Saturday, January 18, 2020

Christopher Knowlton's "Bubble in the Sun"

Chris Knowlton is a former staff writer and London Bureau Chief for Fortune Magazine. He currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Sea Center.

His previous book was Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West.

Knowlton applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression, and reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of Bubble in the Sun is the opening of a new chapter and reads as follows:
Chapter 9: Trail Blazers

When Marjory Douglas first began to explore the Everglades, in the process developing her passion for bird watching, she would drive down a forty-mile unfinished section of a road that dead-ended deep in the Everglades. The unfinished road, known as the Tamiami Trail, was originally planned as the last leg of the Dixie Highway, a leg that would bridge the cities of Tampa and Miami by traversing the Everglades at a point roughly level with Miami. Carl Fisher and the other proponents of the road believed it would be a boon to land development on both coasts, as well as an attraction and convenience for tourists traveling around the state. For years it had been the holy grail of Florida road building, championed by newspapers on both coasts.

The story behind the road’s construction is notable as a cautionary tale because road and land development so often go hand in hand, and in turn, have impacts on the environment—too often to the detriment of the environment, sometimes to the detriment of the development, and occasionally both, as we shall see in the larger story of the land boom.

The road’s construction began in 1916. After a promising start, with spurs of highway extending towards each other from the opposite coasts, the project stalled with neither county able to procure the funds to complete it. Then, in early April of 1923, a group of Tampa businessmen dreamed up a promotional stunt to rekindle interest in the project. Twenty-three men in nine automobiles led by two Miccosukee guides decided to traverse the Everglades along the projected route, still made up mostly of old Indian trails and rough grade roads known as “Wish to God” roads—short for “Wish to God I had taken another road!” The convoy included seven model T Fords, a brand new Elcar limousine, and one Overland commissary truck. None of the men had any significant experience as woodsmen.
Happily for this author, the excerpt validates Ford Madox Ford’s clever adage. One third of the way through the book, with the setup mechanics complete and the lives of the protagonists set firmly in motion, I chose to make a slight digression from the central thread of the narrative to tell the side story of the construction of the Tamiami Trail. This brief, breath-catching interlude doubles as a historical analog for the all the reckless and heedless development that took place across Florida—and the country as a whole—in the 1920s and teed us up for the calamity of the Great Depression.

What makes the passage so apposite thematically, as well, is that it explicitly marries the economic story in the book to the environmental story. A central argument here is that we can no longer separate economic wellbeing from environmental wellbeing. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an unlikely spokesperson for the environmental movement, may have put it best in an address to The Royal Society some thirty years ago, when she remarked that “the health of the economy and the health of our environment are totally dependent upon each other.” The World Wildlife Fund elaborated on this sentiment when it noted in 2018 that, “all economic activity ultimately depends on services provided by nature.” In this chapter, Florida’s major aquifer is eviscerated in the name of progress and development. What could be more shortsighted than that?

The passage also conveys the haplessness of the Trailblazers, who were every bit as ignorant of the ecology of the Everglades as Florida’s great developers were of the coastal environment that they so systematically destroyed. So page 99 provides something of a tip-off to the reader on how to interpret the book as a whole: as a high stakes morality tale where the price of environmental and/or economic ignorance can be ruinous.
Visit Christopher Knowlton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 17, 2020

Richard Lachmann's "First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship"

Richard Lachmann is a Professor at the University of Albany-SUNY and the author of Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite Conflict and Economic Transitions in Early Modern Europe, States and Power and What Is Historical Sociology?

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, First-Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Powers, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book is the first page of Chapter 3. On that page I present a historical problem: Why were Habsburg Spain and France under both Louis XIV and Napoleon unable to parlay their military domination within Europe, and in the case of Spain the largest global empire of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, into economic domination. Those failures demonstrate the limits of empires and of geopolitical power.

Chapter 3 goes on to explain why Spain and France never achieved hegemony. In brief, my answer is that elites at home and in the colonies manage to appropriate most colonial and state revenues for themselves, starving their countries’ domestic economies of investment and the governments of resources needed to fend off the rising power of the Netherlands and Britain. In the following chapters I trace how the Dutch and British achieved global economic hegemony and how, quickly in the Netherlands and much more slowly in Britain, elites appropriate state powers and resources and placed those countries on the path to decline.

The Page 99 Test works fairly well for my book: that page does present a central problem that my book tries to solve. However, readers who turn to that page wouldn’t know that most of the book is concerned with the contemporary United States. I wrote the book to explain how the US is losing its decades long advantage as the most educated, militarily successfully, and economically vibrant country.

