Sunday, September 30, 2018

Jennifer McKitrick's "Dispositional Pluralism"

Jennifer McKitrick is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she has worked since 2004.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dispositional Pluralism, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Dispositional Pluralism is the final page of Chapter 4, “The Metaphysics of Dispositional Pluralism,” one of the central chapters of the book. Dispositional Pluralism is the view that dispositional properties are abundant and diverse. On this view, when something has a disposition, it is such that, if it were in a certain kind of circumstance, a certain kind of effect would occur. Dispositions include such varied properties as character traits like a hero’s courage, characteristics of physical objects like a wine glass’s fragility, and characteristics of microphysical entities like an electron’s charge. Some dispositions are natural while others are non-natural. Some dispositions called “powers” are ungrounded while non-fundamental dispositions are grounded in other properties. Some dispositions manifest constantly, some of them manifest spontaneously, while others manifest only when they are triggered to do so. Some dispositions manifest by causing another dispositional property to be instantiated, while others have manifestations that involve non-dispositional properties and relations. Some dispositions are intrinsic to their bearers while others are extrinsic. Some of them are causally relevant to their manifestations while others are not. Some dispositions manifest in some particular way in particular circumstances, while other dispositions manifest in various ways in various circumstances. While some of the chapters of Dispositional Pluralism are revised versions my previous publications, Chapter 4 is all new material, in which I dig deep to uncover the metaphysical assumptions I have been making in my work for years. On page 99, I am comparing my views to Ann Whittle’s causal nominalism. While Whittle and I agree that there are fundamental counterfactual facts (what she calls functional facts), my view differs from Whittle’s in that I maintain the ontological reality of properties, non-dispositional properties, and powers. The page, and the chapter closes with the following: “This concludes my articulation of the metaphysical assumptions that underlie Dispositional Pluralism. In the following chapters, I explore the nature of manifestations and circumstances of manifestation, and go on to argue that dispositions can be extrinsic, ungrounded, and causally relevant.”
Learn more about Dispositional Pluralism at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 28, 2018

Russell Campbell's "Codename Intelligentsia"

Russell Campbell is Adjunct Associate Professor of Film at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His previous books include Cinema Strikes Back: Radical Filmmaking in the United States, 1930-1942; Marked Women: Prostitutes and Prostitution in the Cinema; and Observations: Studies in New Zealand Documentary. Campbell applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Codename Intelligentsia: The Life and Times of the Honourable Ivor Montagu, Filmmaker, Communist, Spy, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with Ivor Montagu’s reflection on being partially disinherited by his father, the immensely wealthy 2nd Baron Swaythling, because he had married a typist:
It is clear from Ivor’s unpublished autobiographical manuscript, written forty odd years later, that the partial disinheritance rankled, even while he acknowledged the privileged position a private income afforded him. ‘Two- fifths of a loaf is very much more comfortable than no bread,’ he observes philosophically. ‘I could be a rebel with comparative impunity.’ And he quotes William Morris, who ‘puts it rather caustically’:
When the poor man thinks – and rebels, the whip lies ready anear;
But he who is a rebel and rich may live soft for many a year,
While he warms his heart with pictures of all the glory to come.
The interest income turned out to be roughly equivalent to the allowance he had been receiving; and while he could not touch the capital, he could raise credit on it.
The passage is typical of the book’s portrait of Montagu as a highly educated and intelligent Englishman from a privileged background who chose to revolt against his class and throw in his lot with Communists. His private income, modest though it was, allowed him to devote his time to political causes throughout his life without too much concern about making a living.

The bulk of the page describes the type of jobbing film editing work Montagu was then (1927) engaged in:
Montagu’s working life was at this time mainly centred on Brunel’s editing company in Dansey Yard. ‘The variety of the work,’ Brunel was to write, ‘was one of its many attractive qualities. We never knew from week to week what would be coming in. Next week’s film might be American, Burmese, or Japanese; it might be a spy drama, a village comedy or a medical instructional film. Again, anything might happen in connection with the work; one of us might have to go to Berlin, Rome or Paris; or F. J. Perry, the [future] tennis champion, might call in for a game of table tennis with Ivor, his coach; or we might have a sudden trade-show job, requiring three or four of us to go down to a film studio and work on the editing of a film for forty-eight hours without going to bed...’ Montagu confirms that ‘people would call us in to remedy a catastrophe, or when they were unexpectedly short-handed, or if an unscheduled problem cropped up.’ The bread and butter, however, remained the preparation of English versions of foreign productions.
The description gives the flavour of Montagu’s versatility, and in fact he became a jack-of-all-trades in the film industry, being at various times (and sometimes simultaneously) editor, scriptwriter and script editor, cameraman, director, producer, importer, distributor and exhibitor. He was also a critic, campaigner against censorship, and activist in the film technicians’ union. The paragraph, too, references another of Ivor’s passions, table tennis. Montagu was a pioneer in the revival of table tennis as a competitive sport, and later its longstanding international administrator, but the tale has been told elsewhere and I mention it only in passing in Codename Intelligentsia.

