Monday, September 30, 2019

Alexandra Horowitz's "Our Dogs, Ourselves"

Alexandra Horowitz's books include Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, and On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. She teaches at Barnard College, where she runs the Dog Cognition Lab.

Horowitz lives with her family and two large, highly sniffy dogs in New York City.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond, and reported the following:
Page 99 opens thusly: "the slobbery, loveable Labrador (“style and quality without over-refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness”)."

Much on this page is characteristic of the book. It's very dog-filled -- apt, for a book all about the nature, complexities, and contraditions of the dog-human bond. I use footnotes (gasp!) -- on this page, referencing the recent popularity of having a "rescue" dog (for the record, I have two such pups). I do love a good aside, tucked into the text as a footnote.

I quote breed standards, which are at once charming and ridiculous, as much of our lives with dogs is, I find. As I am a researcher of dog cognition, it is fitting that on this page, I reference research (of others: into the rise in purchasing of specific breeds after a member of the breed is featured prominently in a Hollywood film).

Page 99 of Our Dogs, Ourselves is part of a chapter on the trouble with our society's current practices in purebreeding. I challenge our easy acceptance of the idea that we should be breeding and buying dogs. In that my view is slightly contrarian, and the information that I appeal to unsettling, I think this is a good representative of at least some of my book.

My book has two faces, though. The other half of the book celebrates the pleasures of the dog-human relationship, and I delve deeply into such non-serious topics as the things people say to their dogs, the ways we come up for names for our dogs, and the question I am asked most at cocktail parties: Does my dog really love me? It's also missing one of the small dog sketches that I dot through the book in the margins and as chapter heads. The marginal dogs function to refer the curious reader to another chapter where further discussion on the topic of that page can be found. In that way, they are like print hyperlinks. Hyperdogs, if you will.
Visit Alexandra Horowitz's website and the Dog Cognition Lab website.

The Page 99 Test: Inside of a Dog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Bear F. Braumoeller's "Only the Dead"

Bear F. Braumoeller is a professor in the Department of Political Science at The Ohio State University who studies Great Power politics, international conflict, complex systems, and statistical methodology. He earned his Bachelor's degree at the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He has previously been a faculty member at Harvard University and the University of Illinois and has been a Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute. His first book, The Great Powers and the International System, won the Best Book Award from the International Studies Association as well as the J. David Singer Award.

Braumoeller applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Age, and reported the following:
Only the Dead is a systematic examination of the decline-of-war thesis that's been forwarded by authors like Steven Pinker. The top half of page 99 isn't that relevant to the overall content, but the bottom half summarizes the chapter, and given that the chapter is central to the book, the summary actually does a pretty good job of conveying the book's essence. It reads:
I have to admit that when I started this project a big part of me hoped that I would be able to show conclusively that conflict is in decline. I devoted my life to the study of conflict in the hopes that understanding conflict would improve the prospects for peace. I’m well aware that objectivity is essential to scientific inquiry, of course, but I also think we should be clear about our biases. My bias in this case is that I want to believe that the world has become more peaceful over time and will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, nothing in the data gives me much reason to sustain that hope. The rate at which countries use force against one another has increased more than it has decreased over the last two hundred years. The decrease following the end of the Cold War, while real, is the exception rather than the rule.
There are other important tests in the book—tests of whether the deadliness of war has changed, for example, and of whether the potency of the causes of war has declined. There are also two chapters at the end arguing that patterns of international order are responsible for changes in rates of conflict initiation. But this is not a bad summary of the overall story of the book, and even though it's incomplete, I have to conclude that it passes the Page 99 test.
Visit Bear F. Braumoeller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Stephanie Collins's "Group Duties"

Stephanie Collins is a senior research fellow at the Dianoia Institute of Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University. She was previously a Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Manchester. Collins received her PhD in 2013 from the Australian National University.

She is author of The Core of Care Ethics (2013).

Collins applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Group Duties: Their Existence and Their Implications for Individuals, and reported the following:
I spend all of page 99 explicating the concept of “responsiveness”, which I introduced on page 98. As I use the term, person A is “responsive” to person B when A acts upon B with a view to getting B to act upon B’s reasons or duties. On page 99, I’m explaining the minimal conditions someone might meet while being responsive to someone else. Specifically, I explain that you and I can be ‘responsive’ to one another even if we don’t share a goal in common; that I can can act ‘upon’ you simply by opening up or encouraging certain possibilities for how you might act; that I can be responsive to you if I’m just trying to get you to act upon some tiny reason I believe you hold (the reason needn’t be very weighty, and I might even be wrong that it's a real reason); and that I can be responsive to you even if you’re not responsive to me.

The page 99 test works moderately well for my book. Responsiveness is a pretty important concept in the book. I spend the whole of chapters two and three arguing that groups that aren’t agents cannot bear moral duties. Here in chapter four (where page 99 occurs), I’m arguing that if we ever get tempted to attribute moral duties to non-agent groups, we should instead attribute responsiveness duties to the group’s members. For example, humanity is a group that’s not an agent. If we want to say “humanity has a duty to minimise carbon emissions”, we should instead say “each agent that’s a member of humanity has a duty to be responsive to the others with a view to minimising carbon emissions.” The latter claim is clunkier, but it’s more action-guiding, and it allows us to address our social, political, and legal demands to creatures (i.e., agents!) that can deliberatively respond to those demands. So page 99 is important, insofar as it fleshes out what ‘be responsive’ means. However, page 99 is detailing the minutiae of the concept—and these details aren’t very important for understanding the book as a whole.

That said, the page 99 test reveals something about my book as a whole. As I said above, on page 99 I’m explicating the absolute minimum an agent might do to be responsive to another. This process of ‘explicating the minimum’ recurs throughout the book. For example, in chapter six, I argue that a group agent (such as a state, corporation, or non-profit) can bear moral duties only if it has the structural resources necessary to attend to moral considerations. I suggest that most states, corporations, and non-profits meet this minimal condition for duty-bearing. Another example of ‘explicating the minimum’ occurs in chapter seven. There, I argue that when a group agent has a duty, its members also have duties. At a minimum, members must check that the group agent is doing its duty. For example, if my state has a duty to treat asylum seekers humanely, then I have a duty to, at a minimum, use my role to check whether my state is doing so. (And if it’s not doing so, then more demanding duties will follow for me.) By seeing the minimum conditions for various phenomena (e.g., being responsive, bearing a group duty, or performing a membership duty), we can see just how prevalent group duties are in our world.
Visit Stephanie Collins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 27, 2019

Amy C. Offner's "Sorting Out the Mixed Economy"

Amy C. Offner is assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Sorting Out the Mixed Economy: The Rise and Fall of Welfare and Developmental States in the Americas, and reported the following:
Page 99 recounts criticisms that Colombian and international observers lodged against Ciudad Kennedy, a massive housing project built with US aid in Bogotá, Colombia during the 1960s. Ciudad Kennedy was an international exemplar of “aided self-help housing,” an austere form of social welfare provision in which governments provided land, mortgage loans, building materials, and construction plans, and then deputized citizens to erect their houses and became private homeowners. Aided self-help allowed cash-strapped governments to fulfill their mandates by transferring to housing recipients those burdens they could not bear themselves. While Colombians clamored for the chance to move into Ciudad Kennedy, the critics on page 99 show the limitations of the program and the resentment it created among those excluded. Geographers observed that aided self-help cut the costs of housing in hopes of reaching the poor, but never in fact reached them; Ciudad Kennedy was middle-class housing that went to skilled workers with political connections. Communists launched an illegal settlement in the neighborhood and defiantly named it for Salvador Allende’s socialist government in Chile. One scholar at the National University dismissed Ciudad Kennedy as “a magnificent business” for residents but “a bad business” for the nation.

