Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Classical Spies"

New from the University of Michigan Press: Classical Spies: American Archaeologists with the OSS in World War II Greece by Susan Heuck Allen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Classical Spies is the first insiders' account of the operations of the American intelligence service in World War II Greece. Initiated by archaeologists in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean, the network drew on scholars' personal contacts and knowledge of languages and terrain. While modern readers might think Indiana Jones is just a fantasy character, Classical Spies discloses events where even Indy would feel at home: burying Athenian dig records in an Egyptian tomb, activating prep-school connections to establish spies code-named Vulture and Chickadee, and organizing parachute drops.

Susan Heuck Allen reveals remarkable details about a remarkable group of individuals. Often mistaken for mild-mannered professors and scholars, such archaeologists as University of Pennsylvania's Rodney Young, Cincinnati's Jack Caskey and Carl Blegen, Yale's Jerry Sperling and Dorothy Cox, and Bryn Mawr's Virginia Grace proved their mettle as effective spies in an intriguing game of cat and mouse with their Nazi counterparts. Relying on interviews with individuals sharing their stories for the first time, previously unpublished secret documents, private diaries and letters, and personal photographs, Classical Spies offers an exciting and personal perspective on the history of World War II.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Bonds of the Dead"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Bonds of the Dead: Temples, Burial, and the Transformation of Contemporary Japanese Buddhism by Mark Michael Rowe.

About the book, from the publisher:
Despite popular images of priests seeking enlightenment in snow-covered mountain temples, the central concern of Japanese Buddhism is death. For that reason, Japanese Buddhism’s social and economic base has long been in mortuary services—a base now threatened by public debate over the status, treatment, and location of the dead. Bonds of the Dead explores the crisis brought on by this debate and investigates what changing burial forms reveal about the ways temple Buddhism is perceived and propagated in contemporary Japan.

Mark Rowe offers a crucial account of how religious, political, social, and economic forces in the twentieth century led to the emergence of new funerary practices in Japan and how, as a result, the care of the dead has become the most fundamental challenge to the continued existence of Japanese temple Buddhism. Far from marking the death of Buddhism in Japan, Rowe argues, funerary Buddhism reveals the tradition at its most vibrant. Combining ethnographic research with doctrinal considerations, this is a fascinating book for anyone interested in Japanese society and religion.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"The Confederate Heartland"

New from the Louisiana State University Press: The Confederate Heartland: Military and Civilian Morale in the Western Confederacy by Bradley R. Clampitt.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bradley R. Clampitt’s The Confederate Heartland examines morale in the Civil War’s western theater—the region that witnessed the most consistent Union success and Confederate failure, and the battleground where many historians contend that the war was won and lost. Clampitt’s western focus provides a glimpse into the hearts and minds of Confederates who routinely witnessed the defeat of their primary defenders, the Army of Tennessee.

This book tracks morale through highs and lows related to events on and off the battlefield, and addresses the lingering questions of when and why western Confederates recognized and admitted defeat. Clampitt digs beneath the surface to illustrate the intimate connections between battlefield and home front, and demonstrates a persistent dedication to southern independence among residents of the Confederate heartland until that spirit was broken on the battlefields of Middle Tennessee in late 1864.

The western Confederates examined in this study possessed a strong sense of collective identity that endured long past the point when defeat on the battlefield was all but certain. Ultimately, by authoring a sweeping vision of the Confederate heartland and by addressing questions related to morale, nationalism, and Confederate identity within a western context, Clampitt helps to fashion a more balanced historical landscape for Civil War studies.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"The Monogamy Gap"

New from Oxford University Press: The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating by Eric Anderson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Whether straight or gay, most men start their relationships desiring monogamy. This is rooted in the pervasive notion that monogamy exists as a sign of true love. Yet despite this deeply held cultural ideal, cheating remains rampant. In this accessible book, Eric Anderson investigates why 78% of men he interviewed have cheated despite their desire not to.

Combining 120 interviews with research from the fields of sociology, biology, and psychology, Anderson identifies cheating as a product of wanting emotional passion for one's partner, along with a steadily growing desire for emotionally-detached recreational sex with others. Anderson coins the term "the monogamy gap" to describe this phenomenon.

Anderson suggests that monogamy is an irrational ideal because it fails to fulfill a lifetime of sexual desires. Cheating therefore becomes the rational response to an irrational situation.

The Monogamy Gap draws on a range of concepts, theories, and disciplines to highlight the biological compulsion of our sexual urges, the social construction of the monogamous ideal, and the devastating chasm that lies between them. Whether single or married, monogamous or open, straight or gay, readers will find The Monogamy Gap to be an enlightening, intellectually compelling, and provocative book.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Against Moral Responsibility"

New from the MIT Press: Against Moral Responsibility by Bruce N. Waller.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Against Moral Responsibility, Bruce Waller launches a spirited attack on a system that is profoundly entrenched in our society and its institutions, deeply rooted in our emotions, and vigorously defended by philosophers from ancient times to the present. Waller argues that, despite the creative defenses of it by contemporary thinkers, moral responsibility cannot survive in our naturalistic-scientific system. The scientific understanding of human behavior and the causes that shape human character, he contends, leaves no room for moral responsibility.

Waller argues that moral responsibility in all its forms--including criminal justice, distributive justice, and all claims of just deserts--is fundamentally unfair and harmful and that its abolition will be liberating and beneficial. What we really want--natural human free will, moral judgments, meaningful human relationships, creative abilities--would survive and flourish without moral responsibility. In the course of his argument, Waller examines the origins of the basic belief in moral responsibility, proposes a naturalistic understanding of free will, offers a detailed argument against moral responsibility and critiques arguments in favor of it, gives a general account of what a world without moral responsibility would look like, and examines the social and psychological aspects of abolishing moral responsibility. Waller not only mounts a vigorous, and philosophically rigorous, attack on the moral responsibility system, but also celebrates the benefits that would result from its total abolition.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Armed with Abundance"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War by Meredith Lair.

About the book, from the publisher:
Popular representations of the Vietnam War tend to emphasize violence, deprivation, and trauma. By contrast, in Armed with Abundance, Meredith Lair focuses on the noncombat experiences of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, redrawing the landscape of the war so that swimming pools, ice cream, visits from celebrities, and other "comforts" share the frame with combat.

To address a tenuous morale situation, military authorities, Lair reveals, wielded abundance to insulate soldiers--and, by extension, the American public--from boredom and deprivation, making the project of war perhaps easier and certainly more palatable. The result was dozens of overbuilt bases in South Vietnam that grew more elaborate as the war dragged on. Relying on memoirs, military documents, and G.I. newspapers, Lair finds that consumption and satiety, rather than privation and sacrifice, defined most soldiers' Vietnam deployments. Abundance quarantined the U.S. occupation force from the impoverished people it ostensibly had come to liberate, undermining efforts to win Vietnamese "hearts and minds" and burdening veterans with disappointment that their wartime service did not measure up to public expectations. With an epilogue that finds a similar paradigm at work in Iraq, Armed with Abundance offers a unique and provocative perspective on modern American warfare.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Strings Attached"

New from Princeton University Press: Strings Attached: Untangling the Ethics of Incentives by Ruth W. Grant.

About the book, from the publisher:
Incentives can be found everywhere--in schools, businesses, factories, and government--influencing people's choices about almost everything, from financial decisions and tobacco use to exercise and child rearing. So long as people have a choice, incentives seem innocuous. But Strings Attached demonstrates that when incentives are viewed as a kind of power rather than as a form of exchange, many ethical questions arise: How do incentives affect character and institutional culture? Can incentives be manipulative or exploitative, even if people are free to refuse them? What are the responsibilities of the powerful in using incentives? Ruth Grant shows that, like all other forms of power, incentives can be subject to abuse, and she identifies their legitimate and illegitimate uses.

Grant offers a history of the growth of incentives in early twentieth-century America, identifies standards for judging incentives, and examines incentives in four areas--plea bargaining, recruiting medical research subjects, International Monetary Fund loan conditions, and motivating students. In every case, the analysis of incentives in terms of power yields strikingly different and more complex judgments than an analysis that views incentives as trades, in which the desired behavior is freely exchanged for the incentives offered.

Challenging the role and function of incentives in a democracy, Strings Attached questions whether the penchant for constant incentivizing undermines active, autonomous citizenship. Readers of this book are sure to view the ethics of incentives in a new light.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway"

New from Yale University Press: It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past by David Satter.

About the book, from the publisher:
Russia today is haunted by deeds that have not been examined and words that have been left unsaid. A serious attempt to understand the meaning of the Communist experience has not been undertaken, and millions of victims of Soviet Communism are all but forgotten. In this book David Satter, a former Moscow correspondent and longtime writer on Russia and the Soviet Union, presents a striking new interpretation of Russia's great historical tragedy, locating its source in Russia's failure fully to appreciate the value of the individual in comparison with the objectives of the state.

Satter explores the moral and spiritual crisis of Russian society. He shows how it is possible for a government to deny the inherent value of its citizens and for the population to agree, and why so many Russians actually mourn the passing of the Soviet regime that denied them fundamental rights. Through a wide-ranging consideration of attitudes toward the living and the dead, the past and the present, the state and the individual, Satter arrives at a distinctive and important new way of understanding the Russian experience.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"The Unintended Reformation"

New from Harvard University Press: The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society by Brad S. Gregory.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a work that is as much about the present as the past, Brad Gregory identifies the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation and traces the way it shaped the modern condition over the course of the following five centuries. A hyperpluralism of religious and secular beliefs, an absence of any substantive common good, the triumph of capitalism and its driver, consumerism—all these, Gregory argues, were long-term effects of a movement that marked the end of more than a millennium during which Christianity provided a framework for shared intellectual, social, and moral life in the West.

Before the Protestant Reformation, Western Christianity was an institutionalized worldview laden with expectations of security for earthly societies and hopes of eternal salvation for individuals. The Reformation’s protagonists sought to advance the realization of this vision, not disrupt it. But a complex web of rejections, retentions, and transformations of medieval Christianity gradually replaced the religious fabric that bound societies together in the West. Today, what we are left with are fragments: intellectual disagreements that splinter into ever finer fractals of specialized discourse; a notion that modern science—as the source of all truth—necessarily undermines religious belief; a pervasive resort to a therapeutic vision of religion; a set of smuggled moral values with which we try to fertilize a sterile liberalism; and the institutionalized assumption that only secular universities can pursue knowledge.

The Unintended Reformation asks what propelled the West into this trajectory of pluralism and polarization, and finds answers deep in our medieval Christian past.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Latino Catholicism"

New from Princeton University Press: Latino Catholicism: Transformation in America's Largest Church by Timothy Matovina.

About the book, from the publisher:
Most histories of Catholicism in the United States focus on the experience of Euro-American Catholics, whose views on such concerns as church reform, social issues, and sexual ethics have dominated public debates. Latino Catholicism provides a comprehensive overview of the Latino Catholic experience in America from the sixteenth century to today, and offers the most in-depth examination to date of the important ways the U.S. Catholic Church, its evolving Latino majority, and American culture are mutually transforming one another.

Timothy Matovina assesses how Latinos' attempts to celebrate their faith and bring it to bear on the everyday realities of their lives have shaped parishes, apostolic movements, leadership, ministries, worship, voting patterns, social activism, and much more. At the same time, the lives and faith of Latino Catholics are being dramatically refashioned through the multiple pressures of assimilation, the upsurge of Pentecostal and evangelical religion, other types of religious pluralism, growing secularization, and ongoing controversies over immigration and clergy sexual abuse. Going beyond the widely noted divide between progressive and conservative Catholics, Matovina shows how U.S. Catholicism is being shaped by the rise of a largely working-class Latino population in a church whose leadership at all levels is still predominantly Euro-American and middle class.

Latino Catholicism highlights the vital contributions of Latinos to American religious and social life, demonstrating in particular how their engagement with the U.S. cultural milieu is the most significant factor behind their ecclesial and societal impact.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan"

New from Cambridge University Press: The Republican Party and American Politics from Hoover to Reagan by Robert Mason.

About the book, from the publisher:
During a long period of the twentieth century, stretching from the Great Depression until the Reagan years, defeat generally characterized the electoral record of the Republican party. Although Republicans sometimes secured victory in presidential contests, a majority of Americans identified with the Democratic party, not the GOP. This book investigates how Republicans tackled the problem of their party's minority status and why their efforts to boost GOP fortunes usually ended in failure. At the heart of the Republicans' minority puzzle was the profound and persistent popularity of New Deal liberalism. This puzzle was stubbornly resistant to solution. Efforts to develop a Republican version of government activism met little success. The same was true of conservative strategies that stressed a more fundamental rejection of the Democrats' arguments. Technocratic initiatives to improve party organization and communications similarly failed to facilitate an electoral breakthrough. Only the Democratic party's decline eventually created opportunities for Republican resurgence. This book is the first to offer a wide-ranging analysis of the topic, which is of central importance to any understanding of modern U.S. political history.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"DDT and the American Century"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: DDT and the American Century: Global Health, Environmental Politics, and the Pesticide That Changed the World by David Kinkela.

About the book, from the publisher:
Praised for its ability to kill insects effectively and cheaply and reviled as an ecological hazard, DDT continues to engender passion across the political spectrum as one of the world's most controversial chemical pesticides. In DDT and the American Century, David Kinkela chronicles the use of DDT around the world from 1941 to the present with a particular focus on the United States, which has played a critical role in encouraging the global use of the pesticide.

The banning of DDT in the United States in 1972 is generally regarded as a signal triumph for the American environmental movement. Yet DDT's function as a tool of U.S. foreign policy and its use in international development projects designed to solve problems of disease and famine made it an integral component of the so-called American Century. The varying ways in which scientists, philanthropic foundations, corporations, national governments, and transnational institutions assessed and adjudicated the balance of risks and benefits of DDT within and beyond America's borders, Kinkela argues, demonstrates the gap that existed between global and U.S. perspectives on DDT. DDT and the American Century offers a unique approach to understanding modern environmentalism in a global context.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Empire of Dogs"

New from Cornell University Press: Empire of Dogs: Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World by Aaron Herald Skabelund.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1924, Professor Ueno Eizaburo of Tokyo Imperial University adopted an Akita puppy he named Hachiko. Each evening Hachiko greeted Ueno on his return to Shibuya Station. In May 1925 Ueno died while giving a lecture. Every day for over nine years the Akita waited at Shibuya Station, eventually becoming nationally and even internationally famous for his purported loyalty. A year before his death in 1935, the city of Tokyo erected a statue of Hachiko outside the station. The story of Hachiko reveals much about the place of dogs in Japan's cultural imagination.

In the groundbreaking Empire of Dogs, Aaron Herald Skabelund examines the history and cultural significance of dogs in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan, beginning with the arrival of Western dog breeds and new modes of dog keeping, which spread throughout the world with Western imperialism. He highlights how dogs joined with humans to create the modern imperial world and how, in turn, imperialism shaped dogs' bodies and their relationship with humans through its impact on dog-breeding and dog-keeping practices that pervade much of the world today.

In a book that is both enlightening and entertaining, Skabelund focuses on actual and metaphorical dogs in a variety of contexts: the rhetorical pairing of the Western "colonial dog" with native canines; subsequent campaigns against indigenous canines in the imperial realm; the creation, maintenance, and in some cases restoration of Japanese dog breeds, including the Shiba Inu; the mobilization of military dogs, both real and fictional; and the emergence of Japan as a "pet superpower" in the second half of the twentieth century. Through this provocative account, Skabelund demonstrates how animals generally and canines specifically have contributed to the creation of our shared history, and how certain dogs have subtly influenced how that history is told. Generously illustrated with both color and black-and-white images, Empire of Dogs shows that human-canine relations often expose how people—especially those with power and wealth—use animals to define, regulate, and enforce political and social boundaries between themselves and other humans, especially in imperial contexts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Colored Cosmopolitanism"

New from Harvard University Press: Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India by Nico Slate.

About the book, from the publisher:
A hidden history connects India and the United States, the world’s two largest democracies. From the late nineteenth century through the 1960s, activists worked across borders of race and nation to push both countries toward achieving their democratic principles. At the heart of this shared struggle, African Americans and Indians forged bonds ranging from statements of sympathy to coordinated acts of solidarity. Within these two groups, certain activists developed a colored cosmopolitanism, a vision of the world that transcended traditional racial distinctions. These men and women agitated for the freedom of the “colored world,” even while challenging the meanings of both color and freedom.

Colored Cosmopolitanism is the first detailed examination of both ends of this transnational encounter. Nico Slate tells the stories of neglected historical figures, like the “Eurasian” scholar Cedric Dover, and offers a stunning glimpse of people we thought we knew. Prominent figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Swami Vivekananda, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Martin Luther King Jr. emerge as never before seen. Slate reveals the full gamut of this exchange—from selective appropriations, to blatant misunderstandings, to a profound empathy—as African Americans and South Asians sought a united front against racism, imperialism, and other forms of oppression.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"The Institutional Revolution"

New from the University of Chicago Press: The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World by Douglas W. Allen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Few events in the history of humanity rival the Industrial Revolution. Following its onset in eighteenth-century Britain, sweeping changes in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and technology began to gain unstoppable momentum throughout Europe, North America, and eventually much of the world—with profound effects on socioeconomic and cultural conditions.

In The Institutional Revolution, Douglas W. Allen offers a thought-provoking account of another, quieter revolution that took place at the end of the eighteenth century and allowed for the full exploitation of the many new technological innovations. Fundamental to this shift were dramatic changes in institutions, or the rules that govern society, which reflected significant improvements in the ability to measure performance—whether of government officials, laborers, or naval officers—thereby reducing the role of nature and the hazards of variance in daily affairs. Along the way, Allen provides readers with a fascinating explanation of the critical roles played by seemingly bizarre institutions, from dueling to the purchase of one’s rank in the British Army.

Engagingly written, The Institutional Revolution traces the dramatic shift from premodern institutions based on patronage, purchase, and personal ties toward modern institutions based on standardization, merit, and wage labor—a shift which was crucial to the explosive economic growth of the Industrial Revolution.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide"

New from Princeton University Press: Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide: Identity and Moral Choice by Kristen Renwick Monroe.

About the book, from the publisher:
What causes genocide? Why do some stand by, doing nothing, while others risk their lives to help the persecuted? Ethics in an Age of Terror and Genocide analyzes riveting interviews with bystanders, Nazi supporters, and rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust to lay bare critical psychological forces operating during genocide. Monroe's insightful examination of these moving--and disturbing--interviews underscores the significance of identity for moral choice.

Monroe finds that self-image and identity--especially the sense of self in relation to others--determine and delineate our choice options, not just morally but cognitively. She introduces the concept of moral salience to explain how we establish a critical psychological relationship with others, classifying individuals in need as "people just like us" or reducing them to strangers perceived as different, threatening, or even beyond the boundaries of our concern. Monroe explicates the psychological dehumanization that is a prerequisite for genocide and uses her knowledge of human behavior during the Holocaust to develop a broader theory of moral choice, one applicable to other forms of ethnic, religious, racial, and sectarian prejudice, aggression, and violence. Her book fills a long-standing void in ethics and suggests that identity is more fundamental than reasoning in our treatment of others.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Educations in Ethnic Violence"

New from Cambridge University Press: Educations in Ethnic Violence: Identity, Educational Bubbles, and Resource Mobilization by Matthew Lange.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Ethnic Violence and Education, Matthew Lange explores the effects education has on ethnic violence. Lange contradicts the widely-held belief that education promotes peace and tolerance. Rather, Lange finds that education commonly contributes to aggression, especially in environments with ethnic divisions, limited resources, and ineffective political institutions. He describes four ways in which organized learning spurs ethnic conflicts. Socialization in school shapes students' identities and the norms governing intercommunal relations. Education can also increase students' frustration and aggression when their expectations are not met. Sometimes, the competitive atmosphere gives students an incentive to participate in violence. Finally, education provides students with superior abilities to mobilize violent ethnic movements. Lange employs a cross-national statistical analysis with case studies of Sri Lanka, Cyprus, the Palestinian territories, India, sub-Saharan Africa, Canada, and Germany.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Homies and Hermanos"

New from Oxford University Press: Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America by Robert Brenneman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why would a gun-wielding, tattoo-bearing "homie" trade in la vida loca for a Bible and the buttoned-down lifestyle of an evangelical hermano (brother in Christ)? To answer this question, Robert Brenneman interviewed sixty-three former gang members from the "Northern Triangle" of Central America--Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras--most of whom left their gang for evangelicalism. Unlike in the United States, membership in a Central American gang is hasta la morgue. But the most common exception to the "morgue rule" is that of conversion or regular participation in an evangelical church. Do gang members who weary of their dangerous lifestyle simply make a rational choice to opt for evangelical religion? Brenneman finds this is only partly the case, for many others report emotional conversions that came unexpectedly, when they found themselves overwhelmed by a sermon, a conversation, or a prayer service. An extensively researched and gritty account, Homies and Hermanos sheds light on the nature of youth violence, of religious conversion, and of evangelical churches in Central America.
Visit Robert Brenneman's website.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation: Constitutional Conflict in the American Civil War by Mark E. Neely.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Civil War placed the U.S. Constitution under unprecedented--and, to this day, still unmatched--strain. In Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark Neely examines for the first time in one book the U.S. Constitution and its often overlooked cousin, the Confederate Constitution, and the ways the documents shaped the struggle for national survival.

Previous scholars have examined wartime challenges to civil liberties and questions of presidential power, but Neely argues that the constitutional conflict extended to the largest questions of national existence. Drawing on judicial opinions, presidential state papers, and political pamphlets spiced with the everyday immediacy of the partisan press, Neely reveals how judges, lawyers, editors, politicians, and government officials, both North and South, used their constitutions to fight the war and save, or create, their nation.

Lincoln and the Triumph of the Nation illuminates how the U.S. Constitution not only survived its greatest test but emerged stronger after the war. That this happened at a time when the nation's very existence was threatened, Neely argues, speaks ultimately to the wisdom of the Union leadership, notably President Lincoln and his vision of the American nation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Roads to Power"

New from Harvard University Press: Roads to Power: Britain Invents the Infrastructure State by Jo Guldi.

About the book, from the publisher:
Roads to Power tells the story of how Britain built the first nation connected by infrastructure, how a libertarian revolution destroyed a national economy, and how technology caused strangers to stop speaking.

In early eighteenth-century Britain, nothing but dirt track ran between most towns. By 1848 the primitive roads were transformed into a network of highways connecting every village and island in the nation—and also dividing them in unforeseen ways. The highway network led to contests for control over everything from road management to market access. Peripheries like the Highlands demanded that centralized government pay for roads they could not afford, while English counties wanted to be spared the cost of underwriting roads to Scotland. The new network also transformed social relationships. Although travelers moved along the same routes, they occupied increasingly isolated spheres. The roads were the product of a new form of government, the infrastructure state, marked by the unprecedented control bureaucrats wielded over decisions relating to everyday life.

Does information really work to unite strangers? Do markets unite nations and peoples in common interests? There are lessons here for all who would end poverty or design their markets around the principle of participation. Guldi draws direct connections between traditional infrastructure and the contemporary collapse of the American Rust Belt, the decline of American infrastructure, the digital divide, and net neutrality. In the modern world, infrastructure is our principal tool for forging new communities, but it cannot outlast the control of governance by visionaries.
Visit Jo Guldi's website.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"This Seat of Mars"

New from Yale University Press: This Seat of Mars: War and the British Isles, 1485-1746 by Charles Carlton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Shakespeare was not exaggerating when he defined being a soldier as one of the seven ages of man. Over the early modern period, many millions of young men from the four corners of the present United Kingdom went to war, often—and most bloodily—against each other. The almost continuous fighting on land and sea for the two and one-half centuries between Bosworth and Culloden decimated lives, but created the British state and forged the nation as the world's predominant power.

In this innovative and moving book, Charles Carlton explores the glorious and terrible impact of war at the national and individual levels. Chapters alternate, providing a robust military and political narrative interlaced with accounts illuminating the personal experience of war, from recruitment to the end of battle in discharge or death. Carlton expertly charts the remarkable military developments over the period, as well as war's enduring corollaries—camaraderie, courage, fear, and grief—to give a powerful account of the profound effect of war on the British Isles and its peoples.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Shifting Grounds"

New from Oxford University Press: Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-1865 by Paul Quigley.

About the book, from the publisher:
Between 1848 and 1865 white southerners felt the grounds of nationhood shift beneath their feet. The conflict over slavery that led to the Civil War forced them to confront the difficult problems of nationalism. What made a nation a nation? Could an individual or a group change nationality at will? What were the rights and responsibilities of national citizenship? Why should nations exist at all?

As they contemplated these questions, white southerners drew on their long experience as Americans and their knowledge of nationalism in the wider world. This was true of not just the radical secessionists who shattered the Union in 1861, but also of the moderate majority who struggled to balance their southern and American loyalties. As they pondered the changing significance of the Fourth of July, as they fused ideals of masculinity and femininity with national identity, they revealed the shifting meanings of nationalism and citizenship. Southerners also looked across the Atlantic, comparing southern separatism with movements in Hungary and Ireland, and applying the European model of romantic nationalism first to the United States and later to the Confederacy.

In the turmoil of war, the Confederacy's national government imposed new, stringent obligations of citizenship, while the shared experience of suffering united many Confederates in a sacred national community of sacrifice. For Unionists, die-hard Confederates, and the large majority torn between the two, nationalism became an increasingly pressing problem. In Shifting Grounds Paul Quigley brilliantly reinterprets southern conceptions of allegiance, identity, and citizenship within the contexts of antebellum American national identity and the transatlantic "Age of Nationalism," shedding new light on the ideas and motivations behind America's greatest conflict.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Tobacco Capitalism"

New from Princeton University Press: Tobacco Capitalism: Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry by Peter Benson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Tobacco Capitalism tells the story of the people who live and work on U.S. tobacco farms at a time when the global tobacco industry is undergoing profound changes. Against the backdrop of the antitobacco movement, the globalization and industrialization of agriculture, and intense debates over immigration, Peter Benson draws on years of field research to examine the moral and financial struggles of growers, the difficult conditions that affect Mexican migrant workers, and the complex politics of citizenship and economic decline in communities dependent on this most harmful commodity.

Benson tracks the development of tobacco farming since the plantation slavery period and the formation of a powerful tobacco industry presence in North Carolina. In recent decades, tobacco companies that sent farms into crisis by aggressively switching to cheaper foreign leaf have coached growers to blame the state, public health, and aggrieved racial minorities for financial hardship and feelings of vilification. Economic globalization has exacerbated social and racial tensions in North Carolina, but the corporations that benefit have rarely been considered a key cause of harm and instability, and have now adopted social-responsibility platforms to elide liability for smoking disease. Parsing the nuances of history, power, and politics in rural America, Benson explores the cultural and ethical ambiguities of tobacco farming and offers concrete recommendations for the tobacco-control movement in the United States and worldwide.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Dance With Me"

New from NYU Press: Dance With Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy by Julia A. Ericksen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Rumba music starts and a floor full of dancers alternate clinging to one another and turning away. Rumba is an erotic dance, and the mood is hot and heavy; the women bend and hyperextend their legs as they twist and turn around their partners. Amateur and professional ballroom dancers alike compete in a highly gendered display of intimacy, romance and sexual passion.

In Dance With Me, Julia Ericksen, a competitive ballroom dancer herself, takes the reader onto the competition floor and into the lights and the glamour of a world of tanned bodies and glittering attire, exploring the allure of this hyper-competitive, difficult, and often expensive activity. In a vivid ethnography accompanied by beautiful photographs of all levels of dancers, from the world’s top competitors to social dancers, Ericksen examines the ways emotional labor is used to create intimacy between professional partners and between professionals and their students, illustrating how dancers purchase intimacy. She shows that, while at first glance, ballroom presents a highly gendered face with men leading and women following, dancing also transgresses gender.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics"

New from University of Chicago Press: Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics by Michael C. Dawson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, polls revealed that only 20 percent of African Americans believed that racial equality for blacks would be achieved in their lifetime. But following the election of Barack Obama, that number leaped to more than half. Did that dramatic shift in opinion really reflect a change in the vitality of black politics—and hope for improvement in the lives of African Americans? Or was it a onetime surge brought on by the euphoria of an extraordinary election?

With Not in Our Lifetimes, Michael C. Dawson shows definitively that it is the latter: for all the talk about a new post-racial America, the fundamental realities of American racism—and the problems facing black political movements—have not changed. He lays out a nuanced analysis of the persistence of racial inequality and structural disadvantages, and the ways that whites and blacks continue to see the same problems—the disastrous response to Katrina being a prime example—through completely different, race-inflected lenses. In fact, argues Dawson, the new era heralded by Obama’s election is more racially complicated, as the widening class gap among African Americans and the hot-button issue of immigration have the potential to create new fissures for conservative and race-based exploitation. Bringing his account up to the present with a thoughtful account of the rise of the Tea Parties and the largely successful "blackening" of the president, Dawson ultimately argues that black politics remains weak—and that achieving the dream of racial and economic equality will require the sort of coalition-building and reaching across racial divides that have always marked successful political movements.

Polemical but clear-eyed, passionate but pragmatic, Not in Our Lifetimes will force us to rethink our easy assumptions about racial progress—and begin the hard work of creating real, lasting change.
Visit Michael C. Dawson's website and blog.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"The Founding Fathers v. the People"

New from Harvard University Press: The Founding Fathers v. the People: Paradoxes of American Democracy by Anthony King.

About the book, from the publisher:
As pundits and politicians remind us at every election cycle or turn of the television dial, the United States sees itself as the world’s greatest democracy. But what citizens might also hear, if they knew how to listen, is the grinding of two tectonic plates on which this democracy was established. In the venerable tradition of keen foreign observers of American politics, Anthony King exposes the political paradoxes in our system that we may well be too close to see—founding principles of our great democracy that are distinctly undemocratic.

In an extended essay eloquent in its plainspoken good sense, King begins, on the one hand, with the founding fathers who emphasized moderation, deliberation, checks and balances, and the separation of powers—a system in which “the people” were allowed to play only a limited role. On the other hand were radical democrats who insisted that the people, and only the people, should rule. The result was a political system tangled up in conflicts that persist to this day: unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court justices who exercise enormous personal power; severe restrictions on the kind of person the people can elect as president; popular referendums at the state and local level but none at the federal level, not even to ratify amendments to the Constitution.

In King’s provocative analysis, we see how these puzzles play out in the turmoil of our nation’s public life and political culture—and we glimpse, perhaps, a new way to address them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"John Brown Still Lives!"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: John Brown Still Lives!: America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change by R. Blakeslee Gilpin.

About the book, from the publisher:
From his obsession with the founding principles of the United States to his cold-blooded killings in the battle over slavery's expansion, John Brown forced his countrymen to reckon with America's violent history, its checkered progress toward racial equality, and its resistance to substantive change. Tracing Brown's legacy through writers and artists like Thomas Hovenden, W. E. B. Du Bois, Robert Penn Warren, Jacob Lawrence, Kara Walker, and others, Blake Gilpin transforms Brown from an object of endless manipulation into a dynamic medium for contemporary beliefs about the process and purpose of the American republic.

Gilpin argues that the endless distortions of John Brown, misrepresentations of a man and a cause simultaneously noble and terrible, have only obscured our understanding of the past and loosened our grasp of the historical episodes that define America's struggles for racial equality. By showing Brown's central role in the relationship between the American past and the American present, Gilpin clarifies Brown's complex legacy and highlights his importance in the nation's ongoing struggle with the role of violence, the meaning of equality, and the intertwining paths these share with the process of change.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


New from Princeton University Press: Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living by Melissa Lane.

About the book, from the publisher:
An ecologically sustainable society cannot be achieved without citizens who possess the virtues and values that will foster it, and who believe that individual actions can indeed make a difference. Eco-Republic draws on ancient Greek thought--and Plato's Republic in particular--to put forward a new vision of citizenship that can make such a society a reality. Melissa Lane develops a model of a society whose health and sustainability depend on all its citizens recognizing a shared standard of value and shaping their personal goals and habits accordingly. Bringing together the moral and political ideas of the ancients with the latest social and psychological theory, Lane illuminates the individual's vital role in social change, and articulates new ways of understanding what is harmful and what is valuable, what is a benefit and what is a cost, and what the relationship between public and private well-being ought to be.

Eco-Republic reveals why we must rethink our political imagination if we are to meet the challenges of climate change and other urgent environmental concerns. Offering a unique reflection on the ethics and politics of sustainability, the book goes beyond standard approaches to virtue ethics in philosophy and current debates about happiness in economics and psychology. Eco-Republic explains why health is a better standard than happiness for capturing the important links between individual action and social good, and diagnoses the reasons why the ancient concept of virtue has been sorely neglected yet is more relevant today than ever.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Heidegger, Strauss, and the Premises of Philosophy"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Heidegger, Strauss, and the Premises of Philosophy: On Original Forgetting by Richard L. Velkley.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this groundbreaking work, Richard L. Velkley examines the complex philosophical relationship between Martin Heidegger and Leo Strauss. Velkley argues that both thinkers provide searching analyses of the philosophical tradition’s origins in radical questioning. For Heidegger and Strauss, the recovery of the original premises of philosophy cannot be separated from rethinking the very possibility of genuine philosophizing.

Common views of the influence of Heidegger’s thought on Strauss suggest that, after being inspired early on by Heidegger’s dismantling of the philosophical tradition, Strauss took a wholly separate path, spurning modernity and pursuing instead a renewal of Socratic political philosophy. Velkley rejects this reading and maintains that Strauss’s engagement with the challenges posed by Heidegger—as well as by modern philosophy in general—formed a crucial and enduring framework for his lifelong philosophical project. More than an intellectual biography or a mere charting of influence, Heidegger, Strauss, and the Premises of Philosophy is a profound consideration of these two philosophers’ reflections on the roots, meaning, and fate of Western rationalism.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Faces of Perfect Ebony"

New from Harvard University Press: Faces of Perfect Ebony: Encountering Atlantic Slavery in Imperial Britain by Catherine Molineux.

About the book, from the publisher:
Though blacks were not often seen on the streets of seventeenth-century London, they were already capturing the British imagination. For two hundred years, as Britain shipped over three million Africans to the New World, popular images of blacks as slaves and servants proliferated in London art, both highbrow and low. Catherine Molineux assembles a surprising array of sources in her exploration of this emerging black presence, from shop signs, tea trays, trading cards, board games, playing cards, and song ballads to more familiar objects such as William Hogarth’s graphic satires. By idealizing black servitude and obscuring the brutalities of slavery, these images of black people became symbols of empire to a general populace that had little contact with the realities of slave life in the distant Americas and Caribbean.

The earliest images advertised the opulence of the British Empire by depicting black slaves and servants as minor, exotic characters who gazed adoringly at their masters. Later images showed Britons and Africans in friendly gatherings, smoking tobacco together, for example. By 1807, when Britain abolished the slave trade and thousands of people of African descent were living in London as free men and women, depictions of black laborers in local coffee houses, taverns, or kitchens took center stage.

Molineux’s well-crafted account provides rich evidence for the role that human traffic played in the popular consciousness and culture of Britain during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and deepens our understanding of how Britons imagined their burgeoning empire.