January 26, 2010


Johns, Adrian, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago & London: U. Chicago Press, 1998) ("Pick up a modern book, and there are certain features about it of which you can be immediately confident. Pick up an early modern book, however, and those features become less certain. An early modern reader could not necessarily take it for granted that something calling itself John Flamsteed's Historia Coelestis would be owned by Flamsteed himself as the product of his authorship. . . . Trusting in such an object meant vesting valuable faith in something very unlike the printed book familiar to readers at the end of the twentieth century." "Yet is surely undeniable that such objects, fragile, insure, and suspect though they were, became central to the subsequent course of Western history. Knowledge, politics, social life, and cultural practices were all transformed by the possibilities they offered. Today, accordingly, there can be few historians who do not rely substantially on printed sources, whether for their raw materials or to decide upon questions worth addressing in the first place. In an uncertain world, printed materials can be put to use in ways that make them powerful. The Nature of the Book has tried to how. It has attempted to reveal the historical roots of both their uncertainty and their authority. . . ." "What is the history of the book for? A plausible answer lies in the role played by written and printed materials in the constitution of knowledge. The history of the book is consequential because it addresses the conditions in which knowledge has been made and utilized. All of its further implications may be derived from this. Hence the centrality in this work, and especially in its later sections, of the natural sciences. By concentrating on natural knowledge, we can hope to demonstrate how the making and use of printed materials could affect human comprehension at the most fundamental of levels. This book has thus aspired to display the centrality of practices surrounding print in the making, maintenance, and reception of representations of Creation, not because there is anything essentially unique about science, but for the very opposite reason. Conclusions demonstrated about science should be acknowledged as credible a fortiori for less authoritative fields." Id. at 622-623. Those who love the printed word, especially those who are also seekers of truth through (in part) reading, should appreciate this history of the book).

Johns, Adrian, Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg to Gates (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2009) ("Does printing entail progress? As the eighteenth century drew to a close, that question began to be asked with renewed urgency. The assumption that enlightenment and print were natural allies, never universal in the first place, began to fall apart. Faced by the radicalism of the Jacobins, the idea of the public sphere suddenly seemed not only a polite fiction but an implausible one. The diversity of readerships became fearsomely apparent as political pressures arising from events in France lent prominence to alternative audiences. Corresponding societies and radical publishers fomented opinions with no place in genteel conversation, and in London Pitt's government reacted by taking unprecedented powers to police the press." Id. at 213. There is a tendency to view ourselves as living in a time radically different from the past, confronted by problems unique to our time. Reread the just quoted passage, only substituting "internet" for "printing," and for references to events in France substituting events in China (for example, the Google in China matter) or in any country concerned with its citizens having access to the internet (that is, access to global culture). As Faulkner said, the past is not really past. "At the same time, understandings of creative authorship and its relation to commerce were once more in flux. Romanticism challenged them in terms of the concept of genius. If an author imbued a work with some inimitable emanation of individuality, as theories of genius suggested, then the proprieties of public knowledge needed to be rethought once again. In Germany, genius became the principle behind authorial property laws early in the nineteenth century. Yet in Britain the conjunction between genius and copyright remained somewhat artificial and post hoc. After all, with its relatively short duration, copyright was not much of a recognition for this unique property. As a result, it was quite possible to argue that prevailing copyright principles were incompatible with genius itself." Id. at 213-214. "[T]he principles of what is now called 'intellectual property' are dynamic--in a word, that they are historical through and through." "In that context it is no coincidence that the problem facing intellectual property coincides with a period of deep unease about the practices that society entrusts with discovering and imparting formal knowledge in general. The foundation and status of the academic disciplines are in question, no less than those of intellectual property. Both the modern disciplinary system and the modern principle of intellectual property are achievements of the era culminating in the late nineteenth century, and the same departure of creative authorship to new projects and identities underlies the anxieties of each. In each case new realms of creative work can be accommodated into the existing system, but doing so involves ad hoc compromises and creates increasingly stark inconsistencies. At some point the resulting contraption comes to resemble too clearly for comfort Thomas Kuhn's famous portrayal of a 'crisis' state in the sciences. In intellectual property, as in the disciplines at large, a reengagement with history is likely to play a central role in shaping the transformation that such a crisis entails." Id. at 516-517. Definitely a worthwhile read for those interested in intellectual property, as well as those interested in universities (i.e., places of higher education) role in transmitting knowledge.).

January 24, 2010


Cole, Jonathan R., The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must be Protected (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009) ("Whether the sources of their troubles originated from inside or outside the academy, the devaluation of the humanities was extremely an unfortunate result of the conflicts [i.e., the cultural wars on university campuses beginning in the 1960s]. Increasingly, universities were judged by their utilitarian value--their contributions to the education of professionals and to useful knowledge. There is nothing wrong with training professionals and discovering useful knowledge--both should be supported and celebrated--but at the same time, it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the critical role that the humanities and the social sciences play at the universities and in the large society." "Harder to quantify, but no less essential, the humanities are inextricable linked to the web of knowledge of a university. That is why any attempt by an emerging power nation, such as China, to build great universities without paying attention to the humanities is likely to fall short." Id. at 155. "The size of he health sciences relative to other disciplines has changed so much since the 1950s that many leaders of universities today wonder whether the tails (the medical centers) are now wagging the dogs (the universities themselves). Two features of medical schools in particular altered the landscape: the growth in the number of doctors affiliated with the medical schools who operated their research and clinical practices through the schools, and the close corporate or quasi-independent relationships between the medical schools, the larger universities, and affiliated hospitals." Id. at 158. "The structural balance of research universities became heavily weighted toward the medical centers and other health-related department and programs. These programs accounted for an increasingly large portion of the revenues and expenditures of the universities between 1960 and the turn of the twenty-first century. The Columbia University Medical Center, for example, which consists of the schools of medicine, public health, nursing, and dentistry, accounted for 13 percent of Columbia's total expenditures of $19 million in 1949-1950 and only 11 percent of $67 million by 1960-1961. By 1972-1973, the medical center accounted for over 37 percent of the total budget. Its share of the budget leveled off at around 40 percent until 1989-1990 and then took off again. By 1995-1996, the Columbia University Medical Center expenditures represented almost half of the $1.2 billion budget, and it would grow still further after that, so that in 2005-2006 it accounted for 54 percent of Columbia's $2.4 billion annual budget. Meanwhile, there was almost no external federal funding for the humanities, and little for the social sciences. That kind of quantitative difference translates into a major qualitative shift in the character of the university." Id. at 160-161 (citations omitted). "Americans have always been fascinated with inventions and scientific discovery, and we pride ourselves on our ability to find solutions to formidable problems. Yet most people do not know the origin of the most important discoveries of our time. Is it any wonder, given that the bestselling twentieth-century American history high-school textbooks devote more space to Madonna than to Watson and Crick, that our top university professors and researchers typically miss out on even their fifteen minutes of fame Nevertheless, we use products derived from ideas generated at our great research universities countless times a day--whether we realize it or not." Id. at 193. I do not know how a serious university administrator or faculty could not read this book. One would hope the general public would read it as well, but university faculty and administrators must read this book.).

