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In Defense of Globalization
In Defense of Globalization
by Jagdish Bhagwati
Edition: Hardcover
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Best of All Possible Worlds, May 22 2004
In 1964, sociologist Jacques Ellul in his prophetic book THE TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY wrote: "The human being is changing under the pressure of the economic milieu; he is in the process of becoming the uncomplicated being the liberal economist constructed" (pg. 219). Readers of IN DEFENSE OF GLOBALIZATION are certain to recognize in its pages the latest neo-liberal incarnation of that theoretically necessary, but historically implausible construct, "homo economicus" not only in Bhagwati's view of humanity but, perhaps, in Bhagwati himself.
In a nod to those legions of philosophers and writers who over the past two hundred years have attempted to arrest the career of this reductive model of humanity, Bhagwati's updated version of homo economicus is imbued with some non-rational characteristics, envy for one, and, culture, for another. In this Bhagwati, to his credit, is more up to date than his contemporaries from Chicago. He recognizes that not only does man not live by bread alone, but that globalization did not invent bread, ancient non-capitalist cultures did. Eventually, however these concessions to the many critics of homo economicus are revealed as strategic concessions only, because ultimately Bhagwati believes that all humans, though they are not necessarily born to be rational wealth maximizers, must become so. Those who do not comply will hold humanity back from the best form of goodness that can be achieved: economic prosperity through global capitalism. For him other forms of prosperity, such as spiritual or moral prosperity, while noble, are necessary only insofar as they promote and support wealth creation. We certainly have not achieved the best of all possible worlds yet, Bhagwati replies to his critics, and we may never achieve it, he concedes, but of the means at our disposal the neo-liberal economic system is the best there is. Sure, there are "externalities," he admits, but on balance, of all the possible systems that are known, it works best.
The strategic concession is by far Bhagwati's most effective rhetorical strategy. Yes, he agrees, pollution is bad, but, he insists, pollution can be fixed (blithely overlooking the fact it has not yet been fixed, seems to be increasing to the point where it threatens our existence and that those who have power are disinclined to undo the mechanisms that brought them into power). Yes, he acknowledges, people's societies are becoming emptied of their old meanings by the techniques of global capitalism. But, he argues, in this best of all possible worlds the omnibenevolent energies of global capitalism have stimulated the genius of writers like Salman Rushdie who meld the ancient and modern together in a bold new hybrid (a rationale which overlooks the fact that much of modern literature, including Rushdie's, is an attempt to find meaning in a world that is everyday upended through the "creative destruction" of capitalism).
So using the technique of the strategic concession, the critics of global capitalism might say, yes, we agree our standard of living has risen in the past hundred years (but the disparity between rich and poor is wider now than it has ever been, a disparity that means greater influence accrues to fewer and fewer people who have more and more say about how the world economy will be structured.) Sure, we in the United States live as kings could not even conceive of living 200 years ago (and consume 25% of the world's energy and in so doing, endanger the present environment and the lives of generations to come). Yes, the promotion of literacy is a good thing (except that it generally it takes a generation or so for a people to learn that they will never be as prosperous as those who imposed the technique of capital upon them and another generation to understand that their old ways of life have become emptied of meaning, ancient human meanings that can never be fully recovered).
The cultural critique of globalization is particularly difficult for Bhagwati to manage. Indeed, it's a critique that has been around since the early days of the Industrial Revolution in the works of Carlyle, Morris, Dickens, and those other Englishmen of that time whom Bhagwati is perversely fond of quoting. These Englishmen saw the evils of the dark satanic mills in a time before such evils were reclassified as externalities by business schools and their wealthy donors, before the mills and their more distressing byproducts were moved out of sight and out of mind. Yes, he agrees that capitalism can be destructive of community, but maintains that that older beliefs about the nature of humankind can live peacefully together with global capital as in the Rushdie example above. Here he leaves the realm of the disingenuous argument and passes into dissembling. [The] "Technique" [behind globalization] "worships nothing, respects nothing. It has a single role: to strip off externals, to bring everything to light, and by rational use to transform everything into means...The sacred cannot resist." (Jacques Ellul again, pg. 142, The Technological Civilization).
Those wary of globalization have seen enough of its antecedents to know that this newest manifestation of capitalism turns once functioning societies into compost, and sometimes dangerous compost. Perhaps many societies, as Bhagwati asserts, are worthy only of the garbage heap of history. Agreed. There are traditional societies and beliefs which are repressive, cruel, or which have been radicalized to become so when they are touched by globalization. The difficulty lies in the fact that globalization does not make distinctions -- it does not pass over worthy societies and undermine only the less worthy. It is a technique and as such simply cannot understand or go easy on societies where people are defined as other than rational wealth-maximizers. It has no answer for those once culturally rich and fertile cultures which are now only the stilled poetry out of which grows the prosaic apologetics of the neo-liberal economist.

Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
by Robert B. Reich
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Piercing the Cloud Of Unreason, May 11 2004
A good and noble project is REASON, but one which ultimately fails. Not because Reich is not reasonable. Not because he is not clear-eyed, prudent, and good-humored as well.
No, REASON fails because fair reason, that powerful engine of the Enlightenment and a mainstay of the Founding Fathers, has been short-circuited by 1) the socially corrosive bought-and-paid-for cant of the right-wing libertarian think tank crowd, 2) the intolerant and divisive fulminations of Christian Right and their self-appointed public scolds, and 3) the tendentious free-market fables told by the Chicago "School" to serve and protect the prerogatives of the wealthy. Perhaps most threatening of all to sweet reason is 4) the trillion megawatt transmission system carved out of the public airwaves that stuffs this quasi-philosophic farrago of half-truths and outright lies into the ears of a stunned American public.
Reich intends REASON as a kind of handbook for the politically moderate American who knows that the grand egalitarian tradition is under siege, wants to understand how the Radcons have done it, and wants to do something about it. Reich knows that many Americans who grew up in a more optimistic, yes, a kinder and gentler liberal America are at a loss in trying to understand and counter the manipulative rhetorical tricks and absolutist dogma of the Radcon crowd. (Radcon is Reich's shorthand for the new model conservative -- the radical conservative -- a species of political animal bearing little resemblance to either the traditional Burkean conservative,or to that moderate, fiscally conservative Republican who until just recently held the Radcon's revanchist tendencies in check.)
With REASON, Reich shows how the Radcons have stacked the deck of public discourse through various debating club stratagems -- the classic argument from authority (because I said so and I'm in charge) and perhaps the even more favored "slippery slope" argument (if we let one person spit out their car window, then everyone will spit out their car windows and soon no one will be able to drive because all the spit will make it impossible to see out the windows and chaos and anarchy will ensue and that mustn't be allowed to happen, and so more police must be hired and more jails built).
Reich also shows how Radcon absolutism works, too. He shows that the seemingly contradictory Radcon "philosophies" -- libertarianism, "objectivism," fundamentalism -- do share one simple idea: that man and womankind are evil. Further, generally speaking, evil is in these philosophies anything that might give more power to those who traditionally have had less power. This means more power given to women, gays, and people who are not white is evil. It means that more power given to people who are not religious in the way that they ought to be religious, and people who are poor are evil. It means that people who do not believe that the Market God and His biblical counterpart form a perfect interlocking machine that impartially sorts humanity into the deserving and undeserving are evil. It means that anyone who believes that humanity can and should make decisions about what is good for humanity is evil. This, of course, describes a core liberal belief. It is also a core tenet of democracy which believes with some optimism tempered with some reasonable amount of pessimism that through discussion evil might avoided, that the common good might be found and that provision might be made for it.
REASON ultimately fails to do what Reich acknowledges must be done to stop the Radcon threat to American society: light a fire in the reader, a burning, all consuming fire of commitment to the tenets of liberalism that surpasses the absolutist Manichean view of the Radcon. Unfortunately, Reich's belief in and reliance on reason is exactly why traditional liberalism is fast disappearing as a viable political philosophy in these United States. Reason, at its heart is merely reasonable and as such is a weak argument against the overwhelming moral absolutes of the Market God,the other God, and their handservants, dissembling and deception. In this contest, REASON is overmatched, overwhelmed and overturned. When the liberal says "let us reason together," the Radcon cries "60s radicals almost destroyed this country, and you're just like them!"
