Monday, December 19, 2011

Rights of Man, Part II

Rights of Man, Part II
by Thomas Paine

Rights of Man presents an impassioned defense of the Enlightenment principles of freedom and equality that Thomas Paine believed would soon sweep the world. He boldly claimed, "From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished. Without consuming ... it winds its progress from nation to nation." Though many more sophisticated thinkers argued for the same principles and many people died in the attempt to realize them, no one was better able than Paine to articulate them in a way which fired the hopes and dreams of the common man and actually stirred him to revolutionary political action.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vindication of the Rights of Woman

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects
by Mary Wollstonecraft

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men.

Wollstonecraft was prompted to write the Rights of Woman after reading Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord's 1791 report to the French National Assembly, which stated that women should only receive a domestic education; she used her commentary on this specific event to launch a broad attack against sexual double standards and to indict men for encouraging women to indulge in excessive emotion. Wollstonecraft wrote the Rights of Woman hurriedly in order to respond directly to ongoing events; she intended to write a more thoughtful second volume but died before completing it.

While Wollstonecraft does call for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life, such as morality, she does not explicitly state that men and women are equal. Her ambiguous statements regarding the equality of the sexes have since made it difficult to classify Wollstonecraft as a modern feminist, particularly since the word and the concept were unavailable to her. Although it is commonly assumed now that the Rights of Woman was unfavourably received, this is a modern misconception based on the belief that Wollstonecraft was as reviled during her lifetime as she became after the publication of William Godwin's Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1798). The Rights of Woman was actually well-received when it was first published in 1792. One biographer has called it "perhaps the most original book of [Wollstonecraft's] century".

Architects of Ruin

Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy--and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them
by Peter Schweizer

Was the financial collapse caused by free-market capitalism and deregulation run amok, as liberals claim?

Not on your life, says Peter Schweizer. In Architects of Ruin, Schweizer describes how a coalition of left-wing activists, liberal politicians, and "do-good capitalists" on Wall Street leveraged government power to achieve their goal of broadening homeownership among minorities and the poor. The results were not only devastating to the economy, but hurt the very people they were supposedly trying to help.

This tale of liberal "Robin Hood capitalism run wild" has never been told. But more than just a story about the past, Architects of Ruin is also an urgent warning about the future. The very same people who planted the seeds of the collapse are back in Washington, determined to use the crisis they caused as cover for a massive overhaul of the American economic system. These people have learned nothing from their past mistakes and are busy applying the same methods to other sectors of the economy—health care, the auto industry, real estate (again!), and above all the promotion of "green" technologies—inflating bubbles that are sure to bring about another crisis. Ordinary Americans who foot the bill for the last state-capitalist bubble have reason to be afraid—very afraid—of the inevitable result.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Vindication of the Rights of Men

"A Vindication of the Rights of Men"
by Mary Wollstonecraft

A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) is a political pamphlet, written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, which attacks aristocracy and advocates republicanism. Wollstonecraft's was the first response in a pamphlet war sparked by the publication of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), a defence of constitutional monarchy, aristocracy, and the Church of England.

Wollstonecraft attacked not only hereditary privilege, but also the rhetoric that Burke used to defend it. Most of Burke's detractors deplored what they viewed as his theatrical pity for Marie Antoinette, but Wollstonecraft was unique in her love of Burke's gendered language. By saying the sublime and the beautiful, terms first established by Burke himself in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756), she kept his rhetoric as well as his argument. In her first abashedly feminist critique, which Wollstonecraft scholar Claudia Johnson describes as unsurpassed in its argumentative force Wollstonecraft indicts Burke's justification of an equal society founded on the passivity of women.

In her arguments for republican virtue, Wollstonecraft invokes an emerging middle-class ethos in opposition to what she views as the vice-ridden aristocratic code of manners. Driven by an Enlightenment belief in progress, she derides Burke for relying on tradition and custom. She describes an idyllic country life in which each family has a farm sufficient for its needs. Wollstonecraft contrasts her utopian picture of society, drawn with what she claims is genuine feeling, with Burke's false theatrical tableaux.

The Rights of Men was successful: it was reviewed by every major periodical of the day and the first edition sold out in three weeks. However, upon the publication of the second edition (the first to carry Wollstonecraft's name on the title page), the reviews began to evaluate the text not only as a political pamphlet but also as the work of a female writer. They contrasted Wollstonecraft's "passion" with Burke's "reason" and spoke condescendingly of the text and its female author. This analysis of the Rights of Men prevailed until the 1970s, when feminist scholars began to read Wollstonecraft's texts with more care and called attention to their intellectualism.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reflections on the Revolution in France

Reflections on the Revolution in France
by Edmund Burke

Burke's seminal work was written during the early months of the French Revolution, and it predicted with uncanny accuracy many of its worst excesses, including the Reign of Terror. A scathing attack on the revolution's attitudes to existing institutions, property and religion, it makes a cogent case for upholding inherited rights and established customs, argues for piecemeal reform rather than revolutionary change - and deplores the influence Burke feared the revolution might have in Britain. "Reflections on the Revolution in France" is now widely regarded as a classic statement of conservative political thought, and is one of the eighteenth century's great works of political rhetoric.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Organizational Behavior

Organizational Behavior: Essentials
by Steven L. McShane and Mary Ann Von Glinow
Organizational Behavior [Essentials] 2e offers the same quality of contemporary knowledge, excellent readability, and classroom support that has made the hardback book by the same author team one of the best-selling OB books around the world - but in a smaller package. It applies four fundamental principles: linking theory with reality, organizational behavior for everyone, contemporary theory foundation, and active learning support. McShane and Von Glinow have sliced out the extended or secondary topics so students can drill down to what is really essential. Although this book is less than two-thirds the length of their comprehensive hardback textbook, it doesn’t skimp on classroom support. In this era of active learning, critical thinking, and outcomes-based teaching, these supplements are becoming more “essential” than ever.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crash Proof 2.0

Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit From the Economic Collapse
by Peter D. Schiff and John Downes

A fully updated follow-up to Peter Schiff's bestselling financial survival guide-Crash Proof, which described the economy as a house of cards on the verge of collapse, with over 80 pages of new material

The economic and monetary disaster which seasoned prognosticator Peter Schiff predicted is no longer hypothetical-it is here today. And nobody understands what to do in this situation better than the man who saw it coming. For more than a decade, Schiff has not only observed the economy, but also helped his clients restructure their portfolios to reflect his outlook. What he sees today is a nation facing an economic storm brought on by growing federal, personal, and corporate debt; too little savings; and a declining dollar. Crash Proof 2.0 picks up right where the first edition-a bestselling book that predicted the current market mayhem-left off. This timely guide takes into account the dramatic economic shifts that are reshaping the world and provides you with the insights and information to navigate the dangerous terrain. Throughout the book, Schiff explains the factors that will affect your future financial stability and offers a specific three step plan to battle the current economic downturn.
  • Discusses the measures you can take to protect yourself-as well as profit-during these difficult times
  • Offers an insightful examination of the structural weaknesses underlying the economic meltdown
  • Outlines a plan that will allow you to preserve wealth and protect the purchasing power of your savings
  • Filled with in-depth insights and expert advice, Crash Proof 2.0 will help you survive and thrive during the coming years of economic uncertainty.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"A Discourse on the Love of our Country"

