Monthly Archives: February 2010

Hayek’s Moment in the Spotlight Explained

February 17, 2010
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Hayek’s Moment in the Spotlight Explained

Last seen rapping about free-markets, F. A. Hayek is enjoying a popularity resurgence. Not only has his hip hop video been viewed three-quarters of a million times (and with a new recommendation from Boing Boing, hits are bound to keep rising), but he (or at least his legacy) has been appearing everywhere from John Stossel’s Fox Business Channel show to our very own bestseller lists. Not too shabby for an economist who has been dead for nearly twenty years and whose theories have been overshadowed in the era of the stimulus by his rival Keynes. We asked Bruce Caldwell, editor of Hayek’s collected works, why this is Hayek’s moment and why his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom is finding new audiences. His response was published today on the Washington Post‘s Short Stack blog. Check it out for the story behind the book, and be sure to read up on the book’s publishing history (which Caldwell essentially extends in his WaPo piece) here, as well as our library of all of Hayek’s titles. . . .

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Nation Snowed-In

February 16, 2010
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Nation Snowed-In

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Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting

February 16, 2010
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Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting

Gerhard Richter has been known in the United States for some time, especially for the photo-paintings he made during the 1960s that rely on images culled from mass media and pop culture. But as demonstrated by the successful retrospective of his work on display at the MoMA in 2001, Richter’s oeuvre incorporates a highly diverse stylistic range—from the muted tones of the “blurred figurative paintings” produced in the 60s, to the “seductive abstract paintings” of his later work—and has since attracted much attention from audiences and critics alike. Yet despite the artist’s popularity there has been no definitive biographical account of his life, until now. As a recent review that ran in the February 11th edition of the Financial Times notes with his new book Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting Dietmar Elger offers for the first time insight into this fascinating artist’s life and work. From the review: Among the many triumphs of Dietmar Elger’s landmark first biography of the artist, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, written with full access to his archives, is to show how Richter’s apparently neutral tones are part of a long, complicated fight against traditional German emotionalism. Born in Dresden a year before . . .

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Boggs bills—where money ends and art begins

February 12, 2010
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Boggs bills—where money ends and art begins

As a recent post on Amazon’s book blog Omnivoracious points out, the volatile economic climate we’ve been living through the past few years makes it easy to question the real value of the dollar. When a financial crisis can put more Americans out of their homes than any of the major natural disasters that have hit the U.S. in the last decade, the nature of currency as an artificial construct is particularly obvious—and particularly ugly. But as it turns out, one contemporary artist, J.S.G. Boggs, has been using his craft to make a similar point in a somewhat more aesthetically pleasing, though highly controversial, way. As Omnivoracious blogger Tom Nissen writes: J.S.G. Boggs is an artist, and in some minds, particularly those of the Bank of England and the U.S. Secret Service, a criminal. His crime is the reproduction of national currency. He draws money. But he doesn’t just draw dollar bills and put them up in frames on gallery walls as a conceptual joke. He actually goes out and uses his drawings as money. When presented with a bill at a restaurant, say, he’ll offer instead to pay with a Boggs bill… They are usually only drawn on one . . .

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Fear the Boom and Bust

February 12, 2010
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The economist and philosopher F. A. Hayek, best known for his staunch defense of free-market capitalism, may have passed away nearly two decades ago, but he’s recently been resurrected in a viral video in which he rap-debates John Maynard Keynes, an advocate of government invention in the economy. The disagreements between the two great thinkers have been memorialized before, as in our volume Contra Keynes and Cambridge: Essays, Correspondence, but perhaps never so cleverly. (Just try getting the hooky chorus of “We’ve been going back and forth for a century, I want to steer markets, I want them set free” out of your head.) But the economics-lesson-cloaked-as-catchy-rap-ditty is only the latest in a long tradition of popularizing Hayek’s (often unpopular) theories. Bruce Caldwell, editor of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, notes in his introduction to The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents—The Definitive Edition that Hayek was concerned about the book’s popularity and worried about misinterpretation. Indeed, many people were introduced to the book not through the primary object but through Reader’s Digest‘s 20-page condensed version, which appeared in the April 1945 issue of the magazine, or the cartoon treatment that had been published in the . . .

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The Emergence of the Modern Surveillance State

February 11, 2010
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The Emergence of the Modern Surveillance State

During the Progressive Era, social activists in New York employed private investigators to seek out behavior they viewed as sexually promiscuous, politically undesirable, or downright criminal. The goal was to uncover the roots of society’s problems, and the information collected eventually empowered government regulators in the Progressive era and beyond, strengthening a federal state that grew increasingly repressive in the interest of pursuing a national security agenda. Jennifer Fronc’s history of this urban movement, New York Undercover: Private Surveillance in the Progressive Era, follows these investigators—often journalists or social workers with no training in surveillance—on their information-gathering visits to gambling parlors, brothels, and meetings of criminal gangs and radical political organizations. Drawing on the hundreds of detailed reports that resulted from these missions, Fronc reconstructs the process by which organizations like the National Civic Federation and the Committee of Fourteen generated the knowledge they needed to change urban conditions. Revealing the central role of undercover investigation in both social change and the constitution of political authority, New York Undercover narrates previously untold chapters in the history of vice and the emergence of the modern surveillance state. Fronc recently discussed her book as part of a series at New York City’s . . .

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What do baboons have to do with queer theory?

February 10, 2010
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What do baboons have to do with queer theory?

Another year, another honor. Once again the University of Chicago Press has been longlisted for the Diagram Prize, a distinction handed out by the UK’s Bookseller magazine for the oddest book title of the year. This year’s honoree: Leo Bersani’s Is the Rectum a Grave? and Other Essays. The title is taken from the distinguished critic’s foundational essay in queer theory, which famously meditates on sex and the shattering of the self, but the collection documents over two decades in the life of one of the best minds working in the humanities. Admirers of the Press and our catchy book titles will be quick to note that this is our second nomination in as many years. Last year, the distinguished Diagram Prize committee singled out Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth’s Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, whose title derived from Darwin, who wrote in his diaries in 1838, “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.” Alas, we came in runner-up in the contest, ceding the title to the rather cheesy The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais. However, it should be noted, our book was actually written by humans—and . . .

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Piracy—a definitve history of intellectual property

February 10, 2010
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Piracy—a definitve history of intellectual property

In a recent book review in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian Roy Williams begins by acknowledging intellectual property disputes as one of he most pressing issue of the twenty-fist century. As Williams writes: The laws of copyright, patents and related regimes are notoriously arcane; they are a mystery to most lawyers, let alone the public. Yet intellectual property is integral to some of the curliest issues of the early 21st century: the regulation of biotechnology, the digitisation of news and books, and freer access for the Third World to life-saving drugs, to name just three. To understand contemporary geopolitics, a working knowledge of intellectual property is mandatory. Enter Adrian Johns’s, Piracy: Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, offering readers the definitive historical account of every important IP dispute from the advent of print culture all the way to the present day, augmented by the unparalleled insights of its author. Noting one particularly fascinating example Williams writes: Especially compelling is the detailed account of the emergence of the modern notion of copyright. analyses the central role played by London book traders of the 17th and 18th centuries. Based around Stationers Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral, they made their living selling . . .

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University of Chicago Press wins 11 PROSE awards

February 8, 2010
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University of Chicago Press wins 11 PROSE awards

We are pleased to announce that the University of Chicago Press was the recipient of eleven PROSE awards at this year’s Association of American Publishers/Professional and Scholarly Publishing conference in Washington, D.C., including their top prize, the R.R. Hawkins Award, for Catherine H. Zuckert’s 2009 Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues. The PROSE awards are the American Publisher Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence. According to the award website “the PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories. Judged by peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals since 1976, the PROSE Awards are extraordinary for their breadth and depth.” In addition to the R.R. Hawkins Award Zuckert’s Plato’s Philosphers also received the top Award for Excellence in Humanities and the top award in the philosophy category. Other winners include: Michael Camille’s The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame: Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity— top prize in the Art & Art History. Michael Forsberg’s Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild—top award in the Biological & Life Sciences category. Cathy Gere’s Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism—top award in the Archeology & Anthropology category. Lance Grande and . . .

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Still provocative after all these years

February 5, 2010
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Still provocative after all these years

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a profile of one of the most consistently interesting academics today, Mark C. Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia University and a prolific author, having published tens of books and innumerable articles on topics from poststructuralism to the visual arts. Recently however Taylor’s copious oeuvre has been slightly overshadowed by his controversial critique of tenure and the structure of the academy, originally published in the New York Times, and the basis of his forthcoming book from Knopf, Crisis on Campus. In the Chronicle article, “The Provocations of Mark Taylor”, Eric Banks revisits the furor created by the article’s radical recommendations for interdisciplinarity and the abolishing of “traditional disciplinary structures” but connects Taylor’s critique to his other work, including his recent book from Columbia University Press, Field Notes From Elsewhere, his 2004 Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption, and his 2007 treatise on religion in contemporary culture After God. Noting his concurrent efforts at reform in the religion department at Columbia, Banks article concludes: “Whether his administration at Columbia, or for that matter his forthcoming Knopf title, will light a fire of reform, the experience is worth trying . . .

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