About

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Roy Harris / Pulitzer's Gold

Natalie Berkowitz / Winealicious

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Horror, Disbelief, and Shame

Struggle on Their Minds

“Rather than simply humanize black Americans as did Du Bois, Wells described how black dehumanization was less an a priori truth and more a meticulous white supremacist social construction. Highlighting the intensity and methodical accuracy with which they dismembered Hose’s body piecemeal also reflected the wish to excise black people from humanity. Publicly destroying black bodies communicated white anxiety about black equality.” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. For the final post of the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Zamalin’s chapter on Ida Wells and the antilynching movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Huey Newton, the Black Panthers, and the Decolonization of America

Struggle on Their Minds

“[The Black Panthers'] view that political power was more important than ethics and that freedom would be best secured through the factional competition of competing interests extended Madison’s arguments. Their conviction that public action centered on the common good needed to be divorced from moral considerations resonated with American civic republicans. Or, to put it differently, the Panthers thought politics needed to be conducted by political moralists rather than moral politicians.” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s chapter on the political and philosophical thoughts of Huey Newton and the Black Panthers.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

The Political Thought of African American Resistance

Struggle on Their Minds

“[This book's aim] is to provide an intellectual history of when resistance to racial inequality was palpable in key African American political movements. If resistance is at once an activity and an experience that resists comprehensive analysis because it has no singular essence—if there is no way ever to develop fully a philosophical definition of the practice itself—we should study moments in which what occurs can clearly be called ‘resistance.’” — Alex Zamalin

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Zamalin’s introduction, in which he lays out the project for his book and explains what he means by “resistance” (and why the idea is such an important one).

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Struggle on Their Minds!

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance

Struggle on Their Minds

“Fred Moten memorably wrote that the ‘history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist.’ Alex Zamalin reaffirms this assertion through exquisite examination of narratives of resistance—not merely protest—by David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Huey Newton, and Angela Davis. Zamalin’s deft treatise demonstrates how Afro-modern political thought refashions our fundamental understandings of resistance and the attendant ideals of democracy and freedom.” — Neil Roberts, Williams College

This week, our featured book is Struggle on Their Minds: The Political Thought of African American Resistance, by Alex Zamalin. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Introducing The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

“We argue … that violent radicalization is a social process involving behavior that can be observed, comprehended, and modeled in a clearly understandable diagram. Thus, insofar as the behavioral patterns can be detected by family members, friends, and other associates, a lone wolf attack may be preventable. In this book we provide evidence that lone wolf attacks have, in fact, been stopped by the interventions of family members and ordinary citizens.” — Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij

This week, our featured book is The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, by Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij, with a foreword by Simon Cottee. For the final day of the week’s feature, we are happy to present the authors’ introduction to their book, in which they lay out what they refer to as “lone wolf terrorism,” why the topic is so important, and what they hope their project will accomplish.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

The (Updated) Curious Legacy of James Comey

The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

“Because the FBI’s sting program concentrates its resources primarily in Muslim-American communities, critics charge that the FBI has eroded community trust in those areas, instigated fear, and silenced dissent necessary for participatory democracy. Moreover, say the critics, the United States is manufacturing terrorism by entrapping innocent Muslims.” — Mark Hamm and Ramón Spaaij

This week, our featured book is The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, by Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij, with a foreword by Simon Cottee. Today’s article originally appeared on the Columbia University Press blog in June, but we are happy to repost it with some revisions made based on recent events.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

The Curious Legacy of James Comey
Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij

Say what you will about James Comey—to his supporters the fired FBI Director is a bona fide American hero while President Trump has derided him as a “showboat” and a “nut job”—but of this we can be sure: Comey’s revelations about Donald Trump’s possible attempt to obstruct justice in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections has deflected public attention away from Comey’s performance as the nation’s top law enforcement official in the fight against domestic terrorism. He has much to answer for. The United States experienced more than two dozen terrorist attacks on Comey’s watch (September 2013-May 2017), including the ISIS-inspired mass shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando, along with shooting rampages by homegrown jihadists and anti-government extremists in Kansas, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Colorado, and Oregon. In all, more than two-hundred were killed or wounded in these attacks, including a number of police officers. The most lethal attacks were perpetrated by atomized “lone wolf” terrorists.

