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Archive for January, 2011

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Kristin Ross: Democracy for Sale

Kristin Ross

“All today’s ‘advanced industrial democracies’ are in fact oligarchic democracies: they represent the victory of a dynamic oligarchy, a world government centered on great wealth and the worship of wealth, but capable of building consensus and legitimacy through elections that, by limiting the range of options, effectively protect the ascendancy of the middle and upper classes.”—Kristin Ross “Democracy for Sale”

In Democracy in What State? , Kristin Ross considers the ways in which many so-called democracies fail to live up democratic principles. Looking at recent elections in the EU as well as Rimbaud’s views on democracy, Ross asks herself “Can I call myself a democrat? (For excerpts from other contributors: Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, Wendy Brown, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Jacques Ranciere).

Can I call myself a democrat?

It’s certainly not enough to criticize, in an incrementalist way, the “failed” or “insufficient” democracy of this or that law, party, or state. To do so is to remain enclosed in a system that is perfectly happy to critique, say, the blatant seizure of electoral procedures by a Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, but remains powerless before the same process when it is accomplished by economic phenomena that respect democratic rituals—like the exactions of the IMF, for example. In fact, the understanding of democracy as having to do with elections or with the will of the majority is a very recent historical understanding. What is called representational democracy—in our own time said to consist of free elections, free political parties, a free press, and, of course, the free market—is in fact an oligarchic form: representation by a minority granted the title of stewards or trustees of common affairs. All today’s “advanced industrial democracies” are in fact oligarchic democracies: they represent the victory of a dynamic oligarchy, a world government centered on great wealth and the worship of wealth, but capable of building consensus and legitimacy through elections that, by limiting the range of options, effectively protect the ascendancy of the middle and upper classes.

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Villa Gillet Sponsors Walls and Bridges in New York City

The Novelist's Lexicon

Villa Gillet, which edited the recently published The Novelist’s Lexicon: Writers on the Words That Define Their Work are sponsoring Walls and Bridges, an exciting cultural series that includes writers, artists, and thinkers from around the world. Participants for this portion (there will three 10-day series in the Winter, Spring, and Fall of 2011) include Philip Gourevitch, Mark Greif, Maira Kalman, Laura Kipnis, Wayne Koestenbaum, Jonathan Lear, Rick Moody, Shirin Neshat, Avital Ronell, and Mackenzie Wark.

One of the more intriguing events will be held at Greenlight Bookstore that brings together Rob Spillman (editor and co-founder of Tin House), Pierre Cassou-Noguès (philosopher and novelist), Rick Moody (novelist and musician), Avital Ronell (philosopher), and Benjamen Walker (radio journalist). In their panel entitled “From Fiction to Philosophy.”

Given that Rick Moody is on this panel and was a contributor to The Novelist’s Lexicon, we thought we would post his “keyword” from the book:

Adumbrated

Adjective, a partial and incomplete definition herewith because a complete definition would be going too far and giving too much away; adumbrated, suggestive, allusive, as in a chalk mark around a fallen body, a body at a crime scene; the precise demarcation of the interrelation between crime and criminal, at the time, impossible to render; adumbrated, containing umbra, from the Latin for shadow, pertaining to all things shadowy; a spectacularly good word, shadow, which in turn incompletely summons the Greek skotos, darkness, such that adumbrated alludes to, contains, surfeits, intimates concealment in darkness, and though what is written is written so as to cast a light, to make lucid or radiant, the nature of this scripted, sketched-out beginning is often such that what is revealed is also left in half-light, in penumbra; shadow, a colorless cell or empty membrane, a toneless tonality, unless the tonality is of darkness, which has no tone; adumbrated, containing also umbrage, a state of annoyance, so that penumbra, especially in the thick, shady branches of a tree, is next door to annoyance, and even obsolescence; if literature gives light, part of its brief, its mission, is also annoyance, 
annoyance with oversimplifications, annoyance with excesses of light, with the false dependability of what is, without failing to suggest, though insubstantially and partially, what is not.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Jacques Ranciere on Democracies Against Democracy

Jacques Ranciere

“It is not in the least evident to me that democracy enjoys total unquestioning support. Things were different during the cold war, when it was democracy versus totalitarianism. But since the Berlin Wall fell, what we’ve witnessed in the countries we call “the democracies” has been a mistrustful and faintly or openly derisive attitude toward democracy.” —Jacques Rancière

In Democracy in What State? , Jacques Rancière is interviewed examines some of the threats to democracy as well as some of its dangers. Below is an excerpt from his interview (For excerpts from other contributors: Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, Wendy Brown, and Jean-Luc Nancy ).

