October 31, 2011
Ludwig von Mises, On the Manipulation of Money and Credit: Three Treatises on Trade-Cycle Theory, translated and with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves, and edited by Percy L. Greaves, Jr. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1978, 2011) ("It is vain to object that the public favors the policy of cheap money. The masses are misled by the assertions of the pseudo-experts that cheap money can make them prosperous at no expense whatever. They do not realize that investment can be expanded only to the extent that more capital is accumulated by savings. They are deceived by the fairy tales of monetary cranks . . . Yet, what counts in reality is not fairly tales, but people's conduct. If men are not prepared to save more by cutting down their current consumption, the means for a substantial expansion of investment are lacking. These means cannot be provided by printing banknotes or by loans on the bank books." Id. at 198. Americans still believe the fairy tale. And the crash of 2008 (and its continuing effects) is the price paid for their inability to be and act like responsible financial grownups.).
October 30, 2011
David W. Blight, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England, 2011) ("A tragic sense of history rejects facile, 'optimistic' conceptions of the past. It respects the power of the dark and evil side of human nature, as well as the capacities of the institutions humans create, to exploit and destroy in the name of ideology, nation, or religion. . . . A tragic view of history is not hopeless or merely 'pessimistic,' but rather what one might call informed, prepared, or chastened. A sense of tragedy can keep us suspicious of theories or revolutionary change or of stable progress. The tragic mode of seeing and writing the past does not mean that the engine of history is to be found solely in the darkest recesses of human nature, in man's capacity for evil. People are the engines of history, and sometimes very specific people and nations are explicitly to blame for crimes against humanity. The tragic mode, though, helps us to temper our rigid theories of history, conditions us for history's shocking surprises, and reminds us that each day when the sun rises again in the human story, the night will come. A sense of tragedy makes real hope possible." "The idea of tragedy and the idea of progress are both essential for the achievement of knowledge from experience, but they are largely antithetical." Id. at 24-25. Wonderful, insightful essays on Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin. By the 1960s, Baldwin and other writers who tried to provide the country with an alternative story to the mainstream impulses of the Civil War Centennial were surrounded by an emerging and vibrant scholarship that would, with the decade, begin to revolutionize American and African American history. . . . But popular memory always lags for behind scholarship, and all revolutions can be turned around--as the new historiography of Reconstruction poignantly demonstrated, and as out political culture in the early twenty-first century reminds us, elections after election." Id. at 248.).
October 29, 2011
Tommie Shelby, We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2005) ("I aim to reflect on and ultimately to assess the value of racial solidarity as a basis for current political practice among African Americans." "My book . . . provid[es] a reconstruction and defense of the underlying principles of black solidarity. This defense is forthrightly anti-essentialist. I seek to identify a basis for black political unity that does not deny, downplay, or disparage individual or group differentiation within the black population. I insist that there are many, perhaps incommensurable, ways to be black, none more 'natural' than the others. Yet I also defend a conception of black solidarity that is not only, or even primarily, concerned with questions of identity, but that urges a joint commitment to defeating racism, to eliminating unjust racial inequalities, and to improving the material life prospects of those racialized as 'black,' especially he most disadvantaged." "I will argue that it is possible to dispense with the idea of race as a biological essence and to agree with the critics of identity politics about many of its dangers and limitations while nevertheless continuing to embrace a form of blackness as an emancipatory tool." Id. at 3-4.).