Menand, Louis, The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (New York: Norton, 2010) (Menand is primarily concerned with higher education in the liberal arts. Two of my criticisms of legal education, as followers of the Cosmopolitan Lawyer are aware, concern it devolving from professional school to trade school and it becoming increasingly anti-intellectual. Much of that is caused by poorly conceived and shortsighted market demands from the legal bar and law firms, who wants their new hires to be ready-made, billable lawyers on day one. However, another source is the decline of liberal arts education: it is difficult to built upon, or draw upon, a liberal arts education in law school when students do not come to law school with a liberal arts undergraduate education. So, though Menand is not concerned with legal education here, the book is a worthwhile read for those interested in legal education. "This book is an attempt to answer four questions about American higher education today. Why is it so hard to institute a general education curriculum? Why did the humanities undergo a crisis of legitimation? Why has 'interdisciplinary' become a magic word? And why do professors all tend to have the same politics" Id. at 16. "Almost any liberal arts field can be made non-liberal by turning it in the direction of some practical skill with which it is already associated. English departments can become writing programs, even publishing programs; pure mathematics can become applied mathematics, even engineering; sociology shades into social work; biology shades into medicine; political science and social theory leads to law and political administration; and so on. But conversely, and more importantly, any practical field can be made liberal simply by teaching it historically or theoretically. Many economics departments refuse to offer courses in accounting, despite student demand for them. It is felt that accounting is not a liberal art. Maybe not, but one must always remember the immortal dictum: Garbage is garbage, but the history of garbage is scholarship. Accounting is a trade, but the history of accounting is a subject of disinterested inquiry--a liberal art. And the accountant who knows something about the history of accounting will be a better account. That knowledge pays off in the marketplace. Similarly, future lawyers benefit from learning about the philosophical aspects of the law, just as literature majors learns about poetry by writing poems. Id. at 55-56. "The divorce between liberalism and professionalism as educational missions rests on a superstition: that the practical is the enemy of the true. This is nonsense. Disinterestedness is perfectly consistent with practical ambition, and practical ambitions are perfectly consistent with disinterestedness." Id. at 57).

January 21, 2010


Gitlin, Jay, Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2010) (“What we have here is not a dramatic narrative like the Lewis and Clark adventure, but rather a series of smaller stories about the founding of critical western places by shrewd French-speaking merchants. Throughout the middle decades of the antebellum period, the Chouteau companies and other French traders were consolidating their positions from Oklahoma to the Dakotas. By the 1840s and 1850s, as frontiers once again began to converge, thousands of ordinary Americans were moving west. Families searching for new homes in Oregon and forty-niners seeking gold and adventure in California were making their ways to jumping-off places for the overland trails that would take them to the West Coast. What they found along the way were ferries across the Missouri and Platte rivers operated by Frenchmen, some former Chouteau employees and others who had been independent traders. . . . All across the first half of the trail,, the emigrants found trading posts—the rest stops of their day—run by French Creoles. These men, mostly from St. Louis, had spent twenty years in the west fur trade by this time and had built posts and ferries throughout the region. As the fur trade began to decline, they turned their attention to the new greenhorns. In the words of one historian, they were ‘canny entrepreneurs who anticipated the profit potential in catering to the many needs of overland travelers.’” Id. at 109 (citations omitted). ‘[T]he French, experienced middle-grounders by the 1820s, had an established repertoire for achieving their bottom line, which was, quite consistently, commercial exchange and frontier development. That repertoire included intermarriage, cultural flexibility, and the identification of political leaders willing to act as allies and brokers. And to this we must add a last and crucial point: the Creole French of St. Louis came from a place that had itself been the site of transition from empire to republic, Indian country to settlement frontier, French rule to Spanish rule to Anglo-American dominance. They were survivors, the sons and daughters of families who had avoided violent confrontation and marginalization and profited from change. They knew what to expect.” Id. at 120. “The title of this book was meant to startle with the juxtaposition of ‘bourgeois’ and ‘frontier.’ We end with another such juxtaposition: ‘French’ and American.’ It may be hard to acknowledge that these frontier actors were both, but we must recognize this side of our national ancestry. Move over Uncle Sam and make room for Oncle Auguste.” Id. at 190.).