You dissent from the view that today there isn’t anyone who isn’t an adherent, a firm supporter, of democracy. Perhaps it’s because you conceive of democracy quite differently from the way most people do.

Jacques Ranciere: The answer is twofold. In the first place, it is indeed my position that democracy is irreducible to either a form of government or a mode of social life. Second, even granting the so-called ordinary sense of the word democracy, it is not in the least evident to me that democracy enjoys total unquestioning support. Things were different during the cold war, when it was democracy versus totalitarianism. But since the Berlin Wall fell, what we’ve witnessed in the countries we call “the democracies” has been a mistrustful and faintly or openly derisive attitude toward democracy. In Hatred of Democracy I tried to show that a large part of the dominant discourse is working in one way or another against democracy. Take for example the debates in France surrounding the elections of 2002 or the referendum on the European constitution in 2005. We heard all this talk about the democratic catastrophe, about irresponsible individuals, about all these little consumers pondering great national choices as though they were shopping for perfume or something. What all this led to in the end was that the constitution was not resubmitted to the popular vote. Indeed we saw a huge display of distrust of the popular vote. Yet the popular vote is part of the official definition of democracy. We heard the same old line coming from people like Daniel Cohn-Bendit: that democracy brought Hitler to power and so on. Among those regarded as intellectuals the dominant view is that democracy is the rule of the preformatted individual consumer, it is mediocracy, the rule of the media. You find the same stance from the right to the far left, from Alain Finkielkraut to Tikkun.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

New Book Tuesday (Wednesday Edition): DNA and Pirates

The following books are now available:

DNADNA: A Graphic Guide to the Molecule that Shook the World
Israel Rosenfield, Edward Ziff, and Borin Van Loon

Radical Political Theology: Religion and Politics After Liberalism
Clayton Crockett

Mercenaries, Pirates, Bandits, and Empires: Private Violence in Historical Context
Edited by Alejandro Colás and Bryan Mabee

Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives
Edited by S. Sayyid and AbdoolKarim Vakil

Somalia, the New Barbary?: Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa
Martin Murphy

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Jean-Luc Nancy on Finite and Infinite Democracy

Jean-Luc Nancy

“The power drive outstrips or surpasses power, while at the same time seeking power for its own sake. The surpassing of power is the very principle of democracy—but as its truth and grandeur (indeed its majesty), not as its annihilation.”—Jean-Luc Nancy

Continuing our series of excerpts from Democracy in What State? , Jean Luc-Nancy, in his essay “Finite and Infinite Democracy,” measures the difference between democracy as a form of rule and as a human end. (For excerpts from other contributors: Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaid, and Wendy Brown).

In this passage, Nancy explores democracy relationship with power:

To resume then: the problem democracy has with power is its innate reluctance to use or wield power of the “exterior” kind, the kind that, when used, makes starkly evident the absence of the kind of symbolism of which feudal allegiance and national unity and all religions, civic or not, were and are such potent bearers. From this perspective, the true, longed-for name of democracy, the name that it did in fact engender and that was its horizon for 150 years, was communism. Whether that dreaded word belongs entirely in and to the past is something I don’t intend to go into here. But I do interpret communism, again from this perspective, as an expression of society’s drive to be more than a society—to be a community with a symbolic truth of its own. That was the idea behind the word, if you can even call it an idea; it certainly wasn’t a concept in the strict sense, more of an urge or impulse of thought impelling democracy to interrogate its own essence and ultimate purpose….

The fact that power organizes, manages, and governs—that in itself is not a reason to condemn its demarcation into a separate sphere. Hence, no matter how “communist” we may wish we were, we are today having to reckon with the necessity, the need, for the State. Problems like international law and the limits of classical sovereignty are concomitants of the need for the State, not objections to it.

(more…)

Monday, January 24th, 2011

The New York Times on David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace

Yesterday’s New York Times Book Review had two mentions of David Foster Wallace’s book Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. The book was discussed in both in their Inside the List feature and in James Ryerson’s excellent article The Philosophical Novel.

