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).