The story of Ciudad Kennedy illustrates one of the book’s central insights. Although developmental states of the mid-twentieth century are often remembered as great symbols of public munificence, they spawned some strikingly austere forms of social welfare provision that are generally forgotten today. We often think of austere social programs as neoliberal inventions born after the crises of the 1970s and 1980s. But Sorting Out the Mixed Economy argues that some of the policies and ideas that took apart midcentury welfare and developmental states came from the repertoire of midcentury state-building itself. The book takes readers through half a century of US and Colombian history—into housing complexes, river valleys, college classrooms, planning agencies, and job-training centers—to offer a transnational history of state formation and capitalist reconstruction since 1945. In the process, it shows the influence of Latin American developmentalism on the formation of the US welfare state and reveals the midcentury origins of practices that are regarded today as hallmarks of neoliberalism, including austere systems of social welfare provision, changing systems of state decentralization, and novel forms of for-profit and private delegation. Capitalism in the late twentieth century, the book suggests, was not built in simple reaction against midcentury political economy; it was a parasitic formation that appropriated and redeployed key elements of the very order it destroyed.
Learn more about Sorting Out the Mixed Economy at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Andrew Hindmoor's "Twelve Days that Made Modern Britain"

Andrew Hindmoor is a professor and Head of the Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield. He is the editor of the journal Political Studies, an associate editor of New Political Economy, and is also the author of several books, including Rational Choice (with Brad Taylor) and What's Left Now?.

Hindmoor applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Twelve Days that Made Modern Britain, and reported the following:
From page 99:
... after a day and a half of talks with these people even I want to leave the EU. I’m getting nowhere.’ On the 20th of February, he announced that the date of the referendum would be the 23rd of June. Just over four months later, 51.9 per cent of the 72.1 per cent of people who voted opted to leave the European Union. The referendum split the country not just in terms of the relative closeness of the vote but in terms of the respective bases of support for the leave and remain campaigns. Scotland, Northern Ireland, London, and Manchester voted to stay. England, Wales, Birmingham, Sheffield, and most towns with a population of less than 100,000 people voted to leave. Sixty-four per cent of those aged over 65 voted to leave. Only 29 per cent of those aged 18–24 did so. Sixty-two per cent of those with a household income of less than £20,000 voted to leave. Only 35 per cent of those with a household income of more than £60,000 did so. Seventy-two per cent of those with a GSCE or less as their highest educational qualification voted to leave. Thirty-two per cent of those with a degree or higher voted to do so. The referendum also split the parties although perhaps less so than initially expected. Thirty-nine per cent of those who had voted Conservative in 2015 and voted in the 2016 referendum voted to remain. Sixty-one per cent voted to leave. Of those who had voted Labour in 2015, 65 per cent voted to stay and 35 per cent voted to leave.

Why, against expectations, did leave win? With the obvious benefit of hindsight, two factors seem particularly important. First, and most obviously, large numbers of voters had always been opposed to Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. UKIP provided an electoral outlet for this Euroscepticism. It did not create it. By the early 1980s, 71 per cent of people favoured leaving the European Union. This fell to a low of 30 per cent in 1991.
Twelve Days that Made Modern Britain passes, I hope, the Page 99 test. At least it takes the reader of a book about modern British history right to the single most jarring event in recent British history: the 2016 referendum on remaining a part of the European Union. But of course the referendum was always about much more than that. It was about generation gaps and national identity and risk and geography and affluence and what kind of a country Britain is or wants to become. Page 99 documents some of the differences in who voted to leave and who voted to stay in 2016.
Learn more about Twelve Days that Made Modern Britain at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Mari Yoshihara's "Dearest Lenny"

Mari Yoshihara is Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii. She is the author of Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism and Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music.

Yoshihara applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dearest Lenny: Letters from Japan and the Making of the World Maestro, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Dearest Lenny effectively captures one facet of the book. Much of the page is an excerpt from one of very many love letters from Kunihiko Hashimoto, a young Japanese man who met and fell deeply in love with Leonard Bernstein in 1979, to the maestro. It is difficult not to be moved by Hashimoto’s declaration of love and devotion—that he would do anything for, and give everything to, Bernstein: “Because, my life is for you. I was born for you, I am living for you.” This letter was sent a little less than a year after the two men’s initial encounter and illustrates both the intensity of Hashimoto’s passion. My commentary following the excerpt identifies some of the key characteristics of the letter important to understanding the evolving nature of his love that grows beyond romantic yearning and sexual attraction into almost spiritual devotion to a great being.

While page 99 thus gives a good glimpse into a dramatic narrative of an intimate personal relationship between one of the book’s protagonists and Bernstein (the other protagonist is Kazuko Amano, a Japanese woman who wrote her first fan letter to Bernstein in 1947 and remained a loyal fan and friend of the maestro until his death in 1990), it does not reflect what I consider to be the strongest feature of the book: the interweaving of the macro and the micro. In Dearest Lenny, I link the intimate story of Amano’s and Hashimoto’s relationships with Bernstein with a historical account of broader themes, including the changing relations between the United States and Japan and the global geopolitics in the second half of the twentieth century; the transformation of the music industry; the relationship between art, commerce, and the state; gender, sexuality, marriage, and family. The personal stories of Amano and Hashimoto would have made an engaging book in and of themselves, but I believed that my scholarly expertise in U.S. history, U.S.-Japan relations, classical music, gender studies, cultural studies, as well as my personal background crossing the United States and Japan, equip me to robustly contextualize their stories in a way that sheds new light on the making of a global Bernstein, on whom there is already abundant biographies and studies.
Visit Mari Yoshihara's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Peter Finn's "A Guest of the Reich"

Peter Finn is national security editor for The Washington Post.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book A Guest of the Reich: The Story of American Heiress Gertrude Legendre’s Dramatic Captivity and Escape from Nazi Germany, and reported the following:
Page 99 drops you down in a prisoner of war hospital in Limburg, Germany, about 45 miles northeast of Frankfurt, in October 1944. Major Maxwell Jerome Papurt, a U.S. counterintelligence officer, is being treated for his wounds. He was shot and captured the previous month with Gertrude Legendre, the protagonist of A Guest of the Reich, and two other Americans serving with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime espionage service and forerunner of the CIA.

Legendre – known as Gertie -- was the first American woman in uniform captured by the Nazis. Because of her wealthy background and elite connections – Gertie knew many senior military men, including Gen. George Patton -- she became a prisoner of special interest to the Germans and was transferred to the Gestapo for possible exploitation as a propaganda tool. Gertie was shuttled between interrogation centers, including Gestapo headquarters in Berlin, Nazi villas, hotels and private homes, all the while witnessing the collapse of Hitler’s Reich as no other American did. In March 1945, she narrowly escaped into Switzerland, crossing the border near Lake Constance.

Papurt’s story is a significant subplot. He knew one of the great secrets of the war – that the Allies had broken Germany communications and a bounty of ongoing intelligence was disseminated as part of a program codenamed Ultra. Papurt was also a capable and experienced officer who had served in the Army’s Counterintelligence Corps in North Africa and Italy and in Limburg he managed to deceive his captors and disclose nothing about Ultra.

