September 6, 2010
FOOD FOR THOUGHT FROM THE BOSTON REVIEW
Baker. Dean, Taking Economics Seriously (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2010) ("In general, political debates over regulation have been wrongly cast as disputes over the extent of regulation, with conservatives assumed to prefer less regulation, while liberals prefer more. In fact conservatives do not necessarily desire less regulation, nor do liberal necessarily desire more. Conservatives support regulatory structures that cause income to flow upward, while liberals support regulatory structures that promote equality. 'Less' regulation does not imply greater inequality, nor is the reverse true. Id. at 1-2. "False ideological claims have, thus, circumscribed the public debate over regulation and blinded us to the wide range of choices we have. Without these claims, what would guide regulatory policy? What kinds of choices would we make? In this book, I explore what shifting the terms of debate might gain us." Id. at 3. "The government is always present, steering the benefits in different directions depending on who is in charge. Accepting this view provides a political vantage point much better suited to the case for progressive regulation. After all, conservatives want the big hand of government in the market as well. They just want the handouts all to go to those at the top." Id. at 16.`).
Banererjee, Abhijit Vinayak, Making Aid Work (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press 2007) ("[O]ne of the core problems with delivering aid: institutional laziness. Here many of the standard problems were not an issue . . . . All they had to do was to wait an extra few minutes it would take to fill out a simple form and learn about where aid had reached and where it had not. But no one could be bothered to put in the time it wold have taken to think harder about what they were doing. Aid thinking is lazy thinking." Id. at 7.).
Blix, Hans, Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2008) ("The international community must revive disarmament and take advantage of the resources the U.N. offers. . . . As Dag Hammarskjold said, the U.N. will not take us to heaven but it might help us avoid hell." Id. at 72-73.).
Daly, Lew, God and the Welfare State (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2006) ("This book ultimately asks whether policies claiming religious inspiration are faithful to the teachings they invoke. It is also a book about the influence of ideas in policymaking--the intellectual genealogy of a major political change. Indeed, for anyone seeking to understand why philosophy matters in contemporary politics, there is no better case study than the faith-based initiative. For the first time, core theological principles of the Christian tradition have been systematically applied to federal administration and spending. 'We don't just talk about abortion or other specific issues,' one prominent advocate . . . explains. 'We want to ask about the nature of government'." "If there is hope in the faith-based initiative, it lies not in the program itself but in the ideas that guide it. Through a theological lens we can appreciate the deeper political significance of the faith-based initiative and understand how it betrays its founding ideas and ignores disturbing dimensions of their past. And this opens the door to a valuable debate on government, religion, and poverty that neither opponents nor proponents of religious involvement in public life are prepared to have." Id. at 9-10.).
Dayan, Colin, The Story of Cruel and Unusual (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England, MIT Press, 2007) (From the back cover: "Those who condemn the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have blamed U.S. military procedures and abuses of executive powers. But in The Story of Cruel and Unusual, Colin Dayan argues that anyone who has followed the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions regarding the Eight Amendment would recognize the [George W. Bush] White House's policies on torture as natural extensions of the language of our courts and practices in U.S. prisons." "Dayan traces the ideas of 'acceptable' prisoner abuse to the slave codes of the 19th century, which embedded the dehumanization of the incarcerated deeply in our legal system. Although the Eighth Amendment was interpreted generously during the late 1960s and 1970s, over the last 30 years, Supreme Court decisions have once again diminished crucial protections. Prisoners' actual suffering has been deemed less important than the intentions of those inflicting it.").
Ganji, Akbar, The Road to Democracy in Iran (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2008) ("[I]f the struggle for human rights is intertwined with the democratic struggle, then genuine social progress is possible." "Some in Iran in recent years have claimed that in the age of modernity there is a division of labor, and that intellectuals should not pay the price for what should be the people's own responsibility, or the responsibility of civic institutions that defend human rights. Yet we cannot, as some intellectual do, rely on concepts and institutions to absolve ourselves of moral responsibilities. Intellectuals must strive to lessen other people's pain, even though they suffer on this path. And they must live in a way that prepares them to tolerate and survive the pain of insult, exile, imprisonment, and even torture." Id. at 20-21.).
Gecan, Michael, After America's Midlife Crisis (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2009) (From the back cover: "For several decades Michael Gecan has worked with groups that serve their communities when conservative get-tough rhetoric and endless liberal programs do not cut it." "A native of Chicago . . ., Gecan brings his deep knowledge of that city's blighted neighborhoods, bloated bureaucracy, and venal political machine to bear on a thoroughgoing and nationwide critique. He paints a vivid picture of civic, political, and religious institutions in decline, from suburban budget crisis to failing public schools: a national midlife crises." "Gecan reveals an urban landscape in which careerism, nepotism, and greed are the principal movers in policy, while the institutions that preserve and advance communities--schools, churches, affordable housing, recreational opportunities--have fallen prey to the indifference of pols and developers and the shortsightedness of technocrats.").
Gornick, Vivian, The Men in My Life (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2008) ("Suddenly, literature, politics, and analysis came together, and I began to think more inclusively about the emotional imprisonment of mind and spirit to which all human beings are heir. In the course of analytic time, it became apparent that--with or without the burden of social justice--the effort to attain any semblance of inner freedom was extraordinary. Great literature, I then realized, is a record not of the achievement, but of the effort." "With this insight as my guiding light, I began to interpret the lives and work of women and men alike who had spent their years making literature. But it was in the lives of the men, especially, that one could see what it meant to wrestle with the demons. Here they were--talented, often brilliant, with infinitely more permission to do and be than women had ever known--and they were endlessly dragged about by conflicts they could neither give up nor bring under control. I could not but be moved--by the great and the humble alike--to pity and admiration for those who demonstrated repeatedly that to 'be and do' is not a given." Id. at x-xi.).
Hogeland, William, Inventing American History (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2009) ("Every spring vacation in the early 1960s, my mother took me and my brothers from New York City to Washington, D.C., and environs. . . . [W]e looked forward urgently to the National History Wax Museum." "The wax museum's thrills came from nothing more sophisticated than old-school verisimilitude. . . ." "Imagining: that's what history seemed too be for. Subtlety was out. Every event was in progress at its crucial moment. . . ." Id. at ix-x. "This book is about failings in what is sometimes called 'public history'--the history we encounter in museums and tourist attractions, in newspapers columns and election campaigns, in public broadcasting and popular biographies. The wax museums traded in crude drama, lurid and sometimes apocrypha;, greatest hits in conquest, expansion, war, and murder. Partly for that reason, it conveyed to a child the sense more of real realpolitik than of manifest destiny. That Indian trying to kill John Smith seemed righteously angry, Smith only lucky. What grim times those were, when children could be brought to gaze on a perfect rendering of a presidential assassination only a year or two old. There was no happy summing up, no celebratory lesson. We didn't emerge into the sunlight with a feeling that the world had been made safe for democracy. From John Smith to John Kennedy, the story, unabashedly, was one of violence." "Public history must simplify. What I criticize here is not simplification itself but the kind of simplification that erases our deepest conflicts." Id. at xii-xiii. ". . . I've had anew desire to imagine our past, and a new desire to look closely at it. Public history should try to help all of us imagine and look closely. Too often it tries to do just the opposite." Id. at xiv.).
Loury, Glenn C., Race, Incarceration, and American Values (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2008) (From the back cover: "The United States, home to 5 percent of the world's population, now houses 25 percent of the world's prison inmates. Our incarceration rate is almost 40 percent greater than our nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia). It is 6.2 times the Canadian rate and 12.3 times the rate in Japan." "Economist Glenn C. Loury argues that this extraordinary mass incarceration is not a response to rising crime rates or a proud success of social policy, but the product of a generation-old collective decision to become a more punitive society. He connects this policy to our history of racial oppression, showing that the punitive turn in American politics and culture emerged in the post-civil rights years and has today become the main vehicle for the reproduction of racial hierarchies." "Whatever the explanation, the uncontroversial fact is that we have create a nether class of Americans with severely restricted rights and life changes. Our system, Loury contends, should be unacceptable to Americans; his call to action make all of us responsible for ensuring that it changes.").
Meyer, Stephen M., The End of the Wild (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2006) ("Today the guiding hand of natural selection is unmistakably human, with potentially Earth-shaking consequences." "Over the next 100 years or so as many as half the Earth's species, representing a quarter of the planet's genetic stock, will functionally if not completely disappear. The land and the oceans will continue to teem with life, but it will be a peculiar homogenized assemblage of organisms unnaturally selected for their compatibility with one fundamental force: us. Nothing--not national or international laws, global bio-reserves, local sustainability schemes, or even 'wildlands' fantasies--can change the current course. The broad path for biological evolution is now set for the next several million years. And in this sense the extinction crisis--the race to save the composition, structure, and organization of biodiversity as it exists today--is over, and we have lost." Id. at 4-5.).
Miguel, Edward, Africa's Turn? (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2009) (analysis of aid to, or investment is, Africa).
Stone, Alan A., Movies and the Moral Adventure (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: MIT Press, England, 2007) (exploring, through film, what it means to be human).
Tomasello, Michael, Why We Cooperate (Boston Review Book) (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: MIT Press, 2009) ("I will argue and present evidence that from around their first birthdays--when they first begin to walk and talk and become truly cultural beings--human children are already cooperative and helpful in many, though obviously not all, situations. And they do not learn this from adults; it comes naturally. . . . But later in ontogeny, children's relatively indiscriminate cooperativeness becomes mediated by such influences as their judgments of likely reciprocity and their concern for how others in the group judge them, which were instrumental in the evolution of humans' natural cooperativeness in the first place. And they begin to internalize many culturally specific social norms for how we do things, how one ought to do things if one is to be a member of this group. . . ." Id. at 4.).