For those wanting a longer discussion of the book there is Daniel Menaker’s very thoughtful assessment in The Barnes & Noble Review. While recognizing the difficulty of some of Wallace’s essay, Menaker places it in its philosophical context and outlines some of its basic arguments. He concludes by writing:

Fate, Time, and Language reminded me of how fond philosophers are of extreme situations in creating their thought experiments. In this book alone we find a naval battle, the gallows, a shotgun, poison, an accident that leads to paraplegia, somebody stabbed and killed, and so on. Why not say “I have a pretzel in my hand today. Tomorrow I will have eaten it or not eaten it” instead of “I have a gun in my hand and I will either shoot you through the heart and feast on your flesh or I won’t”? Well, OK—the answer is easy: the extreme and violent scenarios catch our attention more forcefully than pretzels do. Also, philosophers, sequestered and meditative as they must be, may long for real action—beyond beekeeping.

Wallace, in his essay, at the very center of trying to show that we can indeed make meaningful choices, places a terrorist in the middle of Amherst’s campus with his finger on the trigger mechanism of a nuclear weapon. It is by far the most narratively arresting moment in all of this material, and it says far more about the author’s approaching anti-establishment explosions of prose and his extreme emotional makeup than it does about tweedy-elbowed profs fantasizing about ordering their ships into battle. For, after all, who, besides everyone around him, would the terrorist have killed?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

“We Are All Democrats Now…” — Wendy Brown on Democracy

Wendy Brown

“What I am sure of, however, is that this is not a time for sloganeering that averts our glance from the powers destroying the conditions for democracy.”—Wendy Brown

Continuing our series of excerpts from Democracy in What State? , Wendy Brown examines the condition of democracy under neoliberalism. Brown argues that neoliberalism threaten to gut democratic institutions, principles, and ideals. (For excerpts from Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, and Daniel Bensaid).

Brown concludes with a section regarding the possibilities of “redemocratizing” in an age of neoliberalism

Does the poor fit of popular rule with the contemporary age add up to a brief for abandoning left struggles for democracy and soliciting left creativity in developing new political forms? Or does it, instead demand sober appreciation of democracy as an important ideal, always unavailable to materialization? Ought we to affirm that democracy (like freedom, equality, peace, and contentment) has never been realizable, yet served (and could still serve?) as a crucial counter to an otherwise wholly dark view of collective human possibility? Or perhaps democracy, like liberation, could only ever materialize as protest and, especially today, ought to be formally demoted from a from of governance to a politics of resistance.

(more…)

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Start Worrying – Details to Follow: A Post by Geoffrey Kabat

Geoffrey KabatGeoffrey Kabat is a cancer epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the author of Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology (Columbia University Press, 2008).

Over the past thirty years we have been bombarded with a steady succession of putative health risks, including electromagnetic fields (EMF) from power lines and electric appliances, radon seeping into homes, and pesticides in our food and water, to name just a few. Today, radiation from cell phones and exposure to minute amounts of BPA (a chemical used in some plastics) are major concerns that are grabbing headlines.

When one looks back at many of the alleged health hazards that have received enormous attention (from scientists, regulators, the media, and the public), a striking pattern is discernible. Early studies seeming to indicate the existence of a novel threat received enormous publicity. But these studies tended to have small sample sizes and crude methodology. In some cases, their weaknesses were pointed out by commentators at the time, but, nevertheless, the results were given more credibility than they should have been. As larger and more methodologically rigorous studies were carried out, the elevated “relative risks” either diminished considerably, or evaporated completely. Interestingly, in a recent article in the New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer has pointed out a similar phenomenon in a number of areas of science, including psychology and clinical medicine (“The Truth Wears Off,” December 13, 2010).

How are we to explain this phenomenon? Undoubtedly, a variety of factors contribute to the manufacture of a hazard. First, as we have come to recognize (most famously in the case of hormone therapy), the findings from observational studies can be misleading, and we need to be extremely cautious in attributing causality to a correlation between an exposure, often measured at one point in time, and the development of disease many years later. Second, scientists are motivated to discover new causes of diseases and, understandably, want their results to be meaningful. It is a basic, if rarely acknowledged, fact of life that interesting findings are crucial currency in getting scientific papers published, obtaining funding, and advancing professionally. Third, the media, regulatory agencies, and the public are all hungry for novel information that might explain why people develop terrible diseases. Finally, positive results, even when they come from a study with many flaws and limitations, tend to get more attention than results showing no effect.