I show how American elites, like their European predecessors, consolidated control over governmental offices and powers and extracted revenues both from government and from the businesses they controlled rather than investing in innovation and the infrastructure that could maintain US supremacy. In the US, as in Britain and the Netherlands as they began their declines, finance became the leading sector, resulting in speculative booms and busts. Today American dominance is largely in finance. The dollar remains the world currency and the Fed the global regulator, which enriches bankers and speculators but harms the real economy. I explain why the US military, despite enjoying a technological edge and ability to project force around the globe unprecedented in world history, has been unable for the last half century to achieve its objectives in wars.

My analysis is not a happy one, and I avoid the temptation to conclude with empty hopes that America can renew it self if only we turn off our screens or become public minded. Elites will not give up their power voluntarily, and this country’s future can best be predicted by looking at what happened in Britain and the Netherlands after their declines.
Learn more about First-Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Peggy Orenstein's "Boys & Sex"

Peggy Orenstein is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Don’t Call Me Princess, Girls & Sex, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, and Waiting for Daisy as well as Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Kids, Love and Life in a Half-Changed World and the classic SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap.

Orenstein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity, and reported the following:
Page 99 turns out to be a pretty interesting one. So much of the book is about the message boys still get, perhaps more strongly than ever, that sexual conquest is the measure of a man, that having as many hookups as possible (and often treating your partners poorly in the process) is the surest path to status and "fun." But they also talked about a desire for something different and how difficult it could be to find that. Page 99 picks up in the middle of a conversation with a college junior who's had three not-very-satisfying hookups since starting school but doesn't know how else to meet girls. He tells me that asking someone on a date would be weird, and I respond by asking why making out with a girl he barely knows on a dance floor and maybe going home together seemed more "weird" than asking someone from class out to a movie. He says, "Absolutely. I think about that all the time."

The page goes on with the quote from a second boy:
"I've had two one-night stands in college, and both of them have left me feeling empty and depressed. I have no idea what I gained from those experiences other than being like, ‘Yeah, I had sex with someone.’ There were no feelings of discovery or pleasure or intimate connection, which are really the things that I value. I mean, what is this dance we’re doing right now if all we take away is a number?”

Then there was the college sophomore in Los Angeles, one of the more sexually active young men I met, who fell silent when I asked about the most intimate act he’d ever engaged in, finally saying, almost reverently, “Holding hands.”
I think it captures the spirit of the book both in the sense that it's about the boys' voices; that they are candid, a little raw, in what they're saying to me; and that our interviews gave them the rare opportunity to express emotion in a way that boys are often denied.
Visit Peggy Orenstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Waiting for Daisy.

The Page 99 Test: Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Matthew Landauer's "Dangerous Counsel"

Matthew Landauer is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dangerous Counsel: Accountability and Advice in Ancient Greece, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Dangerous Counsel, Xerxes, the fifth-century BCE Great King of Persia, faces a difficult problem. As the Greek historian Herodotus tells it, at a critical moment in his invasion of Greece, Xerxes has to decide whose advice to trust. A defecting Spartan king, Demaratus, claims to know how to defeat his former people. Xerxes’ own brother, Achaemenes, offers opposing advice and slanders Demaratus, claiming that Greeks cannot be trusted. In previous interactions with advisers Xerxes has proved volatile, and Achaemenes fully expects him to punish Demaratus for trying to manipulate Persian war policy. Xerxes surprises everyone: while he sides with Achaemenes, he chastises his brother for attempting to sow distrust. Xerxes proves himself capable of listening to multiple viewpoints, and able to understand the value of trustworthy counsellors. But his decision to listen to his brother is also a mistake: Achaemenes’ advice ultimately leads to the total defeat of the Persian navy at Salamis.

A reader turning to page 99 would get a sense of some of the book’s central arguments, its method, and its tone. In the book I show how ancient Greeks used stories like this one, dramatizing the unaccountable power of kings and tyrants, to help them think through political concepts such as accountability, responsibility, advice, and control. They applied the insights they gained across diverse political contexts. While page 99 is about advice to a king, the book focuses as much on democracy as autocracy. Conscious of the differences between democracy and tyranny, Greek thinkers also recognized that a collective body of citizens (the demos) might sometimes act tyrannically — including in their interactions with orators and advisers.

Articulating a theory of advice is difficult. Theory trades in generalities while advice — and deciding which adviser to trust — is highly contextual and particular. The method of the book tracks the approach the Greeks themselves used: the careful consideration of particular cases. When Thucydides or Herodotus depicted scenes of counsel, playing out in the democratic assemblies of Athens or the courts of Persian kings, they were not offering simple, programmatic lessons for would-be political decision-makers and their advisers. Instead, they were dramatizing the complexity of real-world politics and giving their readers model cases to reflect on and learn from. The vignette on page 99 thus also captures something of the spirit of the book. The stories and historical incidents that ancient Greeks used as fodder for their theorizing about accountability and advice were often high stakes, full of drama and uncertainty. In Dangerous Counsel I try to preserve that sense of excitement. Stories of tyrants and demagogues from Peisistratus to Pericles and beyond are not only fertile grounds for political theorizing: they are also entertaining, ironic, weird, and fun.
Learn more about Dangerous Counsel at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Rachel Hammersley's "James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography"

Rachel Hammersley is an intellectual historian with particular expertise in the political thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She has carried out research on concepts such as republicanism, democracy and revolutions during this period and have written extensively on the exchange of ideas between Britain and France. Her books are French Revolutionaries and English Republicanism: The Cordeliers Club, 1790-1794 and The English Republican Tradition and Eighteenth-Century France.

Hammersley applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography, and reported the following:
Page 99 of James Harrington: An Intellectual Biography presents the argument that Harrington's innovative theory that political power depends on landed power was the product not just of his concern with inequality in wealth, but of his ambitious aim in The Commonwealth of Oceana to design a form of republican or commonwealth government that could function in a large, modern nation-state. Most previous republics had focused on single city-states or federations of towns. Consequently, it had come to be assumed that republics could only flourish in small states. In proposing a commonwealth suitable for seventeenth-century England, Harrington was therefore doing something new and controversial. He used several strategies to counter the traditional view and to justify his claim that a large republic was possible. The most important of these was his insistence that the problem of size could be alleviated through the use of representative government.

While all the arguments of a long and complex book will never be found on one page, the test works reasonably well in this case. Certain key points that are important in themselves are presented on page 99 and they in turn point towards broader ideas.

In turning to page 99 the first thing that struck me was the heading 'Creating a Commonwealth in the Modern World'. The idea that this was Harrington's aim, the notion that this aim was innovative for the time, and the suggestion that this helps to explain Harrington's importance in the eighteenth century, are all central claims of my book. Moreover, these claims are connected to two broader arguments. First, that Harrington was an innovative thinker. He introduced novel ideas rather than just repeating those of his predecessors; and he encouraged and embraced, rather than avoiding, controversy. Secondly, that he was one of the first political thinkers to advocate representation as the solution to political problems of governance.

Harrington was concerned with how government involving an element of popular participation could be made workable in a state covering a large area and population. This was an issue that came to the fore in the eighteenth century, and the introduction of modern representative democracy is usually associated with the revolutions of the later part of that century, and with thinkers such as James Madison in America and Benjamin Constant in France. Here on page 99 we can see Harrington pioneering the idea in the mid-seventeenth century, demonstrating both his credentials as an innovative thinker and the importance of his thought for the development of the modern understanding of representative government that remains relevant today. He also addressed the problems that representation can bring - not least the issue of how to keep representatives accountable to their constituents - a question that we still grapple with. These resonances, and others that can be found in the book, show why Harrington deserves to be better known in the twenty-first century.
Visit Rachel Hammersley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 13, 2020

Sun Sun Lim's "Transcendent Parenting"

Sun Sun Lim is Professor of Communication & Technology and Head of Cluster (Dean) of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. From 2003 to 2016, she was Assistant then Associate Professor at the Department of Communications & New Media; and from 2014 to 2016, Assistant Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, National University of Singapore.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Transcendent Parenting: Raising Children in the Digital Age, and reported the following:
Page 99 provides an interesting glimpse into my book because it features interview quotes from two of my respondents who share the mixed feelings they have about their use of technology in parenting. While both quotes reflect these parents’ recognition that they can use mobile communication to keep an eye on their children, this sense of assurance is also at odds with their resentment towards such surveillance and the stress it induces in them.

Someone turning to page 99 may well be intrigued by who these quotes are from, and what their lives are like. Questions may be piqued such as: Who are these people speaking about their children? How old are their kids? What are these technologies they refer to? Why are they using such technology to perform their parenting duties? Why do they feel the need to care for their children in this way? Why do they sound ambivalent about these functionalities?

My book focuses on digitally-connected families whose use of technology has lubricated their lives but also intensified the parenting burden and complicated the parent-child relationship. Hence page 99 offers a tantalising peek into my concept of Transcendent Parenting, where parents transcend the physical distance between them and their kids, they need to transcend every online and offline environment their children transit through, and they must also transcend ‘timeless time’ and parent relentlessly.
Visit Sun Sun Lim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Purnima Bose's "Intervention Narratives"

Purnima Bose is associate professor of English and international studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, and also serves as chairperson of the international studies department. Her publications include Organizing Empire: Individualism, Collective Agency & India and co-edited volumes with Laura E. Lyons: Cultural Critique and the Global Corporation and a special issue of Biography on “Corporate Personhood.”

Bose applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Intervention Narratives: Afghanistan, the United States, and the Global War on Terror, and reported the following:
If you open Intervention Narratives to page 99, you will find several paragraphs on the culture of pet ownership in the United States. The page begins by drawing on Heidi Nast’s insights that pets, particularly dogs, have displaced children as objects of affection in post-industrial societies that are oriented toward hyper consumerism. Dogs are less expensive to raise, and they are expendable if they become nuisances in ways that children are not. In the US, the anthropomorphism of dogs into family members has been accompanied by the emergence of a dizzying array of products and services oriented toward canines. On page 99, you would read that American consumers spent a staggering $69.51 billion on their household animals in 2017 compared with the $42.4 billion that the US government allocated to foreign aid for 140 countries. You would learn that corporations such as Paul Mitchell and Omaha Steaks, which have traditionally sold products for people, are developing shampoos and high-end food for pets to cash in on these markets.

At one level, the page 99 test yields an inaccurate snapshot of the book, which is about the stories that Americans tell about their engagement with Afghanistan since the Cold War. There is no obvious connection between Americans’ expenditure on pets and the US intervention in Afghanistan. Page 99 is in chapter three, which explains the relationship between American pet culture and foreign intervention by analyzing recent memoirs and popular films focused on US soldiers and Marines, who have either rescued stray dogs in Afghanistan or gone to great lengths to safeguard their military working dogs [MWDs]. I argue that these accounts efface the violence of military occupation against Afghans, whose conditions are rarely mentioned, and instead elicit our emotional identification with helpless strays and heroic MWDs. These stories have happy endings that narrate the successful immigration of these dogs to the US and their adoption by American families. While the achievements of the war remain dubious, Americans can believe the compensatory fantasy that we have saved blameless canines.

The page 99 test also does not adequately represent the range of stories I examine in Intervention Narratives, including Cold War depictions of the Mujahideen, Afghan women entrepreneurs, members of Seal Team Six, and Osama bin Laden. I make two central arguments that are invisible on that page: first, American representations of Afghanistan are contradictory, and, hence, have a wide appeal across the political spectrum; second, US policy toward Afghanistan since the Cold War is not anchored in realities on the ground and is largely based on fictions, a conclusion that a recent extensive Washington Post investigation validates.

At another level, the page 99 test accurately conveys how I contextualize the stories we tell of Afghanistan in facts and figures, particularly in terms of flows of money. Given the US Department of Defense’s shoddy accounting practices, we may never know how much money this conflict has cost. More importantly, the human costs of this war remain hidden because of the US military’s refusal to disclose the number of civilian casualties. Countless lives have been lost as a direct result of US military power; the indirect consequences of war such as disruptions to agriculture, food distribution, and the delivery of healthcare have meant untold misery for many other Afghans. Intervention Narratives interrogates American stories about the Afghan war to indict the rationales and prosecution of this most imperial of conflicts.
Learn more about Intervention Narratives at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 10, 2020

Nitsan Chorev's "Give and Take"

Nitsan Chorev is the Harmon Family Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University. She is the author of The World Health Organization between North and South and Remaking U.S. Trade Policy.

Chorev applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Give and Take: Developmental Foreign Aid and the Pharmaceutical Industry in East Africa, and reported the following:
On page 99 you will find a discussion on the historical origins of one important aspect of the local pharmaceutical industry in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – the fact that at least initially the industry was dominated by East Africans of Indian descent. On page 99 I discuss the case of Tanzania and show that it was discriminatory practices during colonial rule that led to the exclusion of indigenous Africans from commercial and industrial sectors. In addition to unequal educational opportunities (discussed on a different page), Africans were not given trading licenses at the same time that commerce was almost the only business opportunity available to Indians.

Would browsers opening Give and Take to page 99 get a good or a poor idea of the whole work? It depends! Possibly, page 99 offers a “poor” idea of what the book is about since it happens to focus on the colonial era whereas the main events of interest to the book take place much later, from the 1980s to the 2010s. And yet, page 99 also offers a great idea of the whole work because it points at what I consider to be one of the strengths of the study – my interest in the historical (both colonial and post-independence) roots of contemporary industrial production in East Africa.

