Monthly Archives: January 2014

Adam Morris on Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience

January 31, 2014
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Adam Morris on Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience

From Adam Morris’s review “Disobedience & Miseducation: Occupy and the Academy,” at the Los Angeles Review of Books: The unwritten premise of the three essays in Occupy is that we live in the anteroom of an authoritarian police state. Or that perhaps, in a Borgesian twist, we have been living in one for some time already. Just as allegations of a “Jewish menace” abetted the power grabs of the Nazis, the “terrorists” and now “anarchists” of the 21st century provide an alibi for the US security-industrial complex to retrench in practices that, while subtler than 20th-century totalitarianisms, are even more effectively internalized and agreed upon by the dominated domestic population. The public’s laconic initial reaction to the revelations of Edward Snowden offers proof that most Americans, like Winston at the end of Orwell’s 1984, have come to accept the state’s scare-fueled propaganda and gradual elimination of civil rights in exchange for a false sense of “security.” They already love Big Brother. Daring to oppose police repression and buck this public inertia, the defiantly energetic spirit of dissent that characterized OWS is therefore political disobedience of the most necessary and noble kind. This exuberance is the subject of Taussig’s poetic essay “I’m So Angry I Made a . . .

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Stanley Cavell on Wittgenstein as a cultural critic

January 30, 2014
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Stanley Cavell on Wittgenstein as a cultural critic

From “The Investigations as a Depiction of Our Times,” in Stanley Cavell’s This New Yet Unapproachable America: Lectures after Emerson after Wittgenstein Let us see whether we can now sketch what I called a perspective from which the writer of the Investigations is a philosopher—even a critic—of culture. I start here form a variation on a question Professor von Wright poses in his paper “Wittgenstein in Relation to His Times” (in Wittgenstein and His Times, edited by B. McGuinness). Von Wright asks whether “Wittgenstein’s attitude to his times,” while naturally essential to understanding Wittgenstein’s intellectual personality, is also essential in understanding Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Von Wright describes the attitude in question, for good reason, as Spenglerian, and he sees the link between the attitude and the conceptual development of the philosophy in “Wittgenstein’s peculiar view of the nature of philosophy.” Because of the interlocking language and ways of life, a disorder in the former reflects disorder in the latter. If philosophical problems are symptomatic of language producing malignant outgrowths which obscure our thinking, then there must be a cancer in the Lebenweise, in the way of life itself. Given my sense of two directions in the idea of a form of life, von Wright’s appeal here to “a cancer . . .

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Paddy Woodworth on ecological restoration

January 29, 2014
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Paddy Woodworth on ecological restoration

Our Once and Future Planet delivers an account of one of the most impressive areas of current environmental experimentation and innovation: ecological restoration. Veteran investigative reporter Paddy Woodworth spent years traveling the globe and talking with people—scientists, politicians, and ordinary citizens—who work on the front lines of the battle against environmental degradation, and the book positions the restoration of our ecosystems as vital—and often successful—leverage. A recent review of the book in the Irish Examiner highlighted the implications of this restoration, from the vantage of long-term, if uncertain, commitment: Here, as elsewhere, the fight to preserve refugia and take a long term view of restoration is well justified, but seldom a priority for a society and their political leaders guided by short term considerations. Species restoration, especially of ‘cuddly’ animals or ‘trophy’ birds of prey, tugs at the heartstrings and can gain public support and finance. But habitat restoration is a much more difficult task to finance from the public purse. Woodworth’s experience confirms the complexity of the latter and reveals just how much of a knowledge gap exists for effective restoration. Ecological succession is a dynamic process, constantly being pushed by environmental changes to what sometimes seems, end points, illustrating . . .

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Excerpt: Robert B. Pippin’s After the Beautiful

January 23, 2014
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Excerpt: Robert B. Pippin’s After the Beautiful

Excerpt from After the Beautiful: Hegel and the Philosophy of Pictorial Modernism by Robert B. Pippin There are many reasons to be skeptical that anything of value can result from trying to project Hegel into the future like this. After all, anyone who has heard anything about Hegel has probably heard that he said two things: that philosophy was its own time understood in thought, and some summary of the following remarks. In all these respects art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. What is now aroused in us by works of art is not just immediate enjoyment but our judgment also, since we subject to our intellectual consideration (i) the content of art, and (ii) the work of art’s means of presentation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of both to one another. The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it was in days when art by itself as art yielded full satisfaction. Art . . .

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Roger Ebert and Life Itself

January 22, 2014
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Roger Ebert and Life Itself

This past weekend saw the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Life Itself, a doc biopic about the life of Roger Ebert by Hoop Dreams documentarian and native Chicagoan Steve James (a sensitive aside on the Festival’s blog notes, “In his review, Ebert wrote that Hoop Dreams ‘gives us the impression of having touched life itself.’”). The fact that the film was partially crowdfunded should testify to Ebert’s legacy: as one of the most erudite yet approachable critics of the medium. The Chicago Tribune recently ran a long piece on life after Ebert, focusing on his widow, Chaz, and her many projects in development that build off of Ebert’s “brand”—everything from a cartoon series and a film studies center at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to RogerEbert.com and the long-standing Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, now in its sixteenth year. As the article noted: “Maybe Roger knew that he was going,” Chaz Ebert says. “Why else would he give me his secret password to his Twitter code or his Facebook code? He had never given those to me before. Why else would he admonish me in the hospital every time I’d visit: ‘You must keep my Twitter account alive. You must keep . . .