Johnson, Benjamin Heber, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2003) (“The uprising began at the southern tip of Texas in the summer of 1915, as a series of raids by ethnic Mexicans on ranches, irrigation works, and railroads, and quickly developed into a full-blown rebellion. Groups of armed men—some from across the Rio Grande, others seemingly from out of nowhere—stole livestock, burned railroad bridges, tore up tracks, killed farmers, attacked post offices, robbed stores, and repeatedly battled local posses, Texas Rangers, and the thousands of federal soldiers dispatched to quell the violence. The group ranged from two or three assailants who quickly vanished into the brush to scores of well-organized and disciplined mounted men.” “The raids appeared to be the fulfillment of a manifesto titled the ‘Plan de San Diego,’ which was drafted in south Texas in early 1915. The Plan called for a ‘liberating army of all races’ (composed of Mexicans, blacks, and Indians) to kill all white males over age sixteen and overthrow United States rule in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The freed territory would form an independent republic, perhaps to rejoin Mexico at a future date.” “Although obviously a failure in its wider ambitions, the rebellion did make significant headway in south Texas. Aided for a time by a revolutionary faction in northeast Mexico, ethnic Mexican rebels . . . killed dozens of Anglo farmers and drove countless more from their homes. . . .” “In response, vigilantes and Texas Rangers led a far bloodier counterinsurgency that included the indiscriminate harassment of ethnic Mexicans, forcible relocation of rural residents, and mass executions. The wave of terror left few south Texans untouched. Prominent citizens formed ‘Law and Order Leagues’ and carried out many of the atrocities. The Rangers and vigilantes took a high toll on the population. . . .” “Just as some of their Anglo neighbors fled north or to urban areas, so too did many Texas-Mexicans choose to cross the river into Mexico, then wracked by famine, epidemics, and warfare. The reprisals cleared large sections of ethnic Mexican residents. . . . Perhaps those who fled chose wisely, for even observers hesitant to acknowledge Anglo brutality recognized that the death toll was at least three hundred. Some of those who found human remains with skulls marked by execution-style bullet holes in the years to come were sure that the toll had been much, much higher, perhaps five thousand.” Id. at 1-3.).

Merry, Robert W., A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009).

Truett, Samuel, Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2006) (“The Apache Wars, Cananea strike, Mexican Revolution, and Bisbee Deportation thus found common terrain not only in the same transnational landscape, but also in symbolic webs associated with the frontier. In all these contexts, the frontier became a useful ideological weapon in the effort to rally border ‘citizens’ behind corporate and state visions of power and control, by anchoring the policing of space to a timeless, naturalized defense of civilization. Yet these relationships were anything but timeless. In the end, the Mexican Revolution also served as a key turning point in the history of frontiers and borderlands, Before the Mexican Revolution, Mexicans and Americans claimed transnational kinships as Indian fighters and pioneers. Frontier imagery underpinned shared ideas of progress and shared journeys into a modern future. But for Americans, frontier imagery during the revolution began to articulate differences between Mexicans and Americans. Emerging from this insurgent terrain, U.S. border residents imagined themselves as persisting frontier heroes, and these new heroes held the line against barbaric Mexicans.” Id. at 176.).


De Beauvoir, Simone, America Day By Day translated from the French by Carol Cosman (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1999) ("Listening to their jazz, talking with them about it, I often felt that even the time they're living in is abstract. They respect the past, but as an embalmed monument; the idea of a living past integrated with the present is alien to them. They want to know only a present that's cut off from the flow of time, and a future they project is one that can be mechanically deduced from it, not one whose slow ripening or abrupt explosion implies unpredictable risks. They believe in the future of a bridge or an economic plan, not the future of an art or a revolution. Their time is the 'physicist's time,' a pure exteriority that mirrors the exteriority of space. And because they reject duration, they also reject quality. It's not just for economic reasons that there is no 'craftsmanship' in America; even in the leisure activities of domestic life, they don't aim for superior quality: food is cooked and fruit is ripened as quickly as possible. In every area they rush for fear that the result will already be outdated the moment it's achieved. Cut off from the past and the future, the present has no thickness. Nothing is stranger to Americans than the idea of seeing the moment as a recapitulation of time, as a mirror of the eternal, and of anchoring themselves in it in order to grasp timeless truths and values. The contents of the moment seem to them as precarious as the moment itself. Because they don't acknowledge that truths and values are evolving, they don't know how to preserve them in the movement that surpasses them; they just deny them. History is a large cemetery here: men, works, and ideas die almost as soon as they are born. And every individual existence has a taste of death: from minute to minute, the present is merely an honorary past. It must constantly be filled with the new to conceal the curse it carries within it. That's why Americans love speed, alcohol, film 'thrillings,' and sensational news. They feverishly demand something more and, again, something more, never able to quell their restlessness. Yet here, as everywhere else, life repeats itself day after day, so people amuse themselves with gadgets, and lacking real projects, they cultivate hobbies. These manias allow them to pretend to take responsibility, by choice, for their daily habits. Sports, movies, comics all offer distractions. But in the end, people are always faced with what they wanted to escape: the arid basis of American life--boredom." Id. at 385-386.).

Thomson, David, The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder (New York: Basic Books, 2009) ("That was less than fifty years ago. It's not that Psycho didn't shock many people and didn't acquire a reputation for cynical sensationalism. Still, the real measure of the breakthrough that had occurred--in the name of pure cinema--is the bloodletting, sadism, and slaughter that are now taken for granted. In terms of the cruelties we no longer notice, we are another species." Id. at 67.).

January 19, 2010


Coetzee, J .M., Summertime (New York: Viking, 2009) (“So David Truscott, who did not understand x and y, is a flourishing marketer or marketeer, while he, who had no trouble understanding x and y and much else besides, is an unemployed intellectual. What does that suggest about the workings of the world? What it seems most obviously to suggest is that the path that leads through Latin and algebra is not the path to material success. But it may suggest much more: that understanding things is a waste of time; that if you want to succeed in the world and have a happy family and a nice home and a BMW you should not try to understand things but just add up numbers or press the buttons or do whatever else it is that marketers are so richly rewarded for doing.” Id. at 14-15. “And I always beat him, or nearly always.” “The reason was simple. It wasn’t that he couldn’t argue; but he ran his life according to principles, whereas I was a pragmatist. Pragmatism always beats principles; that is just the way things are. The universe moves, the ground changes under our feet; principles are always a step behind. Principles are the stuff of comedy. Comedy is what you get when principles bump into reality.” Id. at 62-63.).

Kierkegaard, Soren, The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychological Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin (Kierkegaard Writings, Vol. VIII) edited and translated by Reidar Thomte and Albert B. Anderson (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1980) ("It is indeed unethical to say that innocence must be annulled, for even if it were annulled at the moment this is uttered, ethics forbids us to forget that that it is annulled only by guilt. Therefore, if one speaks of innocence as immediacy and is logically offensive and rude enough to have let this fleeting thing vanish, or if one is esthetically sensitive about what it was and the fact that it has vanished, he is merely geistreich [clever] and forgets the point." "Just as Adam lost innocence by guilt, so every man loses it in the same way. If it was not by guilt that he lost it, then it was not innocence that he lost; and if he was not innocent before becoming guilty, he never became guilty." Id. at 35.).

Kierkegaard, Soren, Fear and Trembling; Repetition (Kierkegaard Writings, Vol. VI) edited and translated by Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1983) ("What, then, is education? I believe it is the course the individual goes through in order to catch up with himself, and the person who will not go through this course is not much helped by being born in the most enlightened age." Fear and Trembling at 46. “[Job] affirms that he is on good terms with God; he knows he is innocent and pure in the very core of his being, where he also knows it before the Lord, yet all the world refutes him. Job’s greatness is that freedom’s passion in him is not smothered or quieted down by a wrong expression. In similar circumstances, this passion is often smothered in a person when faintheartedness and petty anxiety have allowed him to think he is suffering because of his sins, when that was not at all the case. His soul lacked the perseverance to carry through an idea when the world incessantly disagreed with him. . . .” Repetition at 207.).

Kierkegaard, Soren, The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition for Upbuilding and Awaking (Kierkegaard Writings, Vol. XIX) edited and translated by Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1980) (The philistine-bourgeois mentality is spiritlessness; determinism and fatalism are despair of spirit, but spiritlessness is also despair. The philistine-bourgeois mentality lacks every qualification of spirit and is completely wrapped up in probability, within which possibility finds its small corner. . . . Bereft of imagination, as the philistine-bourgeois always is, whether alehouse keeper or prime minister, he lives within a certain trivial compendium of experiences as to how things go, what is possible, what usually happens. In this way, the philistine-bourgeois has lost his self. . . . In order for a person to become aware of his self . . . , imagination must raise him to higher than the miasma of probability, it must tear him out of this and teach him to hope and fear--or to fear and to hope--by rendering possible that which surpasses the {{quantum satis}} [sufficient amount] of any experience. But the philistine-bourgeois mentality does not have imagination, does not want to have it, abhors it. So there is no help to be had here. And if at times existence provides frightful experiences that go beyond the parrot-wisdom of routine experience, then the philistine-bourgeois mentality despairs, then it becomes apparent that it was despair; it lacks faith’s possibility of being able . . . to save a self from certain downfall.” Id. at 41.).

Powys, John Cowper, Autobiography [1934], a new edition with an introduction by J.B. Priestley (London: Macdonald, 1967) ("My enemies, and those worse than enemies, my patronizing admirers , . . . will doubtless affix many semi-scientific labels to my aberrations, have indeed probably already rushed to their psychopathic text-books to find out what I can possibly be up to, when I refer to my power of experiencing the emotions of women and girls. But the more I soak myself in the work of Shakespeare and Dostoievsky the more I recognize that both these men have the magic power of becoming women. That is the point. That is where the intelligencies of our modern critics are so dull. They do not understand what the meaning of the word 'Imagination' is." Id. at 528. "Science has not changed the human soul. Science has not changed the basic relations between the human soul and the mystery surrounding it. We are still potential magicians as long as we have faith in the power within us to create and to destroy. Social Justice is one thing. The free life of the individual soul under any system is another thing. What we do is important; but it is less important than what we feel; for it is our feeling that alone is under the control of our will. In action we may be weak and clumsy blunders, or on the other hand sometimes incompetent and sometimes competent, All this is largely beyond our control. What is not beyond our control is our feeling about it." Id. at 626. "When I contemplate the remorseless organization of our modern nations in their deliberate preparation for more frightful wars than this last one, and when I think of the blood-and-iron industrialism, which seems, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, to resemble a kind of daily war, there does seem something infinitely desirable about the passionate mystical, scholarly retirement from the world of these laborious thinks. I feel as if I could understand much better the sort of intellectual, mystical, and imaginative life that Pelagius lived, or Marcion, or even the metaphysical Duns Scotus, than I can grasp the temperamental mentality of modern 'Behaviourist.' But of course I know perfectly well that behind every human 'formula' of life--even behind these apparently purely 'scientific' attitudes--there is a will t believe." Id. at 631.).

Powys, John Cowper, A Glastonbury Romance [1932] (Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1987) (A great opening paragraph: "At the striking of noon on a certain fifth of March, there occurred within a causal radius of Brandon railway station and yet beyond the deepest pools of emptiness between the uttermost stellar systems one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of the First Cause which always occurs when an exceptional stir of heightened consciousness agitates any living organism in this astronomical universe. Something passed at that moment, a wave, a motion, a vibration, too tenuous to be called magnetic, too subliminal to be called spiritual, between the soul of a particular human being who was emerging from a third-class carriage of the twelve-nineteen train from London and the divine-diabolic soul of the First Cause of all life." Id. at 21.).