Page 99 is the opening of Chapter 11 under the heading “Naples.” The chapter explores the love affair between Papurt and Margaret Bourke-White, the great Life magazine photographer who covered the North Africa and Italian campaigns. Unsurprisingly, at least in hindsight, she was barred from the main Western Front because her independent, journalistic spirit had offended some senior military bureaucrats. Bourke-White was informed of Papurt’s capture as she docked in Naples in October 1944 for a second tour covering the Italian campaign. (She hoped her work in Italy would ultimately become a ticket to the main event, the assault on Nazi Germany.)

Bourke-White learned that the Vatican could deliver very brief messages to prisoners of war. She wrote to Papurt, “I love you. I will marry you. Maggie.” She never learned if Papurt received the message. He was killed when Allied bombs struck the hospital where he was being treated on Nov. 29, 1944.
Learn more about A Guest of the Reich at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 23, 2019

Timothy Alborn's "All That Glittered"

Timothy Alborn is Professor of History at Lehman College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of Conceiving Companies: Joint-Stock Politics in Victorian England and Regulated Lives: Life Insurance and British Society, 1800-1914.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, All That Glittered: Britain's Most Precious Metal from Adam Smith to the Gold Rush, and reported the following:
Page 99 in my book is the fourth page of chapter 6, "Distinctions"; this is the first of three chapters on how British people viewed decorative gold at home and abroad between 1780 and 1850. Page 99 abuts a page describing a scene from a novel in which an Italian duke scoffs at sentimental and philistine interpretations that his two British guests offer regarding a gold watch, and a page recounting what British "tastemakers" thought of the imperfect understanding of decorative gold exhibited by the nouveau riche and "old-school" aristocrats. On page 99, I provide evidence that "the consumption of decorative gold exploded after 1760," despite its concurrent diversion into bank vaults and coin purses as the basis of the British monetary system. (In an earlier chapter, I document how a favorable trade balance with Portugal, through which most of the world's gold passed via Brazil, enabled this luxury). I then reveal that "diffusion bred confusion." Britons responded to this in different ways, depending on gender. For men, "etiquette guides... urged that 'if you have a gold chain to your watch, keep it, but the less you show of it the better'.” Tasteful women "showed more of their gold, but generally took care to do so in moderation and only around the edges"; this assertion is supported by "hundreds of references in British fashion magazines." This list is very typical of my book, which rests on an extensive inventory of references to gold, made possible by the recent spate of digitized sources that are available to nineteenth-century historians. The more general gist of the page represents a central claim in the book, which is that Britons during this period insisted that they valued gold more as currency than as "bling," even though their consumption of that metal consistently belied that stance. Their rhetoric, I argue, secured the gold standard as a basis, not only of their own credit economy, but of international credit after 1850. Their practice revealed much about how Britons contrasted themselves with the rest of the world during their ascension as a world power. They were able to have their gold and wear it too.
Learn more about All That Glittered at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Derrick E. White's "Blood, Sweat, and Tears"

Derrick E. White is Visiting Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth College.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Jake Gaither, Florida A&M, and the History of Black College Football, and reported the following:
Page 99 introduces the difficult situation facing Historically Black Colleges with the budding emergence of a civil rights movement.
The [Florida] state house questionnaire followed a blueprint created by the U.S. Congress's House Un-American Activities Committee. The Florida questionnaire also had a question about segregation. "Have you ever taught or expressed yourself as being against any provision of the racial segregation laws of Florida?" With this question, the state legislature connected integration and civil rights with Communism, putting FAMU's faculty and administration in a no-win position. Leading FAMU alumni and faculty members asked the house committee for clarification. "The question paramount in our minds," queried J. Leonard Lewis, an alumnus and an attorney for the Jacksonville-based Afro-American Insurance Company, "is what would be the interpretation of the committee of an affirmative answer to the question?" He continued, "No honest person being exposed to [segregation can] honestly say he hasn't expressed himself in opposition to the segregation laws as administered by Florida officials." Florida representative Guy Strayhorn answered, "If many professors answer 'no' to the question they should very properly consider their positions in doubt for lying." He added, "We feel we have a right to know if teachers are teaching contrary to the laws of Florida."

The survey results were a factor in FAMU president William H. Gray's resignation in July 1949. Ninety-seven percent of FAMU faculty denounced segregation. Moreover, state officials had been frustrated that Gray refused to crack down on students, faculty, and staff who tested the limits of exclusion through integrated education, equalizing salaries, and interracial socializing. Also, some Black alumni believed that strengthening FAMU undermined broader goals of integration. Gray had spent five years increasing the school's budget. He managed to get the state legislature to enhance appropriations from $208,000 to $1,599,000, improving, among other things, faculty and staff salaries . . . His resignation was just the beginning of the civil rights movement in Tallahassee.
Although there is not a single reference to football on this page, this test works in part for my book, because it introduces the greatest challenge facing FAMU’s football program after World War II—integration. HBCU administrators, like FAMU president William H. Gray and head football coach Jake Gaither, were caught between state elected officials that wanted to maintain segregation and black alumni, faculty, and staff that understood the immorality of segregation. Yet, coach Jake Gaither like President Gray wanted to show the quality of Florida A&M University.

HBCU students and alumni were critical in destroying Jim Crow segregation. Thurgood Marshall led the legal challenges against segregation, Martin Luther King, Jr., orchestrated non-violent direct-action protests, and FAMU students like the Patricia and Pricilla Stephens conducted sit-in campaigns at local businesses. These actions identified the legal, ethical, moral, and fiscal inequalities rooted in segregation. As president Gray’s resignation exhibited, however, HBCUs would bear considerable sacrifices. Blood, Sweat, & Tears: Jake Gaither, Florida A&M, and the History of Black College Football explains how HBCUs, in the dark shadow of the failure of Reconstruction, created athletic programs that became among the very best in the country after World War II. These under-resourced football programs relied on the support of faculty, staff, coaches, and the broader community—a sporting congregation—to have a significant impact on college and professional football. The civil rights movement created a circumstance in which the dominance of these programs was sacrificed in the name of integration.
Learn more about Blood, Sweat, and Tears at The University of North Carolina Press website. Follow Derrick E. White on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 20, 2019

David Sorkin's "Jewish Emancipation"

David Sorkin is the Lucy G. Moses Professor of History at Yale University. His books include The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna, Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment, and The Transformation of German Jewry, 1780–1840.

Sorkin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Jewish Emancipation: A History Across Five Centuries, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The new Constitution had definitively established the criteria for citizenship. How could one continue to defer a decision on the Jews?
I believe that liberty of religion no longer permits any distinction about the political rights of citizens by reason of their belief. The question of political existence has been adjourned; therefore, Turks, Muslims, men of all sects, are admitted to political rights in France. I request that the postponement [of the Jews’ rights] be revoked, and in consequence it be decreed that the Jews in France enjoy active political rights.
Reubell, a deputy from Alsace, immediately opposed the motion. Regnault’s defense of Duport’s motion clinched the matter. Regnault answered: “I request that all those who speak against this motion be called to order since they are attacking the Constitution itself.”

Duport and Regnault thus succeeded in casting the issue as a question of the Constitution’s integrity. This was in stark contrast to the debate on December 23, 1789: the deputies then failed to make it a vote about the integrity of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.”

The motion’s significance was evident in its tortured wording.
The National Assembly, considering that the constitution establishes the conditions requisite to be a French citizen and to become an active citizen, and that every man who, being duly qualified, swears the civic oath and engages to fulfill all the duties the constitution prescribes, has a right to all the advantages it insures.