Page 99 is not typical of the book as a whole as it does not deal with Montagu’s manifold political activities, which are the major focus of the biography. Ivor declared himself a socialist at the age of thirteen and scandalised his parents by becoming a teenage radical. He took an active part in the 1926 General Strike, corresponded with and befriended Trotsky in his Turkish exile and campaigned for his admission to the UK, joined the Communist Party in 1931 and became a functionary in the Friends of the Soviet Union, took part in numerous anti-fascist activities, worked as a leftwing journalist and lecturer, spied for Soviet military intelligence, and eventually devoted a decade of his life to the secretariat of the Moscow-backed World Peace Council. So dedicated to the cause was he that he upheld the probity of the Moscow show trials and denied the existence of the Great Terror even as many of his comrades and associates were being liquidated. It is probing the psychology of the committed Stalinist that is at the heart of Codename Intelligentsia.
Learn more about Codename Intelligentsia at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Bas van der Vossen and Jason Brennan's "In Defense of Openness"

Bas van der Vossen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University. He's the author of Debating Humanitarian Intervention, together with Fernando Teson, and has edited the Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism, together with Jason Brennan and David Schmidtz.

Jason Brennan is the Flanagan Family Professor at Georgetown University. He is the author or co-author of nine books, including Against Democracy and When All Else Fails: Resistance, Violence, and State Injustice.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, In Defense of Openness: Why Global Freedom Is the Humane Solution to Global Poverty, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Justifying Human Rights

The first step in the argument is to identify a way of defending productive rights. This section outlines a sufficient condition for justifying human rights. The condition consists of two parts, each of which reflects a strand of the most commonly accepted way of justifying rights: the interest theory of rights.

On this approach, human rights can be justified by demonstrating that they serve certain key and universal human interests, sufficient for holding others to be under a (corresponding) duty. The two parts of the condition track different ways in which rights might serve people’s interests. One is by serving basic and universal interests of right-holders themselves. Thus, a human right to shelter could be justified by showing that it will serve people’s interests in maintaining their health, privacy, and safety, given the significance of these interests and the absence of defeating considerations.

The second is by serving key universal interests of people in society more generally. The right to freedom of speech might be justified by showing how it serves our shared interests in living in a society characterized by free and open debate. Even if the interests of individual speakers would be insufficient for this task (on the first condition), we can justify this right by showing how it serves these shared interests, again given their significance and the absence of defeating considerations.

This second strand reflects the idea that human rights function as parts of a broader international legal system. And we can judge such systems in holistic ways. A justified system of human rights should form a coherent whole, something in which individual rights function in mutually reinforcing ways. If the inclusion of a certain right or set of rights strengthens the overall fabric of the human rights system, then this counts toward the inclusion of that right into the system. If (a) the system of human rights as a whole can be justified, and (b) a certain right or set of rights helps it work better, that is a strong reason for recognizing said right.
There’s an odd disconnect between economists and philosophers on issues of global poverty. Economists both Left and Right generally agree that certain institutions are necessary for prolonged economic growth and to escape from poverty: secure property rights free of the risk of government appropriation, stable government under the rule of law, and open markets. Economists are generally skeptical that foreign aid or global redistribution can do much more than alleviate some of the worst suffering; few think it can end world poverty, and many think aid to countries with extractive regimes makes things worse. Yet, for whatever reason, philosophers seem uninterested in development or institutional economics, and tend to instead advocate doing the exact opposite of what economists advocate.

In chapters 2-6, we argue on both moral and economic grounds that governments around the world should adopt open borders and free trade policies—thus the title In Defense of Openness.

On page 99, in chapter 7, we argue that certain productive economic rights, including A) the right to start a business, B) to make trades with foreigners free of tariffs and protectionism, C) to own productive property, and D) to move to work wherever one pleases, should be considered universal human rights. That is, these are rights that should be recognize and respected by governments everywhere. Our argumentative strategy is very simple: We take the standard kinds of reasons other philosophers use to identify what makes something a human right, and then show that by these pre-existing standards, A-D qualify as human rights even more than the kinds of things other philosophers claim are human rights.
Visit Jason Brennan's website and Bas van der Vossen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ann Pearlman's "Infidelity"

Ann Pearlman has won vast critical and commercial success for her fiction and nonfiction books. Keep the Home Fires Burning: How to Have an Affair With Your Spouse garnered the attention of the Oprah Winfrey Show and was featured on many other talk shows. Her memoir, Infidelity, was nominated for National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, and made into a Lifetime movie by Lionsgate. Inside the Crips, with a foreword by Ice T, took readers into the life of a Crip gang member and the California Prison system. Her first novel, The Christmas Cookie Club, became an international bestseller, spawning cookie exchanges and a follow-up cookbook. A Gift for My Sister won first place in the Sharp Writ Book Awards, 2013. She lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

Pearlman applied the “Page 99 Test” to the re-released edition of Infidelity and reported the following:
Page 99 of Infidelity centers on ethnicity and race in an American family, which is a secondary theme of my memoir. Every family in the United States has an immigration story tied to ethnicity and race. My family of origin is multi religious and multi ethnic: Russian Jewish, German Christian. I fell in love with an African American man, Ty. On page 99, I introduce Ty to my parents.

It is 1962. Ty has finished his senior year as the captain of Iowa’s football team, and is visiting me in between professional football games. We are having dinner with my family at their home in a suburb of Pittsburgh. The page starts as I try to fight against the stereotypes that are so prevalent about African Americans:
“His family is just the salt of the earth, hard-working, churchgoing, doing what you’re supposed to do kind of people.” My fork stabs a tomato and lettuce. “Ty’s the first one who’s gone to a university.”

“My brothers both have associates degrees from the community college.” Ty speaks of the importance of education to his father, his father who had to drop out of school in the eighth grade to help support his mother and because they couldn’t afford the books or shoes required if he were to attend high school.
We settle in for a guess-who-is-coming-to-dinner situation, way before the movie was produced.