Powys, John Cowper, Maiden Castle [1936] (Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press, 2001) ("The girl on the bed made no answer; and it was unlucky that at that second, as he lifted his head, he encountered the humiliated and offended look of Thuella's portrait of Teucer Wye. 'If you can't be a man', Mr. Wye's expression said, 'the best thing for you to do is to read Plato'." Id. at 276. "Good and evil must change,' he shouted, 'like everything else. Our art must change. A year ago I was a pacifist and a reformer. Now I'm a Communist and a person born again! All that old notion of yours, No-man, about the superior man living for contemplation--I tell we've enough of it! The poor, the working-people, have always been as I am now. What is this precious personal life you make such a fuss about compared with the great living spontaneous forces that move and stir in the crowded masses? I tell you the life of the working classes today anticipates the noblest life in the future. With what sardonic humour must a miner or a quarryman or a factory-hand today watch your poetical gentleman going for a walk with his stick and his dog and his love of nature! It's the human beings who sleep ten in a room, fighting, laughing, weeping, loving, hating, who know what Nature is! The rabbit in a trap knows what Nature is; and a man and a woman making love in the presence of their grown children, or beside themselves with hatred in the presence of three other families, know what Nature is. Oh, you poetical people with your simple life, I could curse you as Jesus cursed the Pharisees! I tell you, No-man, it costs money to live a simple life. A simple life's the luxury of the comfortable. Your benevolent poetical gentleman feeds on the poverty of others. He sucks blood like a flea, he cracks bones like a hyaena. He hates the radio, the cinema, the circus, because he can afford to hate them! I've found out this, my dears, from the little real work I've done already: that if you can't sink into the midst of a crowd, into the midst of ordinary people, loving, hating, chattering, suffering, enjoying themselves, being bad, being good, being swayed by all the natural human passions, and with no pride in themselves as superior to average humanity, and with no time to be fastidious, it's no good pretending that you've got the secret of life!'" Id. at 401-402. "Women are not less but far more polygamous than men, only it is a diffused and psychic polygamy, a polygamy that doesn't require for its satisfaction any contact of flesh with flesh; and they are, for this very reason, so protected from being exposed in these spiritual infidelities that they are often able to hide them even from themselves." Id. at 454.).

Powys, John Cowper, Owen Glendower: A Novel [1941] (Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press, 2002).

Powys, John Cowper, Porius: A Novel [1951] edited by Judith Bond and Morine Krissdottir (Woodstock & New York: Overlook Duckworth, 1951, 2007).

Powys, John Cowper, Weymouth Sands: A Novel [1934] (Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press, 1999).

Powys, John Cowper, Wolf Solent: A Novel [1929] (New York: Vintage International, 1998) ("'You needn't go on! interrupted Jason. 'Of course, I can't expect anyone to like my poetry who lives by copying out liquorish thoughts of a doting old fool. We all want to be glorified. My poetry is all I've got and I ought never to have read it to you. I ought to have known I'd only get abuse. It's this wanting to be glorified that's the mistake. A person ought to be satisfied if he can get his meals three times a day, without having to dance attendance on some silly old man or some ugly old woman!'" Id. at 363. "'Every movement we make must be bad or good,' she said: 'and we've got to make movements! We make bad movements anyhow . . . all of us . . . outrageous ones . . . like creation of the world! Isn't it better, then, to make them with our eyes open . . . to make them honestly, without any fuss . . . than just to be pushed, while we turn our heads round and pretend to be looking the other way? That's what you do, Wolf. You look the other way! . . . Why do you always try to make out that your motives are good, Wolf? They're often abominable! Just as mine are. There's only one thing required of us in this world, and that's not to be a burden . . . not to hang round people's necks! My Manley-man, whom you hate so, at any rate stands on his own feet. He give nothing for nothing. He keeps his thoughts to himself.'" Id at 460-461.).

January 15, 2010


Achebe, Chinua, The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays (New York: Knopf, 2009) (From "The University and the Leadership Factor in Nigerian Politics": "But supposing an army were to recruit its elite corps not on the highest and toughest standards of soldiering but because they were the children of generals and admirals, it would have created a corrupt elite corps pampered with special favors without having the ability of storm trooper. So the real point about an elite is not whether it is necessary or not but whether it is genuine or counterfeit. This boils down to how it is recruited. And this is true of any elite system. An elite corps of scientists is indispensable to the modern state, but if its recruitment is from the children and brother-in-law of professors rather than from young scientists of the greatest talent, it would be worse than useless, because it would not only fail to produce scientific results itself but would actually inhibit such results from other quarters. A counterfeit elite, in other words, inflicts double jeopardy on society." "So the real problem posed by leadership is that recruitment. Political philosophers from Socrates and Plato to the present tie have wrestled with it. Every human society . . . has also battled with it. How do we secure the services of a good leader?" Id. at 139, 146-147.).

Euben, Roxanne L., & Muhammad Qasim Zaman, eds., Princeton Readings in Islamist Thought: Text and Contexts from Al-Banna to Bin Laden (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("This volume is intended as a broad introduction to the evolution and scope of Islamist political thought from the early twentieth century to the present. . . ." "The focus on Islamist thought inevitably tends to privilege writing over speech, ideas over particular practices. Yet this reader ultimately challenges the very opposition between 'theory' and practice' by showing the interrelation of thought and action in the lives of individual Islamists as well as in Islamist ideas and the dynamics of their political appeal. . . ." Id. at 1.).

Rogan, Eugene, The Arabs: A History (New York: Basic Books: 2009) (The book is well-reviewed in The Economist, November 12, 2009: "This is very much a traditional history, focused on the interplay of powers and the march of events. In other words, Mr Rogan’s book might more aptly have been called a modern political history of the Arabs." "It is not a particularly happy story, but it is a fascinating one, and exceedingly well told. Mr Rogan manoeuvres with skilful assurance, maintaining a steady pace through time, and keeping the wider horizon in view even as he makes use of a broad range of judiciously chosen primary sources to enrich the narrative. The more closely focused views of Arab contemporaries add not just texture and sometimes fun, but also give a deeper sense of changing Arab sensibilities.").