October 28, 2011
William Ian Miller, Losing It: in which an aging professor LAMENTS his shrinking BRAIN, which he flatters himself formerly did him Noble Service: A Plaint, tragi-comical, historical, vengeful, sometime satirical and thankful in six parts if his Memory does yet serve (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) (From the book's jacket: "In Losing It, William Ian Miller brings his inimitable wit and learning to the subject of growing old: too old to matter, of either rightly losing your confidence or wrongly maintaining it, culpably refusing to face the fact that you are losing it. Miller's greatest fear is the loss of mental faculties--memory, processing speed, sensory acuity, the capacity to focus. But he is acutely attuned to bodily decline as well--sags and flaccidities, aches and pains, failing joints and organs. What are we to make of these telltale signs? Does growing old gracefully mean more than simply refusing unseemly cosmetic surgeries? How do we face decline and the final drawing of the blinds? And, most urgently: How will we know if and when we have lingered too long?" "Drawing on a lifetime of deep study and anxious observation, Miller enlists the wisdom of the ancients to confront these vexed questions head on. Debunking the glossy new image of old age that has accompanied the graying of the baby boomers, he conjures a lost world of aging rituals--complaints, taking to bed, schemes for taking it with you or settling up accounts and scores--to remind us of the hardships and the tactics that accompany our so-called Golden Years. Eccentric, elegant, and darkly intelligent, Losing It will raise the spirits of readers young and old." It is very difficult to read a book in which, passage after passage, one sees oneself (in which I see myself) in a not flattering light. "If I had a hard time adjusting to the roles demanded in the prime of life, then what am I to do with old age, where I am not even sure I know what I look like? Maybe playing the old man properly requires thinking you are twenty years younger than you are and acting the fool who thinks such. If that is the case, them my failure to recognize myself in the shop window proves me perfectly immersed in the role of the old man I thought I wasn't." "But with recognition comes deflation and shame, because you fear that others can see your pathetic vanity, that they caught you in the act of such egregiously self-flattering complacency, that they caught the old guy checking himself out in the shop window. Any minimally astute observer, such as one of your students, can see the pretense in the way you talk, or try to hold yourself, which you believe is ramrod straight, but the sag at the knees and the crick in your back betray you. Yet that shame is also a its own sort of vanity. It assumes people, younger people, to be exact, are looking at you, or looking at you as anything other than a sixty-something, cancelled soul. As one female student told a female colleague of mine, which my colleague, reveling in Schadenfreude, hastened to relay to me: 'Oh, Professor Miller, he's such a cute old man.' That was rather more painful than the specter in the shop window, though I still vividly remember when I was twenty how someone forty might as well have been a member of a different species, or a shade in Charon's boat crossing over. The idea that such moribund souls could be objects of desire or have any themselves was beyond my imaginative powers. And still is. The student and my colleague were instruments of cosmic comic revenge, punishing me for having somewhat too good self-esteem, which like so much self-esteem had become quite unhinged from reality." Id. at 16-17.).
October 27, 2011
F. M. Kamm, Creation and Abortion: A Study in Moral and Legal Philosophy ((New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1992).
F. M. Kamm, Intricate Ethics: Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2007).
F. M. Kamm, Morality, Mortality, Volume I: Death and Whom to Save from It (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1993) ("Let me say first that I believe it is wrong to live one's life acting on each occasion with the aim of making one' life have a certain structure or be of a certain type. In deciding what to do, one has one motivation too many if one thinks of the structure of one's life. One must decide how to act on the merits of the acts one is contemplating; then, as a byproduct, one's life will have the 'structure' of, for example, sincerity or seriousness. It would be wrong not to engage in certain activities simply because one thinks they would disturb the so-called 'narrative structure' of one's life." "Yet I also believe that it is wrong not to care when one looks back at one's life as it was lived, from the outside so to speak, that it amounted to something good, that one produced a life of a certain sort by living it in the right way, acting for the right reason on each occasion. Preferring any small amount of future good life to such a product does imply not caring about the product." Id. at 31-32.).
F. M. Kamm, Morality, Mortality, Volume II: Rights, Duties, and Status (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1996).
October 26, 2011
Irvin D. Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept (New York: Basic Books, 1992) (" 'Don't underestimate what you have given me . . . Don't underestimate the value of friendship, of my knowing I'm not a freak, of my knowing I'm capable of touching and being touched. Before, I had only half embraced my concept of Amor fati: I had trained myself--resigned myself is a better term--to love my fate. But now, thanks to you, thanks to your open hearth, I realize I have a choice. I shall always remain alone, but what a difference, what a wonderful difference, to choose what I do. Amor fati--choose your fate, love your fate.' " Id. at 301.).
October 23, 2011
Hugh Thomas, The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America (New York: Random House, 2010) ("There were other more domestic disputes for Alfinger to try to settle. . . . [N]either Alfinger nor his colleagues in Santo Domingo had been able to fulfill the demand for slaves to work there, neither Indians nor blacks. The bishop of Santo Domingo would write shortly to the emperor Charles (1530) that the very survival not just of his island but also of Puerto Rico and of Cuba depended on the provision of African slaves. He suggested that all these colonies should be able to import them without licenses." Id. at 154. "[B]lack slaves of African origin had usually been taken to the America from Europe, having probably been born in Portugal or Spain. But now slave ships began to sail direct from Africa to the New World. . . . " "Clearly, too, many of the slaves taken from Spain or Portugal to the Spanish empire now came from Africa, as was testified by the belief that all the difficulties encountered in disciplining them derived from Muslim wolofes, a term used to describe a Muslim tribe in Wet Africa--an anxiety which led to a ban in 1526 on the import of such slaves. . . . " "A decree from the King in 1526 had repealed the slaving provision in the more tolerant code of Alfonso el Sabio, the Siete Partidas in the thirteenth century, which provided that a slave who married would become free: Already the complexities of black slaves marrying free Indians had begun to preoccupy agile state lawyers." "Thereafter, nevertheless, black slaves, tied to their masters or no, would play a decisive part in most European ventures in the America." "Thus when in 1527 Panfilo de Narvaez, veteran survivor of Cortes's expedition, set off for the conquest of Florida, he had his expected crew of men with names such as Cuellar, Alanis, and Enriquez. But there were also several black slaves, their names forgotten but their work essential." Id. at 155-156.).
October 21, 2011
Daniel K. Richter, Before the Revolution: America's Ancient Pasts (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Belknap/Harvard U. Press, 2011) ("Just as German-speakers and English-Speakers have made peace, Lutherans and Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Episcopalians, Quakers and Baptists have long since come to terms. Yet Gottlieb Mittelberger's horror at the mingling of 'Separatists, Freethinkers, Jews, Mohammedans, Pagans, Negroes, and Indians' still strikes a familiar chord. Citizens of the United States have long since ceased singing 'Rule Britannia' and 'God Save the King' (although many retain a peculiar fascination with the current royals and the the replacement lyrics of 'My Country 'Tis of Thee'). Yet those who would combine a crusading spirit with patriotism in the name of conquest still evoke, as did George II in 1739, 'GOD's Assistance in so just a Cause, . . . to assert their undoubted Rights of Commerce and Navigation, and by all possible means to attack, annoy and distress a Nation that has treated his People with . . . Insolence and Barbarity.' A crusading strain of Christianity linked to the expansion of state--and persistent effort to label both as necessary qualities of those who love freedom--lies deep in the historical bedrock of the twenty-first-century United States." "Even deeper lies patterns of racial exploitation. . . ." Id. at 418. Ah, 'the past is never real past.').
October 20, 2011
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Black in Latin America (New York: NYU Press, 2011) (From the book jacket: "12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World during the Middle Passage. While just over 11 million survived the arduous journey, only about 450,000 of the them arrived in the United States. The rest--over ten and a half million--were taken to the Caribbean and Latin America. This astonishing fact changes our entire picture of the history of slavery in the Western hemisphere, and of its lasting cultural impact. These millions of Africans created new and vibrant cultures, magnificently compelling syntheses of various African, English, French Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish influences.").
October 19, 2011
Gerald L. Early, A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England, 2011) ("[I]n truth, no real morality can exist in paternalism, for the system only replicates and reflects how well those who control it mask their ability to do so with favors, concessions, and pet treatment of star players, how well they mask their power through, paradoxically, the whimsical exercise of it as an expression of benevolence or indulgence. . . ." Id. at 107-108.).
October 18, 2011
Ralph Richard Banks, Is Marriage for White People: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone (New York: Dutton, 2011) ("Over the past half century, African Americans have become the most unmarried people in our nation. By far. We are the least likely to marry and the most likely to divorce; we maintain fewer committed and enduring relationships than any other group. Not since slavery have black men and women been unpartnered as we are now." Id. at 2. "The paradox of marriage in the United States, then, is that its cultural prominence persists even as it has shed many of the social functions that traditionally prompted people to marry, marriage is more a relationship and less an institution these days. As the meaning of marriage has shifted, so, too, have people's expectations of it. Perhaps more than ever, marriage is understood now as a means of personal fulfillment and individual growth. The primary purpose of marriage, in the view of most Americans, is the establishment of a mutually fulfilling relationship, one in which understanding and emotional intimacy prevail. Marriage now is less a means of building a life and more a means of enjoying one's life. More finish line than starting gate, marriage often comes after other milestones of adulthood have been met: living together, buying a car and hose, having children. People take pride in marriage as an achievement. To enjoy that achievement requires a certain degree o financial stability. According to one nationally representative study conducted in 2001, more that four out of five Americans agreed that ;it is extremely important to be economically set before you get married.' " The new view of marriage is reflected in the findings of a 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center. Throughout history and across different societies children have been pivotal to the prevailing conception of marriage, Yet when respondents to the Pew survey were provided with a list of items and asked to identify which were 'very important' to a successful marriage, they ranked children near the bottom of the list. Practically every other consideration--shared religious beliefs, shared interests, a happy sexual relationship--ranked as more important than children. The survey respondents were even more likely to judge 'sharing household chores' as more important to a successful marriage than children. The American surveyed said by a margin of nearly three to one that 'the main purpose of marriage is . . . the 'mutual happiness and fulfillment' of the couple, rather than the 'bearing and raising of children'. ' " "What better way to find happiness and fulfillment than by marrying one's soul mate?" Id. at 25-26 (italic added).).
