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Archive for February, 2010

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Avner Cohen on Iran, the bomb, and its threat to Israel

“What if our leaders and pundits had reacted to the Iranian nuclear program in a completely different way than they actually have?”—Avner Cohen, from a recent op-ed in Haaretz

In a recent op-ed, Iranian threat to destroy Israel doesn’t hold up , Avner Cohen, author of the forthcoming The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb, argues that Israel has responded poorly to Iran’s nuclear program.

Cohen asks,

What would have happened if we [Israel] had refused to see ourselves as existentially threatened by Iran’s push toward the nuclear threshold, viewing ourselves, as the world has already viewed us for decades, as a responsible nuclear weapons state that does not threaten other states but is also not vulnerable to nuclear threats?

Cohen argues that Iran has many political and diplomatic reasons for pursuing a nuclear bomb. Without denying that Iran’s possession of the bomb would represent a threat to the existing nuclear order, Cohen also suggests that Iran is unlikely to actually use the bomb, knowing that it would mean their own annihilation via a counter-attack by the United States and Israel.

Israel, Cohen suggests, has misread the meaning of Iran’s pursuit of the bomb which has led to an unnecessarily heightened and tense situation. He writes:

It is a great pity that through our own conduct, and especially the irresponsibly alarmist voices emerging from among us, we have inflated a political problem into an existential threat. And it is an equally great pity that we have granted legitimacy to nuclear bombs being viewed as weapons, instead of helping to delegitimize this useless weapon.

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Arab responses to Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab’s Contemporary Arab Thought

Elizabeth KassabElizabeth Kassab

How have Arab readers and critics responded to Kassab’s new book Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective?

The book was recently reviewed in in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat (review is in Arabic). For those who cannot read Arabic, the review, written by a leading Arab literary critic, Faisal Darraj, highlights the author’s balance between a sober assessment of contemporary Arab critical thought and an engaged commitment to it.

Darraj also notes on how Kassab measures the difficult tension between the intellectual efforts of critical thinkers and the pressures of most challenging realities, let alone on her appreciation of those efforts precisely in light of the challenges themselves. Finally, Darraj refers to the comparative perspective of the book which, for the first time, situates contemporary Arab thought in wider African and Latin American perspectives, and in so doing breaks the claims of exceptionalism and the confines of self-referentiality.

Kassab was also recently interviewed by the Lebanon-based Web site Now Lebanon. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

Q: What is the cause of “Arab malaise” according to these [critical Arab] thinkers?

Elizabeth Kassab: For a long time, people tried to give a cultural explanation for the [Arab] cultural malaise: There is something flawed in our culture, so we need to fix our culture to fix our situation. But throughout 150 years, there have always been voices saying that the problem is political rather than cultural. From the very beginning, if you start from the Nahda, for people like [scholar Rifaa] al-Tahtawi, the cause of the malaise was [lack of] political justice – as long as you had despotism, repression of human rights, then you’re not going to have a healthy country or society. In the 1930s, and also in the 60s and 70s, there were [the seeds of a] political reading of the malaise… I think that from the 90s onward, in the writings of many political prisoners… you have that political critique really being articulated… The big challenge is: How do you channel that critical spirit into politics as individuals? That, I think, is the one million dollar question.

Finally, read the introduction to the book, Cultural Malaise and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century Western, Postcolonial, and Arab Debates.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Believing in Tiger Woods — Mark Hulsether in Religion Dispatches

Tiger Woods
With seemingly everyone in the world weighing in on Tiger Woods, we thought we would add a new perspective via Mark Hulsether, professor of Religious Studies and American Studies at the University of Tennessee and author of Religion, Culture and Politics in the Twentieth Century United States.

In a piece recently written for Religion Dispatches, Hulsether explores Tiger Woods’s recent public apology through the perspective of a religious studies scholar. Upon being asked by a reporter to comment on Woods’s public apology, Hulsether wondered about what is meant by “public,” and whether there might be several publics to whom these types of confessions are addressed. Hulsether writes:

I’m not sure what to make of the idea that there is a stable discourse community (“civic/secular society”) in relation to which Woods can safely be understood to be speaking. Or, if there is any such “we,” constituting a community in front of which Woods was repenting, then I get confused about who “we” are, exactly. Are “we” the public to which the golf industry sells things?… Are “we” some broad and amorphous public (all English speakers who watch television?) or a narrower subset that [Brit] Hume seemed to be addressing when he pressed Woods to repent in Christian rather than Buddhist ways?


Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The China we’re stuck with — A post by Warren I Cohen

Warren I. CohenThe following is a post from Warren I. Cohen, author of America’s Response to China, Fifth Edition: A History of Sino-American Relations

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke to a Chinese emissary of America’s hope for a strong, stable, and prosperous China. He professed to believe that such a China would be in the interest of the United States. Vice President Walter Mondale repeated Roosevelt’s words when he visited Beijing in 1979. In the early years of the new millennium, China has become strong, prosperous and reasonably stable—but many Americans are not so sure that’s good for them or their country.

Apprehension about the future of Chinese-American relations derives only marginally from the fact that China remains a nominally communist country in which the Communist Party monopolizes power. Unlike the days of the Cold War, when Soviet nuclear power loomed over us, few Americans fear a Chinese attack on the United States or the spread of communism. They do fear, however, the possibility of China outstripping the United States, China as # 1 in economic power and global influence.

For the United States, China’s recent surge has been a mixed blessing. For some years, China’s purchase of US debt has kept the American economy afloat, enabling its people to buy and enjoy cheap Chinese goods. Similarly, China’s economic growth has been the engine that drives the economies of its Asian neighbors. The boom years that much of the world enjoyed in the 1990s were in part a result of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, of China’s leap into the global marketplace. And however grudgingly, Beijing has moved toward acceptance of some international norms of behavior as evidenced by its role in the United Nations and in the World Trade Organization. But there are obvious caveats: American (and European) workers have lost jobs to lower paid Chinese workers and the undervalued Chinese currency has had a negative impact on the economies of the United States and the European Union.

Moreover, Chinese leaders share few Western values or priorities and there is little evidence of mutual trust between Beijing and Washington. Most recently, China has obstructed efforts to halt Iran’s march toward becoming a nuclear power. It has done too little to help the international community in its efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear threat and it has sustained vicious dictatorships in Burma, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Robert Barnett on the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Barack Obama

Last week, Democracy Now interviewed Robert Barnett, author of Lhasa: Streets with Memories, about Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The meeting occurred over the protest of the Chinese government and represents, Barnett suggests, a more muscular approach from the American government toward China. The meeting also came at a very interesting point in U.S.-China relations and at a time when the Dalai Lama is offering a more conciliatory approach to China. Moreover, Tibet’s significance in the region has perhaps never been greater. Barnett explains:

There are some areas in Southeast Asia and South Asia where there is some nervousness about China. And interestingly, Tibet is exactly at the center of those tensions. Tibet is becoming surprisingly significant in ways that I think nobody really realized twenty years ago, in that it’s the nuclear tri-junction, probably the only one in the world, between Pakistan, India and China. Three nuclear powers face each other over that Tibetan border. And it’s also the source for the water supply for the main rivers that feed about a fifth of the world’s population. And, as we know, the glaciers there are showing signs of drying up. So future conflicts about water, that a lot of people predict, will probably involve Tibet, if it comes to that kind of tension. So, there are some feelings of nervousness about China in certain parts of Asia.

Here is the full interview:

Friday, February 19th, 2010

CUP Award-Winning Covers!

The Association of American University Presses recently announced winners from its book, jacket, and journal show, awarding four awards to Columbia University for jacket design.

Congratulations to our excellent design department! Here are the winning jackets:

(Designer: Chang Jae Lee)

(Designer: Martin Hinze)

Value of Money
(Designer: Julia Kushnirsky)

(Designer: Chang Jae Lee)

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

My Life with the Taliban on Leonard Lopate and the New Republic

Yesterday, the editors of My Life with the Taliban, Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, appeared on The Leonard Lopate Show to discuss the book, its origins, the history of the Taliban and Afghanistan, present-day condition, and the extraordinary life of Abdul Salam Zaeef, which included fighting against the Soviets in the 1980s, working in a variety of administrative and leadership positions in the Taliban, and imprisonment at Guantanamo.

The book was also reviewed in the New Republic along with Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field, edited by Antonio Giustozzi.

In the review David Rhode writes, “Both books offer important clues that could help to answer some of the most pressing foreign policy questions now confronting the Obama administration. Who are the Taliban? And can they be defeated, or convinced to lay down their arms?”

Rhode continues:

In their very different ways, both books demonstrate that the Afghan Taliban have become significantly stronger, broader, and more sophisticated since they were toppled in 2001. They also suggest that the Afghan Taliban leadership is increasingly confident, as its military successes multiply and it continues to enjoy safe havens in Pakistan. And the books leave the reader to conclude that hard-line Afghan Taliban are unlikely to agree to a negotiated peace settlement, unless the surge of thirty thousand additional American troops in Afghanistan coincides with a serious military or political drive by the Pakistani government to pressure the Afghan Taliban on the Pakistani side of the border.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Best Translated Book Award 2010

There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at NightLast night the shortlist for The Best Translated Book Award was announced at Idlewild Books. Unfortunately (for us), There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night, by Cao Naiqian, which was on the longlist did not make it to the next round.

However, the list of fiction finalists is certainly impressive and offers a lot of interesting selections. No books from the Asian languages were selected for the fiction finalists but there were several selected for poetry.

Earlier this month, Three Percent, which organizes the award reviewed all the books from the fiction longlist including There’s Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night. The book was also recently reviewed by The Complete Review.

The winners will be announced at Idlewild Books on March 10.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Interview with Sophie Richardson, author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence

Sophie RichardsonThe following is an interview with Sophie Richardson, author of China, Cambodia, and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence

Question: What are the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence? Are they really still relevant to China’s leaders, especially given that the era of highly ideological politics in that country seem to be a thing of the past?

Sophie Richardson: The Five Principles include mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, nonaggression, noninterference in others’ internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. In brief, these translate into the following policy guidelines: that another country’s regime type, level of development, or location has little bearing on how the Chinese government conducts its diplomatic relations; that while China won’t relinquish its claim to certain territories, such as Tibet or Taiwan, it is extremely unlikely to attack other countries; that neither do foreigners have the right to get involved in Chinese politics nor do Chinese officials have the right to get involved in others’ politics; and that unconditional trade and aid are key diplomatic tools. The ideas were developed over the course of the 1940s and refined as the Chinese Communist Party took power, a reflection of those leaders’ perceptions of how China had been treated by—and therefore itself ought to treat—other countries.

Although one doesn’t hear the phrase “Five Principles” as frequently these days, the principles clearly continue to set the boundaries for Chinese policy, ranging from vast sums of unconditional aid to resistance to international institutions such as the International Criminal Court to a near-hysterical reaction to the Dalai Lama’s meetings with world leaders. I think the beliefs that contributed to the development of the principles still hold—the sense of “victimhood,” a need to attend to priorities at home, a wariness about other countries’ intentions—though rising nationalism may force the Chinese Communist Party to take a more visible, aggressive stance.

Q: Knowing what we do about the magnitude of the Chinese government’s diplomatic and financial activities, particularly in the developing world, how can Beijing claim to be practicing “noninterference”?

S.R.: It’s important to understand that the idea of “noninterference” is actually primarily defensive, not offensive, and the Five Principles rhetoric you’re most likely to hear is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterating that some other country has “no right” to criticize China. Conversely, Chinese diplomats generally stay out of the politics of other countries—not demonstrating support for a particular political party in the run-up to an election, not basing aid or trade deals on the other government undertaking reforms, not making decisions about the establishment or suspension of bilateral ties based on what kind of regime is in power. These criteria are all considered fairly normal by most Western powers in dictating their bilateral relations. To the extent that the Chinese government engages in what looks to us like interference, it’s typically motivated by a concern about Tibet or Taiwan, or a trade issue. Often behavior that appears incredibly callous, like following through on massive aid packages immediately after a bloody coup, as happened recently in Guinea, is consistent with “noninterference.”


Friday, February 12th, 2010

Abdul Salam Zaeef on Hamid Karzai

ZaeefReuters recently joined the New York Review of Books, the Sunday Times of London, and others in praising Abdul Salam Zaeef’s memoir My Life with the Taliban. (The editors of the book have also been speaking in England about the book and will be coming to the United States in the next few days. Click here for information about upcoming U.S. events.)

In the book Zaeef (pictured here) recounts joining the jihad against the Soviets and describes his time with the Taliban, first as a civil servant and then as a minister. Zaeef served as ambassador to Pakistan at the time of 9/11, and his testimony sheds light on the “phony war” that preceded the U.S.-led intervention. Additionally, Zaeef writes about the years he spent as a prisoner in Guantanamo.