A major approach to preventing lone wolf terrorism in the United States is an aggressive FBI sting program designed to catch terrorists before they strike. Inaugurated by the Bush administration after 9/11, the FBI’s sting program became the nation’s leading preemptive counter-terrorism strategy during Comey’s tenure as director. In February 2015, at the peak of his influence, Comey announced that the bureau had investigations into “homegrown violent extremism” in all fifty states. Most were sting operations against suspects with an affinity for al-Qaeda and ISIS. (more…)

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Simon Cottee on The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

“The enduring merit of The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism is that it provides an empirically robust and theoretically nuanced framework for addressing how ordinary individuals can become the agents of extraordinary violence and destruction.” — Simon Cottee

This week, our featured book is The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, by Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij, with a foreword by Simon Cottee. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from Cottee’s foreword, in which he explains how Hamm and Spaaij firmly ground their work in extensive empirical research on actual terrorists, lists some of the important things that their research shows, and argues that they show that “however tangled and complex the lives of lone actor terrorists are, there are commonalities of experience cross scores of cases.”

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Book Giveaway! The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism

“Covering characters as diverse as James Earl Ray, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark Essex, Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, Jared Loughner, Wade Page, and Christopher Dorner, Hamm and Spaaij have written an excellent and well-researched survey of lone wolf terrorists in the United States—and a major addition to the field.” — Charles B. Strozier, founding director, Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

This week, our featured book is The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, by Mark S. Hamm and Ramón Spaaij, with a foreword by Simon Cottee. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

The Historical Case for Asia Strategy

By More Than Providence

“Is the United States capable of grand strategy? Two centuries of American engagement with Asia and the Pacific strongly suggest that the answer is yes. American grand strategy has been episodic and inefficient, but in the aggregate it has been effective.” — Michael J. Green

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the conclusion.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Introducing By More Than Providence

By More Than Providence

“Over the course of two hundred years, the United States has in fact developed a distinctive strategic approach toward Asia and the Pacific. There have been numerous instances of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and insufficient harnessing of national will and means. There have been strategic miscalculations— particularly before Pearl Harbor, on the Yalu River, and in Vietnam. In the aggregate, however, the United States has emerged as the preeminent power in the Pacific not by providence alone but through the effective (if not always efficient) application of military, diplomatic, economic, and ideational tools of national power to the problems of Asia.” — Michael J. Green

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the introduction.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of By More Than Providence!

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Michael Green on Rex Tillerson’s Beijing Visit

By More Than Providence

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. In a recent appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition, Michael Green tells Steve Inskeep about what the Chinese think of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as Tillerson meets with Chinese officials as part of a trip to Asia.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of By More Than Providence!

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Book Giveaway! By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783

By More Than Providence

“Michael Green’s magisterial study is a timely and insightful reminder of the deep and long-standing ties between East Asia and the United States, and the complex interplay between our economic and security interests, and our values, a dynamic which has shaped US policy for two and a half centuries. It is an indispensable point of reference for students and policy makers seeking to understand a critical region where history casts a long shadow, notwithstanding the extraordinary changes of recent years.” — James Steinberg, Syracuse University and former deputy secretary of state

This week, our featured book is By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783, by Michael J. Green. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

A Media Roundup for Tainted Witness

Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“Now that America has elected as its president a man who denigrates women and their bodies, who thinks women who exercise their reproductive rights should be “punished” and who spouts xenophobic and racist views, Gilmore’s insights are more pressing than ever. Tainted Witness is an important and timely book. If ever we needed evidence that the work of feminism is not yet done, this is it.” — Laura Frost

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Today, we have collected links and short excerpts from some of the great media attention Tainted Witness has received.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of both books!

In The Washington Post, Jill Filipovic believes that Tainted Witness “is a timely and necessary defense of the women whose voices are so often drowned out or shouted down”:

“Tainted Witness” arrives at the right time, at the front end of a rapidly building anti-feminist backlash. The ease with which so many Americans disregard or disbelieve women’s testimony was on clear display in November, when millions voted for Trump despite the accusations against him and his own claim, caught on video, that he had sexually assaulted women. This book provides a crucial feminist critique of the impossible and ever-shifting standards to which women who offer life testimony are held, along with guidance on how to navigate a path forward….

These are crucial observations and excellent rebuttals to the faux legalism that so often dominates the public discourse around high-profile sexual assault cases. We are entering an era when malevolent sexism and entrenched mistrust in women are not only tacitly approved but actively modeled by the man in the Oval Office, and when many of our most valued institutions and even the very concept of truth are under fire. Not in recent memory have the ideas Gilmore elucidates been so necessary, which is why I wish her work was more accessible to a wider audience. Still, this is a sharp work of feminist scholarship, unflinching in its insistence that women’s testimony about our own lives is a potent and often threatening force undercut by those who accurately assess its power. In a country soon to be led by a very loud man who ran a campaign of aggrieved masculinity, “Tainted Witness” is a timely and necessary defense of the women whose voices are so often drowned out or shouted down.