Page 99 also happens to focus on domestic policies whereas the main argument of the book is about foreign aid. And yet, page 99 again offers a great idea of the whole work since it points at another potential strength of the study – my interest in the interplay between transnational (foreign aid) and local factors (state capacity, entrepreneurship) as they shape industrial production in East Africa.

I like page 99 exactly because it captures the complexity of what I try to argue. The book attempts to explain the presence of “pockets” of industrial capabilities in resource-poor countries by looking at local drug manufacturing. Why the emergence of pharmaceutical production in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in the 1980s/1990s? And how to explain the unlikely improvement of quality standards in that industry in the 2000s/2010s?

These questions led me to foreign aid. I find that foreign aid was instrumental for both the emergence and the upgrading of the pharmaceutical industry in East Africa (although, as page 99 begins to reveal, local conditions also mattered). This doesn’t mean that critics who argue that foreign aid is inefficient or exploitative are wrong. Rather, that under certain conditions foreign aid could be effective and valuable for the recipients. What the book tries to do is identify those conditions, that is, the policies and programs that benefited the pharmaceutical sector.

I found that it was a combination of three interventions: the creation of markets encouraged local entrepreneurs to produce the kind of drugs that donors would buy; effective monitoring encouraged local entrepreneurs to follow high quality standards; and mentoring in the form of technical transfer provided local entrepreneurs the necessary know-how to do so successfully. And although the book focuses on the pharmaceutical sector the lessons travel not only to other industrial sectors but to services as well.
Learn more about Give and Take at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Navin A. Bapat's "Monsters to Destroy"

Navin A. Bapat is Dowd Professor in the Study of Peace and War and the Chair of the Curriculum of Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Monsters to Destroy: Understanding the War on Terror, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the book discusses the effect of the Afghan surge on the counterinsurgency effort against the Taliban in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces. There is a plot at the top of the page indicating that violence in both provinces was trending downward. Although the U.S. has long avoided body counts as a metric of success, these initial trends seemed positive for U.S. efforts.

Although these passages are important to the study as a whole, the page 99 test does not work particularly well for the book. Rather than focusing specifically on the Afghan surge, the book asks the question: why did the U.S. government spend trillions fighting the war on terror when the risk of dying from terrorism is lower than the risk of being struck by lightning, murdered by firearms, or killed in a traffic accident?

The book argues that while terrorism is indeed insignificant, the randomness and the shock of terrorist attacks typically convinces citizens that the risk is substantial. In these times of fear, citizens may turn to their governments, and will demand that governments adopt policies to protect them. Since the risk of terrorism is so low, any policy adopted by governments would appear effective. And since the risk of terrorism may always be present, governments may justify a continuation of policies they favor if they appear to be reducing the risk of terror.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks therefore offered the U.S. an opportunity to shape the world in a way that would preserve American dominance in perpetuity. Using the cover of preventing terror, the U.S. attempted to cement its control over the world’s global energy market. The U.S. engaged in military attacks against its adversaries in Afghanistan and Iraq, and promised protection to its key allies critical to the extraction, sale, and transportation of energy.

However, since the U.S. would only protect these leaders if a terrorist threat existed, the leaders of these regimes had no incentive to disarm their terrorists. These dynamics led to the growth of more powerful and virulent insurgencies in the territories of U.S. allies, which ultimately increased both the economic and the human cost of the war to the U.S. When the U.S. indicated it could no longer pay the price of the war, it weakened its commitment to its allies, which encouraged leaders to become more aggressive to protect themselves before the U.S. abandoned them. Although the U.S. began the war to maintain its dominant status, it is now continuing the war to preserve what power it has left in global energy markets.
Learn more about Monsters to Destroy at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Sarah M. Stitzlein's "Learning How to Hope"

Sarah M. Stitzlein is a Professor of Education and Affiliate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cincinnati. She is also President of the John Dewey Society, Co-Editor of the journal, Democracy & Education, and Co-Director of the Center for Hope & Justice Education. As a philosopher of education, she uses political philosophy to uncover problems in education, analyze educational policy, and envision better alternatives. She is especially interested in issues of political agency, educating for democracy, and equity in schools.

Stitzlein applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Learning How to Hope: Reviving Democracy through our Schools and Civil Society, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins with an important point about democracy, explaining that it’s not “merely a formal matter—bound up in documents, officials, policies, and procedures—but rather, is a way of life.” As a way of life, democracy is something that we enact regularly in our daily lives and we develop habits that enable us to do so.

Page 99 gets as an important idea in the book: developing democratic habits. These are habits that help us to engage in democracy as a way of life. The book overall argues that hope is a democratic habit. Hope is a habit that disposes us toward possibility, urging us to improve our lives and those of others. As a habit, hope is something that we can nurture and develop through education.

This book responds to hopelessness in America today and growing frustrations between political parties and with democracy as a whole. I explain what hope is, why it matters to democracy, and how we might teach for it in schools and civil society.
Visit Sarah M. Stitzlein's website.

The Page 99 Test: American Public Education and the Responsibility of its Citizens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Christina Dunbar-Hester's "Hacking Diversity"

Christina Dunbar-Hester is associate professor of communication in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She is the author of Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism.

Dunbar-Hester applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Hacking Diversity: The Politics of Inclusion in Open Technology Cultures, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Everyone in the room was enrolled into cryptodancing. One of the first instructions was for people to partner up and one person to lead while the other followed. The leaders were instructed to move around the room, across the floor space, and also shift planes of height: crouching, standing. The leader was supposed to guide the follower, whose eyes were closed, through space by holding her hand… The squawks and squalls of the electronics took on increased urgency, and people moved deliberately into the frame of the camera projecting our movements. Someone extended a hand toward the theremin and an ethereal squeal pierced the room.
This page both is and is not representative of the book as a whole! What is representative is that the reader encounters a detailed and lively description of a very idiosyncratic event—a “cryptodance” at a hacking event in MontrĂ©al, in 2016, where people attempted to embody the principles of public key cryptography through an improvised choreography. Sounds weird? It is. But the event was very interesting, and my description—based on having participated in the event—helps to illuminate some of the main ideas in the book. One of its objectives is to chronicle how people have been thinking creatively and critically about novel ways of engaging with technologies, and “hacking” their cultures to open up participation to new kinds of folks. Needless to say, the cryptodance is a different way of encountering the principles of cryptography than one would learn in, say, a computer science class.

What is not representative is that this page is only a narrative of an event I attended while doing research. It does not contain the wider points of the book, analysis or main arguments, which place the event above and others like it in a wider context of history of computing and hacking.

Page 99 is also not representative in that it does not contain any pictures—though 98 and 100 do!
Learn more about Hacking Diversity at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 6, 2020

Michael Blake's "Justice, Migration, and Mercy"

Michael Blake is Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Governance at the University of Washington. He writes on issues of liberal justice and state borders, with a particular focus on aspects of global distributive justice and international migration.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Justice, Migration, and Mercy, and reported the following:
Page 99 contains a discussion of the distinction between positive and negative rights, and how that distinction might be necessary for any moral understanding of the ethics of migration. Negative rights are those that focus primarily on what other people aren’t allowed to do; if I have the negative right to an attorney, you can’t coercively stop me from hiring one. Positive rights go beyond this, by requiring other people to provide the means as well as the freedom; if I have the positive right to an attorney, I have the right to have an attorney appointed for me, if I otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to pay for that attorney. This page points out that we might have to start talking more about this sort of distinction as regards refugee and asylum law. After all, the formal freedom to cross a border isn’t of much use to me, if I don’t have any practical means by which to pack up and move to a new country.

The page 99 test works here – especially if we read that test in a negative light, as helping you identify the books you don’t want to read. If you don’t like the sort of moral distinction-drawing I do on page 99, then my book will likely bore or irritate you. (It is, of course, entirely possible that you love this sort of moral distinction-drawing, and still think I’m doing it poorly.) A great deal of what I do in this book is to try to figure out how we apply these large theoretical notions like justice, rights, mercy, and so on, in the very distinctive context of migration policy. Philosophers and political theorists are used to speaking about justice within a political community; we disagree a great deal about what justice might demand, but we’ve at least got a good philosophical tradition to draw on, and a fair amount of agreement as to who counts and what that counting entails. In migration, I think we’re still finding our way in how to bring our philosophical ideas to bear on the very specific case of people who aren’t yet part of a particular society, but want to become so. The book tries to defend a particular vision of how we might do that – and, in particular, defends a particular vision of why (and when) states are permitted to refuse would-be migrants from coming in. It also tries to increase the moral vocabulary philosophers use to discuss migration, by noting that policies can avoid injustice while still being morally objectionable. A person who merely refrained from violating the rights of others, after all, would still be a pretty shabby sort of person; we couldn’t call them unjust, but we’d like to say they aren’t behaving as a good person ought to behave. I argue that something similar holds true for states, especially as regards their treatment of non-members – and, along the way, I end up making a great many moral distinctions, so page 99 isn’t an unfair representation of the book as a whole.
Learn more about Justice, Migration, and Mercy at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 5, 2020

