practice of plural marriage, and to extinguish the entire religion if need be.

Placing the movement against polygamy in the context of American and southern history, Mason demonstrates that anti-Mormonism was one of the earliest vehicles for reconciliation between North and South after the Civil War and Reconstruction. Southerners joined with northern reformers and Republicans to endorse the use of newly expanded federal power to vanquish the perceived threat to Christian marriage and the American republic.

Anti-Mormonism was a significant intellectual, legal, religious, and cultural phenomenon, but in the South it was also violent. While southerners were concerned about distinctive Mormon beliefs and political practices, they were most alarmed at the "invasion" of Mormon missionaries in their communities and the prospect of their wives and daughters falling prey to polygamy. Moving to defend their homes and their honor against this threat, southerners turned to legislation, to religion, and, most dramatically, to vigilante violence.

The Mormon Menace provides new insights into some of the most important discussions of the late nineteenth century and of our own age, including debates over the nature and limits of religious freedom; the contest between the will of the people and the rule of law; and the role of citizens, churches, and the state in regulating and defining marriage.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Liberty's Exiles"

New from Knopf: Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff.

About the book, from the publisher:
On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and their families be safe? Facing grave doubts about their futures, some sixty thousand loyalists—one in forty members of the American population—decided to leave their homes and become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire. They sailed for Britain, for Canada, for Jamaica, and for the Bahamas; some ventured as far as Sierra Leone and India. Wherever they went, the voyage out of America was a fresh beginning, and it carried them into a dynamic if uncertain new world.

A groundbreaking history of the revolutionary era, Liberty’s Exiles tells the story of this remarkable global diaspora. Through painstaking archival research and vivid storytelling, award-winning historian Maya Jasanoff re-creates the journeys of ordinary individuals whose lives were overturned by extraordinary events. She tells of refugees like Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who spent nearly thirty years as a migrant, searching for a home in Britain, Jamaica, and Canada. And of David George, a black preacher born into slavery, who found freedom and faith in the British Empire, and eventually led his followers to seek a new Jerusalem in Sierra Leone. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant resettled his people under British protection in Ontario, while the adventurer William Augustus Bowles tried to shape a loyalist Creek state in Florida. For all these people and more, it was the British Empire—not the United States—that held the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet as they dispersed across the empire, the loyalists also carried things from their former homes, revealing an enduring American influence on the wider British world.

Ambitious, original, and personality-filled, Liberty’s Exiles is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative new analysis—a book that explores an unknown dimension of America’s founding to illuminate the meanings of liberty itself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Max Weber in America"

New from Princeton University Press: Max Weber in America by Lawrence A. Scaff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Max Weber, widely considered a founder of sociology and the modern social sciences, visited the United States in 1904 with his wife Marianne. The trip was a turning point in Weber's life and it played a pivotal role in shaping his ideas, yet until now virtually our only source of information about the trip was Marianne Weber's faithful but not always reliable 1926 biography of her husband. Max Weber in America carefully reconstructs this important episode in Weber's career, and shows how the subsequent critical reception of Weber's work was as American a story as the trip itself.

Lawrence Scaff provides new details about Weber's visit to the United States--what he did, what he saw, whom he met and why, and how these experiences profoundly influenced Weber's thought on immigration, capitalism, science and culture, Romanticism, race, diversity, Protestantism, and modernity. Scaff traces Weber's impact on the development of the social sciences in the United States following his death in 1920, examining how Weber's ideas were interpreted, translated, and disseminated by American scholars such as Talcott Parsons and Frank Knight, and how the Weberian canon, codified in America, was reintroduced into Europe after World War II.

A landmark work by a leading Weber scholar, Max Weber in America will fundamentally transform our understanding of this influential thinker and his place in the history of sociology and the social sciences.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Taxing the Poor"

New from the University of California Press: Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged by Katherine S. Newman and Rourke L. O'Brien.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book looks at the way we tax the poor in the United States, particularly in the American South, where poor families are often subject to income taxes, and where regressive sales taxes apply even to food for home consumption. Katherine S. Newman and Rourke L. O’Brien argue that these policies contribute in unrecognized ways to poverty-related problems like obesity, early mortality, the high school dropout rates, teen pregnancy, and crime. They show how, decades before California’s passage of Proposition 13, many southern states implemented legislation that makes it almost impossible to raise property or corporate taxes, a pattern now growing in the western states. Taxing the Poor demonstrates how sales taxes intended to replace the missing revenue—taxes that at first glance appear fair—actually punish the poor and exacerbate the very conditions that drove them into poverty in the first place.
Read an excerpt from Taxing the Poor.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"American Property"

New from Harvard University Press: American Property: A History of How, Why, and What We Own by Stuart Banner.

About the book, from the publisher:
In America, we are eager to claim ownership: our homes, our ideas, our organs, even our own celebrity. But beneath our nation’s proprietary longing looms a troublesome question: what does it mean to own something? More simply: what is property?

The question is at the heart of many contemporary controversies, including disputes over who owns everything from genetic material to indigenous culture to music and film on the Internet. To decide if and when genes or culture or digits are a kind of property that can be possessed, we must grapple with the nature of property itself. How does it originate? What purposes does it serve? Is it a natural right or one created by law?

Accessible and mercifully free of legal jargon, American Property reveals the perpetual challenge of answering these questions, as new forms of property have emerged in response to technological and cultural change, and as ideas about the appropriate scope of government regulation have shifted. This first comprehensive history of property in the United States is a masterly guided tour through a contested human institution that touches all aspects of our lives and desires.

Stuart Banner shows that property exists to serve a broad set of purposes, constantly in flux, that render the idea of property itself inconstant. Despite our ideals of ownership, property has always been a means toward other ends. What property signifies and what property is, we come to see, has consistently changed to match the world we want to acquire.
The Page 99 Test: Stuart Banner's Who Owns the Sky?.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


New from The University of North Carolina Press: Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in the Postwar United States and Mexico by Deborah Cohen.

About the book, from the publisher:
At the beginning of World War II, the United States and Mexico launched the bracero program, a series of labor agreements that brought Mexican men to work temporarily in U.S. agricultural fields. In Braceros, historian Deborah Cohen asks why these temporary migrants provoked so much concern and anxiety in the United States and what the Mexican government expected to gain in participating in the program. Cohen reveals the fashioning of a U.S.-Mexican transnational world, a world created through the interactions, negotiations, and struggles of the program's principal protagonists including Mexican and U.S. state actors, labor activists, growers, and bracero migrants. Cohen argues that braceros became racialized foreigners, Mexican citizens, workers, and transnational subjects as they moved between U.S. and Mexican national spaces.

Drawing on oral histories, ethnographic fieldwork, and documentary evidence, Cohen creatively links the often unconnected themes of exploitation, development, the rise of consumer cultures, and gendered class and race formation to show why those with connections beyond the nation have historically provoked suspicion, anxiety, and retaliatory political policies.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Dead Ringers"

New from Princeton University Press: Dead Ringers: How Outsourcing is Changing the Way Indians Understand Themselves by Shehzad Nadeem.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the Indian outsourcing industry, employees are expected to be "dead ringers" for the more expensive American workers they have replaced--complete with Westernized names, accents, habits, and lifestyles that are organized around a foreign culture in a distant time zone. Dead Ringers chronicles the rise of a workforce for whom mimicry is a job requirement and a passion. In the process, the book deftly explores the complications of hybrid lives and presents a vivid portrait of a workplace where globalization carries as many downsides as advantages.

Shehzad Nadeem writes that the relatively high wages in the outsourcing sector have empowered a class of cultural emulators. These young Indians indulge in American-style shopping binges at glittering malls, party at upscale nightclubs, and arrange romantic trysts at exurban cafés. But while the high-tech outsourcing industry is a matter of considerable pride for India, global corporations view the industry as a low-cost, often low-skill sector. Workers use the digital tools of the information economy not to complete technologically innovative tasks but to perform grunt work and rote customer service. Long hours and the graveyard shift lead to health problems and social estrangement. Surveillance is tight, management is overweening, and workers are caught in a cycle of hope and disappointment.

Through lively ethnographic detail and subtle analysis of interviews with workers, managers, and employers, Nadeem demonstrates the culturally transformative power of globalization and its effects on the lives of the individuals at its edges.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Balancing Acts"

New from the University of California Press: Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City by Natasha K. Warikoo.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this timely examination of children of immigrants in New York and London, Natasha Kumar Warikoo asks, Is there a link between rap/hip-hop-influenced youth culture and motivation to succeed in school? Warikoo challenges teachers, administrators, and parents to look beneath the outward manifestations of youth culture -- the clothing, music, and tough talk -- to better understand the internal struggle faced by many minority students as they try to fit in with peers while working to lay the groundwork for successful lives. Using ethnographic, survey, and interview data in two racially diverse, low-achieving high schools, Warikoo analyzes seemingly oppositional styles, tastes in music, and school behaviors and finds that most teens try to find a balance between success with peers and success in school.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Conflicts of Interest and the Future of Medicine"

New from Oxford University Press: Conflicts of Interest and the Future of Medicine: The United States, France, and Japan by Marc A. Rodwin.

About the book, from the publisher:
As most Americans know, conflicts of interest riddle the US health care system. They result from physicians practicing medicine as entrepreneurs, from physicians' ties to pharma, and from investor-owned firms and insurers' influence over physicians' medial choices. These conflicts raise questions about physicians' loyalty to their patients and their professional and economic independence. The consequences of such conflicts of interest are often devastating for the patients--and society--stuck in the middle.

In Conflicts of Interest and the Future of Medicine, Marc Rodwin examines the development of these conflicts in the US, France, and Japan. He shows that national differences in the organization of medical practice and the interplay of organized medicine, the market, and the state give rise to variations in the type and prevalence of such conflicts. He then analyzes the strategies that each nation employs to cope with them.

Unfortunately, many proposals to address physicians' conflicts of interest do not offer solutions that stick. But drawing on the experiences of these three nations, Rodwin demonstrates that we can mitigate these problems with carefully planned reform and regulation. He examines a range of measures that can be taken in the private and public sector to preserve medical professionalism--and concludes that there just might be more than one prescription to this seemingly incurable malady.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"The Waters of Rome"

New from Yale University Press: The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City by Katherine Wentworth Rinne.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this pioneering study of the water infrastructure of Renaissance Rome, urban historian Katherine Rinne offers a new understanding of how technological and scientific developments in aqueduct and fountain architecture helped turn a medieval backwater into the preeminent city of early modern Europe. Supported by the author’s extensive topographical research, this book presents a unified vision of the city that links improvements to public and private water systems with political, religious, and social change. Between 1560 and 1630, in a spectacular burst of urban renewal, Rome’s religious and civil authorities sponsored the construction of aqueducts, private and public fountains for drinking, washing, and industry, and the magnificent ceremonial fountains that are Rome’s glory. Tying together the technological, sociopolitical, and artistic questions that faced the designers during an age of turmoil in which the Catholic Church found its authority threatened and the infrastructure of the city was in a state of decay, Rinne shows how these public works projects transformed Rome in a successful marriage of innovative engineering and strategic urban planning.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Triumph of the City"

New from The Penguin Press: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser.

About the book, from the publisher:
A pioneering urban economist offers fascinating, even inspiring proof that the city is humanity's greatest invention and our best hope for the future.

America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: they're dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly... Or are they?

As Edward Glaeser proves in this myth-shattering book, cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of America's income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.

Glaeser travels through history and around the globe to reveal the hidden workings of cities and how they bring out the best in humankind. Even the worst cities-Kinshasa, Kolkata, Lagos- confer surprising benefits on the people who flock to them, including better health and more jobs than the rural areas that surround them. Glaeser visits Bangalore and Silicon Valley, whose strangely similar histories prove how essential education is to urban success and how new technology actually encourages people to gather together physically. He discovers why Detroit is dying while other old industrial cities-Chicago, Boston, New York-thrive. He investigates why a new house costs 350 percent more in Los Angeles than in Houston, even though building costs are only 25 percent higher in L.A. He pinpoints the single factor that most influences urban growth-January temperatures-and explains how certain chilly cities manage to defy that link. He explains how West Coast environmentalists have harmed the environment, and how struggling cities from Youngstown to New Orleans can "shrink to greatness." And he exposes the dangerous anti-urban political bias that is harming both cities and the entire country.

Using intrepid reportage, keen analysis, and eloquent argument, Glaeser makes an impassioned case for the city's import and splendor. He reminds us forcefully why we should nurture our cities or suffer consequences that will hurt us all, no matter where we live.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Mafias on the Move"

New from Princeton University Press: Mafias on the Move: How Organized Crime Conquers New Territories by Federico Varese.

About the book, from the publisher:
Organized crime is spreading like a global virus as mobs take advantage of open borders to establish local franchises at will. That at least is the fear, inspired by stories of Russian mobsters in New York, Chinese triads in London, and Italian mafias throughout the West.

As Federico Varese explains in this compelling and daring book, the truth is more complicated. Varese has spent years researching mafia groups in Italy, Russia, the United States, and China, and argues that mafiosi often find themselves abroad against their will, rather than through a strategic plan to colonize new territories. Once there, they do not always succeed in establishing themselves. Varese spells out the conditions that lead to their long-term success, namely sudden market expansion that is neither exploited by local rivals nor blocked by authorities. Ultimately the inability of the state to govern economic transformations gives mafias their opportunity.

In a series of matched comparisons, Varese charts the attempts of the Calabrese 'Ndrangheta to move to the north of Italy, and shows how the Sicilian mafia expanded to early twentieth-century New York, but failed around the same time to find a niche in Argentina. He explains why the Russian mafia failed to penetrate Rome but succeeded in Hungary. In a pioneering chapter on China, he examines the challenges that triads from Taiwan and Hong Kong find in branching out to the mainland. Based on ground-breaking field work and filled with dramatic stories, this book is both a compelling read and a sober assessment of the risks posed by globalization and immigration for the spread of mafias.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Zero-Sum Future"

New from Simon & Schuster: Zero-Sum Future: American Power in an Age of Anxiety by Gideon Rachman.

About the book, from the publisher:
From one of the world's most influential commentators on international affairs, chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, comes a stark warning about a gathering global political crisis.

Successive presidents have welcomed globalization and the rise of China. But with American unemployment stubbornly high and U.S. power facing new challenges, the stage is set for growing rivalry between America and China. The European Union is also ripping itself apart. The win-win logic of globalization is giving way to a zero-sum logic of political and economic struggle.

The new world we now live in, an age of anxiety, is a less prosperous, less stable world, with old ideas overthrown and new ideologies and powers on the rise. Rachman shows how zero-sum logic is thwarting efforts to deal with global problems from Afghanistan to unemployment, climate change to nuclear proliferation.

This timely and important book details why international politics is now more dangerous and volatile—and suggests what can be done to break away from the crippling logic of a zero-sum world.
Visit Gideon Rachman's blog.