In the Times Higher Education, Laura Frost gave an excellent close look at Tainted Witness, which was named the THE Book of the Week:

The tautological observation that women are thought to be untrustworthy because they are women invites speculation about its genesis. While a definitive answer lies outside the scope of Tainted Witness, Gilmore is especially astute when she shows how “bodies and story move in a choreography of testimony”. For example: “The instant Anita Hill saw a barrage of flashbulbs erupt the first time she altered position in her seat, she knew that in photographs of her testimony, her body could be made to tell a story that would compromise her.” These and other somatic moments in Tainted Witness show how profoundly female embodiment influences the reception of women’s words. If harassment and assault are a means of denigrating women’s power, might the charge of fabrication – in the sense of deceit – conceal an anxiety about fabrication in the sense of making or creating, and perhaps the most fundamental power of reproduction?

Now that America has elected as its president a man who denigrates women and their bodies, who thinks women who exercise their reproductive rights should be “punished” and who spouts xenophobic and racist views, Gilmore’s insights are more pressing than ever. Tainted Witness is an important and timely book. If ever we needed evidence that the work of feminism is not yet done, this is it.

In the Boston Globe, Katie Tuttle quotes Gilmore on the timeliness of Tainted Witness:

“My hope in the book,” she said, “is if we can become familiar with these patterns for undermining women’s testimony, and undermining women’s credibility, then I think we can begin to anticipate where and how these attacks will take place and maybe we can try to stay a step ahead of them.”

As we face the results of an election that included examples of this dynamic (Hillary Clinton, Gilmore said, “has been a tainted witness for almost her entire career”), we stand at a moment of possible change. “On one hand, this seems like the era of welcome for women’s testimony. We seem to be hearing more stories from more places around the world from women,” she said. “But at the same time, the mechanisms for tainting women’s witness are swifter and more effective than ever.”

Finally, we look back to two articles written by Leigh Gilmore at The Conversation reflecting on two of the most apparent cases of disbelief of a woman’s testimony. First, she asked, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, why ‘“Crooked Hillary” [was] a more compelling figure than “Fundamentally Honest Hillary”?’

I’d argue that the media’s portrayal of Clinton has less to do with her actions than with the persistent tainting of female witnesses based on gender bias. In short, my research shows that women are doubted. Women are seen as threatening stability when they show ambition and seek power. Their success threatens the association of masculine power with order.

From Eve to Clytemnestra to Lady Macbeth, powerful female figures stir up deep-seated and irrational fears of women’s proximity to power. They prompt anxieties about masculinity. These fears can be exploited and directed against particular women, as far-right Steven Bannon’s campaign against Clinton demonstrates.

These narratives and others like them align the act of doubting women with rationality and objectivity, making them feel legitimate. In other words, it is not only traditionalists who feel that women can’t be trusted with power; cultural narratives of blame make it feel right in general to doubt women.

This old story prevents other narratives from emerging. When the media recycled anecdotes that discredited Clinton instead of reframing their coverage to address the emergent themes of her historic run, they ensured that Clinton’s untrustworthiness would remain the story.

And finally, she explained what the Brock Turner sexual assault case, both Turner’s actions and, particularly, his defense team’s approach to the court case, show us about biases that work against women in state courts and in the court of public opinion:

Phrases like “he said/she said” or “no one knows what really happened” are used commonly to describe rape as a matter of interpretation. Such phrases actively harm women’s credibility in general and erode our capacity to engage with the truth of specific cases. They allow savvy defense teams to substitute bias against women for the facts of actual cases and to turn sympathy towards perpetrators.

Because these stereotypes have entered the law and permeate everyday life, doubt has become a legal weapon that can be used against any woman who testifies about rape. And in criminal cases, like rape, reasonable doubt is the standard the evidence must meet.

Yet even when the facts in a case confirm guilt, as they did in the case against Brock Turner, who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, defense teams can rely on bias: that women send “mixed signals” about sex, that women say no and mean yes, that women regret sex and cry rape.

None of these cliches is grounded in evidence. Overwhelmingly, women tell the truth about sexual violence. The majority of rapes will never be prosecuted and, when they are prosecuted, the majority of rapists will not be convicted.

Why, then, are the stereotypes that women “cry rape” so durable? When the crime is rape, why are women doubted?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Post-Fascism

Left-Wing Melancholia

This post is part of an ongoing series in which Columbia University Press authors look at the implications of the result of the 2016 presidential election. Today, Enzo Traverso, author of Left-Wing Melancholia: Marxism, History, and Memory, argues that labelling Donald Trump a fascist is unhelpful, as “interpreting him through old categories [cannot] help us to understand the novelty he embodies”:

Post-Fascism
By Enzo Traverso

Is Donald Trump a fascist? Answering this question, frequently put in both Europe and the US, means speculating about what fascism would look like in the twenty-first century. Historical comparisons allow us to sketch analogies rather than homologies, and Trump is as far from classical fascism as Occupy Wall Street, los Indignados, and La nuit debout are from twentieth-century communism. This is a historical analogy, not a genealogy.

A few months ago, Robert O. Paxton, one of the most important historians of European fascism, ironically (and pertinently) affirmed that Trump probably never read any single book on Mussolini or Hitler. In other words, speaking of Trump’s fascism is not a matter of establishing a historical continuity. He does not come from this political tradition and this distinguishes him from most European far-right movements that come from this matrix, sometimes proudly claiming it—mostly in Central Europe—and sometimes trying to achieve respectability rejecting or distancing it, like the Front National of Marine Le Pen in France.

During his electoral campaign, Trump revealed many fascist traits: a charismatic conception of politics, authoritarianism, hatred for pluralism, nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, and a populist style that considers citizens only as a crowd to mesmerize and mislead. His campaign reproduced some features of fascist anti-Semitism, which defined a mythical, ethnically homogeneous national community by opposing it to its enemies: for the Nazis this was the Jews, but Trump enlarged the spectrum, including Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, and non-White immigrants. In Trump’s rhetoric, the “Establishment” reproduced the old anti-Semitic cliché of a virtuous community rooted in land and tradition opposed to the anonymous, corrupted, intellectual, and cosmopolitan metropolis. (more…)

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Tainted Witness in Testimonial Networks

Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“Women are often seen as unpersuasive witnesses for three related reasons: because they are women, because through testimony they seek to bear witness to inconvenient truths, and because they possess less symbolic and material capital than men as witnesses in courts of law.” — Leigh Gilmore

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Today, to start the feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from Gilmore’s introduction to Tainted Witness.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of both books!

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Book Giveaway! Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

Extreme Domesticity and Tainted Witness

“In Extreme Domesticity, Susan Fraiman continues to perform the crucial task of challenging—in lucid, fervent prose—the “habitual, unthinking” conflations and repudiations which keep women, or the feminized, at the bottom of hierarchies of value.” — Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

“Rarely does an academic book address its moment so precisely as Tainted Witness…. An important and timely book. If ever we needed evidence that the work of feminism is not yet done, this is it.” — Times Higher Education

This week, we are featuring two exciting new books from our Gender and Culture Series: Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman, and Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives, by Leigh Gilmore. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Boom and bust returns as oil market loses its swing

Crude Volatility

“While it is possible the unmanaged interplay of supply and demand will yield more stable prices in coming years and decades, it is more likely future trends will resemble the past, featuring surprising shifts, sustained imbalances, and upheaval.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. Today, we are happy to repost an article by Robert McNally that “>originally appeared in the Financial Times:

Boom and bust returns as oil market loses its swing: For the first time in years, the global oil market is lacking a swing producer
By Robert McNally

Even in these hyper-partisan times, loathing for Opec still unites most Americans. Yet paradoxically, over four decades from the early 1930s to early 1970s, the United States was Opec, and much better at oil supply manipulation and price fixing than today’s Opec ever was.

Up until 1972, independent US oilmen and oil states like Texas acquiesced to heavyhanded government regulations over oil, imposing monthly quotas on producers. This was all done to vanquish chronic booms and busts that vexed the oil industry, consumers, investors, and officials.

This paradox bears directly on the epic, structural shift currently under way in the global oil market, with far-reaching repercussions not only for oil and energy, but also economic growth, security, and the environment. Wildly gyrating oil prices over the past decade mark the demise of Opec as an effective supply manager and the return of free crude oil markets. The resulting unwelcome and likely protracted return of boom-bust oil prices constitutes a major and under-appreciated financial, economic, and geopolitical risk to consumers, businesses, the incoming administration and governments worldwide. (more…)

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Old Numbers, New Data

Crude Volatility

“I decided to write this book to explore more deeply how oil’s history can clarify recent trends and shed light on tomorrow’s path, and to present my findings to the general reader as well as the energy expert.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. In today’s post, we feature an excerpt from the preface to Crude Volatility, with some illuminating graphs. (Click on the images to see them full-size!)

Tackling this topic presented formidable challenges, not the least of which was getting good historical data and information. For “barrel counters,” the search for better data is a never-ending and arduous quest. Historical data on prices and spare production capacity—central to this book—are especially scarce and patchy. I am therefore delighted and proud that my able research assistant Fernando Ferreira and I were able to unearth historical data and present two novel data sets, neither of which (to my knowledge) existed until now.

The first data set is a continuous, market-based price series for U.S. crude prices extending back to 1859 and continuing to the present on a monthly basis. Constructing this series entailed digging up prices based on field quotations, exchange-traded pipeline certificates (a proxy for crude oil prices), prices paid by Standard Oil’s purchasing agency, and data from the American Petroleum Institute and the Energy Information Administration.

The key issue here is frequency of the data. BP helpfully publishes historical crude oil prices back to 1859 on an annual basis. But annual averages fall short of illustrating boom-bust price trends as more frequent and dramatic price swings—daily, weekly, monthly—get lost in the annual average. Unless otherwise noted, all prices cited in this book, including this new monthly historical price series, are in nominal instead of real or inflation-adjusted terms. Using real prices would not change the story from a volatility perspective, but I decided to use nominal prices to better connect the prevailing historical narrative with price changes…

The second unique data set developed for this book is for U.S. spare production capacity extending back to 1940 and continuous data on U.S. and global spare capacity since 1955 (that is, including the Seven Sisters until the early 1970s and OPEC afterward). This entailed exhuming information from various government and industry reports and publications. Currently, EIA’s published OPEC spare production capacity extends back to 2003.

My goal is to contribute to our understanding of the economic and political forces that shaped oil prices in history so as to better understand them today and tomorrow. Whether I have succeeded I leave to you, dear reader, to judge…

(Click on the images to see them full-size!)

Oil Disruptions, Spare Capacity, and Crude Prices

Nominal Crude Oil Prices

Monthly Crude Oil Price Ranges

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Trump’s Strange Loves

Reconstructing Strangelove

This post is part of an ongoing series in which Columbia University Press authors look at the implications of the result of the 2016 presidential election. In this post, Mick Broderick, author of Reconstructing Strangelove: Inside Stanley Kubrick’s “Nightmare Comedy”, discusses how Dr. Strangelove is and has been used in US politics:

Trump’s Strange Loves
By Mick Broderick

There has been much consternation recently concerning President Trump’s access to the American nuclear arsenal, the missile control codes (carried in the briefcase-sized “football”) and his personal authorization card (the “biscuit”). As newly anointed Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump now wields near-apocalyptic power, literally at his fingertips. Throughout his appointed four-year term he can at any time – to invoke Robert Oppenheimer and the Bhagavad Gita – “become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Only a few minutes from committing to such action nearly a thousand nuclear weapons stationed on high alert could be unleashed and no one is legally empowered to stop him.

In reality, this is business as usual; same as it ever was. Trump’s supreme authority is constitutionally entrenched, with the continuity of executive power stemming back decades. What has changed, however, is the new President’s predilection for impulsively tweeting on foreign policy matters, amongst other things, into the wee hours. Now in office Trump continues to fire-off intemperate remarks at his whim and those missives are instantly accessible across the globe. When Ronald Reagan quipped before a radio broadcast during a microphone test in 1984 that he had just “signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever … we begin bombing in 5 minutes”, it was quite sometime before the audio was leaked to the public. Imagine the effect of a tweet from President Trump along similar lines, without the (comic) inflection of the spoken word or the corresponding audible guffaws from nearby presidential staff. Although largely symbolic given the Republican control of the Executive and both Congressional houses, moves are now underway by Democrats to curb any Presidential nuclear first strike order, by mandating that Congress must first declare war. Earlier, Trump had ranted at the Republican Congressional leadership to “Go nuclear!” against his Democrat rivals. (more…)

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

The Texas Paradox

Crude Volatility

“By beginning the story of oil prices with the birth of the industry, we can better appreciate why oil prices are naturally volatile and why that volatility has posed an enormous problem not only for the oil industry but broader economy, causing oilmen and officials to go to great lengths to stabilize oil prices.” — Robert McNally

This week, our featured book is Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices, by Robert McNally. To start the week’s feature, we are happy to present an excerpt from the book’s introduction, in which McNally examines the uncomfortable relationship tension between our desire to avoid a situation where monopolies dictate oil prices and a situation where oil prices fluctuate wildly.