James M. Lundberg's "Horace Greeley"

James M. Lundberg is the director of the Undergraduate Program in History and an assistant professor of the practice at the University of Notre Dame.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Horace Greeley: Print, Politics, and the Failure of American Nationhood, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Horace Greeley finds its subject, the founder and editor of the New-York Tribune, in a Washington, DC, hotel room late on a January night in 1856. He is recovering from a beating. Earlier in the day, on a street near the Capitol (on page 98), Greeley had been challenged to a duel by one Albert Rust, an Arkansas Congressman seeking satisfaction for unflattering coverage in Greeley’s newspaper. After Greeley refused the challenge, Rust, flanked by a gang of unidentified southerners, twice visited blows upon the editor: first with his fists, then with his cane. Now, head and arm wrapped in wet cloths, Greeley is nursing his wounds, and he is writing about them, assuring his tens of thousands of readers that he is unbowed by violence and intimidation.

Horace Greeley wasn’t assaulted every day; he was beaten and caned just this once. Yet the incident described on pages 98 and 99 aces the test. My book turns on the notion that Greeley is best understood as both individual and idea, person and personage. Greeley lived two closely related lives: one as the man who did the work of guiding and shaping a daily newspaper; the other as a figure who existed in people’s imaginations as far and wide as his name and newspaper could travel. The latter Greeley was adored and reviled, oracular genius to some, shape-shifting menace to others.

The Arkansan Albert Rust assaulted Greeley less for what he said--the offending mention in the Tribune was mild by the paper’s standards--than for what he represented. At a moment of mounting sectional conflict, Greeley was a symbolic villain to white southerners. To Rust and countless others like him, the Tribune’s editor stood for a fanatical North, one that was wildly antislavery and committed to a hundred different reformist causes threatening the South and its institutions. And so Rust became a hero below the Mason-Dixon Line, as would the South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks just a few months later when he caned the Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. A Savannah paper only marveled that it had taken so long for someone to do the deed. Greeley an editorial noted, “has labored hard to excite bitterness of feeling”; it was about time his “crazy noddle should come in for some raps.”

The Albert Rust incident thus captures a larger part of Greeley’s story, and the story about him that my book tells. As a voice and symbol of northern society and politics, Greeley helped to rewrite the narrative of national politics as sectional struggle in the decade before the Civil War.
Learn more about Horace Greeley at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 3, 2020

Laurel Leff's "Well Worth Saving"

Laurel Leff is associate director of the Jewish Studies Program and associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University. She is the author of Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper.

Leff applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Well Worth Saving: American Universities’ Life-and-Death Decisions on Refugees from Nazi Europe, and reported the following:
Page 99 comes at the end of Chapter 5, “Age, Politics, Gender and Money.” Those are all criteria that U.S. universities used in deciding which of the thousands of scholars fleeing Nazi Europe were worth hiring and thus worth saving from the horrors of first persecution and then annihilation. Page 99 focuses on the money part, providing examples of scholars who received university appointments because someone else was willing to pay their salaries. Physicist Arthur von Hippel joined the MIT faculty because businessman Carl Boschwitz contributed $1,500 of Hippel’s $3,000 salary (the equivalent of $55,000 in today’s dollars). Arthur Korn assumed a position at the Stevens Institute of Technology when Pioneer Instrument Company founder Charles Colvin gave $2,400 for his first-year salary. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau quietly offered to pay $600 a year to an American institution willing to hire his friend, astronomer E. Finlay Freundlich. Freundlich had been dismissed from Berlin’s Einstein-Institut in 1933, left the increasingly inhospitable University of Istanbul in 1937, and fled German University in Prague as the Germans moved in in 1939. Freundlich ended up taking a job at St. Andrews in Scotland and not needing Morgenthau’s money. A financial commitment without a university appointment did not work, however. American Cyanamid Company agreed to transport microbiologist Ludwig Hirszfeld, his wife and daughter out of Warsaw in 1940. Despite serious efforts, a university appointment wasn’t forthcoming. Hirszfeld and his family were trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Page 99 of Well Worth Saving doesn’t quite pass the test, but it doesn’t fail either. It hits on a central theme of my book – that the American academy’s decisions about whom to hire weren’t meritocratic. Despite the assumption implicit in the voluminous intellectual migration literature that “all the good ones” got out, thousands more scholars sought to escape Nazi Europe than found refuge in the United States. The ones who obtained American university jobs tended to be, as other chapters describe, world class and well connected and working in disciplines for which the American academy had a recognized need. They could not be too old or too young, too right or too left, or most important, too Jewish. Having money helped (as Page 99 shows); being a women did not.