Still, perhaps there is hope for Reich's cause. In books like REASON and MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS (by Godfrey Hodgson) one can begin to see a slow recovery of Liberalism's strength, i.e., its coherent philosophy of equality and justice and its abiding belief that man is more or less good, and capable of doing good through institutions in addition to churches, the market and the military which are the only institutions the Radcons endorse even as they have taken over the government, the one institution which is intended to be by the people, of the people and for the people, and which in the Radcon view is responsible for much of the evil in the world. Through such books, liberalism's condition has perhaps been stabilized. What is necessary now is a bold new prescription, a prescription building on a new COMMON SENSE, one that will cleanse and bind up the many wounds the Radcons have inflicted upon the American body politic, that will contain a message of hope and freedom that will lift its spirit, arm it properly against its powerful foes, and send it marching bravely into battle against this terrifying and unreasonable enemy of democracy.

The Anatomy of Fascism
The Anatomy of Fascism
by Robert O. Paxton
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Whose Reich Is It Anyway?, May 1 2004
This review is from: The Anatomy of Fascism (Hardcover)
The Marquis de Morés, returning to 1890s Paris after his cattle ranching venture in North Dakota failed, recruited a gang of men from the Parisian cattle yards as muscle for his "national socialism" project -- a term Paxton credits Morés' contemporary Maurice Barres, a French nationalist author, with coining. Morés' project was potent and prophetic: his national socialism was a mixture of anti-capitalism and anti-Semitism. He clothed his men in what must have been the first fascist uniform in Europe -- ten-gallon hats and cowboy garb, frontier clothes he'd taken a shine to in the American West. (Author Paxton suggests the first ever fascist get-up was the KKKs white sheet and pointy hat). Morés killed a French Jewish officer in a duel during the Dreyfus affair and later was killed in the Sahara by his guides during his quest to unite France to Islam to Spain. Morés had earlier proclaimed: "Life is valuable only through action. So much the worse if the action is mortal."
Here assembled together are all of the elements of what Paxton would classify as first stage fascism: "the creation of a movement." Most fascist movements stall in this first stage he notes -- think, for instance, of the skinheads, the American Nazi Party and Posse Comitatus. Paxton's other stages are 2) the rooting of the movement in the political system; 3) the seizure of power; 4) the exercise of power; and 5) the duration of power, during which the regime chooses either radicalization or entropy. He notes that although each stage "is a prerequisite for the next, nothing requires a fascist movement to complete all of them, or even to move in only one direction. The five stages permit plausible comparison between movements and regimes at equivalent degrees of development. It helps us see that fascism, far from static, was a succession of processes and choices: seeking a following, forming alliances, bidding for power, then exercising it. That is why the conceptual tools that illuminate one stage may not necessarily work equally well for others." pg. 23.
Paxton also tentatively offers a definition of fascism, but only after tracing the rise of various movements from their beginnings in the 19th century through the present day. Other historians and philosophers, he suggests, have written brilliantly on fascism, but have failed to recognize that their analyses apply to only one stage or another. He also notes that often definitions of fascism are based on fascist writings; he maintains that fascist writings while valuable were often written as justification for the seizure of power, or the attempted seizure, and that what fascists actually did and do is more critical to understanding these movements. Indeed, the language of fascism has changed little since the days of the Marquis De Mores.
He hesitates in offering both his definition and his analytical stages, saying that he knows by doing so he risks falling into the nominalism of the "bestiary." He demonstrates that this is a common failing of definitions of fascism which are often incomplete or muddled as they typically describe only one or two typically late stages. Other historians, for instance, split fascism into Nazism or Italian fascism, avoiding the problem of understanding their common elements by concentrating on their differences, insisting that they are incommensurable. Finally in the last pages, Paxton offers up this fairly comprehensive and useful definition: "Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

Paxton is particularly strong in showing how the circumstances in post WWI Germany and Italy -- the demobilized mobs of young soldiers, sent to war by elites who had no conception of the destruction and suffering they had unleashed upon the younger generation -- were ripe for fascism's appeals. For many, liberalism, conservatism and socialism all seemed equally complicit in the crack-up of Europe in the Great War. Fascism, rising from the ashes, employed the socialistic tools of mass marches, the military techniques of terror learned in the war, and as they gained power, the new tools of mass communication and propaganda developed in the US during WWI. Fascists also reacted astutely to public discomfort toward the mass migrations from southern and eastern Europe coming in the wake of political and economic distress in those regions, using that fear to increase their power through scapegoating and its attendant rhetoric of purity.
Fascism is both charged and blurry word these days, used by both the left and the right to assail their critics and enemies. The Nazi remains the evildoer par excellence in popular and political culture, invoked for a thrill of fear or the disciplinary scare or emotional incitement. In this masterful synthesis of writings in politics, history, philosophy and sociology, Paxton untangles the vast literature fascism has generated, establishes some essential ground rules for coming to grips with its many expressions, stages, and manifestations, and clears a space for further, better focused research. Although academic in its orientation, it is well and clearly written. Finally, for the reader who is not familiar with modern European history, it is a very useful and informative text as it takes into its scope by necessity much of European and American history over the past one hundred years. Absolutely required reading.

More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century
More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century
by Godfrey Hodgson
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ruling Class Holiday, April 30 2004
In this densely factual and amply documented explication of the conservative counterrevolution in the U.S. over the past quarter century, Godfrey Hodgson demonstrates how this brew of Christian cowboy populism and free market absolutism has undermined the United States' historically tolerant, egalitarian culture, installing in its place an unnatural system where the measure of every person, every motive and every institution is the dollar almighty.
Full of counterexamples to the works of conservative think tanks, Hodgson deftly explodes the many myths manufactured by this melange of Ayn Rand "objectivists,' neo-liberal economists and reactionary sociologists. He shows, for example, how these apparatchiki provide the justifications and tools to blame and marginalize the poor for their poverty and non-whites for their non-whiteness. He also shows how as part of these efforts the think tankerites have used the 'objectivity' credo of journalism to insert erroneous, vicious "facts" into the so-called marketplace of ideas, e.g., that the U.S. is much "freer" in terms of economic mobility between the classes, a mobility created and supported by free-market capitalism. Hodgson shows this story, often used to justify the global spread of American capitalism is a patent falsehood.
Citing a study of the top 16 industrialized nations, including, of course, Rumsfeld's "Old Europe," he notes the U.S. ranks dead last in this regard. All the right wing rhetoric is revealed as mere assertion. Hodgson shows how since mid-century the conservative ideology has replaced the liberal consensus and turned the U.S. into an increasingly brittle oligarchy whose citizens are now more polarized and class-bound than citizens in those countries America rebuilt after WWII. As Hodgson notes toward the end of MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: "Over the twelve years of Republican occupancy of the White House, from 1981 to 1993, the median American wage earner's income fell by 5 percent in real terms. The income of the top 5 percent of taxpayers rose by 30 percent, while the income of the top 1 percent rose by 78 percent. Inequality reigned" (page 291). Hodgson further contends the polarization is evident in a two party system that once sought consensus but is divided with one party now clearly aligned with the haves against the have-nots.
Again, in Hodgson's words: "The politics of the past quarter century have been dominated by the reaction against the idea of a Great Society. There has been a racial dimension to this shift. There have been other dimensions, too: anger at American humiliations abroad; disgust at perceived moral decline, especially in sexual behavior and in the family: resentment of taxation, inflation, and economic change generally. All of this added up, a little perversely, to a rejection of government as the instrument of democracy and the elevation of unregulated free-market capitalism to share democracy's throne at the apex of the American system of belief. (Perversely, because if government failed to win all of its battles against communism in the Third World, free markets were hardly likely to have proved more successful; neither the Coca-Cola Corporation nor Disney was equipped to have won the battle of Ap Bac [in Vietnam] or rescue the Tehran hostages. Perversely, too, because the "social issues" were scarcely the fault of government: if anything, they should be blamed on the market capitalism in the shape of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the entertainment industry" (pg. 291).