An argument between my father and Ty develops as my father tries to stop or delay our marriage. He speaks from his liberal concern about our future and Ty argues from his position as the first person in his family to go to college and the first black captain of a Big Ten football team. He knows full well the possibility of being an outlier, while my father, the entrepreneur businessman, focuses on capturing the money lust of masses and plays the averages. The discussion reveals subtle aspects of implicit bias and vast differences in experience.

Near the end of the page, my father asks:
“I wonder how much you’ve really considered this. I mean, if you knew that most interracial couples regret it, would that make you reconsider?”

“Not necessarily,” Ty’s fingers cup the curves of the swan’s head on the arms of the chair, seemingly relaxed.

“I mean, if I showed you that ninety-five percent of interracial couples regret it after ten, twenty years, would that convince you?”

“I know how statistics can be manipulated.”
My father was right: there is no way of getting away from being Black, or Jewish or German or Anglo Saxon or any of all the myriad of colors and cultures that make us who we are. And so was Ty. An individual is able to break away from the bell curve. There have been epochs of increasing inclusion and growing civil rights. The memoir ends in the mid nineties. Long before the swing of the 21st century between an election of a biracial president and Americans marching with swastikas in our streets. When the conversation on page 99 took place, racial divisions seemed they could be resolved. But as our present turmoil exposes, racism and inequality continue to plague our country.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Pearlman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Rachel Plotnick's "Power Button"

Rachel Plotnick is an Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in The Media School at Indiana University Bloomington. She received her PhD from the Media, Technology and Society program in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. Her research and teaching focus on information, communication and media technologies from an historical and critical/cultural perspective.

Plotnick applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic, and the Politics of Pushing, and reported the following:
From page 99:
In an article titled '"The End of War," author J.F. Sullivan envisioned a world where "war seemed to grow ever more terrible; until it came to such a pass that a single human being could destroy a whole nation by simply pressing a small button with his finger." As Sullivan imagined, it was not a crazed dictator or power-hungry politician who blew up the world, but rather a bumbling gentleman who unwittingly and effortlessly pushed a button that he happened to encounter without realizing what effects the button would trigger.
This passage details a couple of core themes that repeat throughout the book. First, it points to the fact that dystopian fears have often manifested around button pushing because buttons' effects are perceived to be swift and irreparable - once you push a button you can't undo the process you've set in motion. In this imagining, buttons function more like triggers because they can't be "unpressed." Second, and related, those potentially catastrophic effects can (theoretically) be controlled by any person and by any person's hand. The subtext, here, is that you don't need special strength, skill or knowledge to push buttons, and this notion of universality - anyone can push a button - has made buttons both seductive and terrifying for more than a century.

While manufacturers and advertisers of consumer goods have sold this concept of accessibility to the masses, I note throughout Power Button​ how the potent simplicity of buttons destabilized social relations in really important ways. The act of button pushing occurred in the context of a late nineteenth and early twentieth century society grappling with big questions about machine labor versus manual labor, bureaucracy, and skill, and buttons were perhaps one of the most iconic (and lasting) technologies to come from that time period which challenged what human beings could (and should) do with their hands.
Visit Rachel Plotnick's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Clare Mulley's "The Women Who Flew For Hitler"

Clare Mulley is an award-winning biographer, and contributes to various historical and current affairs journals, TV and radio.

Her latest book, The Women Who Flew for Hitler (2017), is a joint biography of two extraordinary women whose skills put them at the heart of the Third Reich but whose choices meant they ended their lives on opposite sides of history.

Mulley applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Women Who Flew for Hitler and reported the following:
Melitta posed for British press photographers “where the huge ‘D’ for Deutsche was painted, rather than beside the swastika on the tail” of her light aircraft, page 99 of The Women Who Flew for Hitler opens. In a way, this gets right to the heart of things.

This is a book about the only two women to serve the Third Reich as test pilots during the Second World War. That they were both brilliant pilots is a given; the Nazis would not have let any women near an aircraft if they did not need their skills. As the only female Flight Captains in Nazi Germany, and recipients of the Iron Cross, Melitta von Stauffenberg and Hanna Reitsch were also great patriots and shared a strong sense of honor and duty. Their concepts of ‘patriotism’, however, were very different. Hannah was a fanatical Nazi. Melitta was secretly Jewish and loyal to an older, pre-Nazi Germany. In 1944 she would become closely involved in her brother-in-law Claus von Stauffenberg’s plot to assassinate Hitler.

Back in 1938, where page 99 finds us, Melitta had been sent to England to show the British what German female pilots were made of. As it happened, her visit coincided with Chamberlain’s trip to Munich. British journalists were on standby for major news, and rather frustrated to be reporting on “two pretty young German pilots in cotton skirts and light woolen cardigans”. So when Melitta was suddenly ordered to report to her Embassy without delay, it caused something of a media frenzy.

“Nervous excitement grew around the possibility of being the first to hear the news, and break the story, that the whole country was dreading…”

By the end of the page, however, we know that the intriguing urgent call to the Embassy has come from Melitta’s husband, unexpectedly on business in London and hoping to arrange a dinner date with his wife. “We trust that the dinner went off satisfactorily”, the British papers dryly concluded their reports.

This is a book full of high drama in the skies, and collaboration but also courage and defiance down below. There is also plenty of humor and humanity in the small details of life. Above all, this is the true story of two real women with soaring ambitions and a searing rivalry, making seemingly impossible choices under the perverting conditions of war and dictatorship. While Melitta chose to position herself by the ‘D’ for Deutschland, Hanna would always stand by the Nazi swastika. They would end their lives on opposite sides of history.
Visit Clare Mulley's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Women Who Flew For Hitler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Marcia Bjornerud's "Timefulness"

Marcia Bjornerud is the Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of Geology at Lawrence University. She is the author of Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth and a contributing writer for Elements, the New Yorker’s science and technology blog.

