The Times Literary Supplement just published this favorable review by Charles King: "Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is, without a doubt, the most engaging and deeply analytical guide to this knotty region to have been produced in the past decade.… Georgi Derluguian tells how much of Eurasia, in only a decade and a half, traded the promise of liberty and democracy for a political and moral captivity that will be difficult to escape. Clever, original and at times downright funny, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus is both an intimate biography of an unusual Circassian sociologist and an epic account of an entire generation’s trek through modernity. It uncovers the hidden logic behind the tragedies and horrors of the Caucasus—indeed, of the entire late twentieth-century world—and shows how seemingly senseless acts of violence have discernible, and often rather pedestrian, causes." . . .
On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran after fifteen years of exile. The Shah had fled Iran about two weeks earlier and Khomeini was acclaimed the leader of the Iranian Revolution. Later that year revolutionary students would storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran and take the staff hostage, to profound consequence. One observer of the Iranian Revolution was Michel Foucault, who was a special correspondent for Corriere della Sera and le Nouvel Observateur, for whom he wrote a series of articles. In Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism, Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson illuminate Foucault’s support of the Islamist movement. and show how Foucault’s experiences in Iran contributed to a turning point in his thought. Read one of Foucault’s essays, “What Are the Iranians Dreaming About?” . . .
Howard Nemerov (1920-1991), many of whose books were published by Chicago, wrote two poems about the space shuttle. “On An Occasion of National Mourning” was written after the Challenger accident. “Witnessing the Launch of the Shuttle Atlantis” was written for NASA, during the time that Nemerov was poet laureate of the United States. . . .
These days, the state of the sovereign is strong. But issues such as warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency have now prompted a debate over how much power the executive should have in times of war and crisis. Two recently published books offer some philosophical perspectives on the powers of the sovereign. The first is Giorgio Agamben’s State of Exception; see an excerpt, “A Brief History of the State of Exception.” The second book is our just-released reprint of Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty.. . . .
Alan Wolfe recently reviewed Louise W. Knight’s Citizen in the New York Times: "Knight’s book is what the Germans call a bildung, an account of how a person’s character is formed. As it happens, Knight’s decision to focus on Addam’s early years is a stroke of genius. We know a great deal about Jane Addams the public figure. We know relatively little about how she made the transition from the 19th century to the 20th. In Knight’s book, Jane Addams comes to life.… Knight’s book is filled with fascinating detail about everyday life at Hull House, from the way residents were selected, to the fundraising difficulties that emerged as Addams exhausted her personal wealth, to an absorbing account of Addam’s life as a Chicago garbage inspector. Knight’s extensive research and straightforward narrative allow readers to watch Addams gain self-confidence, survive a breakup with Starr and the formation of a new relationship with Mary Rozet Smith, wrestle with her desire to help immigrants even as she disdains much about their way of life, and try to establish democracy at Hull House while remaining reluctant to cede control of its destiny.… Knight, an independent scholar, has something in common with . . .
The Guardian featured an essay by Robert Bruegmann in their Saturday edition. “Just as Britain led the world in producing sprawl, so it also has led the world in trying to combat it,” writes Bruegmann. Sprawl has been a feature of London (and cities in general) for centuries, Bruegmann argues, and the conventional wisdom about the pernicious effects of sprawl is often wrong. See also our excerpt from the book. Bruegmann was also interviewed today in U.S. News and World Report. . . .
Why would anyone say this fifty-year-old book is “one of the most important books of our time,” as a customer recently described it on Amazon? They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer has been bubbling through the online zeitgeist for a little while now—most recently it was passed around the social bookmarking sites del.icio.us, reddit, and stumbleupon. Ten years after World War II, Mayer went to Germany and spent a year interviewing ordinary Germans to try to understand how they came to accept—even embrace—fascism. Is there any similarity to our current situation, as liberals and libertarians like to claim by citing Mayer’s book? Decide for yourself. Start with an excerpt. . . .
The Guardian (UK) recently praised Sylvia Lovegren’s Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. From the review: "The lowdown on every fad imaginable is here, within two covers. That they are mostly American is not a problem. What was good for the US was invariably a showstopper here too. Great recipes (if you can stomach them), grand stories. Amusing." Read an excerpt featuring eight recipes. . . .
The sports section of the Daily Telegraph featured a review of Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, Carlo Rotella’s acclaimed book on boxing. From the review by Andrew Baker: “Rotella’s guiding philosophy is honesty, both with the fighters he encounters and with his own reactions to what he sees. And, unusually among American academics, he practises a beautifully pared-down prose style, with little pretention and none of the hyperbole that afflicts so many boxing writers. He may lack the wit of A J Liebling, say, but his insight more than makes up for it.” You can judge Rotella’s prose style and wit in this excerpt. . . .
A piece by John Noble Wilford in the New York Times is occasioned by the anniversaries of the destruction of the space shuttles Challenger (twenty years ago on January 28, 1986) and Columbia (three years ago on February 1, 2003) and the fire that killed three Apollo astronauts (thirty-nine years ago on January 27, 1967). Ten years ago we published The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA by Diane Vaughan which put forth the view—now widely accepted—that the Challenger accident was not the result of bad engineeering but of a management culture that normalized deviance: that flew missions even when presented with evidence of serious problems. The Columbia accident showed how difficult it is to change the patterns of organizational life. Another author brought a different sensibility to the shuttle; you can read Howard Nemerov’s two poems on the space shuttle. . . .