October 17, 2011
Lani Guinier & Gerald Torres The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England: Harvard U.Press, 2002) ("The toughest border patrol in this country may be the one that policies the racial boundaries between black and white. And no group has played a more important role, historically, in the way whites have policed these borders than the group known today as Hispanics or Latinoes. Whereas dark-skinned Hispanics . . . have been pushed into the black category, lighter skinned (or richer) Hispanics . . . have been offered a chance to become white, so long as they maintain their social distance from blackness. This off is part of what we call the racial bribe." "The racial bribe is a strategy that invites specific racial or ethnics groups to advance within the existing black-white racial hierarchy by becoming 'white.' The strategy expands the range of physical characteristics that can fall within the definition of 'white,' in order to pursue four goals: (1) to defuse the previously marginalized group's oppositional agenda, (2) to offer incentives that discourage the group from affiliating with black people, (3) to secure high status for individual group members within existing hierarchies, and (4) to make the social position of 'whiteness' appear more racially or ethnically diverse." Id. at 224-225.).
October 16, 2011
- October 16, 2011 - By THE EDITORS - Books / Sunday Book Review
October 15, 2011
Jenny Bourne Wahl, The Bondsman's Burden: An Economic Analysis of the Common Law of Southern Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1998) ("In what follows, I first discuss how courts assigned liability and damages in conflicts between slaveowners and others. I then turn to disputes in which slaveowners were accused of treating their own slaves too harshly--or too indulgently. I conclude that slave law tended to be efficient . . . " Id. at 2. "Let me stress again that the concept of 'efficiency' used in this book excludes the effects of legal rules on those with no legal standing--namely, slaves. . . . By omitting costs to slaves from consideration, one can comprehend why slavery endured: It profited those whom it served. In the same fashion, one can understand why the common law helped perpetuate slavery: It efficiently accommodated the needs of a slave-holding society. Profitability and efficiency mean nothing good in this context. Even in these days of moral relativism, few would argue that slavery and the structures that supported it were anything but evil. To call slave law efficient is to condemn it. Had judges been less adept at tailoring the common law to protect this peculiar property, in fact, slaves would have been less valuable and slavery less profitable." Id. at 176.) .
October 14, 2011
Mohamed Adhikari, Not White Enough, Not Black Enough: Racial Identity in the South African Coloured Community (Athens, OH: Ohio U. Press, 2005) ("My initial intent was to provide a history of Coloured identity through the twentieth century and to show how it changed and developed during this period. The original assumption was that after its late nineteenth-century genesis, Coloured identity continually evolved through the twentieth century, with new departures such as the rise of the radical movement in the 1930s, the emergence of Black Consciousness thinking in the 1970s, and Coloured rejectionism in the 1980s representing periods of accelerated transformation. Faced with the empirical evidence and the actual task of explaining the evolution of Coloured identity, I was instead struck by how stable that identity had been throughout the era of white domination and how superficial the influences of earlier radical politics, Black Consciousness, and the rejectionionist movement were. . . . With the evidence failing to confirm my initial hypotheses . . . a reconceptualization of Coloured identity and its history was clearly necessary. The result is a counterintuitive argument that through the era of white supremacy, Coloured identity is better understood as having been stable rather than as continually changing." Id. at xiii.).