January 13, 2010


Marmor, Andrei, Social Conventions: From Language to Law (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) (This is a interesting read, especially for those with a philosophical bent. “This is a short book, and there is no need to give it a long introduction. There are, however, two related points I need to clarify in advance. First, I take it that conventions are a species of norms; they are rules that regulate human conduct. As such, conventions pose a problem that is best cast in terms of practical reasoning. If there is anything unique about conventional norms, there must be something unique about the ways in which they figure in our practical reasons. The second assumption is precisely the idea that conventional norms are unique. In spite of the great diversity of domains in which we follow conventions, they share an essential feature, namely, their arbitrariness. To suggest that a certain norm is conventional is to suggest that in some sense it just happens to be the one we follow, that we could have followed a different norm instead, that is, without any significant loss of purpose. This arbitrary feature of conventional norms is both a challenge and the beginning of an explanation. It is a challenge to explain the practical reasons for following a rule that is, basically, arbitrary. But the arbitrary nature of conventions is also the beginning of why it matters, philosophically speaking, to determine whether a certain domain, or type of norms, is conventional or not. It matters precisely because conventionality entails a certain arbitrariness, suggesting that the way things are could have been different in a real sense. . . . More precisely, . . . the conventionality of a domain is closely tied with crucial elements of contingency, path dependency, and underdetermination by reasons, These are the features that make it philosophically interesting to determine whether a certain set of norms is conventional or not. . . .” Id. at x-xi.).

January 11, 2010


Blumenthal, David and James A. Morone, The Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office (Berkeley & Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 2009) (In the end, perhaps health care simply stretches indefinitely into the future. It is, after all, the place where politics and interests meet the human condition, the issue that reflects the greatest challenges to any society: how well do we minister to our fellow humans? Seen this way, health care will always challenge the head and the soul of the vulnerable human who sits at the heart of power.” Id. at 420.).

Lord, Alexandra M., Condom Nation: The U.S. Government’s Sex Education Campaign From World War I to The Internet (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2009) ("The ensuing debates over sex education have often been portrayed as debates over the issue of medicine and morality. President Ronald Reagan tackled this issue directly when he insisted that sex education 'can not be what some call "valve neutral." After all,' he asked, 'when it comes to preventing AIDS, don't medicine and morality teach the same lessons?' Reagan's question was a troubling one for public health experts. It lacked the nuanced understanding they have repeatedly demanded when teaching adolescents and even adults about sex. Medicine and morality are not, many sex educators would say, diametrically opposed--nor are they synonymous. Rather, they are two different and unrelated issues. Throughout the long history of American sex education programs, the desire to conflate these two issues or to set them up in opposition to one another has caused incalculable and often irreparable damage to both privately and federally funded sex education programs." Id. at 3 (citations omitted).)

Segall, Shlomi, Health, Luck, and Justice (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (“What is the just distribution of health and health care? The answer this book seeks to offer is deceptively simple perhaps: Differences in health and health care are unjust if they reflect differences in brute luck.” “The invocation of luck in accounts of egalitarian justice has become increasingly salient in recent years. In fact, ‘luck egalitarian’ can be said to be the main rival to John Rawls’s dominant theory of justice. According to luck egalitarians, distributive justice requires correcting disadvantages for which individuals cannot be held responsible. In other words, the theory seeks to compensate individuals for the effects of bad luck on their lives. . . . It may be surprising, perhaps, but despite the prominence of this egalitarian theory, to date there has not been any systematic attempt to apply luck egalitarian to the study of justice in the distribution of health and health care. In fact, some critics have commented in passing that the application of luck egalitarianism to health and health care leads to counterintuitive results. That is precisely the challenge that this books seeks to meet: to offer and defend a luck egalitarian account of justice in health care and health.” Id. at 1. “Luck egalitarians, I have tried to emphasize throughout this book, are only indirectly concerned with what individuals are responsible for. Their true concern is with the factors that shape our lives and for which we are not responsible. The ambition to neutralize luck . . . has radical implications for the extent of society’s duties of justice. It allows us to say that society ought to address every disadvantage for which the individual is not responsible. That . . may lead to extensive, never before taken, action by society to address disadvantages in the sphere of health. . . .” Id. at 174. This is a very thoughtful read, one which anyone seriously interested in healthcare law cannot responsibly avoid reading.).

Stein, Mark S., Distributive Justice and Disability: Utilitarianism Against Egalitarianism (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2006) ("This book is about the contest between utilitarianism and egalitarianism. Utilitarianism, as a theory of distributive justice, tells us to help those who can most benefit, those who can gain the greatest increase in welfare. Egalitarianism theories of distributive justice tell us to help those who are in some way worse off. I advocate utilitarianism." Id. at 1. This is a worthwhile read, which is not to say that I think he gets it right.).

January 6, 2010


Margalit, Avishai, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (Read this very thoughtful book based, in part, on Margalit's Tanner lectures delived at Stanford University in 2005. "This book "is about peace and compromise." "More specially: what compromises we are not allowed to make for the sake of peace." "The short answer is: rotten compromises are not allowed, even for the sake of peace. Other compromises should be dealt with on a retail basis, one by one: they should be judged on their merits. Only rotten compromises should be ruled out on a wholesale basis. . . . The book is in pursuit of just a peace, rather than of a just peace. Peace can be justified without being just." Id. at 1 (italic in original). "The compromises discussed in the book are political compromises, rather than personal ones. The distinction is not always clear." "I see rotten political compromises as an agreement to establish or maintain an inhumane regime, a regime of cruelty and humiliation, that is, a regime that does not treat humans as humans." "Inhuman regimes erode the foundation of morality. Morality rests on treating humans as human; not treating humans as humans undermines the basic assumption of morality. I draw a distinction between morality and ethics. Morality is about how human relations should be in virtue of our being human and in virtue of nothing else." "Ethics, in contrast, is about what relations we should have with other people in virtue of some special relationships we have with them, such as family relations or friendships." Id. at 2-3 (italics in original). "The idea of political compromise is caught between two pictures of politics: politics as economics and politics as religion. Roughly speaking, in the economic picture of politics everything is subject to compromise. Compromise is not always desirable or prudent, but it is always possible. In the religious picture, there are things over which we must never compromise." Id. at 24. "[W]ars and emergencies are extreme situations from the point of view of peace. But they are not abnormal in the freak sense of the term, even if metaphorically we tend to describe them as such. Rules, moral rules included, can apply to war as well as to compromises made in times of war. The whole idea of a just-war theory, which advocates justice in the conduct of war, is that the open violence of war can be regulated and subjected to constraints. War is a different phrase in human existence from peace, but not a mode of existence that renders morality irrelevant." "Even in war we are required to treat humans with basic dignity. . . ." Id. at 132. "There is, however, a further distinction between an active partner and a passive one. We have heard reports of cases of extraordinary rendition agreements whereby the CIA kidnapped and transferred more than one hundred suspects to other countries (mainly Egypt, but also Syria, Morocco, Jordan, and Uzbekistan) for interrogation. According to those reports, 'torture by proxy' was used systematically. If true, we should regard the United States not as a silent partner in such rendition agreements, but as an active one, in spite of the fact that the infliction of torture, cruelty, and humiliation was outsourced. The instigator, the United States, and the subcontractors should both be considered an active side." Id. at 92-93.).

January 4, 2010


Brownmiller, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975) (Brownmiller's Against Our Will remains a required read. Its rhetoric, though perhaps not the argument taken as a whole, is often dishonest. A case in point is the the beginning of Chapter 3, which addresses rape in war. The chapter begins with a quotation from General George S. Patton, Jr.: "I then told him that, in spite of my most diligent efforts, there would unquestionably be some raping, and that I should like to have the details as early as possible so that the offenders could be properly hanged." Id. at 31. Read that sentence again and note the phrase, "in spite of my most diligent efforts, there would unquestionably be some raping . . . ." Then comes Brownmiller's first full paragraph. "It's funny about man's attitude toward rape in war. Unquestionably there shall be some raping. When men are men, slugging it out among themselves, conquering new land, subjugating new people, driving on toward victory, unquestionably there shall be some raping." Id. at 31 (italics in original). Read that paragraph again, and note that the two appearances of "unquestionably", and only that word, are italicized by Brownmiller for emphasis; and, note that what is unquestionable for her is not that there would be some raping, but rather that there unquestionably there "shall be" some raping. 'Would be' has dishonestly morphed into "shall be" for rhetoric purposes. Such rhetorical moves lessened a nevertheless (though not "nonetheless") important book. Then again, I recall a certain cartoon in The New Yorker. A woman and a man are sitting on a sofa, apparently watching television. The woman essentially informs the man that the reason he did not understand whatever was on the television is because he is not the targeted audience. Men (or at least certain men) don't get the message because the message is not intended for you. Against Our Will, political tract in the Second Wave of American feminism, is pitched toward (most?) women and toward (few?) men; so it is understandable that (a lot of) men and few women took issue with Brownmiller's discussion of the political history of rape. They did not get it, but then again they were meant to get it. Read, for instance, Diane Johnson's book review, "The War Between Men and Women," in the New York Review of Books, Volume 22, Number 20, December 11, 1975. It should also be noted that some of the heated rhetoric in the politics of rape got muted in the Third Wave, as the Second Wave became mothers of sons. It is a lot harder to view one's sons as potential rapists. Though one' sons must be potential rapists if all men rape. This is also one of the reasons why the politics of "date rape" is heartwrenching for mothers with sons. Moreover, there are all those sons, fathers, brothers, husbands, etc., who are serving in the military during times of war. Soldier rape in war. American soldiers rape in war. See the recent New York Times series, "Women at Arms.," especially Steven Lee Myers, "A Peril in War Zones: Sexual Abuse by Fellow G.I.’s," NYT, December 27, 2009.).

Dworkin, Andrea, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (New York: Basic Books, 2002) ("The worst immoralities are but one, a single sin of human nothingness and stupidity. 'Do no harm' is the counterpoint to apathy, indifference, and passive aggression; it is the fundamental moral imperative. 'Do no harm' is the opposite of immoral. One must do something and at the same time do no harm. 'Do no harm' remains the hardest ethic." Id. at 204.).

Dworkin, Andrea, Life and Death: Unapologetic Writings on the Continuing War Against Women (New York: Free Press, 1997) (From "Terror, Torture, and Resistance": "I want to talk about the violence against women, and you're here to talk about healing. I wish that you could raise the dead. That is what I would like to see. This is a political point. One of the reasons that the Right reaches so many women is that the Right has a transcendent god who says I will heal all your hurt and all your pain and all your wounds: 'I died for you. I will heal you.' Feminists do not have a transcendent god who can heal that way. We have ideas about fairness and justice and equality. And we have to find ways to make them real. We don't have magic. We don't have supernatural powers. And we can't keep sticking together women who have been broken into little pieces. Fighting back is as close to healing as we are going to come. It is important to understand that we will live with a fair amount of pain for most of our lives. If your priority is to live a painless life, you will not be able to help yourself or other women. What matters is to be a warrior. Having a sense of honor about political struggle is healing. Discipline is necessary. Actions against men who hurt women must be real. We need to win. We are in a war. We have not been fighting back. We need to win this war. We need a political resistance. We need it aboveground. We need it with our lawmakers, with our government officials. We need it with our professional women. We need it aboveground. We need it underground too." Id. at 115, 123-124.).

Dworkin, Andrea, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation (New York: Free Press, 2000) ("Put concretely, women need land and guns or other armament or defense; or women need to organize nonviolently in great masses that grow out of small demonstrations using civil disobedience. The latter is harder than the former but gets fairer results. One needs to target individual men who commit crimes against women and institutions that objectify, demean, and hurt women; using either violence or nonviolence. Indiscriminate violence is never justified; there are always innocents." "One needs a commitment to discipline and sacrifice. One needs either equality or political and economic superiority. The former is harder than the later. One needs strong girls who grow up to be strong and fierce women. One needs a sense of what is urgent, including the huge problem of female illiteracy and poverty, both of which take children with them. One needs food, shelter, health care, and education for women as well as political rights. One needs a concrete militancy, grassroots organizations, the female practice of cooperation seen in Nazi concentration camps and Argentinean jails. One needs a nonrhetorical commitment to justice. One needs the rulership and political autonomy of women: the eventual taking over of public policy and civil power. One needs fair treatment of the male minority. One needs to revisit the principles of eighteenth-century political thinkers and philosophers with a clarity about what is missing: principles and practices that did not speak to the honor and dignity of women as citizens. Thomas Jefferson and the other U.S. founders did not give women anything: no rights; no freedom; no money; no land. Neither the American Revolution nor the French Revolution nor the Enlightenment nor the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (in which the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified) dared to hand over rights to women." "One needs rules in courts of law based on how crimes really happen--rape, for instance--and the development of rules of evidence that are fair from the point of view of the raped, not the raper. One needs rape museums to put in one place the cogency and significance of the act of rape; a story told through artifacts and stories. One needs the deep study of prostitution as a paradigm for scapegoating." "Remember that men are biologically vulnerable: they war their genitals on the outside of their bodies; it is easier for women to hurt men than for men to get inside their bodies--except that women don't want to hurt men and men do want to get inside women. One must turn this around: men must be made aware of their fragility and vulnerability--or is that what creates make aggression, precisely that awareness, never spoken?" Id. at 336-337.).

Feimster, Crystal N., Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard University Press, 2009) ("This is a history of two southern women, Rebecca Latimer Felton (1835-1930) and Ida B. Wells (186201931), and the thousands of women who joined their campaigns against rape and for women's rights in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during the height of lynching in the American South. . . . Despite differences in their age, race, class, and status, they both, in very different contexts, took radical stances on rape and lynching. Together, their struggles against sexual violence--Wells advocated on the black women's behalf and Felton mostly fought for the protection of poor white women--brought to southern politics the concerns of women who historically had been excluded from debates about rape and protection. Although both campaigned for women's safety, they confronted the problem of lynching in completely different ways. While Wells became internationally known for her radical anti-lunching crusade, it was Felton's notorious plea to 'lynch a thousand a week' that thrust her into the national spotlight. From different sides of the color line, Felton and Wells were women's rights pioneers who negotiated and challenged the racial and sexual politics of the New South." Id. at 1. "After the [Civil] war, as white anxiety about the political, economic, and social meanings of emancipation intensified, different constituencies assembled a convergent set of racial and sexual fantasies. During the overthrow of Reconstruction, southern white men managed to flip the antebellum script of racial and sexual violence. Whereas prior to the war abolitionists had espoused a political narrative that centered on the rape of black women by white men, in the postwar years southern men articulated a political discourse that defined rape as a crime committed by black men against white women. In constructing the image of the 'black rapist,' southern white men sought to challenge black men's right as citizens while simultaneously expanding their own sexual power over both black and white women. The portrayal of black men as beastly and unable to control their sexual desires served to justify the practice of lynching, segregation laws, and disfranchisement of black men." Id. at 4-5. "By 1920 . . . Felton no longer believed that black men were the primary threat to white womanhood. Instead, she now re-embraced the view she had held in the 1880s and early 1890s, that white men represented the great danger to southern women, both black and white." Id. at 205. "Despite scholarly claims that the Civil War was a low-rape war, the fact that many women feared sexual assault and that hundreds, and possibly thousands, of women suffered rape cannot be ignored. Men and women not only wrote about sexual assault and the fear of rape in their diaries and letters, but women, black and white, free and enslaved, pressed charges against alleged rapists. At least 250 Union soldiers were court-martialed for the crime of rape." Id. at 20. This is an interesting read. For those who are puzzled over the continuing presence of race, ethnic, socio-economic class fault-lines among American feminists, the book will provide a longer historical perspective.).

Pamuk, Orhan, Other Colors: Essays and a Story (New York: Knopf, 2007) ("We all know that the longer this campaign continues, the more the U.S. Army seeks to satisfy its won nation by killing innocent people in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the more it will exacerbate the manufactured tension between East and West, thereby playing into the hands of the very terrorists it wishes to punish. It is at present morally reprehensible to suggest this savage terrorism is a response to America's world domination. But it is nevertheless important to understand why millions of people living in poor and marginalized countries that have lost even the right to shape their own histories might feel such anger against America. This is not simply that we must see their anger as justified. It is important to remember that many Third World and Islamic countries use anti-American sentiment to occlude their democratic shorting comings and shore up dictatorships. Muslim countries that are struggling to establish secular democracies are not helped in the least when America allies itself with closed societies like Saudi Arabia which claim democracy and Islam to be irreconcilable. In much the same way, the more superficial variety of anti-Americanism that one sees in Turkey allows those at the top to waste and misappropriate the money given to them by international financial bodies and to conceal the ever-growing gap between rich and poor. There are many in the United States who support the offensive unconditionally, just because they wish to demonstrate their military dominance and give the terrorists a symbolic 'lesson,' and some who discuss the likely locations of the next bombing raid cheerfully as if they were playing a video game, but they should understand that decisions taken in the heat of battle can only intensify the anger and humiliation that the millions in the world's poor Islamic countries feel against a West that sees itself as superior. It is not Islam that makes people side with the terrorists, nor is it poverty; it is the crushing humiliation felt throughout the Third World." Id. 219-220. "Nothing nurtures support for the 'Islamist' throwing nitric acid in the faces of women more than the West's refusal to understand the anger of the damned." Id. at 221.).