Hodgson is clearly upset at what has happened over the past few decades in the U.S. A transplanted Englishman who has spent a good deal of his life in the States, he asks us to recall the real American virtues: a relatively classless society, an optimistic and charitable national spirit. To his mind, the racialized rhetoric of the deserving and the undeserving has no place in this shining city upon the hill. In the past, he notes, the wealthy may have "dined on gold plates" and collected priceless artworks, but they also kept quiet about their luxurious lives, observing of the egalitarian credo that to do otherwise would be to ape the behavior of the royalist or aristocrat. Now millionaire populism has swept over the land and the true republican American value of classless civil interaction has been turned on its head -- quoting Rush Limbaugh in this regard: "Do you realize that if wealthy people are not secure in the enjoyment of their property rights, no one is?" (From Limbaugh's "See, I Told You So," pg. 314). Hodgson would argue that the security of a wealthy elite has been the driving force of this anti-American counterrevolution, a movement which has sought to force-feed contingency and insecurity to those citizens not fortunate enough to have been born or to have otherwise become (a rare phenomenon according to Hodgson) a member of the new ruling class.

A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854-1967
A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854-1967
by Rachel Cohen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars Geneaology of Genuis, March 10 2004
Welcome to an astonishing new literary form -- an interlocking "family tree" of American writers, poets, photographers, musicians, editors, and critics that is part literary gossip, part biography, part cultural history, history of ideas, and, finally an unexpectedly moving elegy of a vanished era whose echoes still sound in our own.
A CHANCE MEETING recounts, elaborates and meditates upon the personal connectedness of some of America's greatest artists, connections which range from correspondences and friendships that last more than 40 years (William Dean Howells with Mark Twain and Henry James) or chance meetings which go no further (William Dean Howells and Walt Whitman's meeting at Pfaff's on Broadway in 1850s and once more during Whitman's last years). Starting with its headwaters in Whitman and Hawthorne, Cohen takes us on a voyage down the grand stream of American artistic and literary life, down thickening tributaries unleashed by Henry James and Twain, the shifting crosscurrents of activist W.E.B. DuBois and modernist Gertrude Stein (both students of William James), down new streams from Sarah Orne Jewett and contemporaries Hart Crane, Hurston, Hughes, and Baldwin. She brings in also the rich poetic and artistic contributions of Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Joseph Cornell, Elizabeth Bishop. Key networkers and artists include photographers Matthew Brady, Stieglitz, Steichen, and Avedon, the insightful and supportive critic from the New York Times, Carl Van Vechten, the brilliant Marcel Duchamp - and this list is nowhere near exhaustive.
Henry James once said there is not one but a million windows in the house of fiction. What A CHANCE MEETING remarkably gives us at the end of the journey is the news of the goings on inside that great house, the rivalries, the disagreements, the love affairs, broken friendships, feuds, reconciliations, but most importantly and persistently, the long, looping intimate conversation that flows through and binds together these generations of American artistic life. In so doing, Cohen examines obliquely the alterations in the reportage on the American character, the re-examination of the American character in each generation, revisions which never lose sight of the conversations that have gone before. Profound and playful, Cohen takes some imaginative risks that might unsettle those with strict ideas of what is acceptably told as history. In this regard, Cohen quoting James' insight that Americans have trouble "seeing through to the reality of others" is appropriate: Cohen can and does see through to the reality of these most remarkable others, and we are much the richer for her wise and stylish audacity.

A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life
A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life
by Arnold Weinstein
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Modernity and the Doom of Consciousness, Feb. 26 2004
As a real fan of Arnold Weinstein's terrific lectures on both American and World Literature (from the Teaching Company, but which I borrow from my library), I had high expectations for this book. My expectations were exceeded. That's because in the lectures, Dr. Weinstein focuses almost exclusively on literature. That's not a bad thing. It's a solid traditional approach. But in this text he is also free to draw in art, theater and film where appropriate, and to treat his material thematically, instead of on a book by book basis, a practice which tends to marginalize overall thematic observations. Also, in this format Dr. Weinstein can engage in digressions, and not worry about taking up too much time doing so, as he might in a lecture situation.
Here's an example of a short digression that I found particularly insightful: "One of the ironies of modern culture is its peculiar treatment of high art. Either we subject it to the rigors of modern critical theory, so as to disclose the hidden ideological arrangements it contains; or we piously commit it to the scholar's care, with the implicit view that we "laypeople" do not have the tools of access to frequent such work with any degree of profit. It would be better if we taught our students to view all art as fair game, to approach the most formidable and hermetic works as an aspiring thief might; with intent to break and enter, to discover, steal and possess what is there." Page 334.
Summarizing his insights at the end of this highly engaging text, he meditates on the tragedy of modernity, which he sees as a surfeit of consciousness combined with a lack of human connection. Weinstein illustrates this observation most dramatically through Faulkner's Quentin Compson. First, he cites Robert Penn Warren as having gotten it right when he said that it is not that Quentin suffers from a consciousness of doom, but rather the doom of consciousness. Hamlet was perhaps the first hyperconscious modern, and Weinstein does a fine job of showing how Hamlet and Quentin are connected, too.
Implicit in this, at least in my opinion, is that hyperconsciousness has been promoted by the consumer society. It has filled the world with things, variations of things upon things, filling up our lives with endless vexed choices and in so doing both stokes and attempts to put out the fire of hyperconsciouness. In either case we are seduced into ignoring the fast beating heart of our own humanity as this world of things muffles the scream that goes through the house of our bodies and consciousness.

Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality
Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality
by Neal Gabler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.24
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4.0 out of 5 stars "When I Crashed the Car It Was Just Like a Movie!", Feb. 4 2004
A good, often acid analysis of "entertainment state," Gabler's main thesis is that under the influence of the movies and the concomitant rise of the consumptionism, we have created an entertainment state where everyone is constantly considering how their performance is going -- which amounts to a new kind of discipline as Foucauldians might say. Further, these "roles" require props (material goods), which in turn supports the consumer society and the entertainment state at the expense of nearly everything else. To lay the basis for his theorectical claim, he cites the early 1960s thinking on the phenomenon of celebrity and the changes it has wrought in the American psyche. Here cites Boorstin's "The Image," and Riesman's "The Lonely Crowd." But he's not averse to cites postmodernists to serve his thesis, Umberto Eco, and Baudrillard come in for brief insights, too.
Some might say Gabler overstates his case. Have we really become so infused with "lifies" projected at us on a billion screens that we no longer know where we begin and where we end? Compared to the post-mods who can't resist hyperbole and grand gestures, though, he grounds his case historically, culturally and economically. Moving from a quick periodization of the rise of mass entertainment in the U.S. in conjunction with Jacksonian era during which elitist amusements were challanged and overthrown -- in 1849 29 b'hoys in NYC were killed during a riot where protested the English actor MacCready's reading of Shakepeare as a disparagement of the American style of Edwin Forrest -- he shows how entertainment has always been contested terrain. He also suggests that popular entertainment and diversion are as American as apple pie with supporting examples of the popularity of the political speech, the Great Awakenings, the Lyceum and Chatauqua.
Most chilling is his description of the two Americas: those who live behind the glass (TV) and those who don't, and how those who don't know that because they don't live behind the glass are lesser citizens. That people fight to obtain some type of stardom, or at the minor forms of celebrity, that CEOs now bestride the world like Hollywood stars of old, that brands now have personalities, are cited as evidence of celebritization of the world. The section of the dark side of celebrity-seeking -- e.g. Mark David Chapman, the Unabomber, and Arthur Bremer -- is effective in showing how these individuals' quest for celebrity was rewarded by the media in wall to wall coverage. The slippage of mainstream media into the gutter once occupied by the tabliods is also of related interest, though it cites the usual examples: e.g. Gary Hart, Monica, O.J.
Gabler's larger point is that all these "lifies" take up space in our collective consciousness, that they distract us, circumscribe our lives by setting norms, casting us in roles, and both limit and expand whom we might be and how we might behave: the affable talk show host, the news anchor, the family man, etc. These norms and role models now live behind the screen, he says. There is no "backstage" where we think our private thoughts and a "frontstage" where we interact with the world. It's all "frontstage." Observe an average Californian for awhile, he suggests. Steeped in movie and entertainment culture, they have no "backstage."
Gabler cites evidence that those who have ability to positively delude themselves, to "act" as if they are the center of our own postively scripted, headed- toward-a-happy-ending movie, do better in their lives and occupations. He notes that Prozac's popularity may be connected with this phenomenon. All in all a good, solid, and dare it be said, "entertaining" book.

After the New Economy
After the New Economy
by Doug Henwood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.95
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5.0 out of 5 stars When the Whip Comes Down, Jan. 24 2004
This review is from: After the New Economy (Hardcover)
For years, Doug Henwood's newsletter -- "Left Business Observer" -- has served as a corrective to the triumphalist nonsense that passes for business journalism in the U.S., (and just about everywhere else for that matter). Now, with AFTER THE NEW ECONOMY, Henwood, pithily exposes the flashy mummery behind the bubble economy of the late 90s.
Henwood's particularly good on the years leading up to the boom. He shows how the New Economy was whipped to a high froth with profits expropriated from American in the preceding two decades. Here's Henwood in his own words on the subject: "It's not hard to figure out what caused the fifteen-year profit boom (in the 80s and 90s) -- a reversal of the forces that produced the sixteen-year bust that preceded it. The conventional story is that excessively stimulative and indulgent government policies led to a great inflation, compounded by the oil-price shocks of 1973 and 1979." (Pg. 204)
"There's some truth to the standard story, but it also needs to be translated into political language. The long post-World War II boom had fed the expansion of the welfare state. The sting of unemployment was lessened and workers became progressively less docile. Wildcat strikes were spreading and factory workers were smoking pot on breaks and sabotaging the line. Internationally, the U.S. had lost the Vietnam ware and discovered that is conscript army was an undisciplined horde that was not shy about shooting commanding officers. The Third World was in broad rebellion, demanding global wealth redistribution and a new world economic order, a point that OPEC made forcefully in 1973 and 1979" (Pg. 204).
Henwood notes that it was at this time that the conservative movement, which had been fairly quiescent in the 50s and 60s, gained a new impetus as the ruling class began to feel the pinch and search around for an ideological tool to stem the rising democratic tide. It came to a head when the top 1% which had traditionally controlled about 40% of the wealth in the United States found their share reduced to approximately 20% in the early 70s (Pg. 121). The counterrevolution began in earnest. It was then that the Chicago School boys sharpened their neo-liberal apologia for capitalism, and their retooled 19th century theories were embraced by the denizens of the Business Roundtable, their friends in the Treasury Department and the White House. And so, in Henwood's words "...through benefit cutbacks by employers, outsourcing, speedup, permanent downsizing, cutbacks in regulation, the central-bank-led class war succeeded in more than doubling the profit rate for nonfinancial corporations between 1982 and 1997" (pg. 210).
Henwood is a numbers guy, and he uses them to debunk the capitalism's cheerleaders as well as its undisciplined detractors. Particularly refreshing is his analysis of the wooly-headed maunderings of the weird left who wish the turn the clock back to some imaginary proto-capitalist time where the nation state was the beneficent conduit of citizen's wishes and cultures were seamless, nurturing and healthy. These ideologues, he notes, are more than matched by those idealist economists who posit the existence of a perfect economic machine that someday (once the distortions of governments and people are eliminated) will bring forth a new millenium.
Henwood knows every move of that great unregenerate beast, and shows how it grows more red in tooth and claw with every upper-class tax cut, every gutted education and healthcare program, every downsized and rightsized American worker. Yet, admirably, in the midst of all the darkness, Henwood strikes sparks of furious, wicked laughter.