"A Discourse on the Love of our Country"
by Richard Price

Richard Price (1723–1791) was a Unitarian minister in London and a writer on moral philosophy, population, and the national debt, among other topics. The British statesman and political theorist Edmund Burke singled out Price's Discourse on the Love of Our Country (1789), delivered a scant two and a half months after the Fall of the Bastille, for attack in his antirevolutionary Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), which inaugurated a protracted and violent debate in England between those who favored and those who opposed the French Revolution. The full title of Price's address is A Discourse on the Love of Our Country, Delivered on Nov. 4, 1789, at the Meeting-House in the Old Jewry, to the Society for Commemorating the Revolution in Great Britain. The "Revolution" being commemorated — the subject of the first two-thirds of the extracts given here — is the "bloodless" Glorious Revolution of 1688, which ended the short reign of James II. In the final third, beginning "What an eventful period is this!" Price greets with religious fervor "two other Revolutions" — that is, the American and the French revolutions.

Richard Price was a British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution. He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the Constitution of the United States. He spent most of his adult life as minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church, where possibly the congregant he most influenced was early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who extended his ideas on the egalitarianism inherent in the spirit of the French Revolution to encompass women's rights as well. In addition to his work as a moral and political philosopher, he also wrote on issues of statistics and finance, and was inducted into the Royal Society for these contributions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Making of the English Working Class

The Making of the English Working Class
by E. P. Thompson

The Making of the English Working Class is an influential and pivotal work of English social history, written by E. P. Thompson, a notable 'New Left' historian; it was published in 1963 (revised 1968) by Victor Gollancz Ltd, and later republished at Pelican, becoming an early Open University Set Book. It concentrates on English artisan and working class society "in its formative years 1780 to 1832."

Its tone is captured by the oft-quoted line from the preface:
"I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the "obsolete" hand-loom weaver, the "utopian" artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity." (Thompson, 1980: 12)

Thompson attempts to add a humanist element to social history, being critical of those who turn the people of the working class into an inhuman statistical bloc. These people were not just the victims of history: Thompson displays them as being in control of their own making. He also discusses the popular movements that are oft forgotten in history, such as obscure Jacobin societies like the London Corresponding Society. Thompson makes great effort to recreate the life-experience of the working class(es), which is what often marks it out as such an extremely influential work.

Thompson uses the term "working class" rather than "classes" throughout, to emphasize the growth of a working-class consciousness. He claims in the Preface that "in the years between 1780 and 1832 most English working people came to feel an identity of interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs."

Thompson's re-evaluation of the Luddite movement, and his (unsympathetic) treatment of the influence of the early Methodist movement on working class aspirations are also particularly memorable. (Thompson's parents were Methodist missionaries.)
Thompson's theories on working-class consciousness are at the core of this writing, and their agency was manifested by way of the core English working-class values of solidarity, collectivism, mutuality, political radicalism and Methodism. Thompson wished to disassociate Marxism from Stalinism and his injection of humanistic principles in this book was his way of steering the Left toward democratic socialism as opposed to totalitarianism.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Modern Middle East

The Modern Middle East: A History
by James L. Gelvin

In the wake of 11 September 2001, there has been much talk about the inevitable clash between "East" and "West." This book presents an alternative approach to understanding the genealogy of contemporary events. By taking students and the general reader on a guided tour of the past five hundred years of Middle Eastern history, this book examines how the very forces associated with global "modernity" have shaped social, economic, cultural, and political life in the region. Beginning with the first glimmerings of the current international state and economic systems in the sixteenth century, The Modern Middle East: A History explores the impact of imperial and imperialist legacies, the great nineteenth-century transformation, cultural continuities and upheavals, international diplomacy, economic booms and busts, the emergence of authoritarian regimes, and the current challenges to those regimes on everyday life in an area of vital concern to us all.

Engagingly written, drawing from the author's own research and other studies, and stocked with maps and photographs, original documents and an abundance of supplementary materials, The Modern Middle East: A History will provide both novices and specialists with fresh insights into the events that have shaped history and the debates about them that have absorbed historians.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East

Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East
Edited by Edmund Burke, III

Until the 1993 first edition of this book, one thing had been missing in Middle Eastern history—depiction of the lives of ordinary Middle Eastern men and women, peasants, villagers, pastoralists, and urbanites. Now updated and revised, the second edition has added six new portraits of individuals set in the contemporary period. It features twenty-four brief biographies drawn from throughout the Middle East—from Morocco to Afghanistan—in which the reader is provided with vantage points from which to understand modern Middle Eastern history "from the bottom up." Spanning the past 160-plus years and reflecting important transformations, these stories challenge elite-centered accounts of what has occurred in the Middle East and illuminate the previously hidden corners of a largely unrecorded world.

The essays, divided chronologically, provide a comprehensive framework for those unfamiliar with Middle Eastern social history. "Pre-Colonial Lives" covers the period from 1850 until World War I, "Colonial Lives" chronicles the beginning of European rule, and "Contemporary Lives" relates the massive changes of the postwar era. Through them, we see how specific ecologies, ways of life, ethnic, class and gender situations can shape individual human action.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Modern Middle East: A Reader

The Modern Middle East: A Reader
Edited by Albert Habib Hourani, Philip Shukry Khoury, Mary Christina Wilson

This valuable collection of essays brings leading Middle Eastern scholars together in one volume and provides an unparalleled view of the modern Middle East. Covering two centuries of change, from 1789 to the present, the selection is carefully designed for students and is the only available text of its kind. It will also appeal to anyone with a general interest in the Middle East.
The book is divided into four sections: Reforming Elites and Changing Relations with Europe, 1789-1918; Transformations in Society and Economy, 1789-1918; The Construction of Nationalist Ideologies and Politics up to the 1950s; and The Middle East since the Second World War.


Includes Roger Owen's case study that argues that much of what happened in Egypt in the 19th century is well accounted for in the theories of Marx, Hobson, Luxemburg, Hilferding and Baran. But there are three areas where the theories do not provide and adequate framework: the role of the metropolitan states in relation to their capitalists, the nature of the Egyptian state and the changes in the Egyptian social structure with imperial penetration produced.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Masada

Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand
by Yigal Yadin

Respected historian and archaeologist Yigael Yadin is an expert on the well-known ancient Masada fortress, and here he presents the incredible story of the 960 Jewish men, women, and children who refused to be taken alive by Flavius Silva and his Roman Tenth Legion. This covers the siege of Masada, the mass suicide of the 960 rebels (when victory was clearly impossible they decided that "a death of glory was preferable to a life of infamy" (as prisoners)), and the 1963-1965 excavations at Masada that yielded a huge amount of artifacts that reveal even more about the rebels, who were led by Eleazar ben Yair. This is a compelling story made even better by the more than 200 photos showing all kinds of artifacts, including spearpoints, coins, pottery, jewelry, surviving Old Testament scrolls, skeletons, even clothing items that have survived to this day! There's also a generous amount of maps that are very helpful. This siege is one of the most interesting in military history, and this story is a lasting testament to the strong character of the Jewish people.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Andromache

Andromache
by Jean Racine

Andromaque (Andromache) is a tragedy in five acts by the French playwright Jean Racine written in alexandrine verse. It was first performed on 17 November 1667 before the court of Louis XIV in the Louvre in the private chambers of the Queen, Marie Thérèse, by the royal company of actors, called "les Grands Comédiens", with Thérèse Du Parc in the title role. The company gave the first public performance two days later in the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris. Andromaque, the third of Racine's plays, written at the age of 27, established its author's reputation as one of the great playwrights in France.