(more…)

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Daniel Bensaid on Democracy

Daniel Bensaid

“The widely trumpeted victory of democracy soon yielded a crop of new Tocquevilles voicing their ill-concealed dislike of it…”—Daniel Bensaid

Continuing our series of excerpt from Democracy in What State? (for excerpts by Giorgio Agamben and Alain Badiou), we feature an excerpt from Daniel Bensaid written before his death in 2010.

In his essay “Permanent Scandal,” Bensaid ponders the institutionalization of democracy. Exploring the ideas of a range of theorists, Bensaid also examines the contradictions of democracy’s victory.

Bensaid writes:

With the debacle of bureaucratic despotism and “real” (i. e. unreal) socialism, the floating signifier democracy became a synonym for the victorious West, the triumphant United States of America, the free market, and the level playing field. Simultaneously, a full-scale onslaught against social solidarity and social rights and an unprecedented campaign to privatize everything were causing the public space to shrivel. Hannah Arendt’s erstwhile fear of seeing politics itself, meaning conflictual plurality, disappear from the face of the earth, to be replaced by the routine administration of things beings, was apparently coming about.

The widely trumpeted victory of democracy soon yielded a crop of new Tocquevilles voicing their ill-concealed dislike of it, reminding their readers that democracy meant more than just unfettered exchange and the free circulation of capital: it was also the expression of a disturbing egalitarian principle … we heard the elitist discourse of a restricted group worried by the intemperance, excess, and exuberance of the common heard.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Alain Badiou on Democracy — From “Democracy in What State?”

Alain Badiou

“We will only ever be true democrats, integral to the historic life of peoples, when we become communists again. Roads to that future are gradually becoming visible even now.”—Alain Badiou

Yesterday we posted an excerpt from Giorgio Agamben’s contribution to the new collection Democracy in What State?.

Today in Alain Badiou’s response to the question, ““Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?” In his essay “The Democratic Emblem,” Badiou dissects how the idea or “emblem” of democracy has been manipulated by democrats. He then explores Plato’s critique of democracy and how it relates to the present.

Here is an excerpt:

Our concern is le monde, the world that evidently exists, not tout le monde, where the democrats (Western folk, folk of the emblem) hold sway and everyone else is from another world —which being other, is not a world properly speaking, just a remnant of life, a zone of war, hunger, walls, and delusions. In that “world” or zone, they spend their time packing their bags to get away from the horror or to leave altogether and be with—whom? With the democrats of course, who claim to run the world have jobs that need doing….

In sum, if the world of the democrats is not the world of everyone, if tout le monde isn’t really the whole world after all, then democracy the emblem and custodian of the walls behind which the democrats seek their petty pleasures, is just a word for a conservative oligarchy whose main (and often bellicose) business is to guard its own territory, as animals do, under the usurped name world.

Badiou concludes by writing:

(more…)

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

What do Americans Think of China?

Living with the DragonWith Hu Jintao visiting the United States this week, Barack Obama will have to navigate a variety of both international and domestic issues. How does China’s rise as an economic and military power affect the American public? Conventional wisdom often suggests that Americans are wary of China.

However, Benjamin I. Page and Tao Xie, authors of Living with the Dragon: How the American Public Views the Rise of China, argue otherwise. Based on extensive polling and analysis of Americans’ attitudes, the authors conclude that Americans are by-and-large moderate in their views and favor cooperation with China but still have some concerns.

The authors write:

In the economic realm, we saw that most Americans now recognize that China’s economy is likely to grow to equal the size of the U.S. economy and is likely to do so rather quickly—perhaps within twenty or thirty years. Reactions to that prospect tend toward the negative. And many Americans—though happy to get inexpensive goods from China—worry about the quality and safety of those goods, about China’s trade practices (widely seen as “unfair”), and especially about the impact of trade and investment with China on the jobs and wages of American workers. Yet there is no evidence so far of an upsurge in protectionist sentiment, just support for measures like environmental and workplace safety provisions in trade agreements plus opposition to major investments in the United States by Chinese or other sovereign wealth funds.

(more…)

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Giorgio Agamben on Democracy

Giorgio Agamben

“Is it meaningful to call oneself a democrat? And if so, how do you interpret the word?”

In the recently published Democracy in What State? , a group of iconic and iconoclastic thinkers responded to the above question. This timely critique of democracy and the current state of world politics includes contributions from Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, Daniel Daniel Bensaid, Wendy Brown, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Kristin Ross, and Slavoj Zizek.

Over the next few days, we will post excerpts from some of the respondents. First up is an excerpt from Giorgio Agamben’s essay “Introductory Note on the Concept of Democracy”:

Today we behold the overwhelming preponderance of the government and the economy over anything you could call popular sovereignty—an expression by now drained of all meaning. Western democracies are perhaps paying the price for a philosophical heritage they haven’t bothered to take a close look at in a long time. To think of government as simple executive power is a mistake and one of the most consequential errors ever made in the history of Western politics. It explains why modern political thought wanders off into empty abstractions like law, the general will, and popular sovereignty while entirely failing to address the central question of government and its articulation as Rousseau would say, to the sovereign of locus of sovereignty. In a recent book I tried to show that the central mystery of politics is not sovereignty but government; not God but his angels; not the king but his minister; not the law but the police—or rather the governmental machine they form and propel.

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Ted Striphas: “Your Favorite Book Store. Now Digital”

Ted Striphas on Borders Closing

Ted Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control (now available in paperback, recently surveyed left behind when his local Borders bookstore closed in Bloomington, Indiana on his blog The Late Age of Print.

The store was, needless to say, a shell of its former itself but among the leftover books (mostly genre fiction), empty shelves, random barista equipment, and cleaning agents (also for sale), was a computer display, which read, “Your Favorite Book Store. Now Digital” (see picture above). Here’s Striphas’s description of the image:

This final image shows a computer terminal located on what used to be the customer service counter. Instead of facing the customer service agent, it had been turned around to face the customers, as if to greet us as we entered the store on its final days. The display read, “Your Favorite Book Store. Now Digital.” I guess we know how Borders is imagining its future — assuming, of course, that it has one.

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Olivier Roy Talks to the New Humanist about Holy Ignorance

Olivier Roy

“The more you believe the less you know – or the less you want to know [and that] is the exact definition of holy ignorance.”—Olivier Roy

The above quote comes from a recent interview with the New Humanist and Olivier Roy about his new book Holy Ignorance: When Religion and Culture Part Ways. In the interview Roy discusses some of the book’s crucial arguments based on his exploration of a range of contemporary religious phenomena: suicidal Jihadism, the rise of charismatic preachers, the endless disputes over headscarves, cartoons and religious symbols, and the rise of the New Atheism.

Roy argues the new fundamentalisms, that are increasingly prominent in the religious landscape, practice a willed ignorance in which they “discard theology, culture and knowledge. They are based on immediate contact with the truth, be it God, Jesus, Allah or the guru. It is religion reduced to faith. So once you are full of your faith then you don’t need to know anything else.” Whereas in the past, religion was integrated with culture and became entwined with local customs and practices, now culture is considered a threat and something to be confronted. In comparing the current situation to forty years ago in places such as Catholic Ireland or Spain, Roy claims then “you did not have a cultural gap between believers and non-believers. It was a continuum. There was secular knowledge of religion, and profound knowledge amongst religious people. There was debate, of course, but there was no mutual ignorance.”

Roy suggests that globalization upended local cultures and began a process in which contemporary forms of belief no longer see religion in their culture and have removed themselves from the mainstream. This retreat has led to isolation and increasingly heated debates about the place of religion in the public sphere.

(more…)

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

New York City Mayors and Snow

John Lindsay

Having recently published biographies of New York City mayors—America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York and Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City—we’ve been following Mayor Bloomberg’s recent battles with snow storms. While the post-Christmas blizzard won the first round, Bloomberg was clearly ready for the most recent snow fall, undoubtedly recognizing that providing plowed streets and other basic services are key to a mayor’s success.

One only has to look at the experience of John Lindsay whose mayoralty almost came undone by a blizzard in 1969 (see above picture of a lonely Lindsay surveying the storm). In America’s Mayor, Jeff Greenfield, CBS News senior political correspondent and a former speechwriter for Lindsay, describes how the snowstorm hurt an already weakened Lindsay:

Even the gods—and a sclerotic bureaucracy—conspired against him: a freak snowstorm in early 1969 that dumped nearly two feet of snow on eastern Queens had paralyzed much of that borough for days, offering a Currier & Ives portrait of a Manhattan-centric mayor indifferent to the plight of middle-class homeowner.

Sound familiar?

In other New York City Mayor news, New York Magazine recently gathered a group that included scholars, political consultants, and Al Sharpton to weigh in on what makes a good mayor of New York City and who might have been the best.

(more…)

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Clare Palmer on Animal Ethics in Context

Clare Palmer
In a fascinating essay published in Rorotoko, Clare Palmer recently wrote about the aims and arguments of her new book Animal Ethics in Context . As the title of her book suggests, Palmer is interested in exploring the argument that our responsibility toward animals depends on context. Thus, our responsibility toward animals in the wild are quite different than those we have domesticated or whose environment we have altered. Palmer hopes her book will open up a series of new questions about when it is appropriate to help animals as well as when it’s permissible to harm them. Her focus, therefore, is not only theoretical debates in animal ethics but also on practical concerns about the treatment of animals.

In the following excerpt from the essay, Palmer zeroes in on how a contextual approach to animal ethics might reveal itself:

I suggest that we have conflicting views about the kinds of responsibilities we have to animals. So, for instance, every year more than a million wildebeest migrate across Kenya’s Mara River. In the process, a number of them—sometimes thousands of them—drown. This mass migration, and the deaths that follow, has become a tourist spectacle. But no one argues that the tourists or media pundits standing by should intervene to help the drowning wildebeest, even if their suffering is intense or long lasting. We don’t say, in this case, that there’s a moral problem of “animal neglect.”

On the other hand, if domesticated animals are left to suffer—I cite a well-known case in the UK where a herd of domestic horses developed dehydration and untreated infections—there’s a moral outcry. We react differently to animal suffering in different contexts: the idea that we can have different responsibilities towards animals with whom we have different relationships is already widely accepted.

(more…)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

New Book Tuesday

Clio Wired, Roy RosenzweigThe following books are now available:

Clio Wired: The Future of the Past in the Digital Age
Roy Rosenzweig

Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons from India
Rohini Hensman

Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia (new in paper)
Victor D. Cha

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Barthes after Barthes — Sylvère Lotringer on The Preparation of the Novel

Roland Barthes
In the current issue of Frieze Sylvère Lotringer offers an uncommonly perceptive and thoughtful assessment of Roland Barthes’s life’s work and his attempt to prepare for and write a novel after the death of his mother. Barthes’s thoughts about writing a novel became the source of course and seminars he gave at the Collège de France.

The lectures Barthes gave that comprise The Preparation of the Novel were given in the wake of his mother’s death. As Lotringer explains, the event had a profound impact on Barthes:

For months afterwards [Barthes] felt deeply disengaged, a kind of ‘listlessness which bears upon everything I do’. He envisaged making a radical break with his past. He would renounce everything – his courses and academic duties, Collège included – and settle into a life of writing. Dante had done it ‘nel mezzo del cammin’ (in the middle of life’s journey). Marcel Proust hesitated for a few years after his mother’s death, remaining ‘without will or clarity’, drawn between two contrary directions: essay or novel. Barthes was divided as well, between affect and intellect. Would he be, like them, capable of going over to the other side?

(more…)

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Columbia University Press Outstanding Academic Titles for 2010 from Choice

Congratulations to the 10 books named as Choice Outstanding Academic Titles for 2010!

Every year, Choice subject editors single out for recognition the most significant print and electronic works reviewed in Choice during the previous calendar year. Appearing annually in Choice’s January issue, this prestigious list of publications reflects the best in scholarly titles and attracts extraordinary attention from the academic library community. The 2010 feature includes 668 titles in 54 disciplines and subsections. Here are the Columbia University Press titles that won:

Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdjik
The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing by James Igoe Walsh
Virus Alert by Stefan Elbe
Impaled Upon a Thistle by Ewen A. Cameron
Triassic Life on Land by Hans-Dieter Sues and Nicholas C. Fraser
Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth by Stephen Phillips
Everyday Ethics and Social Change by Anna L. Peterson
The Moral Fool by Hans-Georg Moeller
Pragmatism as Transition by Colin Koopman
Firestorm by Stephen Prince

To see a complete list of all our award winning titles click here.

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Dan Rather recommends “My Life with the Taliban”

Dan RatherOn the facebook page for his program Dan Rather Reports, Dan Rather himself recommended My Life with the Taliban, by Abdul Salam Zaeef.

Here’s what Rather wrote about the book:

Have just read My Life With the Taliban, by Abdul Salam Zaeef. Worth reading under a “know your enemy” heading. Zaeef helped found the Taliban and knows the movement well. One may not like the author or what he’s written, much less agree with him, but he writes clearly, interestingly & informatively. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Whom are we fighting in Afghanistan?” this book provides answers worth pondering.