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Arresting Citizenship and American crime control

January 21, 2014
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Arresting Citizenship and American crime control

Amy E. Lerman and Vesla M. Weaver’s forthcoming Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control considers the contemporary carceral state of American democracy—beginning with the mind-blowing premise that one-third of America’s adult population has passed through the criminal justice system and now carries a criminal record. Arguing that this system fundamentally creates a growing group of second-class American subjects through an ill-determined relationship between “citizen” and “state,” the authors argue that each stage of American criminal justice disempowers its constituents and defies America’s core democratic values. In a recent piece for the Stone blog at the New York Times, Weaver (along with Jason Stanley) pressed the book’s arguments further and questioned whether the United States has become a racial democracy. As they write: Given the centrality of liberty to democracy, one way to assess the democratic health of a state is by the fairness of the laws governing its removal. The fairness of a system of justice is measured by the degree to which its laws are fairly and consistently applied across all citizens. In a fair system, a group is singled out for punishment only insofar as its propensity for unjustified violations of the laws demands. What . . .

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Excerpt: Jamie Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind

January 17, 2014
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Excerpt: Jamie Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind

Excerpt from The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature by Jamie Cohen-Cole The Cold War was a time when psychology came into its own as a tool of social analysis. With marked rapidity the structural, institutional, and economic ways of understanding American society that had dominated academic and public discourse in preceding decades gave way to explanations framed in terms of the psyche. Historian Carl Schorski, recalling the intellectual currents of the immediate postwar period, found the “sudden blaze of interest in Sigmund Freud” particularly memorable. “Truly the premises for understanding man and society,” he wrote, “seemed to be shifting from the social-historical to the psychological scene.” The sociologist Daniel Bell observed at the threshold of the 1960s that the previous decade “mark the difference” between “a Marxist analysis of America” and one cast in a “cultural anthropology cum a Jungian and nervous sociological idiom.” So warmly, it seems, had American intellectuals and social critics embraced the psychological idiom that eight years later the political writer Samuel Lubell could write, in the influential political journal Public Interest, “our society seems to have developed a predilection, even craze, for reading psychological explanations into anything and everything . . .

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Jonathan M. Hall’s Artifact and Artifice

January 16, 2014
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Jonathan M. Hall’s Artifact and Artifice

In Artifact and Artifice: Classic Archaeology and the Ancient Historian, Jonathan M. Hall considers the case for archaeological history as a form of living forensics, in which the relationship between text and material—dirt and words—allows us to understand the possibilities (and limits) of using archaeological evidence to write about the past. By focusing on methodology—and its relationship to pedagogy, the construction of the archaeological imaginary, and how it determines historical approaches to antiquity—Hall helps to cast the present and future of the field. At the same time, he makes use of nine case studies, or “cautionary tales,” which explore how previous scholars, themselves knowledgeable agents, correlated textual and physical evidence, “artfully” creating both material objects and written discourse as products that need to be interpreted with art and skill. From the book’s opening pages: Can the geology and geochemistry of the Delphi region offer clues to why the oracle of Apollo was so highly regarded in the ancient world? Should the proposed redating of a single temple cause us to revise the chronology we assign to Classical art? Why did the Athenians wait so long before repairing their temples after the Persian invasion of 480–479 BCE? Can we trace the footprints . . .

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Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto

January 15, 2014
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Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto

To see more images from former MacArthur Fellow and photographer Camilo José Vergara’s Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto, visit this spread at the Daily Mail. . . .

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Free e-book for January: Murder in Ancient China

January 9, 2014
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Free e-book for January: Murder in Ancient China

Murder in Ancient China by Robert van Gulik (1910–67), our free e-book for January, helps us launch our latest batch of Chicago Shorts. Part of the Judge Dee mysteries series that orientalist historian and diplomat van Gulik created following a career spent in Allied-occupied Tokyo and Chongqing, China, for the Dutch Foreign Service. Judge Dee—Confucian Imperial magistrate, inquisitor, and public avenger, based on a famous statesman—was van Gulik’s lasting invention. A welcome addition to the elite canon of fictional detectives, the Judge steps in to investigate homicide, theft, and treason, while attempting to restore order to the golden age of the Tang Dynasty. In Murder in Ancient China’s first story, Judge Dee attempts to solve the mystery of an elderly poet murdered by moonlight in his garden pavilion; in the second, set on the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Judge makes two rare mistakes—to ambiguous results. Chicago Shorts, published every four to six months, include never-before-published material, off-the-radar reads culled from the University of Chicago Press’s commanding archive, and the best of our newest books, all priced for impulse buying (four titles this season for just $0.99) and presented exclusively in DRM-free e-book format. To read more about our free . . .

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