As the reviews point out, Zaeef’s book provides rare insight into the Taliban perspective on recent Afghan history. Below Zaeef describes his misgiving about Afghan president Hamid Karzai and the difficulty of achieving peace in Afghanistan. (To read the full excerpt click here):

Even though Karzai talks incessantly about peace and stability, he is a very long way away from bringing them into being. He has damaged his own standing with the people through false propaganda and empty promises. I do not know whether or not he understands this. He is imprisoned within a circle of people that keeps him far from the truth, and the information he seems to get is very weak and often has nothing to do with reality. But he relies on this information, and it results in inappropriate action. Karzai has very few friends who can help him to shoulder the burden. There is no one to help him keep his good name, to accept his ways as their own. He has no one with whom to share the good and the bad. The way he came into power at the hands of foreign sponsors weakened his position from the very beginning. He has very few smart advisers who can give him clear, tough direction, in the light of Afghan culture. He also finds himself between the tiger and the precipice—he wakes up every day not knowing which way to go. And finally, he cannot differentiate between friend and enemy, because he did not come to power in the way he should have, through slow, difficult steps. That way he would have made true friends, honest friends. But when you are in power, everyone is your friend, and it is difficult to tell the difference between real friends and false ones.

There are other reasons too, and they will not have a positive impact on Afghanistan’s future.


Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Warren I. Cohen interviewed on The China Beat

America's Response to ChinaOn The China Beat Jeffrey Wasserstrom recently interviewed Warren I. Cohen about the forthcoming new (fifth) edition of his book America’s Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Looking back at the four times you revised it, what would you say was the revision that required the most dramatic updating?

Warren I. Cohen: Two things: 1) most obviously the rise of China to great power status. The last chapter of the new edition is titled “America in the Age of Chinese Power.” 2) the emergence of democracy in Taiwan. I had lived there 1964-1966 and grew very hostile to the regime there. I never expected the political changes that came in the 1980s and had no qualms about the island reverting to Beijing’s rule. I had to change my approach to the Taiwan issue, especially after the Tiananmen massacres.

JW: Is there any choice passage from a new part of the latest edition, whether in a “Preface” or “Epilogue,” that you’d be willing to share with us as a teaser? Or perhaps a section from an earlier edition that still seems surprisingly up-to-date in light of recent developments?

WIC: Here are the concluding lines of the new edition: “Today, much as in the time of Theodore Roosevelt, American leaders want—and American interests require—a peaceful, prosperous, open, responsible, and cooperative China. The chances of China realizing these hopes are reasonably good, given the extent of shared interests and what are likely to be the primarily domestic concerns of both nations in the near term. Americans who study and work on Chinese-American affairs would also like to see a democratic and friendly China. They are not likely to see either in the foreseeable future. And in the early years of the new millennium most Americans are not so sure that a strong China is in their nation’s interest.”

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Interview with Daniel Rigney, author of The Matthew Effect

Daniel RigneyThe following is an interview with Daniel Rigney author of the just-published The Matthew Effect: How Advantage Begets Further Advantage.

Question: What is the “Matthew effect”?

Daniel Rigney: The distinguished sociologist Robert Merton coined the term “Matthew effect” in 1968 to refer to the often-observed tendency in the social world for advantage to beget further advantage and for disadvantage to beget further disadvantage over time, widening the gap between those who have more and those who have less. Merton borrowed the term from a biblical scripture in the Gospel of Matthew that states that to those who have, more will be given. His original research examined the accumulation of prestige among prominent scientists. Merton and his colleagues found that scientists who experience early success in their careers tend to attract further advantages, such as prominent research positions and generous grants, which further contribute to their prestige and thus further amplify their success in a continuing cycle.

Although Merton studied this self-amplifying cycle in scientific institutions, the essential idea applies to the accumulation of advantages of any kind—cultural, economic, political, or psychological. Following Merton’s original research at Columbia University, numerous other scholars in a broad range of fields have further investigated Matthew effects. This book brings these widely scattered fragments of literature together for the first time and presents them as a coherent whole. I regard the Matthew effect as one of the least known but most important concepts in the social sciences. I wrote the book to bring this concept to the wider attention not only of my fellow social scientists, but also of policy makers, students, and the general public.

Q: How does advantage beget further advantage?

DR: The accumulation of advantage works in a manner similar to the accumulation of compound interest in a bank account. If the interest on our principal is continually returned to principal, the interest earns interest, and our account grows ever more rapidly. What we have done is to create a positive feedback loop in which the account’s output is amplified and returned to the account as new input. This basic feedback process is evident in many other facets of life as well. For example, educational psychologists find that children who like to read tend to read more. Reading more helps to make them better readers, further enhancing their enjoyment of reading. In this way the process feeds back upon itself, creating a self-perpetuating cycle. Or to take an example from politics, consider the advantages of incumbency. Candidates elected to office benefit from their public prominence, becoming increasingly well known to voters, and their growing familiarity and name recognition enhances their chances of winning again. Success tends to breed further success.


Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The malaise in the Arab World — an interview with Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab

KassabThis past weekend, Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, author of Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective, talked about the malaise in the post-1967 Arab world on ABC radio.

Kassab argues that geopolitical events coupled with the failure of the post-colonial Arab state have led to the malaise that pervades the Arab world. The Arab state, characterized by nationalism, repression, and censorship contributed to political disfranchisement and social disintegration in the Arab world and the collapse of the middle class as a viable force in Arab society. While there were glimmers of hope in 2005 with popular movements in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria, unhappiness still seems to be dominant in Arab society.

On the program, Kassab suggests that the Arab world needs a new internal dialogue and narrative that reexamines its past while avoiding only seeing itself in relation to the West. She believes that this is a process that several Arab intellectuals have been engaged in but they need to be listened to more carefully.

The program paired Kassab with Vali Nasr, of the Fletcher School at Tufts, who argues that the Muslim world needs to engage more fully with the global economy to improve. Citing the examples of Turkey and Dubai, Nasr believes that the growth of a middle class can lead to a more balanced and open society.

For more on Kassab’s Contemporary Arab Thought, you can read an excerpt from the book or listen to a talk by the author.

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Do bailouts work?

Robert WrightIn The Great Recession of 2008 and the Sordid Historiography of the Great Depression, an article just published on the History News Network, Robert E. Wright, editor of Bailouts: Public Money, Profit, argues that policymakers’ and scholars’ misinterpretations of the Great Depression have led to bad choices in responding to economic crises.

More precisely, scholars have “present[ed] the public and policymakers with two contrasting views of the Depression, one that blames markets and another that points an accusing finger at the government.” In addressing the current economic crisis, Wright suggests that the “bipolar view” of the Depression, has led to a:

hodgepodge of policies, many slathered with pork, instead of policies based on a reasoned analysis of causes and cures. The U.S. economy has begun to recover, but no sooner or faster than it might have with a much smaller but more carefully focused intervention. The cost of dodging dodgy claims of an impending repeat of the Depression is itself depressing: the federal budget deficit and national debt have greatly deteriorated, fear of a bout of 1970s-style inflation or worse is growing, and the moral hazard created by the bailouts and another long period of low interest rates seem destined to puff up yet another volatile asset bubble. The bailouts got us out of the woods but perhaps by beckoning us into a much larger and more menacing forest.

Wright believes that neither markets not government is to blame but the ways in which they interact and their entanglements. Understanding this and pursuing a more balanced approach to the crisis of 2008 “would have been more measured and precise.” Wright concludes:

Some intervention was needed to shore up bank balance sheets and prevent a deadly decline of the money supply. The dire pronouncements of government officials and the costly, scattergun approach to the bailout, however, ranged from unhelpful to outright counterproductive.

Complex events like financial crises have complex causes. With careful study and an eye to both market and government failures, those causes can be ascertained, explicated, and used to guide future financial system regulations and bailout policies. If and when we will learn those lessons, however, remains to be seen.

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Gary Francione on Animals as Persons


In a recent essay for Rorotoko, Gary Francione writes about his book Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation.

His essay explains his rejection of conventional animal welfare reform and his belief in the abolitionist theory of animal rights. Francione argues “that we cannot justify using animals as human resources, irrespective of whether our treatment is ‘humane’” and that animals should not be kept as chattel or property.

Francione also suggests that we suffer from a kind of “moral schizophrenia” when it comes to nonhuman animals. In one of the more provocative portions of his essay, he writes:

Our moral thinking about animals is confused to the point of being delusional. We say that we regard as morally wrong the imposition of “unnecessary” suffering and death on animals. Whatever the finer points about the meaning of necessity, if it means anything at all in this context, it must mean that we cannot justify imposing suffering and death on animals for reasons of mere pleasure, amusement, or convenience. We excoriated Michael Vick for participating in dog fighting because the dogs suffered and died only because Vick and his friends derived pleasure from this activity. But how is Vick any different from those of us who eat meat and animal products?

We kill and eat approximately 56 billion animals annually, not including fish. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority—almost all—of these animals have absolutely horrible lives and deaths and are treated in ways that clearly and undisputedly constitute torture. The animal you ate for dinner last night—even if raised in the most “humane” or in “free-range” circumstances—was treated as badly if not worse than Michael Vick’s dogs.


Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Edward Hess on Toyota and the dangers of growth

Edward HessToyota and its massive recall has been very much in the news lately but what can be learned from their experience? This is the question that Edward D. Hess takes up in a recent piece in Forbes, entitled Bigger Is Not Always Better: What the Toyota shutdown can teach us about growth.

Hess, who is the author of the forthcoming Smart Growth: Building an Enduring Business by Managing the Risks of Growth, argues that what Toyota learned, put simply, is that “growth can be good and growth can be bad.” More precisely as Toyota grew they failed “to analyze, identify, and manage the risks of high growth” which led to a systemic problem as well as the more obvious gas pedal problem.

Countering the conventional wisdom of “grow or die,” Hess calls for companies to be driven by “smart growth.” Hess explains:

Smart growth rejects the assumptions that all growth is good and that bigger is always better. It appears that Toyota did not understand that growth is bad if it creates material risks that are not properly managed. Growth can stress people, processes and quality controls. It can lead to bad management decisions. It can even dilute one’s culture, customer value proposition and brand.

Hess suggests that CEO’s perform a “Growth Risk Audit,” which “tailored to the unique goals and operations of a particular company, forces management to think about how opportunities as well as risks can be managed to achieve smart growth. Management teams then have to be measured and rewarded as much for managing the risks of growth as they are for generating growth.”

Hess concludes by writing:

Toyota will certainly recover, but the effects of mismanaged growth are likely to linger. Toyota’s unfortunate breakdown should serve as a wake-up call for every CEO. It’s time to reject the old mental models about growth and replace them with more realistic, empirically based growth concepts that promote the building of enduring companies. Growth is a complex change process that is dependent upon the behaviors of individuals, who like markets do not always act efficiently or rationally. Growth can be good, but it also can be harmful if the risks of growth are not properly managed. Business leaders need to recognize that.

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Interview with the editors of Gyorgy Lukacs’s Soul and Form

Soul and FormThe following is an interview with Jack Sanders and Katie Terezakis, coeditors of the new edition of György Lukács’s, Soul and Form.

Q: Why publish a new edition of Lukács’s early essays now?

Jack Sanders and Katie Terezakis: Lukács first published the Hungarian version of Soul and Form in 1910, so this is its centennial. In the hundred years since the first edition, consider how vastly the world has changed; even Lukács’s own thinking went though profound transformation after penning these essays. Yet the essays still speak to us powerfully: of the difficulty of meaningful communication and the forms though which it can be achieved, of the need to criticize forms of authority without taking on the mantle of authoritarianism, of the sort of suffering that characterizes human alienation and of its honest assessment. In other words, these essays engage ideas that continue to trouble and encourage us, not merely as topics in aesthetic or political theory, but as matters of binding human concern. In a way, one wants to insist that these essays are searching, evocative, and often downright beautiful, simply in themselves. Yet Lukács also addresses a diverse set of thinkers, including his favorite author-heroes, among them Plato, Novalis, Kierkegaard, and Stephan George. And as he does, Lukács inaugurates a unique approach to aesthetics and literary criticism. From the perspective of our distance from that inauguration, we can appreciate where the thought presented here indicates a serious challenge to well-known readings of Lukács as well as to common approaches of our contemporary literary criticism. So, for us personally, when we began rereading these essays we were struck by the perspective they allowed on Lukács’s thinking and on subsequent developments in criticism as well as by their contemporary relevance.

Q: Did you bring anything new to this edition?  

JS and KT: Yes, beyond updating the language and adding scholarly references, we included an additional essay-dialogue, “On Poverty of Spirit,” written at about the same time as the others and bearing a vital relationship to them. Judith Butler contributed the book’s introduction, which situates Soul and Form among Lukács’s other works as well as contemporary movements in criticism and draws out the internal dynamics of the essays. Butler analyzes the historical, expressive character of literary forms according to Lukács and probes the conditions of their emergence. She also evaluates the transition these essays chart, from Lukács’s early romanticism to his version of realism, and she connects Lukács’s furor over the social conditions that suppress expressive capacity with similar appraisals of the young Marx. Perhaps most vitally, Butler’s introduction provides an incisive account of Lukács’s vision of form as the index by which historical life, in all its complexity, becomes distilled and known. We’ve also added an afterword, written by Katie Terezakis. It connects Lukács’s early account of form with his appropriation of elements of Kantianism, then looks forward at the morphology of the concept of form as it develops in Lukács’s work, in the work of his Budapest School students and in theory and criticism after him.