October 13, 2011
Charles W. Chesnutt, Stories, Novels, and Essays: The Conjure Woman; The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line; The Home Behind the Cedars; The Marrow of Tradition; Uncollected Stories; Selected Essays, edited by Werner Sollors (New York: Library of America, 2002) (From "The Courts and the Negro": "I presume that hanging might be pleasant if a man could only convince himself that it would not be painful, nor disgraceful, nor terminate his earthly career. It is perhaps true that some Negroes--I suspect very few people of mixed blood--have seemed to accept this reasoning. But I have never been able to see how a self-respecting colored man can approve of any discriminating legislation. To do so is to condone his own degradation, and accept an inferior citizenship. If discrimination must of necessity be submitted to, it should meet no better reception than silence. Protest were better still." Id. at 895, 902. From the book jacket: "Rejecting his era's genteel hypocrisy about miscegenation, lynching, and 'passing,' Charles W. Chestnutt broke new ground in American literature with his innovative exploration of racial identity and his use of African-American speech and folklore. Chestnutt laid bare the deep contradictions at the heart o American attitudes towards race and history, and in the process created the modern African-American novel. . . .").
October 12, 2011
Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2011) ([W]hether or not they hold MBAs, many deanlets' managerial savvy consists mainly of having the capacity to spout last year's management buzz words during meetings, retreats, and planning exercises. I often ask for clarification when I hear a deanlet using such acronyms as SWOT, ECM, TQM, or MBO, the term 'benchmarking,' of the ubiquitous 'best practices.' . . . And, why not? In the all-administrative university it is entirely appropriate that mastery of managerial psychobabble should pass for academic vision." Id. at 65-66. From the book jacket: “Until very recently, American universities were led mainly by their faculties, which viewed intellectual production and pedagogy as the core missions of higher education. Today, as Benjamin Ginsberg warns in this eye-opening, controversial book, ‘deanlets’—administrators and staffers often without serious academic backgrounds or experience—are setting the educational agenda.” “The Fall of the Faculty examines the fallout or rampant administrative blight that now plagues the nation’s universities. In the past decade, universities have added layers of administrators and staffers to their payrolls every year even while laying off full-time faculty in increasing numbers—ostensibly because of budget cuts. Many of the newly minted—and non-academic—administrators are career managers who downplay the importance of teaching and research, as evidenced by their tireless advocacy for a banal ‘life skills’ curriculum. Consequently, students are denied a more enriching educational experience—one defined by intellectual rigor. . . .”. When education becomes merely a business, education itself loses and becomes corrupt.).
October 11, 2011
Charles C. Mann, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (New York: Knopf, 2011) ("Before [Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism] (and some of his colleagues) looked into the matter, historians tended to explain Europe's spread across the globe almost entirely in terms of European superiority, social and scientific. Crosby proposed another explanation in Ecological Imperialism. Europe frequently had better-trained troops and more-advanced weaponry than its adversaries, he agreed, but in the long run its critical advantage was biological, not technological. The ships that sailed across the Atlantic carried not only human beings, but plants and animals--sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. After Columbus, ecosystems that had been separate for eons suddenly met and mixed in a process Crosby called, as he had titled his previous book, the Columbian Exchange. The exchange took corn (maize) to Africa and sweet potatoes to East Asia, horses and apples  to the Americas, and rhubarb and eucalyptus to Europe--and also swapped about a host of less-familiar organisms like insects, grasses, bacteria, and viruses. The Columbian Exchange was neither fully controlled nor understood by its participants, but it allowed Europeans to transform much of the America, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Africa into ecological versions of Europe, landscapes the foreigners could use more comfortably than could their original inhabitants. This ecological imperialism, Crosby argued, provided the British, French, Dutch Portuguese, and Spanish with the consistent edge needed to win their empires." Id. at xiv-xv. "[R]esearchers in [environmental history and Atlantic studies] have been assembling what amounts to a new picture of the origins of our world-spanning interconnected civilization, the way of life evoked by the term 'globalization.' One way to summarize their efforts might be to say that to the history of kings and queens most of us learned as students has been added a recognition of the remarkable role of exchange, both ecological and economic. Another way might be to say that there is growing recognition that Columbus's voyage did not mark the discovery of a New World, but its creation. How that world was created is the subject of this book. Id. at xv."What happened after Columbus . . . was nothing less than the forming of a single world from the collision of two old worlds--three, if one counts Africa as separate from Eurasia. Born in the sixteenth century from European desires to join the thriving Asia trade sphere, the economic system for exchange ended up transforming the globe into a single ecological system by the nineteenth century--almost instantly, in biological terms. The creation of this ecological system helped Europe seize, for several vital centuries, the political initiative, which in turn shaped the contours of today's world-spanning economic system in its interlaced, omnipresent barely comprehended splendor." Id. at xv-xvi. "For millennia, almost all Europeans were found in Europe, few Africans existed outside of Africa, and Asians lived, nearly without exception, in Asia alone. No one in the Eastern Hemisphere in 1492, so far as is known, had ever seen an American native. . . . Colon's voyages inaugurated an unprecedented reshuffling of Homo sapiens: the human wing of the Columbian Exchange. People shot around the world like dice flung in a gaming table. . . . Id. at 285. "The movement was dominated by the African slave trade. . . . Its most recent iteration, released in 2009, estimates that between 1500 and 1840, the heyday of the slave trade, 11.7 million captive Africans left for the America--a massive transfer of human flesh unlike anything before it. In that period, perhaps 3.4 million Europeans emigrated. Roughly speaking, for every European who came to the Americas, three Africans made the trip." "The implications of these figures are as staggering as their size. Textbooks commonly present American history in terms of Europeans moving into a lightly settled hemisphere. In fact, the hemisphere was full of Indians--tens of millions of them. And most of the movement into the Americas was by Africans, who soon became the majority population in almost every place that wasn't controlled by Indians. Demographically speaking, Eltis has written, 'America was an extension of Africa rather than Europe until late in the nineteenth century.' " Id. at 286-287.).
October 9, 2011
Ilan Pappe, The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2011) ("In response to the involvement of two young Jewish women from Petach Tivka, a large city near Tel Aviv, in an alleged attack by Palestinian youth on a Jewish citizen in Tel Aviv, the municipality of Petach Tivka announced it was establishing a team of youth counselors and psychologists whose job it was to identify young Jewish women who were dating Arab men and 'rescue' them. But his brand of policy was usually not triggered by the alleged involvement of young women with criminal activity by Arab youth. In Pisgat Zeev in Jerusalem the residents formed a vigilante-style patrol to stop young Jewish women meeting with Palestinians. And in 2007, the municipality of Kiryat Gat launched a programme in schools to warn Jewish girls of the dangers of dating local Bedouin men. The girls were shown a video titled 'Sleeping with the enemy', which described mixed couples as an 'unnatural phenomenon'." Id. at 191.).
October 8, 2011
David Brion Davis, Revolutions: Reflections on American Equality and Foreign Liberations (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England, 1990) ("How are we to interpret the response of the United States, over the course of two centuries, to foreign revolutions? If we still cling to remnants of our old national messianic dream, we may ask why it is that a nation created by revolution, a nation whose first president ceremoniously received the key to the fallen Bastille as the 'early trophy,' in Thomas Paine's words, 'of the Spoils of Despotism and the first ripe fruits of American principles transplanted into Europe'--why such a nation should become in time the world's leading adversary of popular revolutions, the neo-Metternichian supporter of such reactionary leaders as Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar of Cuba, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mohammed Riza Pahlavi of Iran, Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam, Anastasio Somoza Debayle of Nicaragua, Francois Duvalier of Haiti, and Augusto Pinochet Ugarte of Chile?" Id. at 3. "In an earlier chapter [Tocqueville] had also noted that in the 1790s, 'only Washington's immense popularity' had prevented the popular feeling and passion favoring the French Revolution from plunging the nation into war with England, contrary to common sense and obvious national interest." "There is much wisdom in these observation. But reflecting on his visit of 1831, Tocqueville could not foresee the class, ethnic, and ideological differences that would divide Americans over the Mexican War, the Revolution of 1848, and the consequences of industrialization. His dependence on John Marshall's Life of Washington prevented him from seeing that there was more than irrational feelings behind American sympathies with the French revolution, which few Frenchmen could perceive as a direct consequence of the American Revolution. Tocqueville could never really grasp the significance of America's messianic mission, even though he contributed to it in ways that extended from Catharine Beecher's vision of the rile of American women in the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson and the neo-Tocquevilleans of the 1950s and 1960s. By messianic mission I mean the desire to regenerate the United States by making the it the model for revolutionary movements throughout the world. . . . " Id. at 79-80. "Foreign revolutions have helped Americans to tune or adjust the inevitable tension between changing ideals of perfection and present reality. Without a sense of new possibilities in history, without evidence that arrogance and oppression can sometimes be overthrown, the cello strings of American democracy might easily have lost all their capacity for sound. We no longer have time for self-righteousness, cynicism, or the pretense that we have played no part in the twentieth-century's crimes. . . ." Id. at 85. As so it goes.).
October 7, 2011
James Baldwin, Collected Essays: Notes of a Native Son; Nobody Knows My Name; The Fire Next Time; No Name in the Street; The Devil Finds Work; Other Essays , edited by Toni Morrison (New York: Library of America, 1998) (From " Princes and Powers": "The Conference of Negro-African Writers and Artist (Le Congres des Ecrivains et Artistes Noirs) opened on Wednesday, September 19, 1956, in the Sorbonne's Amphitheatre Descartes, in Paris. . . ." Id. at 143, 143. "For what, at bottom, distinguished the Americans from the Negroes who surrounded us, men from Nigeria, Senegal, Barbados, Martinique--so many names for so many disciplines--was the banal and abruptly quite overwhelming fact that we had been born in a society, which, in a way quite inconceivable for Africans, and no longer real for Europeans, was open, and in a sense which has nothing to do with justice or injustice, was free. It was a society, in short, in which nothing was fixed and we had therefore been born to a great number of possibilities, wretched as these possibilities seemed at the instant of our birth. Moreover, the land of our forefathers' exile had been made, by that travail, our home. It may have been the popular impulse to keep us at the bottom of the perpetually shifting and bewildered populace; but we were, on the other hand, almost personally indispensable to each of them, simply because, without us, they could never have been certain, in such confusion, where the bottom was; and nothing, in any case, could take away our title to the land which we, too, had purchased with our blood. This results in a psychology very different--at its best and at its worst--from the psychology which is produced by a sense of having been invaded and overrun, the sense of having no recourse whatever against oppression other than overthrowing the machinery of the oppressor. We had been dealing with, had been made and mangled by, another machinery altogether. It has never been our interest to overthrow it. It had been necessary to make the machinery work for our benefit and the possibility of its doing so had been, so to speak, built in." Id. at 147-148. From "The Devil Finds Work: An Essay": "The blacks have a song which says, I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do." No American film, relating to blacks can possibly incorporate this observation. This observation--set to music, as are so many black observations--denies, simply, the validity of the legend which is responsible for these films: films which exist for the sole purpose of perpetuating the legend." Id. at 477, 522.).
October 4, 2011
M. Sukru Hanioglu, Ataturk: An Intellectual Biography (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2011) ("If popular expectations were any guide, two paths to global leadership lay wide open to Mustafa Kemal in 1922: he could either capitalize on Ottoman possession of the caliphate in order to seize the mantle of pan-Islamic leadership, or he could set himself up as an into-imperialist model for Asian and African socialists. But it was at this juncture that Mustafa Kemal's Turkist, scientistic, and pro-Western leanings became manifest, leading him and the Turkish nation down an uncharted path that combined intense nationalism with an extreme commitment to Western secularism." Id. at 131. "This study has shown that while Mustafa Kemal Ataturk played a momentous role in the transition from the Ottoman order to modern Turkey, his work cannot be considered that of a sagelike dispenser of wisdom who came to the scene with novel ideas and an original program." Id. at 226. A short, yet interesting read.).
October 3, 2011
October 2, 2011
Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010) ("The name of the Crimean War does not reflect its global scale and huge significance for Europe, Russia and that area of the world -- stretching from the Balkans to Jerusalem, from Constantinople to the Caucasus -- that came to be defined by the Eastern Question, the great international problem posed by the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Perhaps it would be better to adopt the Russian name for the Crimean War, the 'Eastern War' (Vostochnaia voina)), which at least has the merit of connecting it to the Eastern Question, or even the 'Turco-Russian War', the name for it in many Turkish sources, which place it in the longer-term historical context of centuries of warfare between the Russians and the Ottomans, although this omits the crucial factor of Western intervention in the war." Id. at xx. "What I hope emerges from these pages is a new appreciation of the war's importance as a major turning point in the history of Europe, Russia and the Middle East, the consequences off which are still felt today . . . Long neglected . . . with little real discussion of the war's religious origins, the complex politics of the Eastern Question, Christian-Muslim relations in the Black Sea region, or the influence of European Russophobia, with which it is difficult to grasp the conflicts true significance." Id. at xxi. Also see Gary J. Bass, "Why the Crimean War Matters," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 7/10/2011.).