[This motion] annuls all postponements, restrictions and exceptions contained in the preceding decrees, affecting individual Jews who shall take the civic oath, which will be regarded as a renunciation of all privileges and exceptions previously introduced in their favor.
The first paragraph addressed the fundamental ambiguity of the Jews of the Northeast’s status by admitting them to “passive” and “active” citizenship. The second paragraph abrogated all prior privileges the ancien régime had granted. This motion thus constituted a radical break with the past. In contrast to the Jews of Bordeaux’s seamless transition, here was a true rupture, the repeal of a century or more of legislation. The concatenation of events that led the National Assembly to vote in favor of rights, and the very wording of the motion, constituted a new pattern of emancipation “out of estates.” Equality rested on the abrogation of corporations and privileges and the incorporation of Jews into the state. September 28, 1791 thus represented an alternative to Joseph II’s legislation of the previous decade of a partial emancipation “into estates.” Here instead was a full emancipation “out of estates.” From this point onwards, the two models would rule continental Europe’s corridors of power. In Central Europe “out of estates” would vie with Joseph’s conditional emancipation “into estates.” In Tsarist Russia “into estates” would, following Catherine the Great, remain the preferred model.
Readers opening Jewish Emancipation: A History Across Five Centuries to page 99 would indeed get an excellent idea of the entire book. That page highlights the ambiguities that beset the emancipation process, the fact that it was never simple, clear and straightforward, but always subject to tensions and outright contradictions, that it was never a single event or a linear process but always a combination of progress and reversal, attainment and loss, in other words, a complex and complicated process that, continuing to this day, is interminable or, put differently, coterminous with the Jews’ diverse and disparate experience of the modern world.

These essential characteristics were nowhere more in evidence than during the French Revolution, which many scholars have construed as the turning point in the Jews gaining equal rights. The delegates to the revolutionary National Assembly had first discussed emancipating the Jews, that is, granting them equal rights, in December 1789. They had then tabled the issue for over a year and a half. Various Jewish leaders and their allies had lobbied continuously to get the issue revisited. The Assembly finally addressed the issue at the virtual last moment, when it was about to dissolve to allow a new representative body to take its place. Only then did some delegates realize that the Jews’ status was incontrovertibly fundamental to the constitution: to deny them equality was to deny the constitution itself. That was an irreducible and irresistibly compelling argument.

Yet the French revolution provided only one of the competing models of emancipation, and an ambiguous one at that. Emancipation “by reform,” with its own ambiguous policy of “into” and “out of“ estates continued to be an alternative. And governments in different parts of Europe applied that model in varying ways. Emancipation was truly ambiguous and interminable!
Learn more about Jewish Emancipation at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Enze Han's "Asymmetrical Neighbors"

Enze Han is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. His research interests include ethnic politics in China, China's relations with Southeast Asia, and the politics of state formation in the borderland area between China, Myanmar, and Thailand. He is the author of Contestation and Adaptation: The Politics of National Identity in China.

Han applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Asymmetrical Neighbors: Borderland State Building between China and Southeast Asia, and reported the following:
On page 99 of the book, it talks about the situation of Thailand’s economic development in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, and the situation of economic development in northern Thailand. It also touches upon how the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai has become a magnet for both legal and illegal migrant labor from the neighboring country of Myanmar.

Unfortunately, this test does not really work for my book. Although page 99 of Asymmetrical Neighbors does touch upon how Myanmar migrant labor go to work in Thailand, and that is one aspect of my book on how disparities in economic conditions across national borders have led to this mass movement of people, this is nonetheless not the main focus of the book. So I would give it a C as a test to understand what my book is about from reading on page 99.

Asymmetrical Neighbors looks at the state and nation building process in the borderland area between the three countries of China, Myanmar and Thailand. By documenting the historical development of these variations and their contemporary manifestations, the book emphasizes how asymmetrical power relations across national borders have deep consequences for how politics along the border are structured and the diverse outcome in state consolidation and national identity construction. The book argues that the failure of the Myanmar state to consolidate its control over its borderland area is partly due to the political and military meddling by its two more powerful neighbors during the Cold War. Furthermore, both China and Thailand, being more economically advanced than Myanmar, have exerted heavy economic influence on the borderland area at the cost of Myanmar’s economic sovereignty. These two dimensions explain the variation of state building across the borderland among these three countries. Furthermore, the book has pointed out the substantial influence the People’s Republic of China in the political dynamic of the borderland. With its growing power asymmetry over its southern neighbors, its influence is bound to increase, along with possible resistance against its influence. So this book should be interest for people who wants to understand some historical backgrounds of China’s relations with Southeast Asia, Myanmar’s ethnic politics, and the future of borderland politics between China, Myanmar, and Thailand.
Learn more about Asymmetrical Neighbors at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Charlie Michael's "French Blockbusters"

Charlie Michael is Visiting Assistant Professor of Film & Media at Emory University in Atlanta. His recent research focuses on contemporary media industries with particular emphasis on the cultural politics of contemporary French cinema.

Michael applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book French Blockbusters: Cultural Politics of a Transnational Cinema, and reported the following:
Page 99 sits squarely in the middle of Chapter 3. This section of the book pivots from the more contextual accounts offered in the introduction and first two chapters to a focused study of just one title – Amélie / Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet 2001). The subsection that appears on this particular page – ‘The Initial Debate’ – begins to unpack the cascade of public responses to the film’s success in France. Notably, after the initial phase of excitement about Amélie’s box office, a controversy brewed when a prominent film critic eviscerated the film, panning its glossy aesthetic and accusing Jeunet of an irresponsible ‘whitewashing’ of the racially diverse quartier where the story putatively takes place. Rather than add to the voluminous literature on these rather specific charges, the chapter instead reads between their lines, teasing out their connections to later academic work on the film, and relating them to much longer-term ideological divisions in the French culture industries.

While it most likely does not give an accurate representation of the book’s argument as a whole, this page does in many ways encapsulate the methodological intervention of French Blockbusters, which brings together industrial history, film aesthetics and film reception in ways that few previous accounts even attempt. In so doing, the account is less concerned with unveiling a nascent genre or style than it is with measuring the consequences of French cinema’s recent commercial ‘bigness’. Since the mid-1980s, government policy reforms have gradually pushed domestic producers to pursue market-based practices attuned to the challenge of competing with Hollywood franchises. In the 2000s and 2010s, the behind-the-scenes search for a healthy balance – a ‘cultural diversity’ – between commercialized grandeur and arthouse prestige became a persistent concern across the industry. And in the meantime, French film culture became so obsessed with measuring the relative merits of its success that each breakout hit (or catastrophic failure) seemed to add fuel to the fire. From this longer perspective, the Amélie moment looks like just the first episode in an ongoing debate about the cultural legitimacy of popular cinematic forms – followed later by vigorous installments about the period piece Des Dieux et des hommes / Of Gods and Men (Beauvois, 2010), the buddy comedy Intouchables / Untouchable (Toledano and Nakache 2011) and the sci-fi epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Besson 2017), among many, many others. Perched as they are on a fragile terrain of ideological fissures, these recent ‘local blockbusters’ from France resonate with the unrest of a culture industry embroiled in the throes of a prolonged period of uneven transition.
Learn more about French Blockbusters at the Edinburgh University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Marco Z. Garrido's "The Patchwork City"

Marco Z. Garrido is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Patchwork City: Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Patchwork City recounts how the residents of Phil-Am Homes, a gated community or “village” in Metro Manila, responded when a fire broke out in San Roque, the informal settlement across the street. Their first reaction was to secure their gates against looters. Upon seeing people fleeing the flames, many barefoot and with children in tow, some residents prevailed upon the homeowners association to help. The association allowed inside a number of “refugees”: 200 families in total, just enough to fit inside the village’s covered basketball court. The families were sheltered and fed for four days. Pains were taken, however, to keep the squatters “contained” within the court. They were watched by security guards around the clock. They weren’t allowed to roam around the village, or even to use the playground beside the court. If they wanted to leave, they had to be escorted out.

The book is about the relationship between the urban poor and middle class as located in slums and enclaves (and in Manila they have become increasingly so). The incident recounted on page 99 speaks to the complexity of this relationship. Enclave residents may view slum residents as vulgar and potential criminals, but they don’t only seek to exclude them. They also want to help them. This help, however, is perfectly consistent with a view of them as their social inferiors. The residents of Phil-Am helped out the residents of San Roque, but they did so in a way that underscored the social boundary between them. They imposed this boundary spatially by circumscribing their presence within the village. Benefaction and discrimination are not incompatible, in other words, and even while helping, the middle class may treat the poor as categorically unequal. Elsewhere in the book, I show that this treatment, writ large, is politically consequential. It makes the poor acutely sensitive to discrimination and may lead them to support populist leaders promising to overturn their stigma as poor people and squatters.
Learn more about The Patchwork City at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 16, 2019

Jennie Bristow's "Stop Mugging Grandma"

Jennie Bristow is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University, an Associate of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, and a writer and commentator on the new generation wars.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Stop Mugging Grandma: The 'Generation Wars' and Why Boomer Blaming Won't Solve Anything, and reported the following:
From page 99:
‘[U]ntil the election of Bill Clinton as President of the United States, the sixties generation promised only to disappoint on the playing field of politics’, began a lengthy editorial in the Guardian in 1992. The editorial argued that ‘[n]o other generation had, in its youth, wrought such a profound change on the cultural landscape of the western world’ – that was partly to do with ‘sheer numbers’, and partly to do with its ‘remarkably radical and innovative’ ideas:

This was the generation that gave sudden birth to the first serious critique of the post-war welfare society – to gender politics, to personal politics, to environmental politics, and to generational politics as well.’

Clinton’s election marked the point at which generationalism became institutionalised, as a way of discussing political problems and solutions. Until the 1990s, the impact of the Sixties generation had been mainly cultural; it came to be known for pursuing its vision of a better world through cultural institutions of education and the arts, as ‘[t]he revolting students of the 1960s’ became the ‘revolting teachers’ of the 1980s, ‘reproducing themselves by teaching as received wisdom what they furiously asserted against the wisdom received from their own teachers’. Believing that ‘the personal is political’, the radicals of this time sought to change ideas and conventions through their actions and behaviour in society, seeking a ‘permanent fusion of the everyday and history’ that stood in stark contrast to the aloof institutions of representative democracy.

When Clinton came along, generationalism suddenly shifted gear. His election in 1992 was reported far and wide as symbolising a new generation in politics; a time of ‘Woodstock in Washington’, when ‘the baby-boomers’ coming of age is being proclaimed everywhere…
Page 99 begins a discussion of ‘generation as a political identity’, looking at its emergence in the 1990s through the election of Bill Clinton as US president. I argue that this was the point at which the idea of generation first became politicised, via the notion that that the Baby Boomers (as the ‘Sixties generation’) represented a distinctive set of new values and ideas, represented by the Clintonite ‘Third Way’ – and later mimicked by the Blair election in the UK. This was, at the time, widely seen as an excitingly radical departure from the left/right politics that had previously characterised the 20th century.

The politicisation of generation has come back to bite the Baby Boomers, as they are now blamed for – among many other things – the failure of Third Way politics. Yet the construction of political identities in generational terms has become increasingly dominant as a way of explaining and expressing differences of outlook. Divisive events, such as the Brexit vote in the UK and the Trump election in the US, are routinely presented as clashes of Boomers versus Millennials, or young versus old – a reductive response that ignores the wider context of these events, and the fact that generations do not actually vote as a homogenous bloc.

Part of my motivation in writing Stop Mugging Grandma was to challenge the shrill, brittle, and dishonest framing of politics as a clash between old and young, and to warn of the dangers arising when an obsession with generation collides with the logic of identity politics. Two chapters are devoted to this theme later on: ‘“Youthquakes” and the politicisation of generational identity’, and ‘“Democratic deficits” and the tyranny of ‘“future generations”’. As such, browsers of the book will find the page 99 test an excellent signpost to the overall themes.
Visit Jennie Bristow's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ian Stewart's "Do Dice Play God?"

Ian Stewart was born in 1945 and educated at Cambridge (MA) and Warwick (PhD). He is an Emeritus Professor in the Mathematics Department at Warwick University, where he divides his time equally between research into nonlinear dynamics and furthering public awareness of mathematics. He is also an Emeritus Professor of Gresham College, London. He has held visiting positions in Germany, New Zealand, and the USA. He has five honorary doctorates (Open University, Westminster, Louvain, Kingston, and Brighton) and is an honorary wizard of Unseen University on Discworld.

Stewart is best known for his popular science writing—mainly on mathematical themes.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Do Dice Play God?: The Mathematics of Uncertainty, and reported the following:
The top half of page 99 finishes off a discussion of two main current approaches to probability and statistics: Frequentist and Bayesian. In the Frequentist approach, which until recently was dominant, the probability of an event quantifies the proportion of times it occurs, in the long run, after many repeated trials. In the Bayesian view, which goes back to the Presbyterian Minister Thomas Bayes in 1736, probability is a measure of how strongly we (should) believe that something is true.

The bottom half of page 99 looks at one area where Bayesian methods have a serious impact on people’s lives: criminal trials. More to the point, the misuse of Bayesian methods — notably conditional probability, the likelihood of some event occurring, given that something else has already occurred. The Prosecutor’s Fallacy confuses the probability of some event occurring to a randomly chosen person with the probability of the accused being guilty, given that the event has occurred.

The text here reads:
A court of law might seem an unlikely test ground for mathematical theorems, but Bayes’s Theorem has important applications to criminal prosecutions. Unfortunately, the legal profession largely ignores this, and trials abound with fallacious statistical reasoning. It’s ironic — but highly predictable — that in an area of human activity where the reduction of uncertainty is vital, and where well-developed mathematical tools exist to achieve just that, both prosecution and defence prefer to resort to reasoning that is archaic and fallacious. Worse, the legal system itself discourages the use of the mathematics. You might think that applications of probability theory in the courts should be no more controversial than using arithmetic to decide how much faster than the speed limit someone is driving. The main problem is that statistical inference is open to misinterpretation, creating loopholes that both prosecution and defence lawyers can exploit.
The page 99 text doesn’t work very well for Do Dice Play God?, even though the chapter concerned covers a very important topic. The reason is that no one-page selection, except perhaps from the opening chapter which outlines the contents, can convey the broad scope of this particular book. The one feature that does generalize to the rest of the book is the link between mathematical theory and human impact; in this case, that a court can convict an innocent person of a serious crime — such as a mother murdering her own children, or a nurse murdering dozens of hospital patients — on the basis of flawed mathematics, even when there is absolutely no other corroborative evidence.

The book is about a much broader topic: uncertainty. It concentrates on the many different mathematical techniques that have been developed, over the ages, to help us manage uncertainty, reduce it, remove it, or exploit it. Probability and statistics represent only one of six ‘Ages of Uncertainty’ that provide a loose organisational structure to a widely ranging discussion. Page 99 gives a false impression because its scope is too limited.

In the first Age of Uncertainty, we were at the mercy of the natural world, subject to fires, floods, earthquakes, famine, hurricanes, and tsunamis — not to mention the unpredictable ravages of other people, such as an invading army. Unable to control these things, an evolving priesthood invented belief systems, attributing such events to the will of the gods. The priests claimed the ability to predict what the gods would do, or even to influence their decisions, based on methods such as examining the liver of a sacrificed animal.

This first age is still with us, perhaps in more sophisticated forms, but for most practical purposes it has given way to the second Age of Uncertainty: the scientific method. Planets don’t wander about the sky according to godly whim: they follow regular elliptical orbits, aside from tiny disturbances that they inflict on each other. Uncertainty is merely temporary ignorance. With enough effort and thought, we can work out the underlying laws and predict what once was hidden from human knowledge.

Science forced us to find an effective way to quantify how certain or uncertain an event is, and how errors affect observations. This opened up a new branch of mathematics: probability theory. The theory grew from the needs and experiences of gamblers, who wanted a better grasp of ‘the odds’, and astronomers, who wanted to obtain accurate observations from imperfect telescopes. Probability, and its applied arm of statistics, dominated the third Age of Uncertainty, and led to a revolution: the application of statistics to large-scale human behaviour.

The fourth Age of Uncertainty arrived at the start of the 20th century. Until then, it was assumed that uncertainty reflected human ignorance. If we were uncertain about something, it was because we didn’t have the information needed to predict it. New discoveries in fundamental physics forced us to revise that view. According to quantum theory, sometimes the information we need simply isn’t available, because even Nature doesn’t know it.

The fifth Age of Uncertainty emerged when mathematicians and scientists realised that even when you know the exact laws that govern some system, it can still be unpredictable, because unavoidable errors in observations can grow exponentially and swap the true prediction. This is ‘chaos theory’, and it explains such things as why weather is so unpredictable, even though we understand the basic physics that it involves.

We have now entered the sixth Age of Uncertainty, characterised by the realisation that uncertainty comes in many forms, each being comprehensible to some extent. We now possess an extensive mathematical toolkit to help us make sensible choices in a world that’s still horribly uncertain. ‘Big data’ is all the rage, although right now we’re better at collecting it than we are at doing anything useful with it. Our mental models can now be augmented with computational ones.

The story of these six ages spans a wide range of human activity, and many branches of science. In particular, quantum uncertainty is still not properly understood, mainly because we don’t really know how to model an observation of a quantum system. I cover this ground in two chapters: first the orthodox story, then the unorthodox alternatives currently emerging. The topics in the book range from reading entrails to SatNav, from gambling with dice to fake news, from statistical regularities in human behaviour to the widely misunderstood difference between weather and climate.

We’re beginning to recognise that the world is much more complex than we like to imagine, and everything is interconnected. Every day brings new discoveries about uncertainty, in its many different forms and meanings, and new methods to help us deal with it. The science of uncertainty is the science of the future.
Visit Ian Stewart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 13, 2019

Victor Fan's "Extraterritoriality"

Victor Fan is Senior Lecturer at Film Studies, King's College London and Film Consultant of the Chinese Visual Festival. His articles have appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen and Film History: An International Journal. He is the author of Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory (2015). Besides his academic works, Fan is also a composer, theatre director and filmmaker.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Extraterritoriality: Locating Hong Kong Cinema and Media, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Ann Hui, Shu Kei and Wong Chi are not modernists. Rather, they use the classical Hollywood paradigm to invite their viewers to live with characters who are reduced to a socio-politically deindividuated, desubjectivised, and deautonomised position. Giorgio Agamben calls such a position a bare life or homo sacer, a life identified by the rest of the community as an outsider, which can be kept alive, persecuted, ostracised, or even killed without breaking the communal law. Julia Kristeva calls such a life abject. The abject is part of me (the subject) that I eject. Facing the abject, I feel disgusted and am eager to objectify it. Yet, it has once been part of me and it has once formed––and still does––a relationship with me. In biological terms, bodily fluids such as vomit, phlegm, excrement, blood, and semen can be regarded by a subject as abject. In political terms, refugees, illegal immigrants, queers or even women are often perceived and treated by the larger community as such. Yet, becoming abject is not the end of all hopes. Instead, the abject figures in Hui’s works come to terms with their own extraterritorial positions and form alternative kinships with one another, thus suggesting that a new sense of agency can be generated from their state of deindividuation and desubjectivisation.

‘The Boy from Vietnam’, together with feature films Hu Yue de gushi [Wu Jyut dik gwusi or The Story of Woo Viet, 1981] and Touben nuhai [Tauban nouhoi or Boat People, 1982], are now known as Hui’s Vietnam trilogy. Hui’s trilogy was inspired by the influx of Vietnamese refugees (later renamed boatpeople) into Hong Kong between 1978 and 1989. After the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, ethnic Chinese, especially middle-class families in the South, were increasingly targeted in the new government’s economic and political reforms. By 1978, many of them were sent to the New Economic Zones, remote areas where they were forced to clear landmines in order to cultivate the land. In May 1978, a large number of ethnic Chinese began to leave Vietnam by boat. Some of them reached Hong Kong directly or via Mainland China. Those who had relatives or were picked up at the sea by vessels registered in Hong Kong could apply for permanent residency. Otherwise, they would stay in refugee camps for resettlement in Europe or North America. On 11 June 1979, there were 51,400 Vietnamese refugees waiting for resettlement, and only 3,400 were successfully resettled. [footnotes omitted]
The first paragraph cited here serves as a good window onto the key conceptual framework of my book and the second paragraph gives browsers a taste of the kind of cinematic and media works examined. In my monograph, I argue that as a geopolitical community, Hong Kong has been historically and socio-politically set up as a zone of exception. It is best seen as a liminal space doubly occupied by two conflicting sovereign authorities––China and the United Kingdom––which have exercised their political powers over its biopolitical lives, ironically, by abandoning them outside their respective territories. For these lives, political individuation, subjectivisation, and autonomisation are perpetually deferred. Hong Kongers are neither Chinese nor British, at once Chinese and British. Their state of double occupancy and double abandonment have therefore rendered them homines sacri or abject.

Under these conditions, Hong Kong cinema and media are therefore best understood as a public sphere, where complex and mutually contesting affects generated by their audience’s extraterritorial positions are negotiated. My book traces through the history of Hong Kong cinema and media (including television and video art) from 1967 (the Leftist Riots) to 2016 (the aftermath of the Umbrella Movement in 2014). It analyses how filmmakers and spectators have developed aesthetics and strategies to mediate their affective responses to their various modes of extraterritoriality. Page 99 is taken from a chapter on the television phase of the Hong Kong New Wave during the second half of the 1970s. In this chapter, I examine the experimental cinema of Tang Shu-hsuen and the televisual works by Patrick Tam/Ivy Ho and Ann Hui. I especially focus on how women filmmakers and screenwriters adopt different stylistic strategies in order to enable themselves, their female spectators and characters to speak as women without any interlocutors, a concern not only interested filmmakers in Hong Kong and elsewhere during the 1970s.
Visit Victor Fan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Christopher W. Shaw's "Money, Power, and the People"

Christopher W. Shaw is an author, historian, and policy analyst. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic (2019) and Preserving the People’s Post Office (2006). His research on the history of banking, money, labor, agriculture, social movements, and the postal system has been published in the following academic journals: Journal of Policy History, Journal of Social History, Agricultural History, Enterprise & Society, Kansas History, and Journalism History.

Shaw applied the “Page 99 Test” to Money, Power, and the People and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book provides a snapshot of the debate over the Federal Reserve Act. Bankers wanted a single central bank that they would control. But public opposition to financial monopoly yielded a compromise that President Woodrow Wilson endorsed, which recognized public authority by establishing a supervisory board of presidential appointees to govern twelve Federal Reserve Banks.

In the summer of 1913, this contest was fought out in the Democratic Party's caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bankers' congressional opponents wanted the legislation to further curb the power of bankers and make farm loans more affordable. Among the reforms they proposed was an amendment banning individuals from serving on multiple banks' board of directors. House Democrats who supported the administration's bill managed to sidetrack this amendment, setting the stage for the pivotal moment in the caucus's deliberations. Among the bankers' most prominent political opponents was William Jennings Bryan—the three-time Democratic presidential nominee then serving as secretary of state. However, eager to support President Wilson, Bryan announced that he backed the existing legislative compromise, revealing that the bankers' congressional opponents lacked the support of a critical figure, and clearing the way for the bill's subsequent passage in the House.

The Page 99 test identifies a central theme of my book: political resistance to bankers. Because the actors on this page are bankers, congressmen, and Bryan, however, the grassroots political activism that is crucial to my book is not spotlighted. Working people not only exerted the political pressure that forced bankers to compromise over the Federal Reserve Act, they also compelled the establishment of the predecessor of today's Farm Credit System. Workers and farmers would play a similarly crucial role in securing financial reform during the New Deal.
Visit Christopher W. Shaw's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

James Lindley Wilson's "Democratic Equality"

James Lindley Wilson is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Democratic Equality, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Democratic Equality distinguishes two ways in which people can treat others as authorities. In one way, we treat other people’s expectations of certain kinds of treatment as authoritative. For instance, you expect that I don’t tread on your feet on the subway, and I treat that expectation as authoritative when I take it as determining what I should do (e.g., stepping carefully). In another way, we treat other people as authoritative, when we take their decisions about what we ought to do as playing an important role in determining what we should do. For instance, you tell me that we should go get an ice cream, and I treat that decision as weighty in my deliberations about what we should do together. I then begin to explain my view that true democracy requires that citizens equally share authority in the sense of authority of persons. One important consequence of this is that representatives should see themselves as tasked with doing what their constituents believe the representative ought to do, not with simply advancing the constituents’ interests.

Page 99 presents a central thesis of the book—that equal authority is a morally central part of democracy. It moves directly between philosophical clarification of ideas and practical consequences for democratic ethics. Page 99 is from a chapter that’s a bit heavier on the clarification, because I introduce a new way of thinking about the authority of persons. I suggest that we can obligate others to attend positively to our views about what to do without putting them under obligations to obey us. (I don’t have an obligation to obey your verdict that we should go for ice cream, but, if we are friends, I ought to take your judgment seriously, and engage with it in various ways.) This way of thinking about the mutual authority of citizens is suitable for a democracy of equals, or so I think.

Page 99 gives a flavor of how this clarification of ideas can help develop a moral argument about how we should pursue democratic reform. But it does not alert the reader to the fact that the book takes up many of these political questions in some detail (by philosopher standards, at least!). Later chapters discuss, among other issues, proportional representation, racial vote dilution, gerrymandering, and campaign finance regulation. Earlier chapters try to ground these more concrete discussions in a wider ideal of citizen equality.

Page 99 catches the discussion in the middle of movement between the wider ideal and the concrete applications. The page shows how painstaking it can be to make this movement. But I hope it also reflects how fascinating it can be to reflect on how our democratic aspirations involve ideals drawn from familiar features of our social life. There is something democratic in this very idea that most of us understand what it is to be treated like an equal, and are fit to judge our political conditions accordingly.
Learn more about Democratic Equality at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 9, 2019

Jennifer A. Herdt's "Forming Humanity"

Jennifer A. Herdt is Gilbert L. Stark Professor of Christian Ethics and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Yale University Divinity School.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Forming Humanity: Redeeming the German Bildung Tradition, and reported the following:
On page 99 the reader is deeply embroiled in Johann Gottfried Herder’s political theology. In what sense can humankind be, or become, the image of God? While Herder is often seen as shedding a conception of Bildung as the divine (re)formation of humankind in favor of a secularized understanding of Bildung as a purely human process of self-realization, on page 99 we learn why this is too simplistic. Herder’s understanding of Bildung is rooted in earlier medieval Christian humanism’s understanding of human beings as active participants in the cosmic reditus or return of creation to God. But this notion of human participatory activity is given a more dynamic historical and political expression by Herder and others in the Bildung tradition; it is a teleological process by which immanent powers unfold and interact throughout the universe: “the more you recognize perfection, goodness, and beauty,” writes Herder, “the more these living forms will form [bilden] you to an image [Nachbilde] of God in your earthly life.” Politically, this yields a consociational, communitarian vision. “Humanity,” the telos of Bildung, is realized in myriad forms of human culture and community, creating increasingly complex webs of interconnection that are capable of harmonious coexistence insofar as they prove capable of mutual recognition in all their embedded particularity. Simply put, ideal humanity is essentially plural, not singular.

What page 99 cannot convey to the reader is the broader narrative arc of the book, which begins long before Herder, in Greek paideia, Latin humanitas, and medieval Christian conformatio, moves through Meister Eckhart’s yearning to transcend images, Paracelsian epigenesis, and Pietist suspicions of human image-making, and engages competing conceptions of Bildung at work in Wilhelm von Humboldt’s religion of art, Schiller’s aesthetic education, Goethe’s exemplary Bildungsroman, and Hegel’s metaphysical project of reconciliation. Yet however partial and bewildering a starting point, this page is critical to the book’s broader claim that the Bildung tradition from Herder to Hegel drew on inherited theological notions of humankind’s creation in the image of God while rejecting suspicions of human creativity and imag-ination. This, in turn, is central to Forming Humanity’s aim of assembling usable resources for a dialogical humanism adequate to our own historical moment. So the page 99 test comes out rather well, on the whole.

Of course there is much more to be said. While Herder helps us envision a pluralistic cosmopolitanism worthy of endorsement, his thought can no more be uncritically retrieved than that of anyone else in the Bildung tradition. Herder’s most egregious failure lies in his naively providentialist view of history; he assumes that historical progress is assured, whatever the ups and downs along the way. Historical conflicts further a process of equilibration that issues in harmony. Herder’s providentialism thus justified past evils or present injustices as serving the progress of humankind.

Why redeem such a troubled tradition of reflection? Because the best anti-humanism is itself a renewed humanism. Our best critiques of existing notions of our common humanity, past and present, are forms of immanent criticism. Essential as it is to diagnose the ways in which the powerful make over the world in their own image, erecting their own identity and values as the ideally human, it is equally indispensable to arrive at more adequate conceptions of the human, that vindicate the humanity—and hence the equal dignity—of the marginal and dispossessed. Dialogical humanism thrives on what Paul Gilroy, in his own recent defense of humanism, has called “heteropathic identification.” So long as we recognize “perfection, goodness, and beauty” only in our own image, we ourselves are not yet fully human.
Learn more about Forming Humanity at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Alexandra Minna Stern's "Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate"

Alexandra Minna Stern is a Professor in the Department of American Culture at the University of Michigan. She also holds appointments in the Departments of History, Women's Studies, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, and directs the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab housed in the Department of American Culture.

Stern applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination, and reported the following:
Page 99 is a revealing prism on to key ideas in my book, including the centrality of race realism to white nationalism, and how "diversity" functions as the bête noire for the alt-right. I show how extreme disdain for diversity, combined with anxieties over changing demographics in America, fuels assertions about impending white extinction. These ideas undergird the alt-right equation that "diversity equals white genocide" and sit at the core of emergent, reactionary "white identity politics."

This page also connects the alt-right anti-diversity mindset to a longer trajectory of eugenic thinking, that espouses that race and intelligence are fixed attributes, immutable to change. This fatalistic attitude is part and parcel of "race realism," which I examine in the context of sociology and behavioral genetics in subsequent pages.

Yet the test has limitations, as page 99 does not capture the gist of the chapter as a whole, which focuses on the depraved gender politics of the alt-right, and the alt-light, both of which engage in caricatured anti-feminism and explicitly or implicitly celebrate patriarchy and traditionalism.

Overall, I'd give the page 99 test a B+, at least for this book.
Visit Alexandra Minna Stern's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Julie Guthman's "Wilted"

Julie Guthman is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her books include Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California and Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism.

Guthman applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry, and reported the following:
As luck would have it, on page 99 of my book you find a photograph and some summary language of the preceding pages. The main paragraph you read states a key paradox of the use of mitigation measures for chemical fumigation of agricultural fields: that they exist to enable chemical use not to reduce it. The next paragraph, which only begins on this page, summarizes several arguments about the weakness of U.S. agro-chemical regulation. Here we read that it has allowed easy substitutions (if a particular chemical is restricted another potentially as toxic takes it place), that it exists more to manage these chemicals than to eliminate them, that it has largely disregarded populations with little recourse to contest chemical use violations, and that toxicity assessments neglect cumulative and interactive exposures. The photo helps illustrate some of these points, as it shows an agricultural field with tarps, designed to keep chemical fumigants in the ground and not expose those nearby, ripped from the wind.

If you opened my book on page 99, you would learn about one aspect of what the book is about – restrictions on fumigation. And you would see that the book isn’t light reading, but some sort of scholarly analysis. But you wouldn’t know what fumigation is and what it is for, and that these restrictions threaten some industry as well as enable it. And you certainly wouldn’t know that the book is primarily about the many converging crises facing the California strawberry industry, only one of which is restrictions on fumigation. So the test works in terms of signaling something about the book, but gives you no context. I would still take that as a “pass” of the page 99 test.

Wilted is written by a geographer (me) with an abiding scholarly interest in the political economy of California agriculture and the contradictory pressures of supplying so much of the country’s fresh fruits and vegetables while doing so in less toxic and more land-sustaining ways. In Wilted, I focus on the fate of the strawberry industry, which supplies 88% of US strawberries, most of which are grown within a few miles of the Pacific Ocean, competing with suburbanites for land. The industry’s earlier success come from innovations in plant breeding, soil fumigation, irrigation, and more, which together have improved upon the natural advantages of the sandy soil and climate of the California coast to produce nearly year round harvests. Growers have enjoyed exceptional profits and consumers have enjoyed the affordability of a fruit that kids love to eat. Today, however, many of the industry’s earlier advantages have morphed into threats, including the tighter restrictions on soil fumigants discussed on page 99. Chemical fumigants have long allowed growers to manage a number of soil-borne diseases and pests and plant year after year on the same blocks of land. Making things even more difficult, these restrictions have converged with several other threats discussed elsewhere in the book. Together, these have made the future of the industry highly uncertain – and thus also the future availability of affordable strawberries.
Learn more about Wilted at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Byron E. Shafer & Regina L. Wagner's "The Long War over Party Structure"

Byron E. Shafer is Hawkins Chair of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Regina L. Wagner is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Long War over Party Structure: Democratic Representation and Policy Responsiveness in American Politics, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford did not have the social sciences in mind, with their need to blend text and evidence at every point, when he suggested the Page 99 Thesis. Or perhaps he did, and he meant to alert readers that what is being conveyed in these books must be a compound of interpretation and evidence.

In that sense, it is pages 99 and 100 of The Long War over Party Structure that are his introductory sample. A reader who cuts into the story there meets the political ideologies of the ordinary American, not of scholars and theorists. With an eye on current politics, what stands out is the long-running presence of a strong streak of Populism. Once, this Populism was one of two fundamental strands in American politics. For a long time, it has instead been suppressed by political activists in both parties, but the data—not to mention current experience?— suggest that it never went away.

The argument about ideology is nested in a larger argument, keyed in the title of the book, about changes in the way political parties connect public preferences with the real activities of government. And this builds on a huge, data-driven, irony. Forty years of attempts to ‘open up’ politics by increasing the clout of issue activists have come at the expense of a general public that has a lot more to think about in its daily life than politics. A party system that once focused on delivering concrete rewards to partisans, from party officials drawn from local community organizations, has been successfully replaced by a party system focused on mobilizing intense, independent, issue activists, for whom rank and file citizens and their daily lives are in effect the enemy.
Learn more about The Long War over Party Structure at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 2, 2019

Martin S. Flaherty's "Restoring the Global Judiciary"

Martin S. Flaherty is the Leitner Family Professor of International Human Rights Law and founding codirector of the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School. He is also a longtime visiting professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He lives in New York City.

Flaherty applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Restoring the Global Judiciary: Why the Supreme Court Should Rule in U.S. Foreign Affairs, and reported the following:
Anyone opening Restoring the Global Judiciary at page 99 will find a discussion of the Supreme Court’s epic decision, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. In that case, a majority of the Justices held that President Harry Truman could not order the seizure of the country’s steel mills in the face of an imminent nationwide strike in the midst of the Korean War. The specific passage on this recounts how some of the Justices came to this conclusion. Justice Hugo Black, writing for the Court, famously relied on a strict reading of the Constitution’s text provided the president no authority for his attempted action. Justice Felix Frankfurter, no less famously, goes on to argue that how the Constitution has operated over time supplements the text, but in this instance finds nothing to help Truman. Just after this page, the book goes on to review Justice Robert Jackson’s opinion, which proved to be the most thoughtful, eloquent, and enduring.

Despite stopping just short of Jackson, the page offers a superb window in the the overall book. Restoring the Global Judiciary argues that the Supreme Court once did, and once again should, take a much more active role in cases involving foreign affairs. The point holds with special force when the courts are called upon to check the overreaching of the president or Congress, when fundamental rights are at stake, or both. Youngstown is perhaps the Court’s most famous and relevant illustration of what Restoring the Global Judiciary advocates. For that reason, it is something of a threat that runs throughout the work.

With Youngstown as a point of departure, the book makes three basic argument in support of the decision’s approach. First, it argues that the Founding generation intended the doctrine of separation of powers to apply as full to foreign as domestic affairs, with the corollary that the courts should uphold the law in cases before them. Second, the book notes that two hundred years of practice has put pressure on this understanding, thanks mainly to the expansion of the presidency as the US became of world power, but that this pressure should be resisted. Third, the book makes a complex argument that modern international relations theory gives a further reason for a robust judicial role. Finally, Restoring the Global Judiciary shows how these precepts should apply to modern doctrine, not least the Youngstown decision itself.
Learn more about Restoring the Global Judiciary at the Princeton University Press website, and follow Martin Flaherty on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue