Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dennis C. Rasmussen's "The Infidel and the Professor"

Dennis C. Rasmussen is associate professor of political science at Tufts University. His books include The Pragmatic Enlightenment.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought, and reported the following:
David Hume and Adam Smith are two of the most important thinkers in the entire Western tradition: Hume is widely regarded as the greatest philosopher ever to write in English, and Smith is almost certainly history’s most famous theorist of commercial society. The two were, remarkably, best friends for most of their adult lives, and The Infidel and the Professor tells the story of that friendship.

The book is split roughly evenly between biography and philosophy. A number of the chapters focus principally on Hume’s and Smith’s lives and personal interactions, while others concentrate on their writings and the impact that each had on the other’s outlook. Page 99 falls in the midst of one of the latter chapters, the one that takes up Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments—a book that he always deemed “much superior” to his more famous work, The Wealth of Nations. Virtually the entirety of Smith’s book shows unmistakable signs of Hume’s influence, but he rarely adopted Hume’s views wholesale; on the contrary, he modified almost everything he touched. Page 99 marks the beginning of a section devoted to Smith’s departures from Hume on the question of the foundation of justice.

Both Hume and Smith use the term “justice” to mean nothing more (or less) than refraining from harming the life, liberty, and property of others, but they hold very different views of where this virtue comes from. Hume argues that the virtue of justice is founded entirely on its utility, i.e. that we approve of just conduct solely because it serves the public interest. Smith contends, however, that our sense of justice springs not from reflection on its usefulness but rather from the sentiment of resentment. When we witness an act of injustice—the murder of an innocent person or the theft of her life’s savings, say—we sympathize with the victim and our feelings of resentment on her behalf lead us to want to punish the wrongdoer, even without sitting back and thinking about the long-term impact that such actions have on society. Though this is far from the most central issue in the overall thought of Hume and Smith, it does capture nicely the character of their intellectual relationship—one marked by broad concurrence but also intriguing disagreements.
Learn more about The Infidel and the Professor at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 28, 2017

Eva Dillon's "Spies in the Family"

Eva Dillon spent twenty-five years in the magazine publishing business in New York City, including stints at Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, The New Yorker, and as president of Reader’s Digest, U.S. Dillon and her six siblings grew up moving around the world for her father's CIA assignments in Berlin, Mexico City, Rome, and New Delhi. She holds a bachelor’s in Music from Virginia Commonwealth University and lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dillon applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In the fall, Alexander and Petr entered the local grade school. Most of their classmates were from the neighborhood that surrounded the Officers’ House, kids whose parents worked in a nearby fabric factory or in one of the sector’s smaller industrial plants. Among the proletarian kids, Alexander and Petr stood out with their American clothes and foreign manners. Amerikanski, the two began hearing. Where do you live? When they answered “The Officer’s House,” it didn’t help.
Alexander and Petr are Soviet General Dmitri Polyakov’s sons. Shortly after volunteering to spy for the United States in 1961 while under cover at the United Nations in New York City, Polyakov, whose U.S. tour was coming to an end, returned to Moscow with his family, eventually to become America’s longest-serving, highest-ranking double agent. My father would become his handler, and together they would affect the outcome of the Cold War.

The book sets out to uncover the secret careers of both men, one representing the GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence) and the other the CIA, while also revealing the intimate stories of both families and their experiences as children of spies growing up on opposite sides of the Cold War. Onward from page 99, Alexander and Petr, who have lived most of their young lives (9 and 6 years, respectively) in the United States while their father was stationed there, enroll in Communist Youth Leagues in Moscow and struggle to fit in to what they know, but do not feel, is their Motherland. General Polyakov, however, despite his recent and secret offer, does not struggle with his allegiance to his country, and will pay the ultimate sacrifice for that devotion.

Over the next 17 years, Polyakov will disclose intelligence to the Americans on Soviet military planning, nuclear missiles systems, and chemical and biological weapons research. He eventually photographed thousands of pages of top-secret documents from the KGB and GRU, some, for example, detailing the American military technology their agents were directed to steal. Polyakov was key to informing the CIA on the Sino-Soviet political rift, which eventually led to President Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972. And perhaps most important, Polyakov disclosed to the Americans the Soviet government’s belief that it could not prevail in a nuclear confrontation with the U.S., significantly degrading the Kremlin’s ability to threaten America and her allies, and diffusing tensions – eventually leading to disarmament talks between the superpowers.

James Woolsey, CIA Director under President Clinton, said of Polyakov after his death: “Among all the secret agents recruited by the United States during the Cold War, Polyakov was the jewel in the crown ... What General Polyakov did for the West didn’t just help us win the cold war, it kept the cold war from becoming hot.”
Learn more about Spies in the Family at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ethan Kleinberg's "Haunting History"

Ethan Kleinberg is Professor of History and Letters at Wesleyan University and the author of Generation Existential: Heidegger's Philosophy in France, 1927–1961 (2005).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Haunting History: For a Deconstructive Approach to the Past, and reported the following:
Haunting History is about the ways we think about the past and “do” history at a moment when the digital revolution is changing how we conduct research, store materials, and write. Page 99 drops the reader into the middle of a chapter about deconstruction and the legacy of German historicism, specifically the figures of Johann Chladenius, Johann Gustav Droysen, and Wilhelm Dilthey, so it is neither the most accessible nor the sexiest portion of the book. One reason I look to these thinkers is that they are often used to justify current methodological approaches to the discipline of history wherein the past is presented as a stable and fixed object that can be represented accurately so long as the historian adheres to the proper methodological approach. But on page 99 I argue that such a reading does not account for the problematic relation of the historian to the historical object with which these thinkers all grappled.

“This understanding is based on the reappropriation and representation of the past event, not on the originary event itself ‘as it happened,’ but then erases or effaces the priority of the reappropriation/representation in favor of the holding power of the ‘originary event’ itself.”

Chladenius, Droysen and Dilthey all placed a heavy emphasis on the methodology of the historian in response to the instability unleashed by the realization that the past is absent and can only be articulated by the historian who is constrained by her/his own historical circumstance. Most modern day historians focus on the methodologies proffered by the historicists while downplaying the problems their methods were meant to address. Using the work of Derrida, I place the presumed stability of the historian in question by exploring the complex relation between the sources through which the past haunts the present and the historian who attempts to understand the presence of the past.

Page 99 exposes this instability but not my argument about the ways the past haunts us and can return to disturb our conventional historical narratives as well as our understanding of what the past and history is. To account for this play of absence and presence I advocate for a deconstructive approach attuned to a past that, like a ghost, is both present and absent. It also allows one to imagine modes of research and writing that would be impossible in a traditional monograph but can be accommodated in the digital realm.
Learn more about Haunting History at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chelsea Schelly's "Dwelling in Resistance"

Chelsea Schelly is an associate professor of sociology at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. She is the author of Crafting Collectivity: American Rainbow Gatherings and Alternative Forms of Community.

Schelly applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dwelling in Resistance: Living with Alternative Technologies in America, and reported the following:
From Page 99 of Dwelling in Resistance:
Evan has been a DR member for four years. His small cob home, which he built himself, is beautiful, with rounded corners and embellishment of colored class, and chaotic, with a disheveled feel you might expect in a home built by a young man who lives alone. He spent several summer breaks from college working on a cob home on family land, a project later abandoned to join DR because the life in the community provides “more freedom to do what I wanted to do anyway, like build a weird house. This is something you can’t really do in other places, because of money, like my own lack of money, and because of codes and what not that limit the kinds of things you can build. Here, I have liberty in pursuing a life I want to live.”
This glimpse into Evan’s life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (DR) contains snippets of insights encapsulating many of the themes addressed throughout the book. The themes cover a range of issues and scales, starting from personal, corporeal experience. Evan had practice with other “alternative” ways of living before coming to DR, including the very different and very physical experience of building your own home. This is a trait shared by many of the people I’ve met while exploring alternative communities: it seems that the very experience of doing something different (like building your own home, or using a composting toilet, or washing dishes without running water) can open up the possibility for accepting other forms of alternative technology and alternative living, which is why I suggest that such opportunities should be more widely available for people to experience the range of possibilities for residential life. Another theme relates to the structural limitations placed on the possibilities for alternative technology, as people face individual economic limits as well as limits imposed by building codes, zoning regulations, and other invisible systems of provision that shape the possibilities for organizing residential life. Finally, Evan invokes the ideas of “freedom” and “liberty” in explaining his choice to be a member of DR. This use of words helps to elucidate one of the central arguments of the book: people who are living with alternative technologies in alternative communities do not see their lives as involving sacrifice or limitations for the sake of environmental protection. Instead, they describe their lives as freer and more fulfilling because they choose to share resources and live with more decentralized technological systems, and they describe their motivations as related to pursuing freedom and liberty. An outsider might think that living in a community where you cannot own a personal vehicle (like DR) seems like an unacceptable limit to freedom. Yet people living with alternative technologies in alternative communities see the unending economic dependency associated with modern technologies (like paying for car insurance, maintenance, and fuel, as well as monthly bills for water, heating, cooling, and light) and the structural dependency of modern technologies (like how cities are built for cars rather than people and how we no longer have the knowledge or tools to meet our very subsistence needs) as fundamental sources of dependency and a lack of freedom. For them, the choice to dwell in resistance is fundamentally about pursuing a vision of freedom by fundamentally changing how technologies and communities are organized materially, economically, and socially.
Learn more about Dwelling in Resistance at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Alannah Tomkins's "Medical Misadventure"

Alannah Tomkins is a Professor in History at Keele University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Medical Misadventure in an Age of Professionalisation, 1780-1890, and reported the following:
Medical Misadventure is a book about the ways that professionalising doctors disappointed themselves and others in their attempts to become successful practitioners. Page 99 reflects this intention poignantly, as it falls in a chapter about professional disappointment among men who accepted postings in the Indian Medical Service (IMS).

The IMS had the advantage of offering qualified practitioners a reliable salary at a time when the rewards of medicine could be very uncertain. The British profession was heavily overstocked in the first half of the nineteenth century, so a medical degree might be a pathway to poverty rather than to a lucrative career. In this context a guaranteed income in one’s own preferred field of employment might look attractive; but service in India carried penalties too. It demanded an enforced removal from Britain for years at a time. Entitlement to leave might only come after nine or ten years in post, and the ability to take advantage of that entitlement might depend on the doctor’s having saved enough money to afford it. Men had to supply their own servants – an essential lifestyle feature for the British in India – and find that their salary was dependable but meagre in context. Page 99 dwells on these points, and later pages flag additional drawbacks. Frequent changes of posting meant that friendships could be fleeting and unsatisfactory, rivalries with fellow doctors for well-paid work could be intense, and the risk of dying in Asia was relatively high.

These reflections on professionalising medicine are important because, to date, the historical narrative has placed strong emphasis on success and progress rather than failure and disappointment. Doctors might have met every increasing expectation, from within and without the profession, with dignity and competence; however, lots of men suffered temporary setback or permanent curtailment of their careers in the attempt to become the perfect professional. This book tells their stories and urges for a more prominent place for understandable human failure in medicine, both past and present.
Learn more about Medical Misadventure at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gil G. Rosenthal's "Mate Choice"

Gil G. Rosenthal is professor of biology and of ecology and evolutionary biology at Texas A&M University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mate Choice: The Evolution of Sexual Decision Making from Microbes to Humans, and reported the following:
An important personal reason for writing this book was that I felt blinkered by focusing so much on my own experimental work on swordtail fish. It was both humbling and richly fulfilling to learn so much about what other people were doing using different experimental systems and theoretical approaches. I was therefore bemused to turn to page 99 and find it all devoted to the story of how people including myself have thought about mate preferences in swordtails over the past thirty years.

On the other hand, I purposefully used the swordtail narrative as a microcosm of the major themes I try to develop in the book. We started off thinking about the crudest possible preference rule – more is better. The scenario that we proposed was that females – implicitly, all females, all the time – preferred males conferring more gross visual stimulation – males that looked bigger. This bigger-is-better bias was ancient and hadn’t changed much for millions of years, since before there were even swordtails around.

The picture we have now of preferences, in swordtails as in other animals from stalk-eyed flies to Bengalese finches, is a vastly richer one, in which genes, environment, and culture interact to shape a rick diversity of desires and choices - among species, from one individual to the next, and even within the same individual at different times and in different contexts. Page 99 is in the introduction to chapter 4, where our understanding of preference mechanisms moves beyond low-level sensory responses and towards the sophisticated integration of complex stimuli using different senses. I go on to describe mate choice as an intricate process, where one’s genetic makeup and experiences can favor different partners before, during, and after mating. The rest of the book uses an understanding of these mechanisms to inform a view of how mate choice arises and evolves, and in turn how mate choice can both build up and erode genetic barriers between species. Finally, I suggest that work on mate-choice evolution in humans might more fruitfully consider the diversity and complexity of sexual choices in our own species.
Learn more about Mate Choice at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Margaret Morganroth Gullette's "Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People"

Margaret Morganroth Gullette is the author of prize-winning books (Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America and Declining to Decline), and of many essays cited as notable in Best American Essays. Gullette named the field of age studies in 1993 and has been expanding its multi-disciplinary range since. Her father briefly ran a nursery and taught her some of the skills she admires.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People, and reported the following:
Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People is arranged to present increasingly grave instances from the array of ageisms that my research uncovered. In each chapter, something fails the test of fairness, equality, or basic humane dealing. Some are glaring neglects in private or public life, grossly hostile speech, abusive images, cruel practices, threats, incitements to self-harm, or violence. In each chapter, suffering is allowed to speak.

Why does a book about the evils of ageism have a chapter with an odd title—“Vert de Gris, Rescuing the Land Lovers”--about small family farmers around the globe? These producers provide food for more billions than the agro-industrial complex I call Big Farma. Seventy percent, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, are women. Without these indispensable people who feed the world, you and I would not starve, but others would. How would the cash-poor eat, if they didn’t feed themselves?

To my mounting astonishment, I also discovered that most of these remarkable, neglected producers are old. In the US, the average age of the farm population is fifty-eight. Principal American farm operators over sixty-five, the hands-on farmers, now outnumber those under thirty-five by more than seven to one. Not a typo, but a statistic about endurance, not generally known. In the UK, the average age is fifty-nine. In Japan, it is sixty-seven. Thank heaven for the old woman, the old man, with the tractor or the hoe. Their situation is a cause for both gratitude and alarm.

Why is this not widely known? Why are their working conditions so harsh? Why don’t their governments assist them? If we care about hunger, food security, soil degradation, land theft, organic farming and environmental regeneration, we owe attention to these women and men in their plights. Justice may be as simple as listening to survivors and naming malefactors.

I want to give these people a little respect, as Walt Whitman did in “I Sing the Body Electric,” when he narrated his attraction to a farmer, a man of “wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person—he was wise also,” and then noted, in passing, that the man was eighty years old. Page 99 shares with readers some of the suffering and losses that make old farmers the stoic heroes of the vulnerable Earth we all depend on.
Within the fierce macro-history of land losses, physical aging seems a lesser factor. Many researchers count sixty as “old” in censuses of farm work. It might be truer to conditions on the ground to put “old” at fifty-five or even fifty, depending on rural life expectancy in a given country. Ill health in later life represents the accumulated effects of life-long deprivations: farming, despite its cardiovascular benefits, is hard on the body. The risk of injuries and death is higher than in other professions. Exhausting labor and repetitive motions take their toll on the musculoskeletal system. The exposure to sun ravages the skin and damages the eyes; exposure to pesticides can cause organ failure. A 2014 report by the FAO and HelpAge International found that 76.8 percent of the elderly small-holders they surveyed suffered from chronic ailments, including hypertension, backache, vision problems, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Women live longer than men in many developing countries, too. Those who married young and had many children too young are likely to suffer more than men from ill health as they age. One Chinese woman of seventy-three offered a definition: “When one feels too weak to work, one becomes an old person.”

As people lose strength, the need to tend either a garden or a farm can be “acutely depressing and enforce feelings of powerlessness as others may need to be employed to carry out tasks once carried out by oneself with ease.” Frustrations undermine “the long-felt ontological security of ‘home,’ and give rise to the feeling of ‘not being at home.’ ” Past prime working age, some [who can] do leave. [In the United States they may] move closer to their urbanized families to be looked after or to get better access to social and health services and transportation than exist in their isolated and dispersed communities. Others defiantly choose to age in place in overlarge troublesome houses precisely because they can’t face a dismal urban future. They plant seeds in a south-facing window.

Moving away from whatever land they possessed, displaced land lovers find themselves in places where almost everything at ground level is hard-scaping: brick, mortar, concrete, iron. They sit in parks with flowers they can’t touch, grass they are forbidden to walk on, shrubs they could prune better, not a vegetable in sight. Some may like surcease from toil, but to my mind the neatly tended public park fails the public. In cities suffering from disinvestment, residents walk past expensive or substandard grocery stores, toxic dumps, and vacant lots that attract trash, drug dealers, junked cars, and kids with no other place to play. Where are their healing gardens, their fresh vegetables, their aerobic exercise, their chances for chat and longevity?
Page 99 is notable for its intersectional homage, but my favorite pages are the last two of the whole book, “A Declaration of Grievances.” In designer Carolyn Kerchof’s elegant version, a poster of the pages is available free for download.
Learn more about Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wendy L. Rouse's "Her Own Hero"

Wendy L. Rouse teaches United States History and social science teacher preparation at San Jose State University. Her research interests include childhood, family, and gender history during the Progressive Era.

Rouse applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women's Self-Defense Movement, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Her Own Hero is a perfect page to sum up the main point of the book. This page includes one of the many images I found through the course of my research and is especially relevant because it was an image just like this one that first inspired me to write this book. In fact, if I could have written the book solely as a series of images, I definitely would have since there were so many great illustrations. Pictures can be much more powerful than words.

The particular image on page 99 shows a woman physically fighting back against an attacker on the street. Dressed in the attire typical of a respectable middle class woman of the early twentieth century, this woman’s actions seem anything but typical. Her Own Hero is the story of women, like her, who defied gender boundaries and stretched the limits of acceptable feminine behavior by learning jiu-jitsu and boxing.

Industrialization and urbanization as well as the expansion of women’s rights in the early twentieth century combined to increasingly draw women out into the public world for school, work, and leisure. Yet, the presence of women in what were viewed as traditionally male spaces generated a great deal of backlash. Mashers (a slang term used to describe men who made unwanted sexual advances toward women) harassed women on the streets, making many women fear for their personal safety. Numerous cases of violent physical attacks and sexual assaults made headlines and generated even more anxiety about women in the public sphere. Law enforcement intervened when willing and able, but most women recognized that the police could not be everywhere at once. When women were told that they should probably just stay at home or wait for a male family member to accompany and protect them, they rejected that idea and determined to empower themselves as their own defenders and to physically assert their right to public space.

Her Own Hero explores the variety of ways that women learned to fight back and the political implications of their new physical empowerment.
Learn more about Her Own Hero at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sharon Sassler & Amanda Jayne Miller's "Cohabitation Nation"

Sharon Sassler is Professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. Amanda Jayne Miller is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships, and reported the following:
From 2003 to 2006 we set out to learn more about an increasingly popular trend among today’s young adults – cohabitation. We interviewed 31 middle class, college educated couples (most of whom worked in professions like architecture, education, business, and health care) and 30 couples we labeled “service class,” who mostly worked in fields like data entry, telemarketing, retail, and food service, and whose education had mostly stopped either a high school degree or some college classes. In the past, these less educated men might have been labeled “working class,” but few worked in blue collar professions. We gathered the stories of their relationships, from when and how they started dating, what precipitated their decision to move in together, to how they shared responsibilities for domestic chores, family planning, and discussions about their futures.

Page 99 of our book is from the chapter, “Family Planning or Failing to Plan?” In it, individuals discuss the prerequisites they believe should be met before they have a child together. While nearly half of our service couples (14) already have a child, often from one partner’s prior relationships, few of our middle class couples are parents. As we open the book to its middle, we read about what the middle class believes should be in place before becoming parents. In general, this meant financial stability, but this was, for them, more than just being able to feed their child an adequate diet.
David, a 30 year old retirement planner, elaborated what financial stability meant to him. “I guess that means to have a certain balance in your bank account, a certain cash flow every month, knowing that you don’t have to rent, you can buy a house, that’s what financially stable means to me.” In light of parenting, he explained that it meant “knowing that you can afford more for the kids, their activities and this and that.” Middle class respondents often mentioned that they wanted to settle into their jobs or climb the corporate ladder prior to embarking on parenthood, or that they wanted their partners to do that. Bree, a 25-year-old accountant, earned more than her partner but wanted to stay home with her children for the first few years of their lives. She explained, “Financially right now everything is really good. I know that he wants to move up in his job, so it would probably be good to wait a couple of years, until he’s really comfortable where he is.” Karen, a 24-year-old graduate student, wanted to defer children to a point in the future where she would be “more established at that point with my career, where I want to be and what I want to be doing and hopefully settled in, you know, where he will have worked for long enough too that we can be in a steady place.” For these respondents, becoming established took time, and therefore childbearing would have to be delayed.
In many ways, the approach to planning children encapsulated the major differences between service and middle class couples on other fronts. As they did with family planning, our middle class respondents were better able to communicate their desires, had time lines for the optimal time for events to occur (such as the appropriate timing to begin discussing engagement and marriage), and were generally amenable to negotiating with partners. Our service class respondents, in contrast, were more often reacting to the imperfect hand they were dealt, and often lacked the ability to articulate a desired life plan, perhaps because they had already been thrown so many curves. Their experiences, therefore, differed dramatically. They moved in together more rapidly, often due to economic exigencies; they experienced unintended pregnancies, even though many were already parents; and their economic situations did not enable them to anticipate enough stability to desire to take the next step in their relationship towards marriage – engagement.
Learn more about Cohabitation Nation at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Niall Kishtainy's "A Little History of Economics"

Niall Kishtainy is a writer, economist and historian, and teaches economic history at LSE.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, A Little History of Economics, and reported the following:
On page 99 of A Little History of Economics, I present the central idea of The Theory of the Leisure Class, which was written at the end of the nineteenth century by the iconoclastic American economist, Thorstein Veblen. Page 99 is a fragment of the long story of economics, which I lay out over 40 chapters beginning in ancient times and ending in the present. Yet Veblen’s idea concerns a fundamental economic question which runs through much of the book: what governs people’s economic behaviour?

In the late nineteenth century the conventional view began to emerge that people make economic decisions rationally: they accurately weigh up the costs and benefits of buying this car or taking that job and then choose accordingly. Veblen looked at the matter differently. He thought that people decide less on the basis of abstract principles of rationality than on instinct and habit, which are shaped by deep-seated social and cultural conditions. This gave him an unusual perspective on capitalist society, as shown in the following sentences from page 99 of my book:
On the face of it, capitalism looks as if it has nothing at all in common with ancient societies of tribespeople with their rain dances, sacrifices of animals to the gods and gifts of shells to neighbouring villages. Rational people in capitalist societies are engaged in buying, selling and profit-making. But in fact, says Veblen, if you look closely you’ll see primitive customs living on in the modern economy. We buy things not so much to satisfy our own desires as a completely rational person would, but in order to be approved of by others.
Veblen tells us that in early societies people gained prestige by being powerful enough not to have to work; ploughing fields and chopping logs came to be seen as demeaning. The American economy of the Gilded Age was much the same, he said. Rich people lived off interest from their inherited fortunes and didn’t have to do any real work. They achieved social status by showing off their jewellery and fur coats. They were the ‘leisure class’ devoted to socially wasteful ‘conspicuous consumption’.

Although Veblen’s kind of economics is today out of fashion, in recent decades economists began to unpick the idea of ‘rational economic man’ and to base new explanations of economic behaviour on psychological theories. They’ve also become increasingly sensitive to the potentially damaging effects of extreme concentrations of wealth; some argue that today’s high levels are the sign of a second Gilded Age. Page 99 of the book, a mere glimpse at the thought of a now neglected economist, is therefore a window onto two fundamental debates in economics that continue to this day.
Visit Niall Kishtainy's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 11, 2017

Erika Gasser's "Vexed with Devils"

Erika Gasser is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Vexed with Devils: Manhood and Witchcraft in Old and New England, and reported the following:
Vexed with Devils analyzes published cases of demonic possession and witchcraft-possession (when those who suffered the spectral torments associated with demonic possession also named a witch as the cause) in England and New England from approximately 1564 to 1700. It examines the role of gender in published accounts about men and women who performed the symptoms of possession, and analyzes particular cases of men who were accused of witchcraft by possessed accusers or who published possession propaganda. Despite the overwhelming association of witchcraft with women, I argue that manhood was a crucial factor in the articulation of judgment upon both the women and men who were implicated in these incidents.

Page 99 features a long quotation by Cotton Mather, the eminent New England Puritan minister, from the introduction to one of his books in which he expresses his determination to publish his own book alongside those of greater men, in an elegant combination of arrogance and humility: “Go then, my little book, as a Lackey to the more elaborate Essayes of those learned men.” That sentence always makes me smile, because I can’t help but be captivated by Mather’s complexities. He believed that he and his family knew how to order New England as a proper godly colony and dared to hope that he was among God’s predestined Saints, but the Puritan denial of assurance meant that he constantly struggled between an overweening pride and an awareness of his unworthiness. Mather wrote that in 1689, just before the well-known Salem witchcraft trials in 1692, and despite his reaching for modesty the tone broadcasts his confidence. I have found it very interesting to observe how his tone changed over the next few years.

The long quotation speaks to a very specific moment, and so in that sense the first half of the page may not represent the book as a whole, but later on in the page I reiterate one of its central tenets, that “Mather drew upon a tradition of English witchcraft-possession writing, from the controversies of the late sixteenth century to the cases that had emerged across the seventeenth century. Despite fluctuations in the volume of printed cases, and the dramatic political, religious, and social turmoil of the period, claims to interpret preternatural phenomena remained closely implicated in claims to patriarchal authority and order.” I go on to explain that at the cultural level, manhood and womanhood continued to matter for all participants in possession cases in ways that show considerable continuity rather than the decline of credulity we expect and associate with the Enlightenment. In the end, I do think that page 99 gives a kind of encapsulation of the book, with the added bonus of a window into Cotton Mather’s particular struggles.
Learn more about Vexed with Devils at the NYU Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mitch Kachun's "First Martyr of Liberty"

Mitch Kachun is Professor of History at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is author of Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915 and co-editor of The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Bride: A Rediscovered African American Novel by Julia C. Collins.

Kachun applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, First Martyr of Liberty: Crispus Attucks in American Memory, and reported the following:
Page 99 contains a full-page image: a line drawing from Arthur Huff Fauset’s 1927 book for young readers, For Freedom: A Biographical Story of the Negro. The image shows Attucks giving a speech to a crowd of white Boston colonists. This image and the text from pages 98 and 100 touch on some of the book’s central themes.

We have little evidence about Crispus Attucks. Probably, Attucks was born a slave in Massachusetts around 1723 and was of mixed African and Native American ancestry. He escaped in 1750, then worked as a sailor and dockworker. On March 5, 1770, Attucks was part of a Boston mob harassing British troops. The troops fired and Attucks and four others were killed in what came to be known as the Boston Massacre.

Over the past 250 years, Attucks has often been presented as an American patriot, the first to die for American Independence. However, some have argued that he was either a street thug who got what he deserved or merely an insignificant bystander. Americans continue to debate who Attucks was and how (or if) he should be remembered.

First Martyr of Liberty explores the relationship between Attucks’s actual life and the myths that have grown around him. I examine literature, poetry, drama, music, art, television, histories, textbooks, commemorations, and more to clarify what we actually know about Attucks and to illustrate how Americans go about constructing a shared public understanding of the nation’s past.

The chapter that includes page 99 examines the 1920s and 1930s, a period shaped by the mass migration of blacks into northern cities; the cultural flowering of the Harlem Renaissance; the expanding political activism of the New Negro movement; and the emergence of movies, radio, and other mass media. Page 98 discusses Fauset’s book and several other works that present wild speculations about Attucks as if they were facts. It is extremely unlikely, for example, that Attucks gave public speeches. Page 100 discusses the emergence in the 1920s of a new wave of highly trained black scholars researching and writing black history. This section exemplifies African Americans’ longstanding efforts to incorporate their story into the mainstream narrative of American history, while also demonstrating the problems with trying to create a plausible story about Attucks that can be supported with evidence.

In the 21st century Americans continue to debate Crispus Attucks’s place in the nation’s history. First Martyr of Liberty engages the paradoxes and politics involved with remembering and forgetting and illuminates the contested terrain upon which we construct our understandings of American heroes, American patriotism, the American historical narrative, and the question of who “belongs” as a part of the nation and its story. I hope you’ll give it a look!
Learn more about First Martyr of Liberty at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: First Martyr of Liberty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 7, 2017

Noah Benezra Strote's "Lions and Lambs"

Noah Benezra Strote is associate professor of European history at North Carolina State University. He is a former fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Lions and Lambs: Conflict in Weimar and the Creation of Post-Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
Page 99 throws the reader into a dramatic scene of Lions and Lambs. It is December 1932 in Germany, many are speaking about the possibility of civil war, and the embattled chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher – the last man to serve in that position before Adolf Hitler – is giving an unrealistic speech about unity and mutual respect. Here, as in the entire first half of the book, I present a new interpretation of the historic failure of Germany’s first experiment with liberal democracy known as the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). Unlike previous scholars, who have often claimed that the republic collapsed due to political immaturity and economic crisis, I show that democratic institutions in Germany became unworkable because national elites held incompatible visions for the country’s future. With their elected leaders opposed to one another like “lions and lambs,” many opted for the decisiveness of a dictator.

The page is part of a section in which I explain a troubling phenomenon related to the democratic collapse: as German politics became more polarized, why did so many conservative Christians ally with Hitler’s hate-filled Nazi Party, and why did so few speak out against its antisemitic ideology? An unexpected reason, I found, was that in the preceding decades, Christian leaders desperately feared that their religion was losing its age-old influence on key public institutions such as the judiciary and the school system. They chose to cooperate with the Nazis largely because Hitler promised to establish Germany as a “Christian state” and to defeat the left, whom they had come to perceive as enemies.

Page 99 therefore reveals an essential aspect of the history I reconstruct in Lions and Lambs. In the second half of the narrative, which begins on Page 147, the action shifts from the intractability of political conflict to the creation of political consensus after the fall of Nazism. The remainder of the book demonstrates how the very same men and women who had once perceived each other as “enemies” ended up collaborating in the reconstruction of liberal democracy after 1945 in what became the Federal Republic of Germany, otherwise known as West Germany. Both sides of the earlier conflict – in this case conservative Christians and the more secular left – made painful compromises on previously held values as a price for consensus and stability. In this way, the book presents a pre-history of present-day Germany, where, in no small part due to the memory of Nazism, a majority still values compromise and stability above all kinds of political experimentation.
Learn more about Lions and Lambs at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Jean Kazez's "The Philosophical Parent"

Jean Kazez teaches philosophy at Southern Methodist University. She is the author of Animalkind: What We Owe to Animals and The Weight of Things: Philosophy and the Good Life.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Philosophical Parent: Asking the Hard Questions about Having and Raising Children, and reported the following:
Page 99 is the first page of chapter seven: “Whose Child is This?” Here’s how the chapter begins:
You’ve decided to have a child, conceived and gestated her, and given birth. Now what? You hold your child, gaze upon her in awe, feed her, kiss her—her, the child you gave birth to. It’s so important that you do all these things with the right child that every baby wears an identification bracelet in the hospital nursery, and mix-ups are regarded as a total fiasco.

Are mix-ups really a fiasco? Most people think so, including the very rare person who is involved in one. Sue McDonald and Marti Miller were both born in Wisconsin in 1951, and raised in the same small town. Mary Miller, who gave birth to Sue, suspected a mix-up when she brought her new baby home from the hospital...
I tell this story, which I heard on a 2008 episode of This American Life, to broach the question why parents have a right to bring home and raise their biological children. The Miller family did a perfectly good job of raising Marti; the McDonald family did a perfectly good job of raising Sue. But everyone was terribly upset when the mix-up came to light. The situation violated the norm that says biological parents ought to know which child is theirs, and should have the prerogative to bring that child home.

But why is that the norm? The prerogative-to-raise part of the question becomes particularly acute in a better-off-elsewhere situation, a situation in which there is one baby, a set of biological parents, and also a much better equipped set of prospective parents. Why is it up to the biological parents, assuming they’re not unfit, whether they raise the child?

As simple and fundamental as the question is, there isn’t agreement among philosophers about the answer. Some think that biological parents don’t actually have special prerogatives—that we assume that they do only out of a sort of “blood bias.” I examine that idea in chapter 8, but in Chapter 7 I present my own position, which centers on the idea that, to their creators, children are “second selves but separate.” The basic idea can be found in Aristotle, but I expand on it and argue that it helps us understand parental prerogatives, including the prerogative to raise the child you’ve brought into the world.
Learn more about The Philosophical Parent at Jean Kazez's website and the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sarah M. Stitzlein's "American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens"

Sarah M. Stitzlein is Professor of Education and Affiliated Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She earned her bachelor's degree in Philosophy and master's degree in Curriculum & Teacher Leadership from Miami University and earned her doctorate in Philosophy of Education from the University of Illinois. Her primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education, pragmatism, educational equality, political agency, and education for democracy. Her previous books, Teaching for Dissent: Political Activism and Citizenship Education and Breaking Bad Habits of Race and Gender: Transforming Identity in Schools earned her the American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award.