The examples on Page 99 illuminate just one criteria and are not even its most poignant or unsettling representations. For that, the reader would need to flip ahead to encounter University of Groningen philosophy professor Leonard Polak, whose wealthy fragrance manufacturing family believed it had secured him a position at the New School for Social Research by paying his $2,500 annual salary. The New School made the offer that enabled Polak to qualify for a non-quota visa for himself, his wife, and his minor daughter. The New School accepted his two older daughters as students, whose tuition the fragrance company also paid, making them eligible for student visas. The reader later learns the Polaks’ immigration did not work out as planned, largely because of the U.S. State Department. That points to another failing of Page 99; it doesn’t describe the State Department’s essential role in denying non-quota visas to professors, even though there was no cap on how many could be issued. Finally, Page 99 misses a critical element of Well Worth Saving’s narrative structure, which is to chronicle the struggles of eight scholars in particular. The eight are introduced in the Introduction, and then emerge in subsequent chapters as they are fired from their positions for being Jewish or non-Aryan; make frantic attempts to find American university jobs; flee only to find themselves in countries Germany seizes; try to head off impending deportations to Poland; and meet their ultimate fate. These eight scholars are nowhere to be found on Page 99.
Learn more about Well Worth Saving at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Mary Hatfield's "Growing Up in Nineteenth-Century Ireland"

Mary Hatfield is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Dublin and was formerly the Irish Government Senior Scholar at Hertford College, University of Oxford.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Growing Up in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: A Cultural History of Middle-Class Childhood and Gender, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Growing up in Ireland: A Cultural History of Middle-Class Childhood and Gender discusses the expanding market for children’s goods in Ireland during the nineteenth century, documenting the expansion of Irish toy shops in the early 1800s. Dublin had 8 toy shops in 1820, Cork had thirteen in 1824, and Belfast had seven in 1863. Even smaller towns like Dundalk, Kinsale, and Strabane each had a resident toy provider in the 1860s.

What kinds of toys were available to Irish children? Well if the 1854 advertisement from the Varian Brothers toy shop in Cork is any indication, children had a variety of toys to choose from, ‘Superb rocking horses, and Good Magic Lanterns, […] Pop-Guns and Pistols, Swords, Drums, French Tambourines, Fifes, Small Violins, Games, Puzzles, Nine Pins, Humming Tops, Farm Yards, Hunts, Parks, Puzzles, Surprise boxes, [and] Kaleidoscopes…’ The bottom of page 99 poses the question ‘How shall we dress the children?’ a section that examines the way moral reformers and didactic writers addressed the idea of children’s appearance as a spiritual and moral concern. Authors warned that ornamental dress encouraged children to focus on exterior appearances instead of interior development, an anxiety which was also expressed about the nature of educational accomplishments.

The Page 99 test works pretty well for my book. It previews an argument which is fleshed out in chapter three about why an increased emphasis on accruing the artefacts of childhood became tied to middle-class identity and respectability. Purchasing the newest toy or children’s book indicated not just an anticipation of the child’s needs but was a symbol of social status. This chapter considers children’s fashion and clothing as evidence of adults’ social expectations for their children, while also depicting the physical world children inhabited during early childhood. The complexity of deciphering the social implications of dress as both material and discursive construction is complicated by children’s traditional representation as passive historical actors, adorned by their parents in the fashions of the day with seemingly little input. Situating clothing within the context of gestures, postures, and other bodily practises constituting a wider habitus of Irish middle-class life is useful in shifting attention from a chronology of aesthetic developments to the function of clothing as part of class and gendered identities.

From children’s point of view, clothing served to distinguish them from their peers and they had definitive preferences as to their favoured pieces of clothing. One of my favourite quotes from this chapter is from Francis Power Cobbe’s autobiography. She recounted that at the age of seven her grandmother gave her a sky-blue silk pelisse, ‘I managed nefariously to tumble down on purpose into a gutter full of melted snow the first day it was put on, so as to be permitted to resume my cloth coat.’ Cobbe’s sly act of rebellion reminds us that children had a role in determining their clothes and were aware of the social importance attributed to their appearance. As the Irish middle-classes expanded during the nineteenth century, the codes of taste and style which informed Irish fashion were an integral part of expressing class and gendered identity. Investing time, money, and effort into children’s clothing was a way of portraying familial status while simultaneously socialising the child into their appropriate class and gender.
Learn more about Growing Up in Nineteenth-Century Ireland at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue