June 27, 2009


Megargee, Geoffrey P., ed., United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1922-1945: Volume I, Part A & Part B: Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA) (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana U. Press, 2009).

June 23, 2009


Wallace, David Foster, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (New York & Boston: Little, Brown, 2009) ("As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your head." "What you don't yet know are the stakes of this struggle." "In the twenty years since my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand these stakes, and to see that the liberal arts cliché about 'teaching you think' was actually shorthand for a very deep and important truth." " 'Learning how to think' really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.". "It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience." "Because if you cannot or will not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed." Id. at 50-55. This is short volume is the late David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College.).

June 18, 2009


Adler, Matthew D. & Eric A. Posner, eds., Cost-Benefit Analysis: Legal, Economic, and Philosophical Perspectives (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2001) (This is a very worthwhile read, especially for those interested in administrative law and regulation. The conclusion of Gary S. Becker, "A Comment on the Conference on Cost-Benefit Analysis," sums it up well. "Cost-benefit analysis has a strong and clear place in a social planner model of political choices. But that model is of little value in explaining actual regulations, taxes, and subsidies. Yet, even when political decisions result from competition among interest groups, benefits and costs help explain which policies are adopted. Moreover, information about the true benefits and costs of different programs sometimes determines whether policies muster enough political support." Id. at 313, 316.).

Aron, Raymond, The Opium of the Intellectuals translated from the French by Terence Kilmartin (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957) ("Human actions are always intelligible. When they cease to be so, their authors are put outside the pale of humanity, they are regarded as lunatics, strangers to the species. But intelligibility does not come under a single heading and does not guarantee that the whole, each single element of which is in itself intelligible, makes sense to the observer." Id. at 136. "Communication between French and American intellectuals is all the more difficult because their situation is in many respects diametrically opposed." "The number of university graduates or professional writers is higher in America than in France, both absolutely and relatively, since it increases with economic progress. But the typical representative of the American intelligentsia is not scholar or writer but an expert--an economist or sociologist. The Americans put their trust in the technician, not in the cultivated man. . . . [T]he simple, global fact remains that the novelist or philosopher, who holds the centre of the stage in France does not impose the stamp of his personality or his vocabulary on the American intelligentsia." Id. at 228-229 (italic added).).

Bales, Kevin & Ron Soodalter, The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (Berkeley & Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 2009) ("Certain things we know to be true. We know that slavery is a bad thing, perpetrated by bad people. We also know that slavery not only exists throughout the world today but flourishes. With approximately twenty-seven million people in bondage, it is thought to be the third most profitable criminal enterprise of our time, following only drugs and guns. In fact, more than twice as many people are in bondage in the world today than were taken from Africa during the entire 350 years of the Atlantic slave trade. And we know that slavery is alive and more than well in the United States, thriving in the dark, and practiced in many forms in places where you'd least expect it." Id. at 3. "This time there is no moral panic; most Americans are simply clueless. Id. at 11.).

Bodin, Jean, Colloquium of the Seven about Secrets of the Sublime translated with Introduction, Annotations, and Critical Readings by Marion Leathers Daniels Kuntz (Princeton & London: Princeton U. Press, 1975).

Coleman, James S., Foundations of Social Theory (Cambridge & London: Belknap Press/Harvard U. Press, 1990) (“‘Social theory,’ as taught in the universities, is largely a history of social thought. An unfriendly critic would say that current practice in social theory consists of chanting old mantras and invoking nineteenth-century theorists. Meanwhile, however, societies have been undergoing an organizational revolution. Just as the forests and fields of the physical environment are being replaced by streets and skyscrapers, the primordial institutions around which societies have developed are being replaced by purposively constructed social organization. Given those changes, we may wonder: Are we going where we want to go? Can we modify the direction? How do we choose a direction? But before we can ask these questions, we needs to know where we are going, and for that, we need a robust social theory. Such a theory requires a strong foundation, and that is what this book is intended to provide.” Id. at xv.).

Gomez, Laura E., Manifest Destinies the Making of the Mexican American Race (New York: NYU Press, 2007).

Greene, Julie, The Canal Builders: Making America’s Empire at the Panama Canal (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009) (See David Oshinsky’s review, “They Dug It” in NYT Book Review, March 27, 2009.).

Kolakowshi, Leszek, Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders, The Golden Age, The Breakdown translated from the Polish by P. S. Falla (New York & London: Norton, 2005) ("It may seem that after the demise of this multi-national machine, intellectually inept but efficient as an instrument of repression and exploitation, Marxism as a subject of study is buried for good, and that there is no point in digging it out from oblivion. But this is not a good argument. Our interest in the ideas of the past does not depend on their intellectual value, nor on their persuasive power in the present. We study various mythologies of long-dead religions, and the fact that there are no longer any believers does not make this study any less interesting. As a part of the history of religions, and of the history of culture, such study gives us insights into the spiritual activity of mankind., into our soul and its relations with other forms of human life. Inquiry into the history of ideas, whether religious, philosophical or political, is a search for our self-identity, for the meaning of our mental and physical efforts. The history of utopias is no less fascinating than the history of metallurgy or of chemical engineering." Id. at v-vi. "But we may safely predict that Marx himself will become more and more what he already is: a chapter from a textbook on the history of ideas, a figure that no longer evokes any emotions, simply the author of one of the 'great books' of the nineteenth century--one of those books that very few bother to read but whose titles are known to the educated public." Id. at 1214.).

Miller, James A., Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("In many respects this is an archival project. My purpose has not been primarily to appeal to a sense of retrospective indignation about a particularly sordid episode in twentieth-century American racial history (although, to be sure, any sober account of the case invariably provokes such a reaction), but to explore the ways in which the shifting lexicon surrounding the Scottsboro case sheds light upon shifting and enduring American attitudes towards race and justice." Id. at 6.).

Peters, Gretchen, Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2009) ("Eight years after 9/11, the single greatest failure in the war on terror is not that Osama bin Laden continues to elude capture, or that the Taliban has staged a comeback, or even that al Qaeda is regrouping in Pakistan's tribal areas, it's the spectacular incapacity of western law enforcement to disrupt the flow of money that is keeping their networks afloat." Id. at 167.).

Schama, Simon, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813 (New York: Knopf, 1977) ("The major liability of the Patriots was not weakness of numbers, Nor was it ... a half-heartedness in pursuit of their professed aspirations to a form of representative government. On the contrary, it was rather an unheeding attachment to the letter and the spirit of those ideas, which diluted the concentration of their strength and compromised the effectiveness of their organisation. For in their determination to reconcile democracy with their mission of national renewal, they were, at least until the eleventh hour, obliged to accept the historical structure of institutions. Politically radical, they remained institutionally conservative. Or, put another way, they aspired to be democratic federalists. The unfortunate paradox of all revolutions, certainly all pre-twentieth-century revolutions-as de Tocqueville pointed out--is the contradiction between liberty and power. Those which inherited a highly centralised and autocratic apparatus of state institutions stood the best chance of survival but also ran the greatest risk of extinguishing the liberties for which the revolution had been undertaken. Such of course was the case in France, and conceivably in Russia a century later." Id. at 102).).

Schelling, Thomas C., Choice and Consequence (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 1984).

Schelling, Thomas C., The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 1960, 1980).

Shachar, Ayelet, The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality (Cambridge & London: Harvard U. Press, 2009) (This is an interesting, albeit most frustrating, read. Though sensitive the issue of global inequality, I am doubtful that birthright citizenship as a form of property-interest is the best means for analyzing and addressing that issue. Even if it ultimately is a productive means of analysis, etc., I don't think the theoretical underpinning are sufficiently developed. The project has, I think, started at the wrong end and at the wrong level. I would take it from the global to the domestic, focusing on (to use the United States as the example) not on nation citizenship but state, city, community residency. Why might a state, a city, or even a gated-community want to define residency in certain ways, and way which do manifest inequalities and the just the sort of birthright lottery Shachar is concerned just on a less grand scale. Conservatives will not be convinced by the arguments presented (but they are not the intended audience). I would not suggest that it all comes down to economics, but I think incorporation of more economic analysis would eliminate much of the unhelpful, touchy-feely notions contained in the book. Still, it is worth the read.).

Sunstein, Cass R., A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn’t Mean What It Meant Before (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009).

Tett, Gillian, Fool’s Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe (New York: Free Press, 2009) ("These days . . . I realize that the finance world's lack of interest in wider social matters cuts to the very heart of what has gone wrong. What social anthropology teaches its adherents is that nothing in society ever exists in a vacuum or in isolation. Holistic analysis that tries to link different parts of a social structure is crucial, be that in respect to wedding rituals or trading floors. Anthropology also instills a sense of skepticism about official rhetoric. In most societies, elites try to maintain their power not simply by garnering wealth, but also by dominating the mainstream ideologies, in terms of both what is said and what is not discussed. Social "silences" serve to maintain power structures, in ways that participants often barely understand themselves let alone plan." "In recent years, regulators, bankers, politicians, investors, and journalists have all failed to employ truly holistic thought--to our collective cost. Bankers have treated their mathematical models as if they were an infallible guide to the future, failing to see that these models were based on a ridiculously limited set of data" Id. at 252. Also see Paul M. Barret's review in The NYT Book Review, Sunday, June 14, 2008). A question I ask myself, and try to raise in my courses, is this: "What were the lawyers doing when this or that problem was developing?” Many more members of the legal profession need to own up to their lack of interests in wider social matters, their lack of holistic analysis, etc., and their inability to see beyond the immediate litigation, transaction and, yes, billable hours.).

Umrigar, Thrity, The Weight of Heaven: A Novel (New York: Harper, 2009) ("Out of the blue, he remembered something his grandma Benton had once said to him in one of her boozy moments. The old lady, gin on her breath, had bent toward the startled eleven-year-old boy and said, 'You know the most dangerous force on earth, darlin'? It ain't the atom bomb. It's a man who is truly free. That's who you gotta watch out for.' " Id. at 363.).

June 4, 2009


Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 19: History of Political Ideas, Volume I: Hellenism, Rome, and Early Christianity edited with an introduction by Athanasios Moulakis (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1997) ("What we call political ideas are, in a well-consolidated period, the ideas of those who walk in the light, or at the best of those who have a chance to raise their heads sufficiently high to make their voices heard. The thoughts and attitudes of the vast silent masses are almost unknown." Id. at 70. Of course, in this day of the Internet, blogs, social networks, twittering, etc., it is understandable that many of the vast mass gain the false impression that they, if not everyone, has a 'heard' voice and that there is no longer silent masses. This is not so. If nothing else, the sheer volume of Internet traffic in these arenas creates so much (what economists call) noise that individuals and most groups do not register as more than a barely audible whisper (if being kind) and an annoying buzz (if being honest). The old saw remains true: There are only [fill in a relatively small number, say 400] people in the world who matter. What are the chance of you, me, or anyone we know being one of the four hundred? Taken individually, we are insignificant and what we think or say has little, if any, political weight.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 20: History of Political Ideas, Volume II: The Middle Ages to Aquinas edited with an introduction by Peter von Sivers (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1997) ("In the work of Siger [de Brabant, a thirteenth-century philosopher] we find the sentence: 'you shall wake, study, and read that out of the remaining doubt you are driven to further studying and reading, for life without letters (vivere sine litteris) is death and the grave of the vulgar.' " Id. at 190-191.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 21: History of Political Ideas, Volume III: The Later Middle Ages edited with an introduction by David Walsh (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) ("There is no guarantee whatsoever that the introduction of a constitution in a country will produce constitutional government; it may just as well produce a revolutionary shambles. Freedom of speech, for instance, is considered an essential of constitutionality; and it is appropriate, indeed, as an instrument of government when the society is firmly integrated, for in that case it will produce the conditions for understanding governmental policies that we call consent, while its abuse will be unimportant because social resistance against it is strong enough to prevent disrupting effects. If a society is less well integrated, freedom of speech may produce not public opinion, pressure on the government, and consent--which is its purpose as an instrument--but a degeneration of the society into a wilderness of distrust, disloyalties, and revolutionary chaos, as we have seen it do in the period preceding the fall of France and, with still more disastrous effects, in the marvelously constitutional Weimar Republic." Id. at 145. Query: Is early twenty-first-century America a 'firmly integrated society'? Or, are we degenerating into "a wilderness of distrust, disloyalties, and revolutionary chaos"?).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 22: History of Political Ideas, Volume IV: Renaissance and Reformation edited with an introduction by David L. Morse and William M. Thompson (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) (On Erasmus: "One must say of him what must be said of so many intellectuals after him: that he was fundamentally right in his emotional revolt but totally wrong in his intellectual response." Id. at 96-97. On Thomas More: "The work of More is the first evocation of a people who set themselves as the standard of mankind. Again, More is not the cause of the sequel in pragmatic history; but , again, here we get the first glimpse of an international and intercivilizational field of politics on which everyone has an ideal like the Utopians and feels entitled to lay down the principles of justice for everyone else, with the ensuing rationality of warfare in the service of the ideal. In the Utopia we can observe in formation a complex of sentiments and ideas that in the following centuries became a decisive factor in Western history, and this seems to be its true historical importance, The actual atrocities of Western colonial imperialism, of National Socialism, and of Communism mark the end of a curve, of which the beginning is morked by the playful atrocity of the humanistic intellectual." Id. at 130. One wonder what Voegelin would said about those American intellectuals known as the Neoconservatives. Have not the neoconservatives set themselves as the standard for America, and for mankind? Has neoconservatism not let to significant missteps on the part of the United States in international politics? Perhaps, like Erasmus, neoconservatives were fundamentally right in their emotional revolt totally wrong in their intellectual response.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 23: History of Political Ideas, Volume V: Religion and The Rise of Modernity edited with an introduction by James L. Wiser (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) ("The English development received its specific color through the prevailing higher degree of centralization of the state. . . . Parliament had become an institution of considerable representative prestige, and the early rationalization of the legal system had favored the growth of a lawyers' class with a social weight of its own on the national scale. . . . The supremacy of the king in the Church of England made the crown responsible for the semi-Protestantism that could not satisfy the Calvinist dissenters and for the extension of royal prerogative in temporal matters, encroaching on the domain of the lawyers. These were the tendencies that crystallized in the seventeenth century in the peculiarly English alliance of lawyers and dissenters against the crown and determined the structure of the English Revolution." "Beyond the more immediate political effect, however, the alignment had far-reaching consequences for English intellectual history, consequences that affect the structure of Western politics to this day. For the association of legal and religious struggles has fostered the English and, with ever greater intenseness, the American habit of injecting legal categories into conflicts of ideas and historical forces. It is the habit--which grates so much on the nerves of the rest of the world--of treating such clashes as legal issues and, consequently, branding the opponent in a historical conflict as "aggressor" or "criminal," "outlawing" his ideas, and burdening him with the "guilt" of the disturbance. . . . Since the habit, like all bad habits, can easily be acquired by others, and since, in fact, the Soviet government in turn defined as "aggressor" anybody who was at war with the Soviet Union, it seems that any future war will be a war between criminals." Id. at 27-28. On La Boetie: "And quite realistically he also understands that the tyrant will not favor studies that are apt to arouse critical consciousness in the student. The few who think will be effectively isolated if the tyrant preserves a low general level of literacy among the subjects. Without public discussion, the few will not event know each other. Thus, the tyrant destroys the liberty 'to act, to talk, and as it were even to think; for the few will be locked up in their phantasies.' " Id. at 36. On Calvinism and hicktowns: "The reform movement is essentially a town movement; and it could unfold its possibilities much better under the conditions of town life than under those of a large, populous, territorial realm. The Swiss towns, and later the New England settlements, have become the great instances of Calvinist discipline, not because the Swiss or New Englanders were more religious than other people, but because medieval town life, with small communities on a small territory, was conducive to close supervision of the people and enforcement of discipline. Petty snooping, petty rules of conduct, and their enforcement were features of medieval town life without Calvin--just as today hicktowns are hells of supervision by interested neighbors. . . . Only the peculiarly terroristic atmosphere of a small town permits the tight control of the people that the Reformers intended; in large territories like France the attempt at its realization will provoke the resistance of a more widely differentiated population. . . . Id. at 49-50. In a footnote, Voegelin makes this observation: "Small-town situations, however, can be created through improvement of communications in large territories and through dependence of large populations on centrally controlled institutions. Technological "progress" with its effect of tightening controls over large territories and populations has produced in modern nations a hicktown atmosphere without which the rise and maintenance of terroristic regimes would hardly be possible." Id. at 50, fn. 21. I don't think anyone has yet explored or articulated the hicktown potential of aspects of the Internet, tracking of website visits, social networking, global positioning systems, etc. Yes, the Internet facilitates communication and the flow of information, but it is not without a downside. Might we be on the eve nightmare? Hicktown meets Orwell's 1984. "We have discussed the earlier forms of antiphilosophism in Eramus, Luther, and Calvin. By the time of Hooker, among the English disciplinarians, antiphilosophism had become a point of honor. Fanatical scripturalism made it impermissible to discuss problems of faith and politics in other than biblical terms. To quote Aristotle, the patres, or the scholastics was an attack on true religion; any attempt at systematic thinking was proof that the author relied more on reason than on the word of God. To be philosophically ignorant was the mark or the right-minded citizen; to be philosophically educated was not only heretical but bordered on treason and called for governmental action. This interesting trend . . . was checked due to the resistance of Hooker; but it has remained a powerful component, nevertheless, in English, and even more so in American, public life. Philosophical illiteracy is still considered something like a civic duty, even in broad sectors of the academic world; and concern with philosophical problems still makes a man suspect. . . . The point deserves special attention because this Puritan heritage has become one of the fatal handicaps in American democratic leadership of Western civilization and of the world at large. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make the treasure of democratic ideas appealing to the educated classes outside the Anglo-Saxon area unless it is conceptually linked with the tradition of Western philosophical thought and, thus, can be made intelligible for people who live in this tradition." Id. at 92. ).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 24: History of Political Ideas, Volume VI: Revolution and The New Science edited with an introduction by Barry Cooper (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1998) (On the speaking "metaphorically of the cancerous growth of the rational-utilitarian segment on modern civilization": "We must recognize the atmosphere of power in which the advancement of science moves, because there are certain peculiarities incidental to the process that otherwise would appear as sheer lunacy. The source of these apparent lunacies is the utilitarian rationality of science. The idea of power through science has a rational core. If we have knowledge of causal relations we can form means-end relations, and if we have the means we can achieve the end. Hence, knowledge in this sense is eminently useful. This rational, utilitarian core in itself is of necessity to be found in all human existence, both personal and social. Utilitarian rationality determines a segment of life in primitive as well as in high civilizations, and in itself is not the specific determinant of any particular society. Under the impact of the modern advancement of science, however, this core has acquired the characteristics of a cancerous growth. The rational-utilitarian segment is expanding in our civilization so strongly that the social realization of other values is noticeably weakened. This expansion is carried by the mass creed that the utilitarian dominion over nature through science should and will become the exclusive preoccupation of man as well as the exclusive determinant for the structure of society. In the nineteenth century this idea of utilitarian exclusiveness crystallized in the belief that the domination of man over man would ultimately be replaced by the dominion of man over nature, and that the government of men will be replaced by the administration of things. At this point we have to be beware of the error into which critics of the totalitarian movements have fallen so frequently: the error that an idea is politically unimportant because philosophically it is stark nonsense. The idea that structure and problems of human existence can be superseded in historical society by the utilitarian segment of existence is certainly and plainly nonsense. It is equivalent to the idea that the nature of man can be abolished without abolishing man, or that spiritual order can be removed from existence without disordering existence. Any attempt at its realization can lead nowhere but to the self-destruction of a society. Nevertheless, the fact that the idea is nonsensical has not in the least prevented its becoming the inspiration of the strongest political movement of our age. Here we can see in the raw the fascination of power that exudes from the new science: it is so overwhelming that it eclipses an awareness of the elementary problems of human existence. Science becomes an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man." Id. at 208-209. This was written before the invention of the Internet, and before the Internet and being always connected became idols. The twenty-first century is beginning to evidence of the emergence of new creatures, what I heard as aptly labeled as 'posthumans'. Creatures who, though encased in human form, are completely incapable of being disconnected to their electronic gadgets and Internet connections for more that three minutes and, as a consequence, are incapable of unmediated (i.e., non-electronic) interaction with humans.).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 25: History of Political Ideas, Volume VII: The New Order and Last Orientation edited with an introduction by Jurgen Gebhardt and Thomas A. Hollweck (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1999).

Voegelin, Eric, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 26: History of Political Ideas, Volume VIII: Crisis and The Apocalypse of Man edited with an introduction by David Walsh (Columbia & London: U. of Missouri Press, 1999) ("The insight into the spiritual process that occurs in Helvetius will shed some light on the significance of genetic, sensualist psychology, as well as on the complex of philosophical assumption attached to it, for the political evolution of Western society. The tenacity of faith in this complex of ideas is certainly not caused by its merits as an adequate interpretation of man and society. The inadequacy of a pleasure-pain psychology, the poverty of utilitarian ethics, the impossibility of explaining moral phenomena by the pursuit of happiness, the uselessness of the greatest happiness of the greatest number as a principle of social ethics--all these have been demonstrated over and over again in a voluminous literature. Nevertheless, even today this complex of ideas holds a fascination for a not inconsiderable number of persons. This fascination will be more intelligible if we see the complex of sensualism, utilitarianism, and so on, not as a set of verifiable propositions but as the dogma of a religion of socially immanent salvation. Enlightened utilitarianism is the first in the series of totalitarian, sectarian movements, later followed by Positivism, Communism, and National Socialism." Id. at 63. And what are the totalitarian, sectarian movements of the early twenty-first century?).