The Unconquerable World
The Unconquerable World
by Jonathan Schell
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 2.76

5.0 out of 5 stars Power In The People, Jan. 17 2004
Schell's identification of the phenomenon of "people's war," the
bottom-up fight for freedom waged by colonized peoples over the last 250
years is nothing short of revolutionary. The basis of the analytical framework he builds to explicate the different varieties of colonial oppression and local resistance, Schell historicizes people's war in its most important incarnations starting with the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's invasion, moving through Gandhi's non-violent formulation which he developed in South Africa and employed against the British in India, discussing how this form of resistance taken up by Martin Luther King to fight the people's war against the squalid Jim Crow regime in the American South. He notes that over time, "people's war" has been successful more often than it has not, that colonial regimes cannot win against forces which refuse to fight using oppressor's tactics, or use the narrow forms of redress, such as "working through the system," which are offered by those in power under the head of democracy.
He begins by examining the great military strategist Von Clausewitz's theory of warfare. In a section that it perhaps somewhat overlong, Schell takes apart Clausewitz in light of the changes in warfare since Clausewitz's time. Clausewitz did witness the first examples of total war in which every citizen was enlisted in the war as either a soldier or as a possible target of war -- the great "democratic" army of Napoleon, and wrote about it in contrast to prior European wars where relatively small forces of men fought limited conflicts for their aristocratic masters. What Clausewitz could not see was that with the emergence of the atomic bomb, total war was extended beyond competing nations, their peoples and ideologies, to include the entire world and the possible destruction of humanity. He notes, as does Jeremi Suri does in his history of the post-nuclear age, POWER AND THE PEOPLE, that the possession of nuclear weapons and the protests such weapons engendered (including the proxy wars fought by client states which became a feature of the post WWII landscape and were much more likely to end a global conflagration than skirmishes before the bomb) ultimately served to push together the Soviet Union and United States out of fear of their own people.
Schell also discusses various theories of power, including the Hobbesian justification of power, the Weberian observation that the state holds power by reserving the right to violence. He upends a lot of this theory by noting that fear and intimidation only work for so long. Eventually people begin, like water freezing in a crack in the sidewalk, to break apart the structures of such regimes. He discusses how Vaclav Havel and his friends during the Soviet occupation initiated a small scale alternative "government" which sought to deliver minimal social goods, a stop that worked to give citizens a way to see they could exert control over their own lives even in the shadow of the totalitarian state. This strategy that has been used since the American elite formed the Committees of Correspondence and the Continental Congress to throw off the oppressive economic policies of their colonial masters. The "people's government" was in place and thus Washington's task was to outlast his opponents so that this government could take its rightful place -- a strategy which has been used in successful "people's war" ever since. Once the state is made irrelevant, it ceases to exist, an analysis growing out of Hannah Arendt's discussions of power.
It is hard to do justice to a work like this in a short review. Schell advances a fairly radical theory here, but his evidence is sound, his argument is clear and straightforward (although a bit repetitive). Perhaps most compelling in this age of "terror," Schell helps us see that resistance against colonial powers and homegrown totalitarian regimes has a long history, and that for the most part, that people's war has been successful.

People's History of the Vietnam War
People's History of the Vietnam War
by Jonathan Neale
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 19.22

5.0 out of 5 stars Making Sense of Vietnam, Jan. 16 2004
Using a Marxist class perspective, Neale makes sense of the post WWII history of Vietnam in all its complexity. In fact, having read Neale's history, the standard nationalist histories which insist on nation states as the central actors, seem not just inadequate, but misleading. By emphasizing the clash of Vietnam's many masters and would-be masters, both colonial and local, including Asians -- Japanese and Chinese -- French, and U.S., Neale gives us compelling and instructive insights into time and a place that is now remebered by most Americans as the first war the U.S. ever lost, a war that created a syndrome that could only be overcome by winning the first Gulf War. Particularly good on how the French colonists and the Vietnamese landlord class ruled amicably for a number of years, the insurgence of the Marxist inspired North Vietnamese, followed by the arrival of the U.S. to prop up the French Catholic Vietnamese dictatorship in the name of global anti-communism. An excellent and even awesome achievment.

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