June 12, 2007


cos-mop-o-lite, n, a person who is cosmopolitan in his ideas, life, etc.; citizen of the world.cos-mo-pol-i-tan, adj. 1. belonging to all the world; not limited to just one part of the political, social, commercial, or intellectual world. 2. free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudice, or attachments. 3. of or characteristic of a cosmopolite. -n. 4. a person who is free from local, provincial, or national prejudices, etc.; citizen of the world; cosmopolite.

Burleigh, Michael, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror (New York: HarperCollins, 2007) ("This is not a history of Christianity ..., nor a history of modern times.... Rather, the book operates in the middle ground between them, where culture, ideas, politics and religious faith meet in a space for which I cannot find a satisfactory label. Perhaps one should not try. [] The general ambition has been to write a coherent history of modern Europe primarily organized around issues of mind and spirit rather than the merely material, although in no sense do I discount the material as an important factor in history...." Id. at xi. "There are a few grounds for hope in this present 'age of anxiety'. [] There are encouraging signs that the Churches -- and in particular the Catholic Church of Benedict XVI -- are ready to make certain non-negotiable positions clear rather than to mouth the platitudes of a discredited multiculturalism that only exists in the Left university and within local government, neither of them at the cutting edge of European thinking." Id. at xv. This is an important book, at least for those for whom ideas matter. One may, after reading it, sense that American thinking, for the most part, is a few steps behind European thinking and still giving too much deference to it own version "of a discredited multiculturalism.").

Crespino, Joseph, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2007) (This is a very worthwhile, though disturbing, read. "This book shows how, despite segregationists' popular pledges that they would never submit to racial integration, white leaders in the state initiated a subtle and strategic accommodation to the demands of civil rights activists and the federal government, one that helped preserve the priorities of white elites and that put white Mississippians in a position to contribute to a broad conservative countermovement against the liberal triumphs of the 1960s. Whites in Mississippi rearticulated their resentment of liberal social policies that allowed for black advancement in ways that would come to resonate with white Americans far outside of the Deep South. They conceived of their struggle against civil rights activities and the federal officials not merely as a regional fight to preserve white supremacy but as a national battle to preserve fundamental American freedoms. In doing so, they made a common cause with a variety of conservative constituencies: with cold warriors concerned about an expansive federal state; with fundamentalist and evangelical Christians worried about liberalism 'infecting' Protestant churches; and with parents opposed to federal school desegregation efforts, who wanted to determine where and with whom their children went to school." "The pages that follow, then, recover how many white Mississippians saw themselves: not as American pariahs but as central participants in a conservative counterrevolution that reshaped American politics in the closing decades of the twentieth century." Id. at 4. In reading/studying this book, as a Midwesterner banished to the Northeast (specially New England) I must laugh when I think of all the liberal activists I know who think they are on the winning side of the cultural wars. A perception that can hold because they do not travel to the South and Middle West America. Also see the Dittmer title below. A few law students might appreciate this sentence from the author's 'Acknowledgments': "Carl Smith saved me from law school and opened up new worlds...." Id. at xv.).

Dahl, Robert A., A Preface to Democratic Theory, Expanded Edition (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2006).

Dienstag, Joshua Foa, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethics, Spirit (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2007) (I love this book. It is a must read for those few with a true inclination toward political philosophy. "Why is it that pessimism, once a respectable if not popular philosophy, has become so despised in our culture that the word 'pessimist" can be used today as a term of political or intellectual abuse? Look in any American newspaper for a few days and one will immediate see that this is true. It is enough to label an idea (or a person) 'pessimistic' in order to be allowed to dismiss it (or him) without further discussion as irrational, emotional, indefensible or, worst of all, unpatriotic." "Why should this be? After all, an expectation that things will go badly is not, on the surface, any more or less rational than the expectation that things will go well. An extended examination of the question could well yield a judgment in favor of one or the other--but the label is used precisely to foreclose such an inquiry. Pessimism is dismissed before serious debate begins, not during or afterward. One might venture that, somehow, the idea of pessimism is so threatening that people decline to consider it seriously because they are afraid of the effects such a consideration might produce." Id. at ix. "Pessimists do not deny the existence of 'progress' in certain areas--they do not deny that technologies have improved or that the powers of science have increased. Instead, they ask whether these improvements are insepararably related to a greater set of costs that often go unperceived. Or they ask whether these changes have really resulted in a fundamental melioration of the human condition. This often results ... in a conception of history as following an ironic path, one that appears, on the surface, to be getting better when in fact it is getting worse (or, on the whole, no better). Again, the reasoning that supports this view varies among the pessimists, but not so greatly as to obscure the common sentiment." Id. at 25. "A pessimist believes: a) that there is no formula for producing freedom and happiness in this world[;] b) that there is no other world where there is such a formula[;] c) that time is linear." Id. at 264.).

Dittmer, John, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana & Chicago: U. of Illinois Press, 1994) (This is an important piece of analytical history concerning a critical stage in civil rights movement (a part of human rights movement) in America. I wonder if the typical law students are even remotely familiar with this brutal and violent history. Does the typical college student even take more than one or two survey courses in American history?).

Duberman, Martin B., Charles Frances Adams 1807-1886 (Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1961) ("Adams represented, in short, what may be called metaphysical pessimism--a conviction that the problem of evil was incapable of solution. He envisioned, for example, 'no cessation of war, still less much perfectibility while man is constituted as he has been known to be since the world began.' There was no panaceas, no formulas for abolishing the eternal tale of woe. Awareness of the human potential for evil led him to cling to firm standards as the only alternative to chaos. He did not share the fashionable confidence in the excellence of human nature, nor in man's ability to live intelligently without the restraining influence of 'system' and ideology. Adams felt that man's true accomplishment lay in his self-imposed constraint, in his rational working out of rules for personal and social action. Strip away what the reformers lightly called the 'hypocrisy' of convention or the 'sham' of religion and law, and you would find not the glories of the free, untrammeled spirit, but the bestiality of irresponsible passion. 'For myself,' said Adams, 'I am content to go on in the path marked by my fathers before me. I am content to believe in the old rules of morality which have been recognized as sound by wiser men than I for thousands of years back.'" Id. at 69.).

Ghosh, Amitav, The Shadow Lines (Delhi: Ravi Dayal, 1988) (fiction).

Goldberg, Jeffrey, Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide (New York: Knopf, 2006).

Halpern, Richard, Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2006).

Hayashi, Brian Masaru, Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2004).

Kennedy, David, The Dark Side of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2004) (This is a worthwhile read for those interested in international human rights, etc. "The impulse to do good, to remake the world more fairly, to strengthen the hand of tolerance and understanding takes shape for each of us in the available cultural and professional vocabulary. Humanitarianism begins as an impulse--and becomes known as a practice...." "This book explores the enchantments and disenchantments which accompany the expression on international humanitarian sentiments." Id. at xiv. "One we see international humanitarians as participants in global governance--as rulers--it seems irresponsible not to be as attentive as possible to the costs, as well as the benefits, of our work" Id. at xviii. "A pragmatism of intentions encourages a clear-eyed focus on the purposes of out work and a relentless effort to avoid being blown off course as we seek to make our humanitarian impulse real. The focus is on the gap between out good impulses and their bad expression. A central idea is betrayal--of an original impulse, purpose, or objective--by the work we do to fulfill it. Our ends can be foiled by the means we use to pursue them. Our ideals can be compromised by the word we use to express them, just as our deed can in turn betray our words." Id. at xx. Note, in the several quaotations I have given Kennedy uses the royal "we." His book is aimed at the faithful, the already convinced, the members of the club. Those who, like myself, are not members of the particular club might read this text as a reminder that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions.' ).

Levine, Donald N., Powers of the Mind: The Reinvention of Liberal Learning in America (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2006).

Maalouf, Amin, In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong translated from the French by Barbara Bray (New York: Arcade, 2000) (Original French publication five years before 9/11, and English translation published a year before 9/11, yet very pertinent to both our post-9/11 international and domestic mind-set. "But I will close this short parenthesis and return to my original theme: that too much emphasis is often laid on the influence of religion on people, and not enough on the influence of peoples and their history o religion. The influence is reciprocal, I know. Society shapes religion, and religion in its turn shapes society. But I have observed that because a certain mental habit that we have got into we tend to see only one side of this dialectic, and the omission greatly distorts our perception." "Some people are always ready to blame Islam for all the dramatic episodes, past or present, that have occurred in Muslim societies, Not only is this altitude unfair; it is also makes world events completely unintelligible." Id. at 67. "The twentieth century will have taught us that no doctrine in itself is necessarily a liberating force: all of them may be perverted or take a wrong turning; all have blood on their hands -- communism, liberalism, nationalism, each of the great religions, and even secularism. Nobody has a monopoly on fanaticism; nobody has a monopoly on humane values." Id. at 51. "The theme that runs like a thread through the tapestry of this book might be formulated as follows: if the men of all countries, of all conditions and faith can so easily be transformed into butchers, if fanatics of all kinds manage so easily to pass themselves off as defenders of identity, it's because the 'tribal' concepts of identity still prevalent all over the world facilitates such a s distortion. It's a concept inherited from the conflicts of the past, and many of us would reject it if we examined it more closely. But we cling to it through habit, from lack of imagination or resignation, thus inadvertently contributing to the tragedies by which, tomorrow, we shall be genuinely shocked." Id. at 29.).

McCraw, Thomas, K., Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2007) (This is a very good combination history of economic thought and biography of Schumpeter; it should prompt one to read (or re-read) larger portions of Schumpeter's body of work. "The case for capitalism, says Schumpeter, 'must rest on long-run considerations.' In the short run, it is impossible for people generally, and even intellectuals, to ignore what seem to be unreasonable 'profits and inefficiencies.' They therefore have difficulty in seeing long-range trends in which capitalism is benefiting society as a whole. Uniquely among economic systems, therefore, capitalism 'creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.' With its bountiful production, it underwrites the education of a class of hostile intellectuals who have no 'direct responsibility for practical affairs' and little experience in managing anything." Id. at 358. "Schumpeter was never narrow, and always more than an economist. Three of his books--The Theory of Economic Development, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, and History of Economic Analysis--are still available in may languages, in inexpensive paperback editions. All, especially Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy are books for the ages." Id. at 505-506.).

McCraw, Thomas K., Prophets of Regulation: Charles Francis Adams, Louis D. Brandeis, James M. Landes, Alfred E. Kahn (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 1984) (This is an interesting piece on the history of regulation. A history of interest to students of administrative law and regulated industries, which, in this regulatory-state in which we exist, means all of us should find it of interest. "When I began to write this book, I was intrigued by the mysteries that seemed to surround the history of government regulation in America. Why, I wondered, had regulation so often failed to serve the 'public interest,' as it had been intended to do? Why, if the commissions had proved so ineffective, did they remain active as apparently permanent parts of the government? Why, if agencies were so often 'captured' by interests they were supposed to be regulating, did not other branches of government step in and take away their legislated powers?" "On its surface, this book is about four important prophets of regulation, whose work spans more than a century of experience...." In treating these men, I am interested in what they thought about regulation, what they accomplished, and how things turned our for them and for the agencies they influenced." Id at viii-ix.).

Pitts, Jennifer, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2005).

Sandel, Michael J., The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Cambridge: Belknap/ Harvard U. Press, 2007) (There is much worthwhile in this short book/essay, arguing against human genetic engineering.).

Silber, William L., When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America’s Monetary Supremacy (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2007) (A nice treatment of an episode in American central banking history. Note, the central figure, Treasury secretary William G. McAdoo, trained as a lawyer. Just a reminder that the well-hone legal skills are often transferable.).

Sontag, Susan, At the Same Time: Essays & Speeches edited by Paolo Dilonardo and Anne Jump (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2007) (From ‘A Few Weeks After’: “What is worth noting is how docile the [American] public is about almost al matters of foreign policy. This passivity may be an inevitable consequence of the triumph of liberal capitalism and the consumer society. For some time there has ceased to be any significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans; they are best thought if as two branches of the same party…. The depoliticization of most of the American intelligentsia merely reflects the conformism and convergence—the ‘me tooism’–of political life in general.” Id. at 116.). From ‘Literature is Freedom’: “To have access to literature, world literature, was to escape the prison of national vanity, of philistinism, of compulsory provincialism, of insane schooling, of imperfect destinies and bad luck. Literature was the passport to enter a larger life; that is, the zone of freedom.” “Literature was freedom. Especially in a time in which the values of reading and inwardness are so strenuously challenged, literature is freedom.” Id. at 209.

Stone, Robert, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties (New York: Ecco, 2007) (This is very well done, neither placing the sixties on a pedestal nor viewing it as a total hell. There is a short passage on Stone's visit to Vietnam during the 1971. It struck me as one point of contrast between the American War in Vietnam and the American War in Iraq: the fact that there were many draftee in serving in Vietnam, that is, individuals who did not choose to be there, while--in this age of the all-volunteer military--everyone serving in Iraq, even the national guards who have been deployed to Iraq--chose to be in the military and, as a consequence, chose to possibility of being deployed in a shooting war. ""How many times did journalists in the line hear the bitterness of drafted soldiers, risking it all for their buddies, for their personal honor, even--God help us--for their country, as they had been told and believed? How many times did one hear it: You don't have to be here, you're here to make money off it, you could be anywhere you wanted--with your high school and your college--anywhere--but you're here, you sick son of a bitch, here, because you eat this shit up, don't you, and I hope you die, you rotten-hearted motherfucker, I hope you die. Many times." Id at 215. I wonder whether similar distain is directed now from military personnel order to serve in Iraq toward those private contract workers who don't have to be there, but who are there to make money off the war. On a tangent note: Will someone write ever write the definitive book of what truly happened in, or changed about, America in the1960s? What happened is that America[ns] crossed the line placing consumerism (and consumer politics) ahead of serious intellectual discourse (and substantive politics). We’re all just consumers now.).

Torday, Paul, Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (Orlando: Harcourt, 2007) (fiction).

"Self-righteousness [ ] spawns arrogance, selfishness, indifference.... Don’t let the weight of things numb you. Read, think, disagree with everything, if you like – but force your mind outward." Anton Myrer, Once an Eagle (Carlise, Pa.: Army War College Press, 1977), at 194.