“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Leo Strauss' Political Philosophy: Reviled But Redeemed

By Peter Berkowitz

Real Clear Politics - August 16, 2014

“Always assume that there is one silent student in your class who is by far superior to you in head and in heart.” This is the counsel Leo Strauss, among the most consequential teachers and scholars of political philosophy in the 20th century, offered an advanced graduate student who had asked for a general rule about teaching.  In a short essay published in the early 1960s, “Liberal Education and Responsibility” (based on a public lecture he gave), Strauss elaborated on his exquisite advice. “Do not have too high an opinion of your importance,” he said, “and have the highest opinion of your duty, your responsibility.”   A German-born Jew who emigrated to the United States in the 1930s and who, at the peak of his career—from 1949 to 1967—served as a professor in the University of Chicago political science department, Strauss was the author of more than a dozen books and some 150 articles and reviews about political philosophy. He examined the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns on the importance of religion, the moral and scientific premises of the social sciences, the impact of persecution on the manner in which great works of political philosophy were composed and, not least, the centrality to politics and justice of education. He was a brilliant and beloved teacher. 

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A New Book: Leftover Women The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China

Leta Hong Fincher

Zed Books, 2014

A century ago, Chinese feminists fighting for the emancipation of women helped spark the Republican Revolution, which overthrew the Qing empire. After China's Communist revolution of 1949, Chairman Mao famously proclaimed that "women hold up half the sky." In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist Party sought to transform gender relations with expansive initiatives such as assigning urban women jobs in the planned economy. Yet those gains are now being eroded in China's post-socialist era. Contrary to many claims made in the mainstream media, women in China have experienced a dramatic rollback of many rights and gains relative to men.

Leftover Women debunks the popular myth that women have fared well as a result of post-socialist China's economic reforms and breakneck growth. Laying out the structural discrimination against women in China will speak to broader problems with China's economy, politics, and development.



Table of Contents
Introduction
1. China's 'leftover' women
2. How Chinese Women were shut out of the biggest accumulation of real-estate wealth in history
3. China's giant gender wealth gap
4. Back to the Ming dynasty
5. Wives caught in China's web of abuse
6. Fighting back

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A New Book: Expulsions By Saskia Sassen

Expulsions
Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

Saskia Sassen

Harvard University Press, 2014

Soaring income inequality and unemployment, expanding populations of the displaced and imprisoned, accelerating destruction of land and water bodies: today’s socioeconomic and environmental dislocations cannot be fully understood in the usual terms of poverty and injustice, according to Saskia Sassen. They are more accurately understood as a type of expulsion—from professional livelihood, from living space, even from the very biosphere that makes life possible.
This hard-headed critique updates our understanding of economics for the twenty-first century, exposing a system with devastating consequences even for those who think they are not vulnerable. From finance to mining, the complex types of knowledge and technology we have come to admire are used too often in ways that produce elementary brutalities. These have evolved into predatory formations—assemblages of knowledge, interests, and outcomes that go beyond a firm’s or an individual’s or a government’s project.
Sassen draws surprising connections to illuminate the systemic logic of these expulsions. The sophisticated knowledge that created today’s financial “instruments” is paralleled by the engineering expertise that enables exploitation of the environment, and by the legal expertise that allows the world’s have-nations to acquire vast stretches of territory from the have-nots. Expulsions lays bare the extent to which the sheer complexity of the global economy makes it hard to trace lines of responsibility for the displacements, evictions, and eradications it produces—and equally hard for those who benefit from the system to feel responsible for its depredations.

 Table of Contents:
  • Introduction: The Savage Sorting
  • 1. Shrinking Economies, Growing Expulsions
  • 2. The New Global Market for Land
  • 3. Finance and Its Capabilities: Crisis as Systemic Logic
  • 4. Dead Land, Dead Water
  • Conclusion: At the Systemic Edge
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Monday, August 4, 2014

A New Book: Topographies of Faith Religion in Urban Spaces

Edited by Irene Becci, Marian Burchardt, and José Casanova

Brill, 2013

Topographies of Faith offers a unique and compelling analysis of contemporary religious dynamics in metropolitan centers. While most scholarship on religion still sidelines questions of spatiality and scale, this book creatively draws on perspectives from urban studies to study the spatiality of religion in modern cities. It shows how globalization, transnational migration and urban expansion in big cities engender new religious forms and practices and their spatial underpinnings. Space affects urban religious diversity, religious innovations, decline or vitality. But it also shapes the relationships between religion and social equalities. Spanning distances between New York, Delhi and Johannesburg, the book also engages with issues of secularity and religious vitality in genuinely new ways.
Based on ethnographic explorations in cities across the globe,

Contents:
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A New Book: Max Weber: Modernisation as Passive Revolution

A Gramscian Analysis

Jan Rehmann, Union Theological Seminary and Free University, Berlin

BRILL, 2015

Basing his research on Gramsci's theory of hegemony, Rehmann provides a comprehensive socio-analysis of Max Weber's political and intellectual position in the ideological network of his time. Max Weber: Modernisation as Passive Revolution shows that, even though Weber presents his science as ‘value-free’, he is best understood as an organic intellectual of the bourgeoisie who has the mission of providing his class with an intense ethico-political education. Viewed as a whole, his writings present a new model for bourgeois hegemony in the transition to ‘Fordism’. Weber is both a sharp critic of a ‘passive revolution’ in Germany tying the bourgeois class to the interests of the agrarian class, and a proponent of a more modern version of passive revolution, which would foreclose a socialist revolution by the construction of an industrial bloc consisting of the bourgeoisie and labour aristocracy.

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