Racine's play is a story of human passion, with the structure of an unrequited love chain: Oreste is in love with Hermione, who only wishes to please Pyrrhus, who is in love with Andromaque, who is determined to honour the memory of her murdered husband Hector and to protect the future of their son Astyanax. Orestes' presence at the court of Pyrrhus unleashes a violent undoing of the chain. At the climax, provoked by Hermione's desperation, Pyrrhus is murdered by Oreste's men in a mad rage; this only serves to deepen Hermione's despair. She takes her own life by the side of Pyrrhus and Oreste goes mad.

Witches and Neighbors

Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft
by Robin Briggs

An impressively researched cross-cultural exploration of a disturbing phenomenon in European history. Religion scholar Briggs (Oxford Univ.), concentrating on the period from the 14th to the 17th centuries, offers a thought-provoking analysis that disabuses the reader of some commonly held stereotypes about witchcraft. The most startling fact is that not all of the accused were women. Men accounted for approximately 25 percent of accused witches in early modern Europe, though in France men composed half (and in Iceland 90 percent) of those on trial. Indeed, it is the pan-Europeanism of this book that is so novel and refreshing. Rather than merely trotting out the same hackneyed examples from Britain, France, and Germany, Briggs highlights the regional diversity of beliefs about witchcraft and official attitudes toward it in Sweden, Hungary, Italy, and elsewhere. His overarching point is that the cultural gestalt that facilitated witchcraft's magic worldview was widespread in Europe, as was the misperception about these beliefs, though the machinery of accusation, trial, and execution was located on the local level, generally in small rural communities. Briggs has painstakingly researched the records of these village trials and enriches his narrative with the poignant personal testimonies of both accusers and accused. ``Unneighborliness,'' Briggs argues, was a principal element in many of these cases: In peasant villages, where families depended heavily on their neighbors as insurance against hard times, any hint of stinginess, envy, or malice suggested that more sinister forces might be at work. But Briggs fails to adequately explain the demise of witchcraft in most European cultures in the 17th century. Given the tremendous amount of local variation in belief and practice, it is significant that witches' trials and executions faded all over the European scene at approximately the same time. The circumstances surrounding the decline of a belief in witchcraft deserve an additional volume from this able researcher and deft writer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Principles of Personal Management"

"Principles of Personal Management"
from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
by Stephen R. Covey

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Plan, prioritize, and execute your week's tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluating if your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you towards goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 15 million copies in 38 languages since first publication, which was marked by the release of a 15th anniversary edition in 2004. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls "true north" principles of a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln

The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln
Translated by Marvin Lowenthal

Glückel of Hameln (also spelled Gluckel or Glikl of Hamelin; also known as Glikl bas Judah Leib) (1646, Hamburg – September 19, 1724, Metz) was a Jewish businesswoman and diarist, whose account of life provides scholars with an intimate picture of German Jewish communal life in the late-17th-early eighteenth century Jewish ghetto. It was a time of transition from the authority and autonomy of the Medieval kehilla, toward a more modern ethos in which membership in the community was voluntary and Jewish identity far more personal and existential; a time historian Jacob Katz has defined as 'tradition and crisis',in his 1961 book by that name. Written in Yiddish, her diaries were originally intended for her descendants. The first part is actually a living will urging them to live ethical lives. It was only much later that historians discovered the diaries and began to appreciate her account of life at that time.

Glückel grew up in the city of Hamburg. When she was twelve years old, her parents betrothed her to Hayyim of Hamelin, whom she married 1660. After the marriage, the couple lived in his parents’ home in Hamelin. A year after their marriage, the couple moved in with Glückel’s parents in Hamburg, where Hayyim became an affluent businessman. Already involved in his business during his lifetime, when he died in 1689, she took over the business, conducting trade with markets as far as Amsterdam, Leipzig, Berlin, Vienna, Metz and Paris.

In 1700 she remarried, to a banker from Metz in Lorraine, and relocated there. Two years later, her husband Cerf Levy failed financially, losing not only his own fortune but hers as well. He died in 1712, leaving her a widow for a second time. [Liptzin, 1972, 14]

In her diaries, begun after her first husband's death in 1689, she describes key events in both Jewish and world history, such as the messianic fervor surrounding Sabbatai Zevi or the impact of the Swedish wars waged by King Charles XII. At the same time, she also describes day-to-day life among the Jewish inhabitants of the Rhine valley. Other scholars point to the fact that they constitute an early document in Yiddish, predating the rise of modern Yiddish literature, while still others note that they were written by a woman, a rarity for Jewish texts from that period.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"The Business Case for Managing People Right"

"The Business Case for Managing People Right"
from The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First
by Jeffrey Pfeffer

The lure of new and profitable markets has lead many companies to formulate strategies to capture these markets. This focus on strategy often leads to downsizing and the shedding of old businesses in favor of a "lean" economic model that stresses outsourcing. The strategy that leads to downsizing has its short-term rewards--a fatter bottom line and happy shareholders.
Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that much of this downsizing is nothing more than a throwback to 100-year-old employment practices. Instead of cutting costs as a means to increase profits, companies should focus more on building revenue by relying on solid people-management skills. Through dozens of examples, Pfeffer demonstrates that successful companies worry more about people and the competence in their organizations than they do about having the right strategy. Pfeffer contends that the strategy part is relatively easy--it's the day-to-day execution that's hard. Companies that understand the relationship between people and profits are the ones that usually win in the long run.

Immodest Acts

Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy
by Judith C. Brown

The discovery of the fascinating and richly documented story of Sister Benedetta Carlini, Abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God, by Judith C. Brown was an event of major historical importance. Not only is the story revealed in Immodest Acts that of the rise and fall of a powerful woman in a church community and a record of the life of a religious visionary, it is also the earliest documentation of lesbianism in modern Western history.
Born of well-to-do parents, Benedetta Carlini entered the convent at the age of nine. At twenty-three, she began to have visions of both a religious and erotic nature. Benedetta was elected abbess due largely to these visions, but later aroused suspicions by claiming to have had supernatural contacts with Christ. During the course of an investigation, church authorities not only found that she had faked her visions and stigmata, but uncovered evidence of a lesbian affair with another nun, Bartolomeo. The story of the relationship between the two nuns and of Benedetta's fall from an abbess to an outcast is revealed in surprisingly candid archival documents and retold here with a fine sense of drama.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foreign to Familiar

Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures
by Sarah A. Lanier

If the world were roughly divided into "hot climate" and "cold climate" cultures, what could one half of humankind learn from the other? Lanier---the daughter of missionaries and an experienced world traveler---writes insightfully on topics including relationship vs. task orientation; direct vs. indirect communication; individualism vs. group identity; and different concepts of hospitality.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Fabrication of Louis XIV

The Fabrication of Louis XIV
by Peter Burke

Louis XIV was a man like any other, but the money and attention lavished on his public image by the French government transformed him into a godlike figure. In this engrossing book, an internationally respected historian gives an account of contemporary representations of Louis XIV and shows how the making of the royal image illuminates the relationship between art and power. Images of Louis XIV included hundreds of oil paintings and engravings, three hundred-odd medals struck to commemorate the major events of the reign, sculptures and bronzes, as well as plays, ballets (in which the king himself sometimes appeared on stage), operas, odes, sermons, official newspapers and histories, fireworks, fountains and tapestries. Drawing on an analysis of these representations as well as on surviving documentary sources, Peter Burke shows the conscious attempt to 'invent' the image of the king and reveals how the supervision of the royal image was entrusted to a committee, the so-called 'small academy'. This book is not only a fascinating chronological study of the mechanics of the image-making of a king over the course of a seventy-year reign but is also an investigation into the genre of cultural construction. Burke discusses the element of propaganda implicit in image-making, the manipulation of seventeenth-century media of communication, the channels of communication (oral, visual and textual) and their codes (literary and artistic), and the intended audience and its response. He concludes by comparing and contrasting Louis's public image with that of other rulers ranging from Augustus to contemporary American presidents.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Defense of Food


In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan

What to eat, what not to eat, and how to think about health: a manifesto for our times

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, the well-considered answers he provides to the questions posed in the bestselling The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated, and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists-all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not "real." These "edible foodlike substances" are often packaged with labels bearing health claims that are typically false or misleading. Indeed, real food is fast disappearing from the marketplace, to be replaced by "nutrients," and plain old eating by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Michael Pollan's sensible and decidedly counterintuitive advice is: "Don't eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food."

Writing In Defense of Food, and affirming the joy of eating, Pollan suggests that if we would pay more for better, well-grown food, but buy less of it, we'll benefit ourselves, our communities, and the environment at large. Taking a clear-eyed look at what science does and does not know about the links between diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about the question of what to eat that is informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach.

In Defense of Food reminds us that, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, the solutions to the current omnivore's dilemma can be found all around us.

In looking toward traditional diets the world over, as well as the foods our families-and regions-historically enjoyed, we can recover a more balanced, reasonable, and pleasurable approach to food. Michael Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-century France

Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-century France: State Power and Provincial Aristocracy in Languedoc
by William Beik

Why was Louis XIV successful in pacifying the same aristocrats who had been troublesome for Richelieu and Mazarin? What role did absolutism play in reinforcing or changing the traditional social system in seventeenth-century France? This analysis of the provincial reality of absolutism argues that the answers to these questions lie in the relationship between the regional aristocracy and the crown. Starting with a critical examination of current approaches to state and society by institutional, social "Annales," and Marxist historians, the author calls for a new class analysis based on the findings of all these schools.

William Beik is professor emeritus at Emory University, and he is currently working on a synthesis entitled The Social and Cultural History of Early Modern France. Beik’s objectives in Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-Century France were to explore the practice of absolutism using Languedoc as an example, while examining the role of individual elites within a comprehensive governmental system. The author chose Languedoc because he wanted a province “which was far enough away from Paris to have an independent existence and which offered good sources on the activities of all the major authorities,” and he found that Languedoc adequately fit these needs. Beik argued that historians should opt for a “change of emphasis in discussions of absolutism,” and that researchers of absolutist political systems should not overemphasize their modernity. Louis XIII and Louis XIV, argued the author, should be seen as monarchs who reinforced traditional social structures as a means of heightening their power as opposed to progressive rulers with forward-looking policies.

Corporate Information Strategy and Management

Corporate Information Strategy and Management: Text and Cases
by Lynda Applegate, Robert Austin, Deborah Soule

Corporate Information Strategy and Management: Text and Cases 8/e by Applegate, Austin, and Soule is written for students and managers who desire an overview of contemporary information systems technology management. This new edition examines how information technology (IT) enables organizations to conduct business in radically different and more effective ways. The author’s objective is to provide readers with a better understanding of the influence of twenty-first century technologies on business decisions. The 8th edition discusses today’s challenges from the point of view of the executives who are grappling with them. This text is comprised of an extensive collection of Harvard Business cases devoted to Information Technology.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Rituals of Execution in Early Modern Germany"

"Rituals of Execution in Early Modern Germany"
by Richard van Dulman
from Theatre of Horror: Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Germany

Early Modern crime and punishment evokes images of burning, public torture, and hanging and quartering. This book explores the religious, symbolic and political conditions in which such punishments were inflicted. The author argues that punishment was so terrible because there was little belief in rehabilitation of offenders, and the only purpose punishments served was to expiate crimes. He describes how symbolism influenced the institution and execution of tortures. The murderer of a child was thrown into a river in a sack, in which there were also a dog, a chicken, a snake and a monkey, all of which were allegorical representations of aspects of the evil that had been committed. Many punishments, such as burning on a wheel, were continued long after the victim was dead - the punishment being an expiatory ritual as much as a means of killing. The book also contains a studies of the crowds who turned up to witness executions in this period, and of the executioners themselves

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Medieval versus early modern dishonor"

"Medieval versus early modern dishonor"
by Kathy Stuart
from Defiled Trades and Social Outcasts: Honor and Ritual Pollution in Early Modern Germany

This book presents a social and cultural history of "dishonorable people" (unehrliche Leute), an outcast group in early modern Germany. Executioners, skinners, grave-diggers, shepherds, barber-surgeons, millers, linen-weavers, sow-gelders, latrine-cleaners, and bailiffs were among the "dishonorable" by virtue of their trades. It shows the extent to which dishonor determined the life chances and self-identity of these people. Taking Augsburg as a prime example, it investigates how honorable estates interacted with dishonorable people, and shows how the pollution anxieties of early modern Germans structured social and political relations within honorable society.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Military Revolution

The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800
by Geoffrey Parker

Well before the Industrial Revolution, Europe developed the superior military potential and expertise that enabled her to dominate the world for the next two centuries. In this attractively illustrated and updated edition, Geoffrey Parker discusses the major changes in the military practice of the West during this time period—establishment of bigger armies, creation of superior warships, the role of firearms—and argues that these major changes amounted to a "military revolution" that gave Westerners a decided advantage over people of other continents.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Leviathan

Leviathan, Or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil
by Thomas Hobbes

Leviathan, Hobbes's most important work and one of the most influential philosophical texts produced during the seventeenth century, was written partly as a response to the fear Hobbes experienced during the political turmoil of the English Civil Wars. In the 1640s, it was clear to Hobbes that Parliament was going to turn against King Charles I, so he fled to France for eleven years, terrified that, as a Royalist, he would be persecuted for his support of the king. Hobbes composed Leviathan while in France, brilliantly articulating the philosophy of political and natural science that he had been developing since the 1630s. Hobbes's masterwork was finally published in 1651, two years after Parliament ordered the beheading of Charles I and took over administration of the English nation in the name of the Commonwealth.
Leviathan's argument for the necessity of absolute sovereignty emerged in the politically unstable years after the Civil Wars, and its publication coincided with that of many Republican treatises seeking to justify the regicide (killing of the king) to the rest of Europe (John Milton's Tenure of Kings and Magistrates is a famous example of these regicide tracts). Not only was the political argument of Leviathan controversial at the time of its publication, but the philosophical method employed by Hobbes to make his claims also scandalized many of his contemporaries--even those writers, such as Robert Filmer (the author of the Royalist tract Patriarcha), who otherwise supported Hobbes's claims for absolute sovereignty.

Hobbes's materialist philosophy was based upon a mechanistic view of the universe, holding that all phenomena were explainable purely in terms of matter and motion, and rejecting concepts such as incorporeal spirits or disembodied souls. Consequently, many critics labeled Hobbes an atheist (although he was not, in the strict sense). Associated with both atheism and the many deliberately terrifying images of Leviathan, Hobbes became known as the "Monster of Malmsbury" and the "Bug-bear of the Nation." In 1666, Hobbes's books were burned at Oxford (where Hobbes had graduated from Magdalen College in 1608), and the resulting conflagration was even blamed in Parliament for having started the Great Fire of London. The chaotic atmosphere of England in the aftermath of the Civil Wars ensured that Hobbes's daring propositions met with a lively reaction.

Hobbes knew that Leviathan would be controversial, for not only did the text advocate restoration of monarchy when the English republic was at its strongest (Oliver Cromwell was not instituted as Lord High Protector until 1653, and the Restoration of Charles II did not occur until 1660), but Hobbes's book also challenged the very basis of philosophical and political knowledge. Hobbes claimed that traditional philosophy had never arrived at irrefutable conclusions, that it had instead offered only useless sophistries and insubstantial rhetoric; he thus called for a reform of philosophy that would enable secure truth--claims with which everyone could agree.

Consequently, Hobbesian philosophy would prevent disagreements about the fundamental aspects of human nature, society, and proper government. Furthermore, because Hobbes believed that civil war resulted from disagreements in the philosophical foundations of political knowledge, his plan for a reformed philosophy to end divisiveness would also end the conditions of war. For Hobbes, civil war was the ultimate terror, the definition of fear itself. He thus wanted to reform philosophy in order to reform the nation and thereby vanquish fear.

Earlier in the seventeenth century, Francis Bacon--for whom Hobbes had served as secretary in his youth--had also proposed a reform of philosophy, a reform he called the "Great Instauration." Bacon's program was an inductive philosophy based upon the observation of natural facts ("inductive" reasoning derives general principles from particular instances or facts); the experimental manipulation of nature of Bacon's scheme was very influential for the development of the historical period commonly called the Scientific Revolution, and also formed the backbone of the English Royal Society. Like Hobbes's, Bacon's system rejected traditional philosophical knowledge as untrustworthy, instead embracing nature as the only sure basis for all claims for truth. But Hobbes argued that the experimentalist program was also unsuccessful in providing secure, indisputable knowledge. Hobbes therefore rejected the Baconian system and argued vehemently against it. Hobbes's own deductive scientific philosophy was not experimental--in "deductive" reasoning, a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises, rather than being inferred from instances of these premises--but Hobbes maintained that it provided better understanding of the universe and society than both traditional philosophy and experimental science.

Leviathan attempted to create controversy in politics and in science, radically challenging both contemporary government and philosophy itself; yet, despite its very invocation of controversy, Leviathan sought ultimately to annihilate controversy for good. Hobbes's philosophical method claimed to provide indisputable conclusions, and its depiction of the Leviathan of society suggested that the Hobbesian method could put an end to controversy, war, and fear. Hobbes's philosophy was highly influential in certain sectors (Hobbesism was a fashionable intellectual position well into the eighteenth century). However, Hobbes, who died in 1679, never lived to see his work achieve the widespread and totalizing effects for which he had hoped. Excluded from the Royal Society for his anti-experimentalist stance and derided by many contemporaries as an immoral monster, Hobbes neither transformed the nation nor reformed philosophy as he had envisioned. Nonetheless, Hobbes has had a lasting influence in the history of Western philosophy, as he is credited with inaugurating political science; his crowning achievement, Leviathan is still recognized as one of the greatest masterpieces of the history of ideas. Written during a moment in English history when the political structure, social structure, and methods of science were all in flux and open to manipulation, Leviathan played an essential role in the development of the modern world.

Leviathan is divided into four books: "Of Man," "Of Common-wealth," "Of a Christian Common-wealth," and "Of the Kingdome of Darknesse." Book I contains the philosophical framework for the entire text, while the remaining books simply extend and elaborate the arguments presented in the initial chapters. Consequently, Book I is given the most attention in the detailed summaries that follow. Hobbes begins his text by considering the elementary motions of matter, arguing that every aspect of human nature can be deduced from materialist principles. Hobbes depicts the natural condition of mankind--known as the state of nature--as inherently violent and awash with fear. The state of nature is the "war of every man against every man," in which people constantly seek to destroy one another. This state is so horrible that human beings naturally seek peace, and the best way to achieve peace is to construct the Leviathan through social contract.

Book II details the process of erecting the Leviathan, outlines the rights of sovereigns and subjects, and imagines the legislative and civil mechanics of the commonwealth. Book III concerns the compatibility of Christian doctrine with Hobbesian philosophy and the religious system of the Leviathan. Book IV engages in debunking false religious beliefs and arguing that the political implementation of the Leviathanic state is necessary to achieve a secure Christian commonwealth.

Hobbes's philosophical method in Leviathan is modeled after a geometric proof, founded upon first principles and established definitions, and in which each step of argument makes conclusions based upon the previous step. Hobbes decided to create a philosophical method similar to the geometric proof after meeting Galileo on his extended travels in Europe during the 1630s. Observing that the conclusions derived by geometry are indisputable because each of constituent steps is indisputable in itself, Hobbes attempted to work out a similarly irrefutable philosophy in his writing of Leviathan.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Prince

The Prince
by Niccolo Machiavelli

Need to seize a country? Have enemies you must destroy? In this handbook for despots and tyrants, the Renaissance statesman Machiavelli sets forth how to accomplish this and more, while avoiding the awkwardness of becoming generally hated and despised.

"Men ought either to be well treated or crushed, because they can avenge themselves of lighter injuries, of more serious ones they cannot; therefore the injury that is to be done to a man ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge."

For nearly 500 years, Machiavelli's observations on Realpolitik have shocked and appalled the timid and romantic, and for many his name was equivalent to the devil's own. Yet, The Prince was the first attempt to write of the world of politics as it is, rather than sanctimoniously of how it should be, and thus The Prince remains as honest and relevant today as when Machiavelli first put quill to parchment, and warned the junior statesman to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was an important figure in the Italian Renaissance best known for his realist political philosophy.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Seventeenth-Century Europe

Seventeenth-Century Europe
by Thomas Munck

This is a fully-revised edition of a well-established synthesis of the period from the Thirty Years War to the consolidation of absolute monarchy and the landowning society of the ancient régime. Thematically organized, the book covers all of Europe, from Britain and Scandinavia to Spain and Eastern Europe. Important new material has been added on the Ottomans, on Christian-Muslem contacts and on the role of women, and the text has been thoroughly updated to take account of recent research.

Thomas Munck is Reader in History at the University of Glasgow.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Power of Kings

The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715
by Paul Kleber Monod

In the sixteenth century, the kings of Europe were like gods to their subjects. Within 150 years, however, this view of monarchs had altered dramatically: a king was the human, visible sign of the rational state. How did such a momentous shift in political understanding come about? This sweeping book explores the changing cultural significance of the power of European kings from the assassination of France's Henry III to the death of Louis XIV. Paul Kléber Monod draws on political history, political philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and literature to understand the relationship between kings and their political subjects and the interplay between monarchy and religion. He also makes use of 35 paintings and statues to illuminate the changing public images of kings.

Discussing monarchies throughout Europe, from Britain to Russia, Monod tells how sixteenth-century kings and queens were thought to heal the sick with a touch, were mediators between divine authority and the Christian self in quasi-religious ceremonies, and were seen as ideal mirrors of human identity. By 1715, the sacred authority of the monarchy had been supplanted by an ideology fusing internal moral responsibility with external obedience to an abstract political authority. Subjects were expected to identify not with a sacred king but with the natural person of the ruler. No longer divine, the kings and queens of the Enlightenment took up a new, more human place in the hearts and minds of their subjects.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan: The Mongol King Who Conquered China
by John Man

The authoritative biography of the great Mongol ruler, by the author of Genghis Khan and Attila.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure dome decree

Kublai Khan lives on in the popular imagination thanks to these two lines of poetry by Coleridge. But the true story behind this legend is even more fantastic than the poem would have us believe.

Kublai Khan inherited the second largest land empire in history from his grandfather, Genghis Khan, and which he extended further, creating the biggest empire the world has ever seen; from China to Iraq, from Siberia to Afghanistan. His personal domain covered sixty-percent of all Asia, and one-fifth of the world’s land area.

The West first learnt of this great Khan through the reports of Marco Polo. Kublai had not been born to rule, but had clawed his way to leadership, achieving power only in his 40s. He inherited Genghis Khan’s great dream of world domination but unlike his grandfather he saw China and not Mongolia as the key to controlling power, and turned Genghis’s unwieldy empire into a federation. Using China’s great wealth, coupled with his shrewd and subtle governance, he created an empire that was the greatest since the fall of Rome, and shaped the modern world as we know it today. He gave China its modern-day borders and his legacy is that country’s resurgence, and the superpower China of tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rules for Radicals

Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals
by Saul Alinsky

The father of modern community organization, Saul Alinsky taught a generation of activists and politicians how to effectively construct social change. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky writes with passion and intelligence, carefully outlining “the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one.” Indispensable since its first publication in 1971, this book continues to inform and inspire all those who believe that political engagement is the key to maintaining America's democratic tradition.
This primers tells the "have-nots" how they can organize to achieve real political power for the practice of true democracy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Theory of Capitalist Development

The Theory of Capitalist Development
by Paul M. Sweezy

Since its first publication in 1942, this book has become the classic analytical study of Marxist economics. Written by an economist who was a master of modern academic theory as well as Marxist literature, it has been recognized as the ideal textbook in its subject. Comprehensive, lucid, authoritative, it has not been challenged or even approached by any later study.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Capital

Capital: A Critique of Political Economy
by Karl Marx
edited by Frederick Engels

In Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867), Karl Marx proposes that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labour, whose unpaid work is the ultimate source of profit and surplus value. The employer can claim right to the profits (new output value), because he or she owns the productive capital assets (means of production), which are legally protected by the State through property rights. In producing capital (money) rather than commodities (goods and services), the workers continually reproduce the economic conditions by which they labour. Capital proposes an explanation of the “laws of motion” of the capitalist economic system, from its origins to its future, by describing the dynamics of the accumulation of capital, the growth of wage labour, the transformation of the workplace, the concentration of capital, commercial competition, the banking system, the decline of the profit rate, land-rents, et cetera.

The critique of the political economy of capitalism proposes that The commodity is the foundational “cell-form” (trade unit) of a capitalist society, which has commercial value for the owner of the means of production. Moreover, because commerce, as a human activity, implied no morality beyond that required to buy and sell goods and services, the growth of the market system made discrete entities of the economic, the moral, and the legal spheres of human activity in society; hence, subjective moral value is separate from objective economic value. Subsequently, political economy — the just distribution of wealth and “political arithmetick” about taxes — became three discrete fields of human activity: Economics, Law, and Ethics, politics and economics divorced.

“The economic formation of society [is] a process of natural history", thus it is possible for a political econmist to objectively study the scientific laws of capitalism, given that its expansion of the market system of commerce had objectified human economic relations; the use of money (cash nexus) voided religious and political illusions about its economic value, and replaced them with commodity fetishism, the belief that an object (commodity) has inherent economic value. Because societal economic formation is an historical process, no one person could control or direct it, thereby creating a global complex of social connections among capitalists; thus, the economic formation (individual commerce) of a society precedes the human administration of an economy (organised commerce).

The structural contradictions of a capitalist economy, the gegensätzliche Bewegung, describe the contradictory movement originating from the two-fold character of labour; not the class struggle between labour and capital, the wage labourer and the owner of the means of production. These capitalist economy contradictions operate “behind the backs” of the capitalists and the workers, as a result of their activities, and yet remain beyond their perceptions as men and women and as social classes.

The economic crises (recession, depression, etc.) that are rooted in the contradictory character of the economic value of the commodity (cell-unit) of a capitalist society, are the conditions that propitiate proletarian revolution; which the Communist Manifesto (1848) collectively identified as a weapon, forged by the capitalists, which the working class “turned against the bourgeoisie, itself”.

In a capitalist economy, technological improvement and its consequent increased production augment the amount of material wealth (use value) in society, whilst simultaneously diminishing the economic value of the same wealth, thereby diminishing the rate of profit — a paradox characteristic of economic crisis in a capitalist economy; “poverty in the midst of plenty” consequent to over-production and under-consumption.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Marxist Economics for Socialists

Marxist Economics for Socialists: A Critique of Reformism
by John Harrison

Marx's ideas on capitalism and its crisis are sometimes obscure. Here, John Harrison introduces the basic concepts of Marx's economics in simple language - as political ideas, part of a constant battle against reformism: fro Proudhon in France of the 1840s, through Bernstein in Germany of the 1890s, to Crosland and Holland in Britain of the 1950s and 70s.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"The Agrarian Roots of European Capitalism"

"The Agrarian Roots of European Capitalism"
by Robert Brenner
from The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Preindustrial Europe

"In what follows, I will take up each of the foregoing objections in
the course of presenting a more fully developed interpretation of
the problems of European feudal evolution and of the transition to
capitalism. In Section I, I will attempt, once again, to lay bare what
I believe to be the faulty foundations upon which the demographic
interpretation has been constructed. In Section II, I will try to
sketch a general approach to long-term feudal socio-economic evolution,
and then to demonstrate that this approach can better grasp
the actual course of medieval economic development, income distribution
and feudal crisis in the different European regions than
can either the demographic interpretation or Bois's "falling rate of
feudal levy" approach. Finally, in Section III, I will, in direct
response to the criticisms that have been raised, lay out what I take
to be the origins of the different property systems which emerged in different regions of Europe during the early modern period, and
explain why these property systems were in fact central in determining
the subsequent paths of economic development."

from Introduction

Monday, July 4, 2011

"The Decline of Feudalism and the Growth of Towns"

"The Decline of Feudalism and the Growth of Towns"
by Maurice Dobb
from Studies in the Development of Capitalism

Maurice Herbert Dobb (July 24, 1900 - August 17, 1976), was a British Marxist economist, and a lecturer 1924-1959 and Reader 1959-1976 at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge 1948-1976.

Dobb was an economist who was primarily involved in the interpretation of neoclassical economic theory from a Marxist point of view. His involvement in the original economic calculation problem debate consisted of critiques of capitalist, centrally planned socialist, or market socialist models that were based upon the neoclassical framework of static equilibrium. Dobb charged the market socialist model of Oskar Lange and the contributions of "neo-classical" socialists of an illegitimate "narrowing of the focus of study to problems of exchange-relations." (Economists and the Economics of Socialism, 1939.)

Many of his works have been published into different languages. His short publication Introduction to Economics was translated to Spanish by Mexican intellectual Antonio Castro Leal for the leading Mexican publishing house Fondo de Cultura Economica, which has gone through more than ten editions since 1938.

For Dobb, the central economic challenges for socialism are related to production and investment in their dynamic aspects. He identified three major advantages of planned economies: antecedent coordination, external effects and variables in planning.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe"

"Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe"
by Robert Brenner
from The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Preindustrial Europe


Robert P. Brenner is a professor of history and director of the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA, editor of the socialist journal Against the Current, and editorial committee member of New Left Review. His research interests are Early Modern European History; economic, social and religious history; agrarian history; social theory/Marxism; and Tudor-Stuart England.

He has been one of the contributors in a major Marxist debate, "Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism". In this debate he has sided on the importance of the transformation of agricultural production in Europe, especially in the English countryside, as opposed to the rise of international trade as the main cause of the transition. His influential 1976 article on "Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe" set forth the controversial "Brenner thesis." He argued that smallholding peasants had strong property rights and had little incentive to give up traditional technology or go beyond local markets, and thus no incentive toward capitalism

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom
by F. A. Hayek

An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Here Is Your War

Here Is Your Warby Ernie Pyle

A wonderful and enduring tribute to American troops in the Second World War, Here Is Your War is Ernie Pyle’s story of the soldiers’ first campaign against the enemy in North Africa. With unequaled humanity and insight, Pyle tells how people from a cross-section of America—ranches, inner cities, small mountain farms, and college towns—learned to fight a war. The Allied campaign and ultimate victory in North Africa was built on blood, brave deeds, sacrifice and needless loss, exotic vistas, endurance, homesickness, and an unmistakable American sense of humor. It’s all here—the suspenseful landing at Oran; the risks taken daily by fighter and bomber pilots; grim, unrelenting combat in the desert and mountains of Tunisia; a ferocious tank battle that ended in defeat for the inexperienced Americans; and the final victory at Tunis. Pyle’s keen observations relate the full story of ordinary G.I.s caught up in extraordinary times.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Present Tense

Present Tense: The United States Since 1945
by Michael Schaller, Virginia Scharff, and Robert D. Schulzinger

Respected for its coverage of foreign policy and domestic politics, Present Tense also provides a thorough examination of social and cultural history. This edition includes a greater focus on the 1970s and 1980s, and increased coverage of recent immigration.

Michael Schaller is professor of history at the University of Arizona. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1974. Schaller specializes in American foreign relations, U.S.-East Asian relations, and 20th-century U.S. history. His publications cover such topics as World War II in China, the occupation of Japan, the life of General Douglas MacArthur, and the presidency of Ronald Reagan. He regularly teaches courses on the U.S. since World War II, American relations with Asia, the Vietnam War, and American foreign relations.

Robert Schulzinger is professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his Ph.D from Yale University in 1971. His areas of expertise are American diplomatic and recent U.S. history. His many publications include A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam (1977), American Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century (1994), and Henry Kissinger: Doctor of Diplomacy (1993). He currently serves as the director of the International Affairs Program at the University of Colorado.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.

Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coming of Age in Mississippi

Coming of Age in Mississippi
by Anne Moody

When Anne is four years old, she and her mother, Toosweet, her father, Diddly, and her younger sister, Adline, live in a two-room shack on a plantation. None of the shacks of the black plantation workers has electricity or indoor plumbing, while the Carter family’s house has both. At night, when the white family’s house is the only one lit up, Anne’s mother says the plantation owner is counting money he made off of them. While Anne’s parents are out working in the fields during the day, George Lee, Toosweet’s eight-year-old brother, watches Anne and her sister inside. Resentful of having to babysit, George Lee hits the girls and one day accidentally sets the wallpaper on fire while trying to scare them with matches.

Amid anxieties over money, the fire, and the death of his best friend, Diddly eventually leaves the family for an affair with Florence, a lighter-skinned black woman. Toosweet and the children, who now include a son, Junior, eventually move to at least six different houses over the next six years. Toosweet works as a waitress at a café for blacks, and then as a maid for white families. Toosweet’s family is constantly hungry, often eating only bread and beans supplemented by table scraps from Toosweet’s white employers. Still, Anne does exceptionally well in school. In the fourth grade, Anne begins working part-time cleaning the houses of white families. She will continue working until her senior year of high school, spending most of her after-school hours doing menial jobs in order to put food on the family’s table. Most of her employers are fairly easy to get along with. The Claibornes even encourage Anne in her studies and ask her to eat with them at their table. But Mrs. Burke, a nasty woman and a racist, makes life difficult, especially when her son Wayne grows close to Anne. Mrs. Burke finally accuses Anne’s brother Junior of stealing in order to get back at her, relenting only after leaving both children shaken. Anne quits.

Meanwhile, Anne has begun to attract the attention of the boys in her high school and the men in her community. When she outgrows her school dresses, she wears jeans, which she cannot afford to replace even when they grow tight. She becomes so popular with the boys that she is elected homecoming queen. Diddly even provides Anne with a beautiful gown, making the homecoming parade one of the few joyful moments of her young life. When Anne is still very young, her mother develops a romantic relationship with Raymond Davis, with whom she has four more children. Raymond’s family, especially Miss Pearl, Raymond’s mother, looks down on Toosweet because she has darker skin than they do. Yet Anne enjoys their new home in Centreville, and especially Centreville Baptist Church, the upscale church Raymond’s family attends. When Anne’s mother wants her to attend their old, poorer church, Anne gets into the first of many serious conflicts with her mother.

In the summer of 1955, when Anne hears that Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy visiting from Chicago, has been brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman, she becomes acutely conscious of the racial inequality around her. As a younger child, she struggled to understand the inequity between the races, and she gains no more understanding of this fact as she grows older. She wonders if there are any real differences between blacks and whites, save for the fact that the black women clean the white women’s homes.

When Anne first hears about the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), a forbidden organization in rural Mississippi, she begins to contemplate how the racial inequalities around her can be overthrown. Meanwhile, however, her own struggles with her family are more pressing. Toosweet feels that Anne is starting to look down on her, especially when Anne changes her name from Essie Mae to Annie Mae because she thinks Essie Mae sounds like a name for barnyard animals. Anne’s family does not understand Anne’s growing interest in the civil rights movement; in fact, they are afraid of it. Anne spends her last three summers of high school in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, doing menial jobs for more money than she could earn at home. Eventually, Anne can no longer stand the family, especially Raymond, and she storms out and moves in with her father, Diddly, and his wife, Emma. Emma and her family are light skinned, but do not hold themselves above anyone, and Anne grows close to them.

Anne accepts a basketball scholarship to Natchez College, a suffocatingly conservative Baptist college in Mississippi. There, Anne has her first boyfriend. She eventually transfers to Tougaloo College for her final two years of college. At Tougaloo, she joins the NAACP, in spite of the strong protests of her mother. The local sheriff even tells Anne’s mother that Anne must not attend NAACP events or it will mean trouble for her family. Nonetheless, Anne becomes active in the NAACP and the civil rights movement, despite her family’s impassioned pleas for her to quit.

Anne participates in the famous sit-in at the lunch counter of the Woolworth’s in Jackson, Mississippi. She later works as a CORE (Coalition for the Organization of Racial Equality) activist in rural Madison County, Mississippi, where she and the other activists are the targets of violent threats. After exhaustive work, Anne concludes that the movement has not improved the lives of people in Mississippi. It has focused too much on voter registration and even political theater, such as the Freedom Vote, a mock vote intended to protest disenfranchisement of blacks. Instead, Anne wants the movement to focus on economic issues, such as helping black farmers buy their own land. At the end of her memoir, twenty-three-year-old Anne is getting on a bus to Washington. The bus is filled with volunteers who all seem far more exuberant and younger than she. As they sing “We Shall Overcome,” Anne wonders if blacks will ever really overcome racism.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Liberty Defined

Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom
by Ron Paul

In Liberty Defined, congressman and #1 New York Times bestselling author Ron Paul returns with his most provocative, comprehensive, and compelling arguments for personal freedom to date.
The term "Liberty" is so commonly used in our country that it has become a mere cliché. But do we know what it means? What it promises? How it factors into our daily lives? And most importantly, can we recognize tyranny when it is sold to us disguised as a form of liberty?

Dr. Paul writes that to believe in liberty is not to believe in any particular social and economic outcome. It is to trust in the spontaneous order that emerges when the state does not intervene in human volition and human cooperation. It permits people to work out their problems for themselves, build lives for themselves, take risks and accept responsibility for the results, and make their own decisions. It is the seed of America.

This is a comprehensive guide to Dr. Paul's position on fifty of the most important issues of our times, from Abortion to Zionism. Accessible, easy to digest, and fearless in its discussion of controversial topics, LIBERTY DEFINED sheds new light on a word that is losing its shape.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Race Matters

Race Matters
by Cornel West

Thought-provoking essays that address a number of controversial issues of concern to African Americans. West analyzes such subjects as nihilism in black America, the crisis of black leadership, affirmative action, black-Jewish relations, sexuality, and the legacy of Malcolm X. His writing style is scholarly and sparse-he does not waste words, and his prose is easy to read. Yet his viewpoints are radical and passionately felt. He is not afraid to speak frankly and, while he presents many criticisms, he also offers many solutions. Not everyone will agree with his point of view, but if one of his objectives is to make readers at least think about the problems he has dissected, then he has succeeded admirably.

West's work has been described as a "polemical weapon that attempts to transform linguistic, social, cultural, and political tradition to increase the scope of individual development and democratic actions." West's writing, speaking, and teaching weaves together the American traditions of the Baptist Church, transcendentalism, socialism, and pragmatism.

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand

The book's female protagonist, Dagny Taggart, struggles to manage a transcontinental railroad amid the pressures and restrictions of massive bureaucracy. Her antagonistic reaction to a libertarian group seeking an end to government regulation is later echoed and modified in her encounter with a utopian community, Galt's Gulch, whose members regard self-determination rather than collective responsibility as the highest ideal.

Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand's greatest achievement and last work of fiction. In this novel she dramatizes her unique philosophy through an intellectual mystery story that integrates ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sex.
Set in a near-future U.S.A. whose economy is collapsing as a result of the mysterious disappearance of leading innovators and industrialists, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life-from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy...to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction...to the philosopher who becomes a pirate...to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad...to the lowest track worker in her train tunnels.

Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"The Private Production of Defense"

"The Private Production of Defense"
by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

"Among the most popular and consequential beliefs of our age
is the belief in collective security. Nothing less significant than
the legitimacy of the modern state rests on this belief.
I will demonstrate that the idea of collective security is a
myth that provides no justification for the modern state, and
that all security is and must be private. Yet, before coming to the
conclusion let me begin with the problem. First, I will present a
two-step reconstruction of the myth of collective security, and at
each step raise a few theoretical concerns."

"Never during its entire history has the continental U.S.
been territorially attacked by any foreign army. (Pearl Harbor
was the result of a preceding U.S. provocation.) Yet the U.S. has
the distinction of having possessed a government that declared
war against a large part of its own population and engaged in the
wanton murder of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Moreover,
while the relations between American citizens and foreigners do not appear to be unusually contentious, almost from its very
beginnings the U.S. government pursued relentless aggressive expansionism.
Beginning with the Spanish–American War, culminating
in World War I and World War II, and continuing to the
present, the U.S. government has become entangled in hundreds
of foreign conflicts and risen to the rank of the world’s dominant
imperialist power. Thus, nearly every president since the turn of
this century also has been responsible for the murder, killing, or
starvation of countless innocent foreigners all over the world. In
short, while we have become more helpless, impoverished,
threatened, and insecure, the U.S. government has become ever
more brazen and aggressive. In the name of national security, it
defends us, equipped with enormous stockpiles of weapons of aggression
and mass destruction, by bullying ever new “Hitlers,” big
or small, and all suspected Hitlerite sympathizers anywhere
and everywhere outside of the territory of the U.S."