Bjornerud applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, and reported the following:
From page 99 of Timefulness:
There were oceans on this ancient Earth, and the nearness of the Moon would have made tides significantly higher. Tides would also have been more frequent, because the day was shorter, probably less than 18 hours (making a year of about 470 days). Over time, friction between the ocean-atmosphere system and the solid Earth has acted like a soft brake that has gradually slowed the planet’s rotation.
Page 99 falls in the early part of a chapter called “Changes in the Air”, about the evolution of the atmosphere and ocean over geologic time. My hope is that by taking a deep dive into the story of the atmosphere, readers might better appreciate each breath they take and understand that the clement and hospitable conditions that prevail today on this planet are not the only mode Earth has.

A central idea in the book is that Earth and Life have co-evolved, and that as long as the surface environment has not changed too quickly, lifeforms have been able to adapt. Occasionally, however, a rogue asteroid or a ‘perfect storm’ of internal factors has led to such rapid changes in climate, atmospheric composition, and/or sea level that the biosphere has not been able to keep pace. These mass extinction events are sobering reminders that there are limits to life’s resilience -- and cautionary tales for a species that is cavalierly altering the atmosphere and hydrosphere at rates almost unprecedented in Earth’s history.

More broadly, understanding the history of the atmosphere is part of “Timefulness” – seeing the back stories that are embedded everywhere in the natural world, and shifting our perception of our place in the cosmos.
Learn more about Timefulness at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 17, 2018

Eric Jay Dolin's "Black Flags, Blue Waters"

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of Leviathan and Brilliant Beacons. His new book is Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates. Dolin and his family live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, from which the pirate John Quelch departed in 1703, and returned to in 1704, only to be hanged in Boston.

Dolin applied the “Page 99 Test” to Black Flags, Blue Waters and reported the following:
Black Flags, Blue Waters is about the so-called Golden Age of Piracy, which started in the late 1600s, and ended in the mid 1720s. This was the most dramatic era of maritime marauding the world has ever known, when pirates wreaked havoc across the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. Much has been written about that time period, and this book adds to that literary lineage, but with a twist. Rather than focusing broadly on this era, Black Flags, Blue Waters zeros in on the history of the pirates who either operated out of America’s English colonies or plundered ships along the American coast.

The following excerpt from page 99, introduces us to the infamous Captain Kidd.
The battle against piracy was furthered by the English government’s reaction to the ill-fated voyage of Captain William Kidd, arguably the world’s most famous pirate, who really wasn’t much of a pirate at all. Kidd’s story is full of many twists and turns and a cast of hundreds, if not thousands. Entire books have been written about his exploits, and no doubt there are others to come. But, for the purposes of our tale, only the outline of his story is necessary, just enough to understand how his actions in the Indian Ocean affected the course of piracy in America.

Born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1654, the son of a mariner, Kidd was a powerfully built and voluble man with a quick temper, and a streak of arrogance that was often on display. He served as a buccaneer and then privateer in the Caribbean before arriving in New York City in 1691, where his help in putting down a political rebellion made him a favorite of the incoming governor. His entrĂ©e into the upper reaches of local society was further cemented by his marriage to Sarah Bradley Cox Oort, a recent widow who brought with her a considerable estate. With his strong ties to the sea, Kidd, however, soon grew tired of his patrician life and, at the age of forty-one in 1695, desirous of adventure and a highly reputable position, he set sail for London to obtain an officer’s commission in the Royal Navy.
As for Ford Madox Ford’s pronouncement, I think it holds fairly well for this book. After all, you have a bit of mystery, a bit of debunking of mythology, and a taste of the beginning of a really good story – and this book is, more than anything, a narrative compilation of great and surprising stories.
Learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.

Writers Read: Eric Jay Dolin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tanya Marquardt's "Stray"

Tanya Marquardt is an award-winning performer and the author of ten plays, which have been produced across Canada and the United States. Transmission was published in the Canadian Theatre Review, and Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep was the subject of an episode of NPR’s Invisibilia. A Hertog Fellow and graduate of the MFA creative writing program at Hunter College, Marquardt splits her time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Brooklyn, New York.

Marquardt applied the “Page 99 Test” to Stray: Memoir of a Runaway, her first book, and reported the following:
From page 99:
...After Liz and Kristian had asked me to leave, I'd asked everyone I knew if I could stay with them. Garret's place was a no - there was no room and his father was still grieving the loss of his wife. Abby was a kind-of - her parents said I could spend the occasional weekend there if I needed to, but were noncommittal. I went back to Garret to see if I could stay for a couple of weekends a month and started to plan a piecemeal schedule - a night here, two nights there. I was trying to stay focused on the task, furiously committed to staying away from Mom. But as the deadline loomed, I stopped sleeping altogether, lying on the couch, thinking that maybe the painful springs weren't that painful and wondering where I would be sleeping next.
When I was a runaway, food, shelter, and a place to sleep caused me anxiety on a daily basis, and I was constantly in search of what most of my friends took for granted. In this paragraph I am attempting, and failing, to provide myself with some kind of structure, a modicum of security in the midst of my life at that time, which was chaotic and unpredictable. Here I let the sentences have a kind of runabout quality to them because I wanted to let the reader see how I was frantically trying to find a home, doubling back to people who had said no, begging and pleading and not getting anywhere. The language acts as to stand in for my emotional life when I was sixteen - high strung, in survival mode, with little support. Things change later, and obviously, since I am writing this, I did survive, and even thrive. Stray is about that survival, and about the process of discovering oneself and ones chosen family.
Visit Tanya Marquardt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Stray.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Adam Kotsko's "Neoliberalism’s Demons"

Adam Kotsko is on the faculty of the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College, where he teaches widely in the humanities and social sciences. His research on political theology, continental philosophy, and the history of Christian thought. He is the author of The Prince of This World, a study of the political legacy of pre-modern Christian ideas about the devil, and the newly released Neoliberalism’s Demons, which argues that the contemporary political-economic order functions on the basis of a logic of moral entrapment that echoes the theological concept of demonization.

Kotsko applied the “Page 99 Test” to Neoliberalism’s Demons and reported the following:
On page 99 of Neoliberalism’s Demons, I am discussing Will Davies’ periodization of the neoliberal era, as laid out in his New Left Review article “The New Neoliberalism.” He characterizes the late 70s and 80s as the era of “combative neoliberalism,” when Reagan, Thatcher, and others were implementing the profound political and economic changes—most notably, the dismantling of the welfare state and the reduction in taxation and regulation—that would mark the shift from the postwar economic model to neoliberalism. By the 90s and early 2000s, the neoliberal mantra of “there is no alternative” shifted from being an aspiration (or a threat) to a reality: essentially all developed nations had adopted neoliberal reforms and the general ethos of endless competition. At this stage, which Davies calls “normative,” more progressive parties took the lead and aimed to ensure that the competition was fair. Finally, though, in the wake of the financial crisis, neoliberalism enters into a “punitive” stage characterized by endless austerity, justified by public debt.

This page exemplifies my approach in a few ways. First, it highlights the importance of the development and transformation of the neoliberal regime over time, and the shift to “punitive” neoliberalism lays the groundwork for my account of how the right-wing reaction (represented by Trump and Brexit) grew out of the neoliberal model. It also obviously illustrates my debt to Will Davies, whose Limits of Neoliberalism is one of the few books prior to my own to ask about the sources of the legitimacy of neoliberalism. Many books can tell you where neoliberalism came from, how it developed, and what (mostly negative) effects it has had on people around the world—but very few have asked the question of why people would go along with the neoliberal system. That is the core question of my book and, though he approaches it from a very different disciplinary background, of Davies’ as well.
Visit Adam Kotsko's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Prince of This World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Timothy Larsen's "John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life"

Timothy Larsen is McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life, and reported the following:
I must admit I had never heard before of Ford Madox Ford’s page ninety-nine test, but I think my John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life passes it reasonably well. The book is actually in Oxford University Press’s Spiritual Lives series and thus it is really about the collision in Mill’s own life between the series title (spiritual) and the book’s subtitle (secular). In other words, the book is about the extraordinary amount of religion in Mill’s thought despite his being a famous rationalist.

Page 99 is in a section analyzing Mill’s classic work, A System of Logic (1843). This book is surprisingly filled with religious examples, discussion, and language. Mill actually refers to God directly over eighty times in it. This seems rather gratuitous given that there are even entire books of the Bible that never mention God. Page 99 offers as evidence some of the syllogisms that Mill uses to teach the principles of logic. I show how in just one, short chapter, “On Propositions”, he repeatedly uses startlingly religious examples such as “Peter and James preached at Jerusalem and Galilee” (the point being to discern that it contains four, separate propositions) and “The Founder of Christianity was crucified.” There is even a discussion of the filioque clause in the western version of the Nicene Creed. As I write on page 99, “I defy anyone to find a modern work on logic being used as a textbook in national universities today that includes a reference to the question of the double or single procession of the Holy Spirit in the Triune Godhead!”

In fact, throughout the mature decades of his life, Mill believed that it was perfectly rational on the grounds of strict logic alone to hope in God and in Jesus Christ. He repeatedly confessed his reverence for Jesus and his teachings. This book is about the Mill that you never knew; the Mill that even some of his closest disciples never knew. This is John Stuart Mill the Saint of Rationalism—a secular life and a spiritual life.
Learn more about John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 10, 2018

Mohamed A. F. Noor's "Live Long and Evolve"

Mohamed A. F. Noor, besides being a Trekkie, is a professor in the Biology Department at Duke University. He is the editor in chief of the journal Evolution and author of You’re Hired! Now What?: A Guide for New Science Faculty.

Noor applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Live Long and Evolve: What Star Trek Can Teach Us about Evolution, Genetics, and Life on Other Worlds, and reported the following:
Although Live Long and Evolve uses Star Trek to engage readers, the purpose of the book is to teach fundamental concepts in genetics and evolution. Page 99 introduces the concept of "genetic drift".

The term "genetic drift" appears twice in Star Trek, but it is used inappropriately, both times referring to an individual. Instead, genetic drift is an evolutionary process that occurs in a population of individuals, just like the more familiar "natural selection". With natural selection, often called "survival of the fittest" in popular media, individuals bearing a particular trait or attribute are more likely to survive and pass on their genes to the next generation than individuals lacking this particular trait or attribute. For example, natural selection happens because an individual has keen eyesight for hunting, or a color that matches their tree's bark so they're not easily spotted by predators, or a particular tail ornament that's attractive to females. Because the best-surviving or reproducing individuals have that "fittest" trait, those individuals have more offspring, and more individuals in the next generation will inherit that trait.

Genetic drift also changes the abundance of variants (and their underlying genes) in natural populations, but the changes are random rather than directional. Genetic drift is similar to the concept of "sampling error"—if few samples are studied, then one can have a very different view of a population than was true in the original population. Imagine one wants to know the frequency of heads vs. tails in a coin flip. If you only flip a coin twice, you may decide that the coin "always" lands on heads. If you flip it 4 times, you may decide that the coin lands on heads 75% of the time. However, if you flip it 1000 times, you'll know that very close to 50% of flips result in heads.

The same sampling error happens in natural populations based on the number of individuals. If a population is very large, then the next generation (assuming it is also large) will have similar representation of whatever feature (e.g., red hair, and its underlying genes). However, if the population is very small, then big changes can happen each generation. Those changes resulting from small population size are "genetic drift", and that is the subject of page 99 of my book.
Learn more about Live Long and Evolve at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Candice Delmas's "A Duty to Resist"

Candice Delmas is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Northeastern University and the Associate Director of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program. She previously served as a Dworkin-Balzan Fellow at New York University School of Law from 2016 to 2017. She works in moral, social, political, and legal philosophy.

Delmas applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil, and reported the following:
Page 99, which is situated toward the end of the third chapter, is representative of the book. The book argues for political obligations in the face of injustice, on the basis of several grounds that philosophers commonly use to support the moral duty to obey the law. It also conceptualizes and defends uncivil disobedience, that is principled lawbreaking that deviates from the standard norms of civility (publicity, nonviolence, nonevasion, and decorum).

Chapter 3, “Justice and Democracy,” uses the natural duty of justice—which requires supporting just institutions—to defend a duty to resist injustice in basically legitimate states. The chapter develops a typology of injustice ranging from democratically sanctioned violations of basic rights to official abuses, and defends a series of political obligations corresponding to the contexts of injustice identified: obligations to engage in education efforts, protest (including civil disobedience), covert disobedience, vigilante self-defense, and whistleblowing. Page 99 discusses this last political obligation:
The duty of justice can thus support special obligations to blow the whistle against public ignorance, even if doing so involves breaking the law by disclosing state secrets. Snowden’s leaks educated the public about digital rights infringed upon by government surveillance; and the Panama and Paradise Papers exposed systematic tax evasion by the wealthy and politicians’ conflicts of interest. Government whistleblowing can remedy significant cognitive deficits in the public sphere, thereby enabling a deliberative environment. It can also frustrate injustice by halting or diminishing the wrongdoing in question as soon as it is exposed. These functions make it a particularly powerful way of addressing democratic deficits (in the form of public ignorance) and enhancing justice and the rule of law (when the state uses secrecy in order to conceal its own wrongdoing). Government whistleblowers can thus appeal to the duty of justice to justify their actions.
On my view, government whistleblowing should not be understood as a kind of civil disobedience. Indeed it often fails to satisfy the basic norms of civility, especially publicity (the Panama Papers were leaked anonymously) and nonevasion or acceptance of legal sanctions (Edward Snowden sought asylum in Russia to escape U.S. prosecution). In addition, whereas civil disobedients protest laws without being able to change them, government whistleblowers unilaterally undo state secrets, imposing serious national security risks in the process. It is thus important to keep these two kinds of principled disobedience distinct—and to evaluate them using different lenses.
Learn more about A Duty to Resist at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sarah Anne Carter's "Object Lessons"

Sarah Anne Carter is the curator and director of research at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee. She has published, lectured, and taught courses on material culture, museum practice, and American cultural history.

Carter applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Object Lessons: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Learned to Make Sense of the Material World, and reported the following:
Page 99 brings readers directly into some of the most challenging aspects of my book: the racist implications of object lessons. The larger study considers the history of object lessons, a nearly forgotten pedagogy that was employed across the United States to teach children about the world. This approach had been designed to open children’s minds, to teach them how to think broadly and expansively rather than relying on rote learning and memorization. It intended to teach students how to move from concrete observations to abstract thinking. By the turn of the twentieth century the actual practice disappeared from common school curricula into metaphor, becoming a way to talk about object-based reasoning more broadly. In chapter 4, “Object Lessons in Race and Citizenship,” I focus on the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. There, African American and Native American students were taught using object lessons and referred to as living object lessons in the transformative potential of these educational methods.

The top of page 99 describes the Native American prisoners of war brought to Hampton by Captain Richard Henry Pratt from Fort Marion:
When Pratt first brought the group of Plains Indian prisoners of war to Hampton in 1878, the school responded with “object lessons.” Ludlow described the curriculum intended for students in the Indian Department as initially centered around the study of things, “The methods of teaching are those in modern use for their grades, with adaptations to the conditions: Language and number lessons with objects, geography with molding sand and map drawing; reading.” Later they were to move on to “arithmetic, history and drawing.” Only then did they enter the normal school’s junior year, usually spending five years in all at the school. For younger native students, objects and object lessons, lessons on pictures, and basic drill usually replaced books for the first three years of classroom study. Because of their perceived abilities to observe, these Native American students were believed to have a “native keenness of perception” that fitted them to the study of natural history, which they pursued through Prang’s lithographs.
This passage explores how those students were educated and the ways teachers at Hampton linked the presumed benefits of object-based learning to the perceived, racially determined abilities of Native American students. Not only does it remind us that some students at Hampton arrived as prisoners of war, but it also highlights the connections between the assumptions teachers made about students’ needs and abilities and the methods and topics used to teach those students. These choices were often based on racial stereotypes.

Page 99 continues by addressing the application of object lessons as a new and popular pedagogy at Hampton, and how parents of African American children in Virginia, many of whom had been denied education under slavery, may have viewed this approach:
Hampton was, as its name indicated, also a normal school. Teachers were trained in pedagogical methods and permitted to teach and observe instruction in the school’s practice school in preparation for their own mandatory teaching experiences. In 1878, Armstrong invited Colonel Francis Parker and his students from Quincy, Massachusetts, known for the “Quincy method” of object teaching, to give a teacher’s institute. Parker’s hands-on methods emphasized students’ real-world knowledge and skills. For example, Quincy was known for its granite quarries. Parker used a specimen of granite from their quarries and another from a New Hampshire quarry as the foundation of a conversation lesson in comparison for his students. The children of granite men could tell the difference between the two samples, and in looking closely at the materials with this in mind, were able to understand the nature of physical evidence.

Through the work of Parker’s teachers, the students in the normal school were explicitly instructed in how to teach with objects. Of course, this mode of teaching was not exactly what some parents were expecting, even though it was employed in various forms in northern schools. In 1879, the Southern Workman, Hampton’s newspaper, reported on the new pedagogy: “The object lessons given to the little children of the Butler School this winter by a trained teacher from Col. Parker’s famous schools in Quincy, Mass. have proved quite trying to the faith and patience of some of the parents, who thought that because the little ones did not bring home books to study they could not be learning anything.” Directing the focus away from literacy was clearly troubling to parents who viewed it as the central goal of primary education and a tool they had been denied under slavery.
For some African American parents at Hampton, many of whom had once been enslaved, a pedagogy that did not focus on reading did not meet their expectations for their children’s education. Many prioritized the development of their children’s literacy skills.

While page 99 does not encapsulate the whole book, it still passes the test. It reminds us that researchers should endeavor to understand the ways instruction and learning unfold in real classrooms for diverse students. We must be attentive to these realities and responsibilities both as scholars and as teachers.
Learn more about Object Lessons at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Anne Balay's "Semi Queer"

Anne Balay graduated with a PhD from the University of Chicago, after which she promptly became a car mechanic. Though in subsequent years she returned to academia as a professor both at the University of Illinois and Indiana University Northwest, she never lost her interest in blue collar work environments. Balay moved to Gary, Indiana to teach, and was immediately interested in the steel industry of the region. Her coworker and mentor, Jimbo Lane, suggested that she would be perfectly suited to meeting with and writing about the LGBT workers within the mill community, and Steel Closets was born. Balay then attended commercial truck driving school, got her CDL, and drove over the road. Oral histories of truck drivers she did in 2015/16 have led to her new book, Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College.

Balay applied the “Page 99 Test” to Semi Queer and reported the following:
Page 99 opens with a general claim about the contradictions of trucking: though truckers are exposed to trauma via the road accidents they witness, they receive no training in how to handle this, and in fact typically avoid getting treatment because they believe their employers will let them go if they have a history of seeking mental health support.

It then makes a further claim about how queer, trans, and black truckers add this under-treated trauma to the extra weight they carry of family rejection, outsider status, low pay, medical neglect or worse. I allude to the fierce pride they feel in persevering in spite of all this, and the way the movement – the transitoriness – of the job echoes their sexual/gender expression or their racialized visibility in ways that feel affirming and fun.

And then it turns to the story of one particular trucker: Donovan. Though her story extends through many pages and weaves through many of my book’s themes, here I emphasize how her low pay combined with her company’s flagrant disregard for her need to make it home for medical appointments target her. If she can’t maintain her hormone regimen, she is prone to panic attacks and to depression. She is so lonely out there on the road. After we had talked for about 20 minutes, she started to cry. I asked why, and she said this was the longest conversation she had had with a human in months.

I try to impart a sense of Donovan as a person, on page 99 and elsewhere. We can know things as readers, but I also want us to feel these stories as they shape the lives of my narrators. If I can leave readers with a sense that they “met” Donovan, it might change their queer activism, their policy work, or their engagement with others in this brutal, beautiful world.
Learn more about Semi Queer at The University of North Carolina Press website.

Visit Anne Balay's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 3, 2018

Brian Murphy's "Adrift"

Brian Murphy is the Russia and East Asia editor at The Washington Post. He is the author of four nonfiction books, including The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery and Lore of the Persian Carpet and 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska’s Frozen Wilderness.

Murphy applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Adrift: A True Story of Tragedy on the Icy Atlantic and the One Man who Lived to Tell about It, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Over the next half hour or so, the commotion on deck grew more troubling. More movement. Shouting. Heavy footfalls.

This didn’t seem routine at all.
Page 99 comes just before the heart of the book: the sinking of the ship John Rutledge and the life-and-death struggles of 13 people on a lifeboat. The page, however, touches on a critical part of the narrative. We get a glimpse of the harrowing conditions and great risks for emigrants crossing the Atlantic in the mid-19th century.

Let me set the scene for page 99.

Hours earlier, the hull of the ship John Rutledge had been gouged open by an iceberg. It is February 1856. They are 450 miles off Newfoundland, an area of the North Atlantic known as Ice Alley. Down in the steerage, more than 100 emigrants – mostly Irish bound for New York – are listening to the chaos on deck as the crew struggles to save the ship. The steerage passengers do not yet know the ship is doomed. But the sounds from above are ominous. Panic begins to feed more panic. Soon – later in this chapter – the ship begins to slip into the sea. Five lifeboats get off, quickly disappearing into the fog. Thirty other souls are left onboard to be taken by the Atlantic.

I came across the story of the John Rutledge at an exhibit on shipwrecks in Centerville, Mass., the hometown of the captain. There was the obvious tale of the lone survivor, a young sailor from near New Bedford, who was picked up by a ship after nine days adrift. It was remarkable on many levels. There were rarely survivors from wrecks on Ice Alley. And Nye was from a prominent family in shipping and whaling, adding another element to his brief celebrity and the subject of sensational headlines. He was the man who watched 12 others perish around him from cold, exposure and the horrible madness and pain brought on by drinking seawater.

But I hope this book is considered more than just a survival story.

I strived to give readers a sense of the incredible perils of sea travel in the 19th century age of immigration.

Tens of thousands of people were lost at sea in those decades. It became so common that the loss of ships merited little more than a passing notice. Early 1856 was particularly cruel. The ice was heavier than anyone had seen in generations. Three other ships were lost without a trace about the same time as the Rutledge: two American clipper ships and a transatlantic steamer, the Pacific, carrying many well-known figures from Britain and New York. More than 800 people were gone. (In an incredible twist, one of the owners of the John Rutledge was on the Pacific.)

As I wrote in the Author’s Note: “The sea is good at swallowing lives without a trace. This is my belated elegy for them all and the risks they faced on the North Atlantic.”
Learn more about Adrift, and follow Brian Murphy on Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley's "Elusive Lives"

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley is Reader in International History in the Department of History at the University of Sheffield.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Elusive Lives: Gender, Autobiography, and the Self in Muslim South Asia, and reported the following:
Elusive Lives is a book about gender, autobiography and the self in Muslim South Asia. A consciously feminist project, it focuses on women who refused to respect cultural taboos against women speaking out and instead told their life stories in the form of written autobiography. Because I am a historian, the sources are highly varied in temporal terms – dating from the sixteenth century to the present in order to give a sense of how autobiography as a literary genre has evolved over time. They also cover a broad geographical area, including present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Women’s voices and stories are thus recovered in a wide range of South Asian languages, including Urdu, English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Malayalam.

Page 99 outlines the structure and question for Chapter 3 on ‘The Autobiographical Map’:
This chapter… is divided into three main sections, each of which addresses autobiography’s geography in a different way. In the first, I map authors in regional, local, and religious terms in order to understand how specific locations may have stimulated autobiographical production… The second section then turns to autobiography’s linguistic geography for what it reveals about changing readerships and forms of expression… Readerships are addressed again in the third section, but with a more particular aim of identifying how real and imagined audiences shaped the way in which a life was written… I conclude by considering the model of performance as a theoretical frame.
It is revealing of the book as a whole in that, like each of the five chapters, it asks a simple question of women’s autobiographical writing in Muslim South Asia – in this case, where? Other chapters consider, in turn, what, who, how, and why – with when, the eternal question of the historian, woven throughout.

The quotation above points to how I interpret geography – the where – broadly. How does an author’s physical location, religious affiliation, linguistic choice, and (un)intended readership affect why and how South Asian Muslim women write their lives?

In terms of motivation – the why – I come to two main conclusions. First off, I suggest that the reformist and princely locations that acted as hubs for women’s autobiographical expression reveal autobiography’s important links to sharif redefinition – in other words, the reworking of elite status among Indian Muslims after 1857. An explicit link is thus uncovered between women, reformism, and autobiography in Muslim South Asia.

Secondly, I point to how the socioeconomic, cultural and historical characteristics of different localities enabled women’s autobiography to flourish in certain Muslim locations in the modern era – for example, Bangladesh over Pakistan, Bombay over Lahore, or even one Delhi neighbourhood over an another.

In terms of construction – the how – I employ performative models to show how specific audiences shaped how South Asian Muslim women crafted their autobiographical outputs in terms of content, tone and language at different historical moments: from the colonial to the postcolonial, the reformist to the nationalist, the regional to the global.
Learn more about Elusive Lives at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Lilian Calles Barger's "The World Come of Age"

Lilian Calles Barger was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and immigrated to the United States as a child. She received her PhD from The University of Texas at Dallas and is the author of Eve's Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body and Chasing Sophia: Reclaiming the Lost Wisdom of Jesus.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology, and reported the following:
The intellectual origins of liberation theology that includes the first generation of Latin American, Black and feminist theologies of the late 1960s and 70s, are diverse and multiple. On page 99, I examine one of those streams of thought. Theology crossed paths with the American philosophy of pragmatism espoused by Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, liberal theologians took up the challenge of pragmatism that experience was the test for any proposition. Theologians moved away from an abstracted concept of truth, or revelation, to social ethics as the measure of good religion. The theologian Douglas C. Macintosh, an alumnus of the influential Chicago Divinity School, embraced the claims of pragmatism in his book Theology as an Empirical Science (1919) and argued that belief “can be transformed into a categorical knowledge only by empirical verification.” The pragmatic approach to theological reasoning inspired the popular social gospel, in which the social effects of any belief determined its truth and value.

Pragmatism spread quickly to Latin America where quick translation allowed it to join the currents of positivism, the philosophy that had the greatest influence on the continent. The hemispheric spread of pragmatism prepared the intellectual environment for conceptualizing liberation theology in which the experience of the oppressed became the interpretive lens for reading the Bible. Unlike Protestant liberation theologians, Latin American Catholics had to transverse a greater distance between a pragmatic stance and Catholic orthodoxy. The Magisterium rejected pragmatism and in the words of Pope Pius X, it was the Protestant “synthesis of all heresies” that set the active virtues above passive values. The global spread of pragmatism also influenced the work of the Catholic French philosopher Maurice Blondel with his idea of truth as “critical reflection on action.” Blondel contributed a key idea later taken up and developed by liberation theologians.
Visit Lilian Calles Barger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue