Archives For Andrew Bacevich

 

Tom Vanderbilt Reviews 3 New Books
on Suburbia and Culture for BookForum

http://bookforum.com/inprint/015_05/3247

If, as Conley contends, the Protestant ethic, which valued “thrift over consumption, work over leisure, and meritocracy over social connections,” gave way in the 1950s to the ethos of bureaucratic capitalism, which emphasized “teamwork, compromise, and fealty,” in the latest sociological era, the age of Elsewhere, the midcentury tensions have been resolved: “Leisure is work and work is leisure. Consumption is investment. A tax-deductible home equity loan is savings. And the salience of social connections does not indicate nepotism but rather social capital and entrepreneurial skill totally consistent with meritocratic ideals.” But there are costs: “the fragmentation of the self, not to mention alienation and anxiety among today’s professional classes—those Americans who earn lots of money but need to work for it.”

Why should such free-floating anxiety exist among people in seemingly comfortable positions? One hears of executives being constantly uprooted in a job market rife with downsizing. Parents worry that their careers are not allowing them to spend enough time with their children. No one feels as if they have any time. But Conley points out that the facts tell a different story: Fewer Americans moved in 2000 than did in 1950. The percentage of people logging more than ten years with large firms has increased. This generation of fathers, he observes, “spends more time with their children than any in recent history.” As for the time squeeze, a study has found that higher-income women, even when they work the same number of hours as those earning less, report feeling more pressed for time. As Conley notes, “when you can earn more per hour, the opportunity cost of not working feels greater and the pressure is all the more intense.”

The frenetic, self-regulating regimen of one’s inner time manager is the chief culprit, Conley argues, in the forever-harried state of postindustrial labor. For the first time in history, the more people are paid, the more they feel they must work. Income inequality has risen absolutely, but particularly within the upper echelons of the professional classes. “From any link in the chain,” he writes, “it looks like everyone else is rushing away.” So the presumed leisure time that money might buy merely breeds anxiety over how much the moment is costing.

Read the full review:
http://bookforum.com/inprint/015_05/3247

ELSEWHERE USA.
Dalton Conley.

Hardcover: Pantheon, 2009.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

BIG BOX: REUSE.
Julia Christensen.

Hardcover: MIT Press, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]


THE NY REVIEW OF BOOKS asks what we can learn
from Reinhold Niebuhr about History and Foreign Policy

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22472

In a democracy the people need to be informed if they are to fulfill their duties as citizens. May we now be entering a renewal of participatory American democracy? If we are not, we shall be in even greater trouble than we are now.

The fatalism of Bacevich’s final sentence about Americans being firmly set on self-destruction is deeply disturbing, as no doubt it was intended it to be. Since his book was published, the presidential election has shown how intelligent use of the Internet can bring together an enthusiastic and disciplined body of volunteers and bring young people in large numbers back into politics. There is now talk of using the Obama campaign’s online network to foster support for his legislative program and presidential initiatives. Brilliant and essential political analysis by writers like the three reviewed here could be a useful part of such initiatives.

Bacevich suggests that the acknowledgment of the truth of the following Niehbuhr principle would be a useful standard for election or appointment to public office: “The whole drama of history is enacted in a frame of meaning too large for human comprehension or management.” That might also be a good start for a renaissance of knowledgeable democratic participation.

Read the full review:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22472

The Irony of American History.
Reinhold Niebuhr, Introduction by Andrew Bacevich

Paperback: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
Andrew Bacevich.

Hardcover: Metropolitan Books, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]


Frances Richard Reviews Two Recent Books
on the Direction of Photography as Art.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/richard/

Photography is haunted by distortions, or what philosophers and media theorists call “simulacra”–those devils or replicants that blur authentic essence and mere appearance. Pictures in general trigger these anxieties, Plato having bequeathed to Western culture a fear that overidentification with images will dull perception of a spirit that eludes sight. Photography, however, has been especially seductive, seeming to offer unmediated access to how things “really” are. As Martin Jay explains in Downcast Eyes, his marvelous history of antivisual themes in French thought, “Because of the physical imprinting of light waves on the plate of the camera…it might seem as if now the oeil was not trompé in Daguerre’s new invention. But doubts nonetheless soon arose.” By the 1840s, it was clear that even apparently direct imprinting could not rout the ghost of simulacra. “Yet as late as the Dreyfus Affair,” Jay notes, “it was still necessary to warn the naïve viewer against concocted images.” Photographs could be retouched or faked through double exposures–as when, in 1899, the newspaper Le Siècle printed composite pictures of enemies in the Dreyfus Affair appearing friendly. Technologies have drastically evolved, of course. Nevertheless, according to new books by Michael Fried and Fred Ritchin, warnings about photography’s uncertainties are no less necessary.

Read the full review:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/richard/

Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before.
Michael Fried.

Hardcover: Yale UP, 2008.
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After Photography.
Fred Ritchin.

Hardcover: Norton, 2008.
Buy Now:  [ Doulos Christou Books $24 ] [ Amazon ]

 

A recent interview with Rene Girard

http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1086&loc=r

 

Despite being 84 years of age, René Girard has lost none of his nerve as a definitively radical thinker. He is working on a new essay about Karl von Clausewitz. The author of great contemporary works such as Violence and the Sacred and The Scapegoat, recently elected among the forty “immortals” of the Académie française, René Girard is, along with Claude Levi-Strauss, our greatest living anthropologist. In this interview with Il Foglio, Girard returns to that which defines “the great anthropological question of our time.”

He himself opens with a question:

“Can there be a realistic anthropology that precedes deconstruction? In other words, is it licit and still possible to affirm a universal truth about humankind? Structuralist and postmodern contemporary anthropology denies this access to the truth. The present school of thought is ‘the castration of meaning.’ But such ways of discussing mankind are dangerous.”

Read the full interview here:
http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1086&loc=r

 

The Rene Girard Reader.
Paperback.
Crossroad Publishing. 1996.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $24] [ Amazon ]

 


Books and Culture  reviews a recent book on
The Modern Charismatic Movement

http://www.christianitytoday.com/books/features/bookwk/080929a.html

Last fall, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) opened an investigation into the finances of six of the United States‘ most influential ministries. Lavish spending by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, and Eddie Long had caught the attention of the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. Responding to reports that these ministers might be abusing their tax-exempt status, Grassley asked for detailed financial information about their credit card spending, luxury cars, and palatial vacation homes. A few promised to comply with the investigation; most did not.

Despite the controversies surrounding these ministers, there is no doubt that they have played influential roles in shaping the modern American charismatic movement. Their work, and that of a select number of charismatic allies, is the focus of Scott Billingsley’s fascinating book It’s a New Day. Billingsley, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, downplays the scandalous rumors dogging certain charismatic leaders and instead focuses on their contributions to American religion. According to Billingsley, charismatics’ recent mainstream success can be attributed to their promotion of female and African American evangelists, use of technology, exploitation of the megachurch trend, and strong leaders. In particular, he argues that modern charismatic leaders built on the civil rights and feminist movements by “taking socially and theologically liberal ideologies” about race and gender “and adapting them to fit the sensibilities of conservative evangelical audiences.”

Read the full review:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/books/features/bookwk/080929a.html

 

It’s a New Day: Race and Gender
In the Modern Charismatic Movement.

Scott Billingsley.
Hardcover.
Univ. of Alabama Press. 2007.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $34] [ Amazon ]

 



The NY Times Review of Andrew Bacevich’s

The Limits of Power:

 The End of American Exceptionalism.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/books/review/Tepperman-t.html

Andrew J. Bacevich thinks our political system is busted. In The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, he argues that the country’s founding principle — freedom — has become confused with appetite, turning America’s traditional quest for liberty into an obsession with consumption, the never-ending search for more. To accommodate this hunger, pandering politicians have created an informal empire of supply, maintaining it through constant brush-fire wars. Yet the foreign-policy apparatus meant to manage that empire has grown hideously bloated and has led the nation into one disaster after another. The latest is Iraq: in Bacevich’s mind, the crystallization of all that’s gone wrong with the American system.

 

In the dog days of the George W. Bush era, as the fighting drags on in Afghanistan and Iraq and global food, energy and economic crises mount, this argument has huge intuitive appeal, and indeed Bacevich’s book has climbed the best-seller lists. The nation does seem to be in serious trouble. Figuring out how it got that way is important, and a root-and-branch rethink may be necessary to set things right.  

 

Read the full review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/books/review/Tepperman-t.html

The Limits of Power:

The End of American Exceptionalism.
Andrew Bacevich.
Hardcover. Henry Holt. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $18 ] [ Amazon ]