Stitzlein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens: Supporting Democracy in the Age of Accountability, and reported the following:
Indeed, page 99, gets at the heart of my book and the argument I put forth within it. In fact, it is the place in the book where I lay out one of my most fundamental claims. There, I differentiate accountability—including the blaming of teachers that we’ve heard so much about in recent years—from responsibility. Whereas, accountability is typically a backward-looking determination of whether a person or institution has fulfilled its duties, I explain how responsibility is forward-driven action concerned with the well-being of others. In the context of education, and most notably for teachers, this means care for children. But, in the larger context as democratic citizens, I explain that we also have a role responsibility relative to public schools. “In other words, certain obligations and concerns for consequences result from the nature of being a citizen bound to others in economic, political, social, and normative relationships or through shared experiences and problems” (p. 99). In order to keep democracy strong, we have a responsibility to protect institutions, such as public schools, that facilitate just and equitable opportunities for living good lives amongst our future generations.

This point about our responsibility as citizens is fundamental to my larger claims in this book. While we often hear about the poor performance of students and teachers, the current educational crisis is at heart not about accountability, but rather citizen responsibility. Yet, citizens increasingly do not feel that public schools are our schools, that we have influence over them or responsibility for their outcomes. Citizens have become watchdogs of public institutions largely from the perspective of consumers, without seeing ourselves as citizens who compose the public of public institutions. Accountability becomes more about finding failure and placing blame on our schools and teachers, rather than about taking responsibility as citizens for shaping our expectations of schools, determining the criteria we use to measure their success, or supporting schools in achieving those goals.

This book sheds light on recent shifts in education and citizenship, helping the public to understand not only how schools now work, but also how citizens can take an active role in shaping them. It provides citizens with tools, habits, practices, and knowledge necessary to support schools. It offers a vision of how we can cultivate citizens who will continue to support public schools and thereby keep democracy strong.
Learn more about American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Yaniv Roznai's "Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments"

Yaniv Roznai is an assistant professor at the Radzyner Law School of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC). He specializes in comparative constitutional law, constitutional theory, legisprudence, and public international law. Roznai holds a PhD and LLM from the London School of Economics, and LLB and BA degrees in law and government from the IDC. He is also an elected board member and secretary general of the Israeli Association of Public Law.

Roznai applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments: The Limits of Amendment Powers, and reported the following:
The book deals with the question, can constitutional amendments be unconstitutional? One of the most widely debated issues in comparative constitutional theory, constitutional design, and constitutional adjudication. The book describes and analyses the increasing tendency in global constitutionalism to substantively limit formal changes to constitutions.

When I opened page 99 (with great curiosity!) in order to see whether it is representative of the book, I was amused at first sight; the page appears in a chapter which is relatively secondary to the book’s main questions: a chapter on “supra-constitutional unamendability” which examines limitations on constitutional amendment powers that are external to the constitutional system and above it, such as natural law or international law. The first half of the page deals with Switzerland, the constitution of which grants “explicit constitutional recognition to the position that jus cogens norms of international law were a limitation to constitutional amendments.” Ford’s statement, I thought, was completely inaccurate for the book. However, after a second thought, and when thinking of the second part of the page, it actually appears that much can be learned from page 99. I quote here the final paragraph of that page in full:
At first glance, the above examples demonstrate that, in some jurisdictions, international law may be normatively positioned even above the constitution itself. However, one must be cautious when evaluating such alleged supremacy of international law within the domestic constitutional order: as Gerald Neuman remarks, ‘even if a constitutional provision accords supremacy to international law, that provision itself will be subject to amendment, if necessary by resort to the constitution-giving power of the people’. This observation demands clarification. An ordinary constitutional provision granting international law supremacy can indeed be subject to future amendments. However, if such a constitutional provision were to be drafted as an ‘unamendable’ provision, it would bind the amendment powers. Hence, an explicit unamendability to not violate certain rules of international law would also apply to constitutional amendment powers. Of course, a similar unamendable provision would not limit or bind the original constituent power.
This paragraph provides, firstly, a mini-summary of that chapter. Nowadays, certain rules of international law now impose limits on what can be accomplished through formal constitutional change. However, such supremacy of international law, I argue, is still qualified as it is based on the constitution itself which may provide such superiority. Nonetheless, the constitution may be amended or replaced by a new constitution. Secondly, this paragraph provides insights into the book’s larger argument: explicit limits on constitutional amendment power are valid and restrict the holder of amendment powers. The amendment power is a delegated legal competence which must obey those explicit conditions stipulated in the constitution. To amend the constitution so as to abolish unamendable principles would be an “unconstitutional constitutional amendment”. However, in their primary constitution-making capacity, the people’s – not the delegated organs – can change even unamendable provisions via a proper channel of higher-level democratic participation and deliberations.

By using constitutional theory and a wide comparative study, the book thus aims to explain what the nature of amendment power is, what its limitations are, and what the role of constitutional courts is and should be when enforcing limitations on constitutional amendments.
Learn more about Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue