May 29, 2009


Arsenault, Raymond, The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009).

Benton-Cohen, Katherine, Borderline Americans: Racial Divisions and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009) (Here is another perspective on America’s history of’ race’ relations. “’Are you and American, or are you not?’ This was the question that Harry Wheeler, the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, used to determine his targets in one of the most remarkable vigilante actions in U.S. history. It took place in a remote mountain town near the Arizona-Mexico border on July 12, 1917, three months after the United States joined World War I.” Id. at 1. “By noon, the men had been marched through town, past the mines, to a suburban baseball field four miles away. Families and neighbors gathered and gaped as deputies weeded though the men and loaded at least 1,186 of them into twenty-three boxcars belonging to the mining-company railroad. The captives were shipped 180 miles into the New Mexico desert. Some…had families, but the majority were single and childless, Ninety percent were immigrants, Altogether they included men of thirty-four nationalities, but half came from Mexico or the Slavic regions of eastern Europe. An army camp in nearby Columbus, New Mexico…rescued the deported men from thirst and starvation, Some stayed there as long as three months. Almost none of them ever returned to Bisbee.” ‘The event became known across the country as the Bisbee Deportation. The term aptly characterized the forcible removal of ‘undesirables’ from a town concerned enough about its racial boundaries to call itself a ‘white man’s camp’” Id. at 2-3. “For Chisholm and others, the Cornish were at once the quintessential whites in the white man’s camp, and a ‘race’ unto themselves… “ “Bisbee’s Irish—who were not as numerous as the Cornish—had even more reason to assert their whiteness in the white man’s camp. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Irish were pilloried as ‘niggers turned inside out’ who wanted to get ‘white man’s work.’ The Irish were never truly nonwhite, but it is clear that the West proved friendlier to the Irish than did the East Coast. Irish immigrants had led the anti-Chinese movement in California in the 1870s, and Bisbee’s white man’s camp rules were an extension of that sensibility.. So was the role if Irish immigrants in the segregation of Bisbee’s Catholic church, whose first priest was Irish. Bisbee’s first Catholic parish was ‘built and financed primarily by the Mexican people of Bisbee,’ but Irish (and Polish) Catholics convinced the priest they needed a separate church, St. Patrick’s. Organizations like the Sons of Hibernia, the Lady Macabees, and the Knights of Columbus (who were primarily Irish in Bisbee) became forums to assert Irish identity as well.” Id. at 93.).

Bryan, Patricia L, & Thomas Wolf, Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland (New York: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005).

Burns, Robert P., The Death of the American Trial (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2009).

Burton, Stephen J., ed., The Path of the Law and Its Influence: The Legacy of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Law) (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2000).

Calabresi, Steven G., & Christopher S. Yoo, The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2008) (As the authors admit, this is legal history 'lite'. Still, until train historians direct their full attention and competencies here, the book's overview of the ongoing contest(s) as to the scope of the presidential powers is a worthwhile gap-filler.)

Gorsuch, Neil M., The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2006).

Greenberg, Karen, The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days (New York & London: Oxford U. Press, 2009).

Gross, Ariela J., What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America (Cambridge & London: Oxford U. Press, 2008) (This is a very good and, I think, an important read. Race here is not limited to the black-white divide, and includes discussions of Native-Americans, Hawaiians, Asians, Mexicans, Italians, Hindus, etc. What is being policed is, basically, who is an 'American'. Being a work of legal history, it does not show the way forward. Then again, it is difficult to even begin to see a way forward without first appreciating America's rather tortured past. Professor Gross shines some light on aspects of that past. "Today our policies reflect this long and persistent history of making race a central part of U.S. law and citizenship. If we want to undo the world race made, we cannot pretend that our current situation of racial inequality happened naturally. Yet each of the dominant approaches to race that contemporary courts and scholars have taken risks just such a fallacy. It is tempting to read the history of racial identity trials as a fable about the folly of using law to put people in meaningless or nonsensical boxes, or of asking law to determine something it cannot do properly. And so, many legal scholars and political commentators argue that the correct response to such a fable is to eliminate all racial classification in the law; to end all positive remedial uses of race such as affirmative action in employment and education; to make ourselves officially blind to race." "The advocates of 'colorblindness' believe that if we refuse to recognize race, race will automatically cease being an informal prerequisite to the enjoyment of full civic participation as well. In other words, as soon as the law becomes officially colorblind, American society will follow suit. This view assumes that racism is simply the human error of identifying individuals by their race and judging them accordingly, Now that we are wise enough to recognize our error, they argue that all we have to do to correct it is to refuse to continue recognizing those categories." Id. at 298-299.).

Hahn, Steven, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (Cambridge & London: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2003).

Hahn, Steven, The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom (Nathan I. Huggins Lectures) (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009).

Hamburger, Philip, Law and Judicial Duty (Cambridge & London: Harvard University. Press, 2008).

Heap, Chad, Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940 (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2009).

Jacoby, Susan, Alger Hiss and the Battle for History (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009).

Khalidi, Rashid, Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009).

Knight, Frank H., Selected Essays by Frank H. Knight, Volume One: What is Truth in Economics edited by Ross B. Emmett (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 1999) ("The scientific mind can rest only in one of two extreme positions, that there are absolute values, or that every individual desire is an absolute and one as 'good' as another. But neither of these is true, we must learn to think in terms of 'value-standards' which have validity of a more subtle kind. It is the higher goal of conduct to test and try these values, to define and improve them, rather than to accept and 'satisfy' them. There are no rules for judging values, and it is the worst error to attempt to make rules--beyond the rule to 'use good judgment'; but it is also most false to assert that one opinion is as good as another, that de gustibus non disputandum est. Professor Tuft has put the question in a neatly epigrammatic way which emphasizes its unsatisfactoriness from a rational, scientific standpoint: 'The only test for goodness is that good persons on reflection approve and choose it--just as the test for good persons is that they choose and do the good'." Id. at 55.).

Knight, Frank H., Selected Essays by Frank H. Knight, Volume Two: Laissez Faire: Pro and Con edited by Ross B. Emmett (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 1999) (From the essay, "Socialism: The Nature of the Problem": "No society can possibly be really individualistic. In a world in which individuals go through the biological life-cycle, and especially where they do not inherit acquired knowledge, training, and habits, the minimum ultimate unit is the natural family; what is called individualism would be far more descriptively designated as "familism." It really makes little practical difference whether the ultimate mechanics of continuity be that of biological heredity or culture inheritance, i.e., tradition perpetuated by some mixture of unconscious imitation and more or less deliberate education. It is true that in modern Western civilization the biological and subjective individual has come to play a much larger role in culture continuity, and especially in culture change, than was true in primitive society or earlier civilizations. But there are fairly narrow limits even to the possibilities in this regard. The individual cannot possibly be other than a social product, a social or domesticated animal. The more important peculiarity of what is called individualism is the greater role assigned to the private family, meaning to parents; and "parental individualism" might be a still better designation for the most important distinguishing characteristic of modern free or competitive society." Id. at 98.).

Lynch, Holly Fernandez, Conflicts of Conscience in Health Care: An Institutional Compromise (Cambridge & London The MIT Press, 2008).

Litwack, Leon F., Been In The Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York: Knopf, 1979) (“’Charles, you is a free man they say, by Ah tells you now, you is still a slave and if you lives to be a hundred, you’ll STILL be a slave, cause you got no education, and education is what makes a man free!’” Id. at 473.).

Litwack, Leon F., How Free Is Free?: The Long Death of Jim Crow (The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures) (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009).

Litwack, Leon F., North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1961).

Litwack, Leon F., Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow (New York: Knopf, 1998) ("What was strikingly new and different in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the sadism and exhibitionism that characterized white violence. The ordinary modes of execution and punishment were deem insufficient; they no longer satisfied the emotional appetite of the crowd. To kill the victim was not enough; the execution needed to be turned into a public ritual, a collective experience, and the victim needed to be subjected to extraordinary torture and mutilation. What had been in the past a usually rapid dispatch of the victim now became part of a voyeuristic spectacle prolonged as long as possible (once for seven hours) for the benefit of the crowd. Nor were whites content after the victim had died; in some instances, they continued to pump bullets into the body, after which they carved it up with knives or burned it to a crisp, or they might permit the body to dangle by the rope for the next several days as a warning to the black community." "The story of a lynching, then, is more than the simple fact of a black man or woman hanged by the neck. It is the story of slow, methodical, sadistic, often highly inventive forms of torture and mutilation. Of executed by fire, it is the red-hot poker applied to the eyes and genitals and the stench of burning flesh as the body slowly roasts over the flames and the blood sizzles in the heat. If executed by hanging, it is the convulsive movement of the limbs. Whether by fire or rope, it is the dismemberment and distribution of severed bodily parts as favors and souvenirs to participants and the crowd: teeth, ears, toes, fingers, nails, kneecaps, bits of charred skin and bones. Such human trophies might reappear as watch fobs or be displayed conspicuously for public viewing...." Id. at 285-286.).

Powe, Lucas A., The Supreme Court and the America Elite, 1789-2008 (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009) (“Several themes run throughout this book…. He dominant theme is that the Court is a majoritarian institution. That is, it identifies with and serves ruling political coalitions. It is staffed by men (and in recent years a few women) who for the most part are in tune with their times. Relatedly, changes in personnel matter. Lucky presidents who are able to appoint several justices can—and do—change the direction of the Court. That helps explain why the Court and its decisions at the beginning of the twenty-first century are a part of presidential politics and the country’s ongoing history. It is also a testament to how far the Supreme Court and the nation have come from the time when the Court’s fist major decision was immediately reversed by constitutional amendment.” Id. at ix.).

Rawls, John, A Brief Inquiry Into the Meaning of Sin and Faith, with “On My Religion”, edited by Thomas Nagel, with commentaries by Joshua Cohen and Thomas Nagel, and by Robert Merrihew Adams (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009).

Schama, Simon, The American Future: A History (New York: Ecco, 2009) ("I can tell you exactly, give or take a minute or two, when American democracy came back from the dead because I was there: 7:15 p.m. Central Time, 3 January 2008, Precinct 53, Theodore Roosevelt High, I know this as I was regularly checking my watch, and beside you couldn't miss the schoolroom clock, its old white face the object of generations of teenage hatred and longing.... After many months of maneuvering and talky self-promotion, it was time for the Iowa voters to offer judgment on who they thought should be the forty-fourth president of the United States. They would, the media hacks opined, "winnow the field," and Iowans are partial to a good winnow." Id. at 1. Also, David Brooks has a worthy review in the NYT Book Review, May 24, 2009.).

May 1, 2009


Bolano, Roberto, 2666 translated from the Spanish by Natsha Wimmer (New York: Farrar, Straus & Goroux, 2008) ("What do you think, Professor? Is it all just a dream, or is it within the realm of possibility? I don't know, said Amalfitano curtly, since he still hadn't gotten over his fright, and he wasn't in the mood for a repeat of their last meeting. Well, said Marco Antonio Guerra, if you want to know what I think, I don't believe it. People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth. People are cowards to the last breath. I'm telling you between you and me: the human being, broadly speaking, is the closest there is to a rat." Id. at 219.).

Brown, Michael K., Martin Carnoy, Elliot Currie, Troy Duster, David B, Oppenheimer, Marjorie M. Shultz, & David Wellman, Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society (Berkeley & Los Angles: U. of California Press, 2003) (In the aftermath of the 2008 Presidential election, some have suggested that we have entered a 'post-racial America.' As many others I would like such to be true, but I doubt that such is true. Whitewashing Race, written well before the 2008 Presidential elections, is relevant in explaining some of the reasons that we should be hesitant in declaring a post-racial America. I suspect that a significant percentage of Americans could be classified, using the terminology of the authors of Whitewashing Race, as "racial realist." "Racial realists make three related claims. First, they say that America has made great progress in rectifying racial injustice in the past thirty-five years. The economic divide between whites and exaggerated, and white Americans have been receptive to demands for racial equality. Thus, racism is a thing of the past." "The racial realists' second claim is that persistent racial inequalities in income, employment, residence, and political representation cannot be explained by white racism, even though a small percentage of whites remain intransigent. As they see it, the problem is the lethargic, incorrigible, and often pathological behavior of people who fail to take responsibility for their own lives." "The racial realists' final assertion is that the civil rights movement's political failures are caused by the manipulative, expedient behavior of black nationalists and the civil-rights establishment.... The real problem today is not racists like David Duke who still prey on white fears. Instead, the genuine obstacles are misguided black militants like Al Sharpton who overdramatize white racism and white apologists who have a pathological need to feel guilty. Racial realists feel that since black civil rights leaders and militants benefit from government handouts and affirmative action, they have a vested interest in denying racial progress and fomenting racial divisions. Many black politicians...ignore the real needs of their constituents and pursue instead 'the rhetoric of racial empowerment' and separation." Id. at 6-7. Whitewashing Race is, essentially, a critical response to racial realism and the racial realists. Regardless of where one presently stands on whether America is "post-racial," or on the explanations as to why America is or is not "post-racial." Whitewashing Race is a worthwhile read. It also contains an excellent and useful bibliography.).

Burleigh, Michael, Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism (New York: Harper, 2009) ("This book's starting point is the moment when recognisably modern terrorist organisations emerged in the mid-eighteenth century, dubious precedence being accorded here to the Irish Fenians." Id. at ix. "This book focuses on the life histories and actions rather than the theories which validate them, roughly in accord with St. Matthew's precept 'By their fruits ye shall know them'.... Ideology is like a detonator that enables a pre-existing chemical mix to explode. Terrorists make choices all along their journey, and it these I am most interested in. Hence the book is about terrorism as a career, a culture and a way of life, although obviously one involving death, for the terrorists' victims and sometimes for the terrorists themselves...." Id. at ix-x. "As the book tries to make crystal clear, especially to anyone who might appear to harbor a sneaking admiration for those who wish to change the world by violence, the milieu of terrorists is invariably morally squalid, when it is not merely criminally." Id. at x. Also see Louise Richardson’s review in The NYT Book Review, Sunday, April 26, 2009.).

Corwin, Edward S., Total War and the Constitution: Five lectures delivered on the Wiliam W. Cook Foundation at the University of Michigan, March 1946 (New York: Knopf, 1947) ("The totality we are interested in is 'functional totality,' by which I mean the politically ordered participation in the war effort of all personal and social forces, the scientific, the mechanical, the commercial, the economic, the moral, the literary and artistic, and the psychological." Id. at 4.).

Doniger, Wendy, The Hindus: An Alternative History (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) ("India is a country where not only the future but even the past is unpredictable...." "The great mystery about the abuse of history is not the abuse itself but the question of why, in such a future-intoxicated age, we still reach for the past (or a past, however confected) to justify the present. 'That's history,' after all, is an American way of saying, 'So What?' But even such American amnesiacs practice a cult of the past with regard to the Constitution and the often unintelligible intentions of the founding fathers, and they have just a few hundred years of history. Hindus have thousands, and their concern for history is correspondingly more intense." Id. at 688-689. Also see Pankja Mishra’s review in The NYT Book Review, Sunday, April 26, 2009.).).

Hodgson, Godfrey, The Myth of American Exceptionalism (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009) ("[I]t is not good ... for individuals or nations, to believe things that are not quite true. It is not healthy to congratulate oneself, or to exaggerate how much one excels others. It is not wise to imagine that one is called upon, by God or history or some other higher power, to rule others by superior force. It is wise, and it has been the better part of American wisdom in the past, to resist the temptation to dominate merely because one has the power to do so. It is dangerous, for oneself and for others, to create a myth that seems to justify, even demand, domination, whether it is called empire or not...." "It is not the contention of this book that the tradition of American exceptionalism is the sole or even the principal cause of the things that have 'gone wrong' in American political life and foreign policy. It is a plea for looking with a skeptical and humble eye at the many and subtle dangers of self-praise." Id. at xvii.).

Kahn, Victoria, Wayward Contracts: The Crisis of Political Obligation in England, 1640-1674 (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2004) ("The Seventeen Century is the period in which scholars have located the emergence of a distinctively modern conception of political obligation.... It is the aim of this book to reconstruct the discourse of contract in the making and, in doing so, to revise this story of political obligation. Specifically I show that seventeenth-century contact theory was defined by a struggle over the role of language and representation, and of the passions and interests, in binding and releasing the political subject. Instead of presupposing a rational and autonomous individual who consents to the political contract, seventeenth-century contract theorists were compelled to create a new political subject ex nihilo. Rather than assuming that government was natural and only needed to be legitimated by consent, early modern writers argued that the state was an artifact that was brought into being by a powerful, if sometimes fictional, speech act. For these reasons, I argue, early modern contract theory is best thought of as a radically new poetics of the subject and the state, one that was manifest across a wide range of texts and genres in mid-seventeenth-century England." Id. at 1-2.).

Littell, Jonathan, The Kindly Ones translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell (New York: Harper, 2009) (see Neal Ascherson's book review in the 30 April 2009 edition of the London Review of Books).

Strauss, Leo, On Tyranny: Revised and Expanded Edition, Including the Strauss-Kojeve Correspondence edited by Victor Gourevitch & Michael S. Roth (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1961, 1991, 2000).