Friday, September 30, 2022

Michael D. Benton: Ideological Becoming

As citizens of a globalized world it is imperative that we develop a broader awareness of key issues. A quick exercise: Ask yourself: in how many countries are Americans currently engaged in active military missions? Or, how many American military bases are there around the world? Or, how many corporations control 85 - 90% of the world’s media that informs us about these issues? (Answers: 80 countries in 2017 - 2018, approximately 40% of the world; approximately 800 military bases in 70 countries; estimates vary of 5 to 6 media giants controlling app. 80% of the world's media and this is further problematized by the rapid spread and variation of new media). Some people would be surprised by this information regarding America’s "national security corporate complex" and the filters in the corporate media that ensure most American citizens remain unaware of the extent of our imperialism. How many of us could discuss in depth why we are fighting in these countries, or what are the democratic implications of media consolidation. Even worse, how many could explain the connection between American imperialist wars and corporate media consolidation?

The work of propaganda

Because we are ostensibly a democracy, whose citizens potentially have the world’s information at their fingertips, powerful interests work to ensure that we are the most propagandized society. Propaganda can work to purposely distort reality through targeted misinformation, but it also operates to distract through endless entertainments and disillusion through aggressively disruptive white noise chatter. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge is available to us if we remain blind to the possibilities of critical thinking and active resistance. This is not a hyperbolic conspiracy theory; it is just common sense that those who benefit the most from the current socio-political structure will work to reproduce the status quo and keep those who are not benefiting, who are even suffering, from recognizing their predicament. One important way in which propaganda works in a democratic society is to keep us blissfully entertained and distracted while indoctrinating us into an official narrative. This can be most clearly seen in the Pentagon and CIA directed support, funding and vetting of a range of TV Shows and films that follow a narrow and manipulative action entertainment narrative about American wars abroad while conditioning Americans to accept abhorrent and anti-democratic practices, such as torture. Three prominent examples are the TV show 24 (2001 - 2010) and the films Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and American Sniper (2014), all of which turned torture and assassinations into entertainments designed to reinforce a complacent American public's belief in the necessity of these acts of state terror.

Furthermore, in each successive drive to war or state sponsored sanctions against countries that do not play ball with American corporate interests, we see the same official government or corporate media experts, many with connections to private industries profiting off American wars, acting as “expert” talking heads on network and cable TV shows weighing in on whether America should invade or target a country. As David Barstow in The New York Times (April 20, 2008) states: “To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as ‘military analysts’ whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-9/11 world.” These experts are presented as objective, but they are clearly a part of a corporate/pentagon and presidential agenda to generate favorable coverage for war and intervention agendas. The public, and often the networks, do not understand these “experts” connections to the current administration and the military-industrial complex.

Meanwhile globally recognized experts on American political issues that raise critical questions about American foreign and domestic policies are marginalized or attacked in the corporate media. Noam Chomsky, one of the most important and globally celebrated political analysts is completely missing from corporate media. Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer and national security analyst, is regularly attacked and dismissed because of his fierce criticisms of policy decisions regardless of which party is in power. The perceived problem isn't that he has a critical voice, it is instead that he critiques power in a systematic manner and calls about abuses no matter the politics of the offenders. In fact, polarized party politics and their media watchdogs have made it the ultimate sin for a conscious critic to stick to a focused critique of an important issue no matter who is in power. Many other important voices in the independent media and from around the world (the remaining 15% of media) are regularly ignored in the corporate media which informs the majority of American citizens. This stifling of critical questioning of the world-as-it-is and broad-based fearmongering seeks to reinforce our fealty to the dominant power structure. Knee-jerk patriotism and in-group bias in reality-show America is not simply a denial of critical thinking, it is also a targeted attempt to erase the realities of the marginalized (culturally, economically, geographically and socially). There have been many studies that have noted how heavy media consumption makes us much more afraid of the world outside because of the distorted realities of both news shows and repetitive entertainments that focus on a law and enforcement mentality as the only hope in a violent and chaotic world. This has only increased in a search algorithm and social media age that isolates unaware users in filter bubbles that situate them like betta fish in their tiny fishbowl staring out and viewing any other nearby betta fish as an enemy. The hatred and distrust resulting from these isolating and anxiety-inducing processes often most affects marginal populations, because the mainstream corporate culture mostly reflects the limited desires and fears of the dominant culture, which in turn, labels or targets those perceived as the "other."

These filter bubbles enhance and distort already present prejudices and stereotypes, as was
seen in the recent exposure of racist, misogynistic and dehumanizing comments on the secret,
feedback-loop, Border Patrol Facebook group 10-15. In this group, before it’s exposure to the public-at-large, members spread racist and misogynist thoughts without fear of condemnation, heightening a culture of hate and mistrust in regards to marginalized communities. Because of the reality of their situation, minoritized communities often more clearly recognize the cognitive dissonance of dominant narratives about freedom and equality for all. Thus, their perspectives are a necessary part of a full understanding of America and the world. We must recognize that the dismissal of minoritized voices serves those in power and harms those that need to address social inequities. So, in an era of so-called fake news, troll farms, sock puppets, media consolidation, polarized politics/tribalismperception management, spin-doctors, targeted advertising, corporate astroturfing, social engineeringinconspicuous consumptionclass conflictperpetual war, inverted totalitarianism, social media isolation, indentured politicians, algorithmic decision-making, leadership tweets, hate speech, corporate dominancedisinformation campaigns, commercialization of childhood, celebrity worship, memory holestechnocratic education, historical amnesia, gangster capitalism, and all-out psychological warfare: How do we think clearly and critically about the world?

Cultural puzzles

There are many pathways to take; sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the many options available to us, or the immensity of understanding the full context of current social trends, viral cultural phenomenons, or contentious political events. It is like staring at a newly opened puzzle: we see pieces scattered across a table, random parts detached and disconnected from the larger coherent picture. It can seem overwhelming and impossible at first, even when you have a reproduction telling you what the larger picture looks like. But slowly you pick up a piece, get a sense of its configuration, and imagine how it may connect to another piece. Some pieces don’t immediately work and you set them aside for a moment to take a look at newer pieces. Sets or groupings eventually emerge, and you match those together until you have larger sections. Suddenly, surprisingly, the pieces take shape as a whole image. Puzzle-solving is always aided through collaboration with others; as more eyes look with fresh perspectives, more pieces of the puzzle come into focus.

My intent, here is to encourage Ideological Becoming, to recognize that we are always in a process of becoming aware. In doing so, to start pointing out some of the larger groupings of pieces that make up our cultural puzzle. To seek out vital historical moments, social movements, political activists, challenging thinkers, and unique artists, that can help us to see world anew (or even askew). Always with an eye towards “what if" questioning and challenging rethinking of common assumptions about our world. Once again, I have the opportunity to research a range of important issues because of my profession, it is my intent and hope to share what I learn freely.

I’m hoping in the process others will join in to discuss these topics. Following the Russian writer Mikhail Bakhtin, I believe that “Truth is not born nor is it found inside the head of an individual person; it is born between people collectively searching for the truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction.”

A final note: I have named this Ideological Becoming in recognition of the lifelong process of learning and thinking about the world. I do not view the self as static, as that is a form of intellectual death, instead the critical thinker is constantly becoming ideological through engaged-respectful dialogue with others and thoughtful revision of our foundational beliefs as we learn more about the world.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

ENG 102 Books (2023)

Alagona, Peter S. "The Accidental Ecosystem People and Wildlife in American Cities (The University of California Press, 2022)." New Books in Popular Culture (September 5, 2022) ["The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities (U California Press, 2022) tells the story of how cities across the United States went from having little wildlife to filling, dramatically and unexpectedly, with wild creatures. Today, many of these cities have more large and charismatic wild animals living in them than at any time in at least the past 150 years. Why have so many cities—the most artificial and human-dominated of all Earth’s ecosystems—grown rich with wildlife, even as wildlife has declined in most of the rest of the world? And what does this paradox mean for people, wildlife, and nature on our increasingly urban planet? The Accidental Ecosystem is the first book to explain this phenomenon from a deep historical perspective, and its focus includes a broad range of species and cities. Cities covered include New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Austin, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Digging into the natural history of cities and unpacking our conception of what it means to be wild, this book provides fascinating context for why animals are thriving more in cities than outside of them. Author Peter S. Alagona argues that the proliferation of animals in cities is largely the unintended result of human decisions that were made for reasons having little to do with the wild creatures themselves. Considering what it means to live in diverse, multispecies communities and exploring how human and non-human members of communities might thrive together, Alagona goes beyond the tension between those who embrace the surge in urban wildlife and those who think of animals as invasive or as public safety hazards. The Accidental Ecosystem calls on readers to reimagine interspecies coexistence in shared habitats, as well as policies that are based on just, humane, and sustainable approaches. Peter S. Alagona is a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara."]

Amplas, John, et al. "Dawn of the Dead (1978)." The Projection Booth #591 (October 13, 2022) ["We’re continuing #Shocktober2022 with an episode on George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead Released in 1978, the film is a stalwart of the zombie film pantheon. Ostensibly picking up after the events of Night of the Living Dead, the film stars Gaylen Ross as Francine, one of a handful of people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. She and the others find refuge in a mall where they rebuild a facsimile of contemporary American society. Father Malone (Dark Destinations) and Jamie Russell (Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema) join Mike to discuss the film. Interviews feature Gaylen Ross, John Amplas, and Jon Towlson (author of the Devils Advocates book on Dawn of the Dead)."]

Bannerjee, Abhijit V. and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. Public Affairs, 2012. [""Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world's poor. But much of the work they do is based on assumptions that are untested generalizations at best, flat out harmful misperceptions at worst. Banerjee and Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics. Work based on these principles, supervised by the Poverty Action Lab at MIT, is being carried out in dozens of countries. Their work transforms certain presumptions: that microfinance is a cure-all, that schooling equals learning, that poverty at the level of 99 cents a day is just a more extreme version of the experience any of us have when our income falls uncomfortably low. Throughout, the authors emphasize that life for the poor is simply not like life for everyone else: it is a much more perilous adventure, denied many of the cushions and advantages that are routinely provided to the more affluent"--"]

"Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, Part 1." and "Part 2." and "What are Imagined Communities?" Theory and Philosophy (September 10, 17, and 21, 2022) [Book Description: "The definitive, bestselling book on the origins of nationalism, and the processes that have shaped it. Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson’s brilliant book on nationalism, forged a new field of study when it first appeared in 1983. Since then it has sold over a quarter of a million copies and is widely considered the most important book on the subject. In this greatly anticipated revised edition, Anderson updates and elaborates on the core question: what makes people live and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name?Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the ‘imagined communities’ of nationality, and explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialization of religious faiths, the decline of antique kinship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of secular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time and space. He shows how an originary nationalism born in the Americas was adopted by popular movements in Europe, by imperialist powers, and by the movements of anti-imperialist resistance in Asia and Africa. In a new afterword, Anderson examines the extraordinary influence of Imagined Communities, and the book's international publication and reception, from the end of the Cold War era to the present day.."]

Benton, Michael and Michael Marchman. "So long—it’s been good to know ya: Remembering Howard Zinn." North of Center (February 13, 2010) ["Zinn, as much as anyone in our lives, revolutionized how we understand our history, ourselves, and, our roles as educators. “In a world where justice is maldistributed,” he wrote, “there is no such thing as a neutral or representative recapitulation of the facts.” We agree. There is tremendous injustice in the world and as educators we feel a deep responsibility to our students, our community, and ultimately to ourselves, to acknowledge these injustices, to seek explanations for them, and to challenge them. Zinn provided a model for us, urging us to encourage our students to be active participants in democracy rather than passive spectators. And he showed us how to do it." Howard Zinn is the author of the landmark A People's History of the United States and many other books/articles. 2022 is the 100 year anniversary of his birth.]

Berry, Wendell. The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice. Shoemaker, 2022. [Kentucky author: "Wendell Berry has never been afraid to speak up for the dispossessed. The Need to Be Whole continues the work he began in The Hidden Wound (1970) and The Unsettling of America (1977), demanding a careful exploration of this hard, shared truth: The wealth of the mighty few governing this nation has been built on the unpaid labor of others. Without historical understanding of this practice of dispossession--the displacement of Native peoples, the destruction of both the land and land-based communities, ongoing racial division--we are doomed to continue industrialism's assault on both the natural world and every sacred American ideal. Berry writes, "To deal with so great a problem, the best idea may not be to go ahead in our present state of unhealth to more disease and more product development. It may be that our proper first resort should be to history: to see if the truth we need to pursue might be behind us where we have ceased to look." If there is hope for us, this is it: that we honestly face our past and move into a future guided by the natural laws of affection. This book furthers Mr. Berry's part in what is surely our country's most vital conversation."]

Boje, David M. and Robert F. Dennehy. Managing in the Postmodern World: America’s Revolution Against Exploitation. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1993. ["People who do not tell stories well, listen to stories effectively and learn to deconstruct those stories with a skeptical ear will be more apt to be victims of … exploitation and power games. Stories have many interpretations. If one interpretation gets pasted over all the rest and becomes a dominant or the only political acceptable way to interpret events, we have ideology, domination, and disempowerment. Part of exploitation is to deny an interpretation, point of view, or experience, that differs from the dominant view. Rhetoric about healthy, happy, and terrific harmony and unity can mask just the opposite reality. A simple sounding moral or prescription about consensus or teamwork can mask deeper costs in terms of power and domination. (339) 
Story Deconstruction Method 1. Duality Search. Make a list of any bipolar terms, any dichotomies that are used in the story. Include the term even if only one side is mentioned. 2. Reinterpret. A story is one interpretation of an event from one point of view. Write out an alternative interpretation using the same story particulars. 3. Rebel Voices. Deny the authority of the one voice. What voices are being expressed in this story? Which voices are subordinate or hierarchical to other voices? 4. Other Side of the Story. Stories always have two sides. What is the [other] side of the story (usually a marginalized, under-represented, or even silent) …? 5. Deny the Plot. Stories have plots, scripts, scenarios, recipes, and morals. Turn these around. 6. Find the Exception. What is the exception that breaks the rule, that does not fit the recipe, that escapes the strictures of the principle? State the rule in a way that makes it seem extreme or absurd. 7. State What is Between the Lines. What is not said? What is the writing on the wall? Fill in the blanks. … What are you filling in? With what alternate way[s] could you fill it in? (340)"]

Bordwell, David.  "Movies By the Numbers." Observations on Film Art (July 14, 2022)  ["James Cutting’s Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement, itself the fruit of many years of intensive studies, builds on these achievements while taking wholly original perspectives as well. Comprehensive and detailed, it is simply the most complete and challenging psychological account of film art yet offered. I can’t do justice to its range and nuance here. Consider what follows as an invitation to you to read this bold book."]

Brooks, Peter. Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of NarrativeNew York Review of Books, 2022. ["In this spiritual sequel to his influential Reading for the Plot, Peter Brooks examines the dangerously alluring power of storytelling. "There's nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can defeat it." Thus spake Tyrion in the final episode of Game of Thrones, claiming the throne for Bran the Broken. Many viewers liked neither the choice of king nor its rationale. But the claim that story brings you to world dominance seems by now so banal that it's common wisdom. Narrative seems to have become accepted as the one and only form of knowledge and speech that regulates human affairs. So begins the scholar and literary critic Peter Brooks's reckoning with today's flourishing cult of story. Forty years after Brooks published his seminal work Reading for the Plot, his own important contribution to what came to be known as the "narrative turn" in contemporary criticism and philosophy, he returns to question the unquestioning fashion in which story is now embraced as an excuse or explanation and the fact that every brand or politician comes equipped with one. In a discussion that ranges from Gone Girl to legal argument, to the power storytellers exercise over their audiences, to what it means for readers and listeners to project themselves imaginatively into fictional characters, Brooks reminds us that among the powers of narrative is the power to deceive. Precisely because story does command our attention so much, we must be skeptical of it and cultivate ways of thinking about our world and ourselves that run counter to our penchant for a good story."]

Brown, Alfie. "Dream Lovers: The Gamification of Relationships (Pluto Press, 2022)." New Books in Science, Technology, and Society (August 24, 2022) ["We are in the middle of a 'desirevolution' - a fundamental and political transformation of the way we desire as human beings. Perhaps as always, new technologies - with their associated and inherited political biases - are organising and mapping the future. What we don’t seem to notice is that the primary way in which our lives are being transformed is through the manipulation and control of desire itself. Our very impulses, drives and urges are 'gamified' to suit particular economic and political agendas, changing the way we relate to everything from lovers and friends to food and politicians. Digital technologies are transforming the subject at the deepest level of desire – re-mapping its libidinal economy - in ways never before imagined possible. From sexbots to smart condoms, fitbits to VR simulators and AI to dating algorithms, the 'love industries' are at the heart of the future smart city and the social fabric of everyday life. Alfie Bown's Dream Lovers: The Gamification of Relationships (Pluto Press, 2022) considers these emergent technologies and what they mean for the future of love, desire, work and capitalism."]

Carlsson, Chris. "Who’s Processing Whom? Digital Commons, Digital Blinders, and a Fraught Social Future." The Institute for Anarchist Studies (August 16, 2022) ["By the mid-1990s, a so-called New Economy based on the Internet was becoming visible. A Gold Rush mentality quickly took over with a frenzy of frothing investments in vaporware and cyber-fantasies of all sorts. A few got very, very rich before the storied bust of 2001. Public policy further exacerbated the concentration of wealth and the rise of dire poverty. The “miracle” of computer riches hovered over the Bay Area, even while the vast majority of the population struggled on in the same jobs with the same wages, if they had work at all. But the inflation of housing costs thanks to the tidal wave of new wealth that poured into real estate radically disrupted the daily lives of millions. During the early years of the century, few of us knew that a whole new model of wealth accumulation was being developed behind the shiny noise of the New Economy. Surveillance capitalism was born in the advertising trenches, primarily at Google, but was soon expanded upon by the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and other behemoths. As Shoshana Zuboff aptly analyzes it in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, the tech giants had turned our everyday lives into the objectified raw material from which it extracted the data that it sold to advertisers. As she notes, “[Google] thus created out of thin air and at zero marginal cost an asset class of vital raw materials derived from users’ nonmarket online behavior.” To a real extent, this represented a peculiar new form of capitalist enclosure, but this time, rather than being focused on land, it was ingeniously applied to everything we do."]

Chappell, Paul K. Soldiers of Peace: How to Wield the Weapon of Nonviolence with Maximum Force. Easton Studio Press, 2017. ["Soldiers of Peace, by West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran Paul K. Chappell, is the sixth book in his seven-book Road to Peace series. The titles in this important series can be read in any order. All are about waging peace, ending war, the art of living, and what it means to be human. In a world where so many “solutions” deal with surface symptoms rather than the root causes of our problems, Chappell's books provide real guidance we can follow to change ourselves and change the world for the better. In Soldiers of Peace, Paul discusses how to wield the weapon of nonviolence with maximum force so that we can understand, confront, and heal our personal and societal wounds. To create realistic peace we must be as well trained in waging peace as soldiers are in waging war. Chappell discusses how our misunderstanding of peace and violence originate from our misunderstanding about reality and the human condition itself. This book offers a new paradigm in human understanding by dispelling popular myths and revealing timeless truths about the reality of struggle, rage, trauma, empathy, the limitations of violence, the power of nonviolence, and the skills needed to create lasting peace. Through the educational initiative of peace literacy and the metaphor of the constellation of peace, Soldiers of Peace offers a practical framework so that all of us can apply this new paradigm to our daily lives, and therefore create realistic peace within our friendships, families, workplaces, communities, nations, and the entire world. In a time of increased strife and violence in our society, this book is more critically needed than ever."]

Coffee, John C. "How Corporations Get Away With Crime." Capitalisn't (July 22, 2022) ["When it comes to corporate rulebreaking, data from 2002 to 2016 reveals that the US government arranged more than 400 "deferred protection agreements" as a means of deterrence. Under these, a company acknowledges what it did was wrong, pays a fine, promises not to misbehave for a period of time -- and thus is largely let off the hook. Columbia Law School Professor and author of "Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement", John C. Coffee, says these have done little to deter future wrongdoing. Coffee joins Luigi and Bethany, both of whom have also extensively researched and exposed corporate wrongdoing, to discuss how to reform aspects of enforcement, such as self-reporting mechanisms, internal investigations, independent external auditors, whistleblowers, and even shame and humiliation."]

Cutting, James E. Movies On Our Mind: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement. Oxford University Press, 2021. ["This book traces the development of popular cinema from its inception to the present day to understand why humankind has expanded its viewing of popular movies over the last century. Drawing from his extensive work as a psychologist studying artistic canons, James E. Cutting presents hundreds of films across a wide range of genres and eras, considers the structure of frame content, shots, scenes, and larger narrational elements defined by color, brightness, motion, clutter, and range of other variables. He examines the effects of camera lenses, image layout, transitions, and historical functions to classify different kinds of shots. He explains the arcs of scenes, the larger structure of sequences, and the scene- and sequence-like units that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The book then breaks movies into larger, roughly half-hour parts and espouses the psychological evidence behind each device's intended effect, ultimately exploring the rhythms of whole movies, the flow of physical changes, and the cinematic polyrhythms that have come to match aspects those in the human body. Along the way, the book considers cultural and technological evolutions that have contributed to shifts in viewers' engagement by sustaining attention, promoting understanding of the narrative, heightening emotional commitment, and fostering felt presence in the story. Movies on Our Minds asks critical questions about how our emotional processes and the way our experiences of movies have changed over the course of cinematic history, for a cutting-edge look at what makes popular movies enjoyable."]

Delcomyn, Fred and James L. Ellis. "A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers (Southern Illinois University Press, 2021)." New Books in Architecture (August 4, 2022) ["In 2003 Fred Delcomyn imagined his backyard of two and a half acres, farmed for corn and soybeans for generations, restored to tallgrass prairie. Over the next seventeen years, Delcomyn, with help from his friend James L. Ellis scored, seeded, monitored, reseeded, and burned these acres into prairie. In A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers (Southern Illinois UP, 2021), they document their journey and reveal the incredible potential of a backyard to travel back to a time before the wild prairie was put into plow rows. It has been said, “Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This book shows us how. The first book to celebrate a smaller, more private restoration, A Backyard Prairie offers a vivid portrait of what makes a prairie. Delcomyn and Ellis describe selecting and planting seeds, recount the management of a prescribed fire, and capture the prairie’s seasonal parades of colorful flowers in concert with an ever-growing variety of animals, from the minute eastern tailed-blue butterfly to the imperious red-winged blackbird and the reclusive coyote.
This book offers a unique account of their work and their discovery of a real backyard, an inviting island of grass and flowers uncovered and revealed. We often travel miles and miles to find nature larger than ourselves. In this rich account of small prairie restoration, Delcomyn and Ellis encourage the revival of original prairie in our backyards and the patient, beauty-seeking soul sleeping within ourselves."]

 Ehrenreich, Barbara. "RIP Barbara Ehrenreich: Exposed Inequality in “Nickel and Dimed,” Opposed Health-Industrial Complex." Democracy Now (September 5, 2022) ["We remember the author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich, who has died at the age of 81 after a career exposing inequality and the struggles of regular people in the United States. In a brief interview, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González recalls working with Ehrenreich as part of the Young Lords and says she was instrumental for the movement against the American health-industrial complex. “She’s really one of the towering figures of the radical and progressive movement in America, and it’s a tremendous loss, not only to her family but to all who knew her and benefited from her work,” he says. We also air part of a 2011 interview with Ehrenreich on Democracy Now! upon the re-release of her landmark book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. “Jobs that don’t pay enough to live on do not cure poverty. They condemn you, in fact, to a life of low-wage labor and extreme insecurity,” she said." Ehrenreich is also the author of Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream ]

Eisen, Lauren-Brooke. Inside Private Prisons: An American Dilemma in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Colombia University Press, 2017. ["When the tough-on-crime politics of the 1980s overcrowded state prisons, private companies saw potential profit in building and operating correctional facilities. Today more than a hundred thousand of the 1.5 million incarcerated Americans are held in private prisons in twenty-nine states and federal corrections. Private prisons are criticized for making money off mass incarceration—to the tune of $5 billion in annual revenue. Based on Lauren-Brooke Eisen’s work as a prosecutor, journalist, and attorney at policy think tanks, Inside Private Prisons blends investigative reportage and quantitative and historical research to analyze privatized corrections in America.
From divestment campaigns to boardrooms to private immigration-detention centers across the Southwest, Eisen examines private prisons through the eyes of inmates, their families, correctional staff, policymakers, activists, Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees, undocumented immigrants, and the executives of America’s largest private prison corporations. Private prisons have become ground zero in the anti-mass-incarceration movement. Universities have divested from these companies, political candidates hesitate to accept their campaign donations, and the Department of Justice tried to phase out its contracts with them. On the other side, impoverished rural towns often try to lure the for-profit prison industry to build facilities and create new jobs. Neither an endorsement or a demonization, Inside Private Prisons details the complicated and perverse incentives rooted in the industry, from mandatory bed occupancy to vested interests in mass incarceration. If private prisons are here to stay, how can we fix them? This book is a blueprint for policymakers to reform practices and for concerned citizens to understand our changing carceral landscape."]

Elkin, Rosetta S. "Plant Life: The Entangled Politics of Afforestation (University of Minnesota Press, 2022)." New Books in Geography (July 20, 2022) ["In Plant Life: The Entangled Politics of Afforestation (U Minnesota Press, 2022), Rosetta S. Elkin explores the procedures of afforestation, the large-scale planting of trees in otherwise treeless environments, including grasslands, prairies, and drylands. Elkin reveals that planting a tree can either be one of the ultimate offerings to thriving on this planet, or one of the most extreme perversions of human agency over it. Using three supracontinental case studies--scientific forestry in the American prairies, colonial control in Africa's Sahelian grasslands, and Chinese efforts to control and administer territory--Elkin explores the political implications of plant life as a tool of environmentalism. By exposing the human tendency to fix or solve environmental matters by exploiting other organisms, this work exposes the relationship between human and plant life, revealing that afforestation is not an ecological act: rather, it is deliberately political and distressingly social. Plant Life ultimately reveals that afforestation cannot offset deforestation, an important distinction that sheds light on current environmental trends that suggest we can plant our way out of climate change. By radicalizing what conservation protects and by framing plants in their total aliveness, Elkin shows that there are many kinds of life--not just our own--to consider when advancing environmental policy."]

Enns, Peter. The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs. Harper Collins, 2016. ["The controversial evangelical Bible scholar and author of The Bible Tells Me So explains how Christians mistake “certainty” and “correct belief” for faith when what God really desires is trust and intimacy. With compelling and often humorous stories from his own life, Bible scholar Peter Enns offers a fresh look at how Christian life truly works, answering questions that cannot be addressed by the idealized traditional doctrine of “once for all delivered to the saints.” Enns offers a model of vibrant faith that views skepticism not as a loss of belief, but as an opportunity to deepen religious conviction with courage and confidence. This is not just an intellectual conviction, he contends, but a more profound kind of knowing that only true faith can provide. Combining Enns’ reflections of his own spiritual journey with an examination of Scripture, The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path because it is only this way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God. It gives Christians who have known only the demand for certainty permission to view faith on their own flawed, uncertain, yet heartfelt, terms."]

Forsthoefel, Andrew, et al. "Walden & the Natural World of Transcendentalism." Open Source (July 21, 2022) ["It’s one of many odd points to notice about Thoreau at his 200th birthday: that the non-stop writer was equally a man of action, a scientist and a high-flying poet whose imagination saw that “the bluebird carries the sky on his back;” and still a workman with callused hands, at home in the wild, a walker four hours a day on average, in no particular direction. His transcendentalism was all about the blossoming intersection of nature-study and introspection, fact and idea, detail and ideals. In his pine grove, on his river, at his pond, the outdoor Thoreau."]

Freeberg, Ernest, et al. "American Socialist (2020)." Throughline (September 1, 2022) ["It's been over a century since a self-described socialist was a viable candidate for president of the United States. And that first socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, didn't just capture significant votes, he created a new and enduring populist politics deep in the American grain. This week, the story of Eugene V. Debs and the creation of American socialism." Books on the topic: Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent by Ernest Freeberg and Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist by Nick Salvatore.]

Freedman, Jill and Gene Combs. Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., 1996. ["... the beliefs, values, institutions, customs, labels, laws, divisions of labor, and the like that make up our social realities are constructed by the members of a culture as they interact with one another from generation to generation and day to day. That is, societies construct the “lenses” through which their members interpret the world. The realities that each of us take for granted are the realities that our societies have surround us with since birth. These realities provide the beliefs, practices, words, and experiences from which we make up our lives, or, ... “constitute our selves.” ... we see how the stories that circulate in society constitute our lives and those of the people we work with. We also notice how the stories of individual lives can influence the constitution of whole cultures—not just the stories of people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but also those of people like Pocahontas, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, and Tina Turner, as well as the stories of ordinary people whose name we have never heard (Freedman and Combs: 16-17). This conception of self is at odds with the skin-bound container with fixed contents (resources) that we had previously conceptualized. ... If we were really to adapt these new ways of thinking and perceiving—which we wanted to do because of the kinds of therapy they support—we would become responsible for continually constituting ourselves as the people we wanted to be. We would have to examine taken-for-granted stories in our local culture, the contexts we moved in, the relationships we cultivated, and the like, so as to continually re-author and update our own stories. Morality and ethics would not be fixed things, but ongoing activities, requiring continuing maintenance and attention (Freedman/Combs: 17). What is important here … is that change, whether it be change of belief, relationship, feeling, or self-concept, involves a change in language. … Meanings are always somewhat indeterminate, and therefore mutable. … Meaning is not carried in a word by itself, but by the word in relation to its context, and no two contexts will be exactly the same. Thus the precise meaning of any word is always somewhat indeterminate, and potentially different; it is always something to be negotiated between two or more speakers or between a text and a reader (Freedman/Combs: 29)."]

Gershman, Samuel J. "On Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Writ Large (September 8, 2002) ["In 1962, American philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn was struck by Aristotle’s beliefs about motion. Actually, he thought that those theories didn’t make any sense. But he also knew that Aristotle was one of the smartest philosophers of the ancient world. Kuhn realized that if Aristotle was stuck within his own way of seeing the world, then so are we. His ideas about scientific revolutions changed the way we perceive and teach science. Samuel J. Gershman is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His research focuses on environmental knowledge and adaptive behavior, memory, and computational neuroscience."]

Gillepsie, Michael Boyce. Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film. Duke University Press, 2016. ["In Film Blackness Michael Boyce Gillespie shifts the ways we think about black film, treating it not as a category, a genre, or strictly a representation of the black experience but as a visual negotiation between film as art and the discursivity of race. Gillespie challenges expectations that black film can or should represent the reality of black life or provide answers to social problems. Instead, he frames black film alongside literature, music, art, photography, and new media, treating it as an interdisciplinary form that enacts black visual and expressive culture. Gillespie discusses the racial grotesque in Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (1975), black performativity in Wendell B. Harris Jr.'s Chameleon Street (1989), blackness and noir in Bill Duke's Deep Cover (1992), and how place and desire impact blackness in Barry Jenkins's Medicine for Melancholy (2008). Considering how each film represents a distinct conception of the relationship between race and cinema, Gillespie recasts the idea of black film and poses new paradigms for genre, narrative, aesthetics, historiography, and intertextuality."]

Graeber, David. Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. Simon & Schuster, 2018. ["Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It went viral. After one million online views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer. There are hordes of people—HR consultants, communication coordinators, telemarketing researchers, corporate lawyers—whose jobs are useless, and, tragically, they know it. These people are caught in bullshit jobs. Graeber explores one of society’s most vexing and deeply felt concerns, indicting among other villains a particular strain of finance capitalism that betrays ideals shared by thinkers ranging from Keynes to Lincoln. “Clever and charismatic” (The New Yorker), Bullshit Jobs gives individuals, corporations, and societies permission to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture. This book is for everyone who wants to turn their vocation back into an avocation and “a thought-provoking examination of our working lives” (Financial Times)."]

Graham, Thomas, Jr. and Scott L. Montgomery. Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, 2017. ["Nuclear power is not an option for the future but an absolute necessity. Global threats of climate change and lethal air pollution, killing millions each year, make it clear that nuclear and renewable energy must work together, as non-carbon sources of energy. Fortunately, a new era of growth in this energy source is underway in developing nations, though not yet in the West. Seeing the Light is the first book to clarify these realities and discuss their implications for coming decades. Readers will learn how, why, and where the new nuclear era is happening, what new technologies are involved, and what this means for preventing the proliferation of weapons. This book is the best work available for becoming fully informed about this key subject, for students, the general public, and anyone interested in the future of energy production, and, thus, the future of humanity on planet Earth."]

Harman, Graham. "Architecture and Objects." University of Minnesota Press (July 27, 2022) ["Exploring new concepts of the relationship between form and function while thinking through object-oriented ontology (OOO), Graham Harman (Architecture and Objects) deepens the exchange between architecture and philosophy, providing a new roadmap to OOO’s influence on the language and practice of contemporary architecture."]

 Hannah-Jones, Nikole. "The Country We Have." Throughline (July 28, 2022) ["Is history always political? Who gets to decide? What happens when you challenge common narratives? In this episode, Throughline's Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei explore these questions with Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist at the New York Times and the creator of the 1619 Project. Since the project launched in 2019, a majority of U.S. states have tried to ban teaching about race, racism or the 1619 Project specifically. And there has been a significant rise in the number of book challenges and bans. Yet many classrooms across the country have embraced the curriculum and resources that have spun out of the original project. It has pushed people on both sides of the political spectrum to ask how our framing of the past affects the present, to interrogate what we remember and don't remember as a society — and whether we need a shared historical narrative to move forward." If you would like to read more on the topic, here's two books: The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, by Lerone Bennett, Jr.]

Hughes, Peter. "A History of Love and Hate in 21 Statues (Aurum Press 2021)." New Books in History (July 4, 2022) ["The ongoing debate surrounding who gets to determine the subjects of public commemoration, particularly in the form of statues, has become more heated over the past few years. In his timely book, A History of Love and Hate in 21 Statues (Aurum Press, 2021), Peter Hughes examines the long history of statues being used to articulate the values of rulers, governments, organizations, and average citizens. Of course, that also means statues are often targets of people who want to challenge those values. In this wide-ranging conversation, we discuss whether the motivation for public commemorations, as well as the opposition to them, can be found first and foremost in a society’s emotional relationship to the person (or god, for that matter) being commemorated, as is suggested in the book’s title; or, if the timeless debate over who does and doesn’t get commemorated is really about power."]

Jones, Brittany Rosemary. "Historian Paul Garon Documented the Beauty and Radicalism of the Blues." Jacobin (August 17, 2022) ["He was an important figure in socialist publishing and the city’s counterculture scene, a longtime board member of Charles H. Kerr — America’s oldest radical publisher — who even compiled their back catalogue. His greatest love, however, was the blues. One of the genre’s most knowledgeable and ambitious experts, he saw in the blues the articulation of a specific subjectivity: that of the black working men and women of America, unsung revolutionaries who took up music as a valiant form of poetic protest. His four pioneering books and distinctive Kentucky drawl, punctuating the hum of Chicago bookstores and blues clubs, unveiled a radical history of this country."]

Karp, David A. Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness. Oxford University Press, 2016. ["Combining a scholar's care and thoroughness with searing personal insight, David A. Karp brings the private experience of depression into sharp relief, drawing on a remarkable series of intimate interviews with fifty depressed men and women. By turns poignant, disturbing, mordantly funny, andwise, Karp's interviews cause us to marvel at the courage of depressed people in dealing with extraordinary and debilitating pain. We hear what depression feels like, what it means to receive an official clinical diagnosis, and what depressed persons think of the battalion of mental health
experts--doctors, nurses, social workers, sociologists, psychologists, and therapists--employed to help them. Ranging in age from their early twenties to their mid-sixties, the people Karp profiles reflect on their working lives, career aspirations, and intimate relationships, and confide strategies for overcoming paralyzing episodes of hopelessness. Throughout, Karp probes the myriad ways society contributes to widespread alienation and emotional exhaustion."]

Lueder, Bill. "Beyond Good and Evil: On Wendell Berry's Brave New Book." Common Dreams (October 8, 2022) [Description of his book The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice: Kentuckian "Wendell Berry has never been afraid to speak up for the dispossessed. The Need to Be Whole continues the work he began in The Hidden Wound (1970) and The Unsettling of America (1977), demanding a careful exploration of this hard, shared truth: The wealth of the mighty few governing this nation has been built on the unpaid labor of others. Without historical understanding of this practice of dispossession—the displacement of Native peoples, the destruction of both the land and land-based communities, ongoing racial division—we are doomed to continue industrialism’s assault on both the natural world and every sacred American ideal. Berry writes, “To deal with so great a problem, the best idea may not be to go ahead in our present state of unhealth to more disease and more product development. It may be that our proper first resort should be to history: to see if the truth we need to pursue might be behind us where we have ceased to look.” If there is hope for us, this is it: that we honestly face our past and move into a future guided by the natural laws of affection. This book furthers Mr. Berry’s part in what is surely our country’s most vital conversation."]

Mangual, Rafael. "America's Failed Criminal Justice Experiment." Conversations with Coleman (August 22, 2022) ["Rafael is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and Head of Research at their policing and public safety initiative. His new book is called Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most. In this episode, we discuss the nationwide push for defunding and de-policing starting in the summer of 2020. We talk about the so-called root causes of crime. We talk about Ava DuVernay's documentary "13th" and Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow. We discuss the causes of mass incarceration. We talk about cash bail and bail reform. We also go on to talk about legalizing weed and much more."]

Maté, Gabor. "The Myth of Normal: Dr. Gabor Maté on Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture." Democracy Now (September 16, 2022) ["In an extended interview, acclaimed physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté discusses his new book, just out, called “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture.” “The very values of a society are traumatizing for a lot of people,” says Maté, who argues in his book that “psychological trauma, woundedness, underlies much of what we call disease.” He says healing requires a reconnection between the mind and the body, which can be achieved through cultivating a sense of community, meaning, belonging and purpose. Maté also discusses how the healthcare system has harmfully promoted the “mechanization of birth,” how the lack of social services for parents has led to “a massive abandonment of infants,” and how capitalism has fueled addiction and the rise of youth suicide rates."]

Mchangama, Jacob. Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media. Basic Books, 2022. ["Hailed as the “first freedom,” free speech is the bedrock of democracy. But it is a challenging principle, subject to erosion in times of upheaval. Today, in democracies and authoritarian states around the world, it is on the retreat. In Free Speech, Jacob Mchangama traces the riveting legal, political, and cultural history of this idea. Through captivating stories of free speech’s many defenders—from the ancient Athenian orator Demosthenes and the ninth-century freethinker al-Rāzī, to the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells and modern-day digital activists—Mchangama reveals how the free exchange of ideas underlies all intellectual achievement and has enabled the advancement of both freedom and equality worldwide. Yet the desire to restrict speech, too, is a constant, and he explores how even its champions can be led down this path when the rise of new and contrarian voices challenge power and privilege of all stripes. Meticulously researched and deeply humane, Free Speech demonstrates how much we have gained from this principle—and how much we stand to lose without it."]

Menand, Louis. "On Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto." Writ Large (September 23, 2022) ["1848 was the Year of Revolutions in Europe. It was also the year that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto, proposing a new, classless society. As revolutions erupted across the globe, many turned to the ideals of Communism to replace old and fast-crumbling feudal systems. But Communism didn’t take off everywhere. Harvard professor Louis Menand explains the successes and failures of Marx & Engels’ vision since the publication of the manifesto. Louis Menand is the Lee Simpkins Family Professor or Arts and Sciences and the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard, where he also holds the title Harvard College Professor, in recognition of his teaching. He is the author of books such as The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University and The Metaphysical Club, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History."]

Mialon, Melissa. "Big Food & Co. (Thierry Soucar Editions, 2021)." New Books in Food (August 26, 2022) ["In the 1960s and 1970s, the exposure of Big Tobacco’s aggressive lobbying and internal efforts to obscure science showcasing the harmful effects of smoking changed U.S. public opinion of the industry and of product safety protocols, both of which had largely obscured these harms from public view for decades. Public awareness grew, triggering regulation on disclosure related to political influencing strategies, marketing tactics, and transparency regarding the devastating toll of tobacco products on many communities, including and especially children. As similar approaches to assessing the public health impacts of Big Oil and Big Pharma, among other industries, have gained traction in recent decades, Dr. Mélissa Mialon’s new book, Big Food & Co (Thierry Souccar Editions, 2021), adds the amalgamation of multinationals and transnational supply chains that make up Big Food, to that list. Rising health inequities across race, class, and geography are subtle, yet central themes throughout Dr. Mialon’s meticulous accounting of a complex puzzle in which the marketing and distribution strategies of soft drink companies and ultra-processed food manufacturers are quietly but steadily ushering in a new globalized era of related public health crises – measured by increasing rates of of diabetes, cancers, and heart disease, etc– a crisis that has long been felt in the United States. Whether branding t-shirts and games at summer camps in France for underprivileged children or blanketing entire streets in Mauritius with the unmistakable bright red and white flag of Coca-Cola, Dr. Mialon describes a taxonomy of commercial determinants of health common to nearly every example – whether multinational food companies’ policy advocacy in Colombia, public-private partnerships in Brazil, or culturally responsive branding for holidays in Southern Africa. Between academic research and investigative journalism, the survey of trends in Big Food’s operation, marketing, and regulatory capture, offered throughout the book are additionally grounds for laying out a policy roadmap with public health indicators at the center of a wide range of potential reforms including campaign finance and heightened disclosure protocols for public-private partnerships to mitigating conflicts of interest in scientific studies related to food, agriculture, and health, among many others. Dr. Mélissa Mialon is Research Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. She is a food engineer with a PhD in nutrition and co-coordinates the « Governance, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest in Public Health » (GECI-PH) network, based out of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Her research focuses on commercial determinants of health, and particularly on the practices used by corporations to influence public health policy, research and practice."]

Moore, Lisa Jean. "Our Transgenic Future: Spider Goats, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature (New York University Press, 2022)." New Books in Medicine (July 20, 2022) ["The process of manipulating the genetic material of one animal to include the DNA of another creates a new transgenic organism. Several animals, notably goats, mice, sheep, and cattle are now genetically modified in this way. In Our Transgenic Future: Spider Goats, Genetic Modification, and the Will to Change Nature (NYU Press, 2022), Lisa Jean Moore wonders what such scientific advances portend. Will the natural world become so modified that it ceases to exist? After turning species into hybrids, can we ever get back to the original, or are they forever lost? Does genetic manipulation make better lives possible, and if so, for whom? Moore centers the story on goats that have been engineered by the US military and civilian scientists using the DNA of spiders. The goat’s milk contains a spider-silk protein fiber; it can be spun into ultra-strong fabric that can be used to manufacture lightweight military body armor. Researchers also hope the transgenically produced spider silk will revolutionize medicine with biocompatible medical inserts such as prosthetics and bandages. Based on in-depth research with spiders in Florida and transgenic goats in Utah, Our Transgenic Future focuses on how these spider goats came into existence, the researchers who maintain them, the funders who have made their lives possible, and how they fit into the larger science of transgenics and synthetics. This book is a fascinating story about the possibilities of science and the likely futures that may come."]

Moss, Marissa R. "Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be (Henry Holt 2022)." New Books in Music (September 7, 2022) ["It was only two decades ago, but, for the women of country music, 1999 seems like an entirely different universe. With Shania Twain, country's biggest award winner and star, and The Chicks topping every chart, country music was a woman's world: specifically, country radio and Nashville's Music Row. Cut to 2021, when women are only played on country radio 16% of the time, on a good day, and when only men have won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards for a decade. To a world where artists like Kacey Musgraves sell out arenas but barely score a single second of airplay. But also to a world where these women are infinitely bigger live draws than most male counterparts, having massive pop crossover hits like Maren Morris's "The Middle," pushing the industry to confront its deeply embedded racial biases with Mickey Guyton's "Black Like Me," winning heaps of Grammy nominations, banding up in supergroups like The Highwomen and taking complete control of their own careers, on their own terms. When the rules stopped working for the women of country music, they threw them out and made their own: and changed the genre forever, and for better. Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be (Henry Holt, 2022) is veteran Nashville journalist Marissa R. Moss's story of how in the past two decades, country's women fought back against systems designed to keep them down, armed with their art and never willing to just shut up and sing: how women like Kacey, Mickey, Maren, The Chicks, Miranda Lambert, Rissi Palmer, Brandy Clark, LeAnn Rimes, Brandi Carlile, Margo Price and many more have reinvented the rules to find their place in an industry stacked against them, how they've ruled the century when it comes to artistic output--and about how women can and do belong in the mainstream of country music, even if their voices aren't being heard as loudly."]

Namazie, Maryam. "Understanding the Iranian Protests." Conversations with Coleman (October 1, 2022) ["Maryam is an Iranian-born writer and activist living in the UK. She's the spokesperson of "One Law for All" and "The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain". She has co-authored many books, including "Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights", "Enemies Not Allies: The Far-Right" and "Political and Legal Status of Apostates in Islam". This episode is all about the current uprising in Iran. Miriam and I talk about the death of Masa Amini in police custody and the protests that her death has caused all over Iran. We talk about the Iranian morality police and the laws and customs governing how Iranian women have to dress and behave. We discuss the strange alliance of conservative Islam and Western intersectional feminism. We discuss the legacy of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 which turned around into an Islamic state. We talk about the robust black market for Western and secular content in Iran. We also talk about what we in the West can do to support Iranian women and protesters, and much more."]

Pin-Fat, Veronique and Maja Zehfuss. "How Do We Begin to Think of the World." Global Politics 2nd Edition. ed. Veronique Pin-Fat and Maja Zehfuss. Taylor and Francis, 2013: 1 - 19. ["Ethics and politics look at both how we should regard and accommodate each other and what kind of things make it possible to, for example, treat each other with respect and what kinds of things don't. That I might view you as "weird" or even "inhuman" (politics) may very much dictate how I then treat you (ethics). When we examine more closely how we think about the world, it turns out that ethics and politics are inseparable. (21)"]

Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Knopf Doubleday, 2011. ["The story of our society's transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it—with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth."]

Robichaud, Paul. "Pan: The Great God’s Modern Return (Reaktion Books, 2021)." New Books in History (August 19, 2022) ["From ancient myth to contemporary art and literature, a beguiling look at the many incarnations of the mischievous—and culturally immortal—god Pan. Pan—he of the cloven hoof and lustful grin, beckoning through the trees. From classical myth to modern literature, film, and music, the god Pan has long fascinated and terrified the western imagination. “Panic” is the name given to the peculiar feeling we experience in his presence. Still, the ways in which Pan has been imagined have varied wildly—fitting for a god whose very name the ancients confused with the Greek word meaning “all.” Part-goat, part-man, Pan bridges the divide between the human and animal worlds. In exquisite prose, Paul Robichaud explores how Pan has been imagined in mythology, art, literature, music, spirituality, and popular culture through the centuries. At times, Pan is a dangerous, destabilizing force; sometimes, a source of fertility and renewal. His portrayals reveal shifting anxieties about our own animal impulses and our relationship to nature. Always the outsider, he has been the god of choice for gay writers, occult practitioners, and New Age mystics. And although ancient sources announced his death, he has lived on through the work of Arthur Machen, Gustav Mahler, Kenneth Grahame, D. H. Lawrence, and countless others. Pan: The Great God’s Modern Return (Reaktion Books, 2021) traces his intoxicating dance."]

Robin, Corey. "The Enigma of Clarence Thomas (Metropolitan Books, 2019)." New Books in Biography (August 4, 2022) ["Most people can tell you two things about Clarence Thomas: Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment, and he almost never speaks from the bench. Here are some things they don't know: Until Thomas went to law school, he was a black nationalist. In college he memorized the speeches of Malcolm X. He believes white people are incurably racist. In The Enigma of Clarence Thomas (Metropolitan Books, 2019), Corey Robin--one of the foremost analysts of the right--delves deeply into both Thomas's biography and his jurisprudence, masterfully reading his Supreme Court opinions against the backdrop of his autobiographical and political writings and speeches. The hidden source of Thomas's conservative views, Robin argues, is a profound skepticism that racism can be overcome. Thomas is convinced that any government action on behalf of African-Americans will be tainted by this racism, and that the most African-Americans can hope for is that white people will get out of their way. There's a reason, Robin concludes, why liberals often complain that Thomas doesn't speak but seldom pay attention when he does. Were they to listen, they'd hear a racial pessimism that sounds shockingly similar to their own. Cutting across the ideological spectrum, this unacknowledged consensus about the impossibility of progress is key to understanding today's political stalemate. Corey Robin is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center."]

Rose, Caryn. "Why Patti Smith Matters (University of Texas Press, 2022)." New Books in Popular Culture (July 22, 2022) ["Patti Smith arrived in New York City at the end of the Age of Aquarius in search of work and purpose. What she found—what she fostered—was a cultural revolution. Through her poetry, her songs, her unapologetic vocal power, and her very presence as a woman fronting a rock band, she kicked open a door that countless others walked through. No other musician has better embodied the “nothing-to-hide” rawness of punk, nor has any other done more to nurture a place in society for misfits of every stripe. Why Patti Smith Matters (University of Texas Press, 2022) is the first book about the iconic artist written by a woman. The veteran music journalist Caryn Rose contextualizes Smith’s creative work, her influence, and her wide-ranging and still-evolving impact on rock and roll, visual art, and the written word. Rose goes deep into Smith’s oeuvre, from her first album, Horses, to acclaimed memoirs operating at a surprising remove from her music. The portrait of a ceaseless inventor, Why Patti Smith Matters rescues punk’s poet laureate from “strong woman” clichés. Of course Smith is strong. She is also a nuanced thinker. A maker of beautiful and challenging things. A transformative artist who has not simply entertained but also empowered millions."]

Rosenstock, Nancy. Inside the Second Wave of Feminism: Boston Female Liberation, 1968-1972 An Account by Participants. Haymarket Press, 2022. ["A landmark account of a key radical feminist organization, offering lessons for today’s women’s liberation movement. Activist members of the radical feminist organization Boston Female Liberation provide an inside account of the group’s history, strategy, and legacy in this compelling contribution to the historiography of Second Wave feminism.
Boston Female Liberation member Nancy Rosenstock expertly weaves together the reflections of her fellow-activists, describing how they became feminists, recounting the breadth of their organizing work, and linking their achievements and experience to contemporary struggles against sexism. The book also includes ten radical feminist documents crucial to contextualizing the activity and thinking of the organization and its members."]

Ryan, Chris. "Civilized to Death." Dosed #16 (August 22, 2022) [Chris Ryan is the co-author of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships. His latest book is Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress: "Most of us have instinctive evidence the world is ending--balmy December days, face-to-face conversation replaced with heads-to-screens zomboidism, a world at constant war, a political system in disarray. We hear some myths and lies so frequently that they feel like truths: Civilization is humankind's greatest accomplishment. Progress is undeniable. Count your blessings. You're lucky to be alive here and now. Well, maybe we are and maybe we aren't. Civilized to Death counters the idea that progress is inherently good, arguing that the "progress" defining our age is analogous to an advancing disease. Prehistoric life, of course, was not without serious dangers and disadvantages. Many babies died in infancy. A broken bone, infected wound, snakebite, or difficult pregnancy could be life-threatening. But ultimately, Christopher Ryan questions, were these pre-civilized dangers more murderous than modern scourges, such as car accidents, cancers, cardiovascular disease, and a technologically prolonged dying process? Civilized to Death "will make you see our so-called progress in a whole new light" (Book Riot) and adds to the timely conversation that "the way we have been living is no longer sustainable, at least as long as we want to the earth to outlive us" (Psychology Today). Ryan makes the claim that we should start looking backwards to find our way into a better future."]

Scheve, Kenneth and David Stasavage. Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe. Princeton University Press, 2016. ["A groundbreaking history of why governments do—and don't—tax the rich In today's social climate of acknowledged and growing inequality, why are there not greater efforts to tax the rich? In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage ask when and why countries tax their wealthiest citizens—and their answers may surprise you. Taxing the Rich draws on unparalleled evidence from twenty countries over the last two centuries to provide the broadest and most in-depth history of progressive taxation available. Scheve and Stasavage explore the intellectual and political debates surrounding the taxation of the wealthy while also providing the most detailed examination to date of when taxes have been levied against the rich and when they haven't. Fairness in debates about taxing the rich has depended on different views of what it means to treat people as equals and whether taxing the rich advances or undermines this norm. Scheve and Stasavage argue that governments don't tax the rich just because inequality is high or rising—they do it when people believe that such taxes compensate for the state unfairly privileging the wealthy. Progressive taxation saw its heyday in the twentieth century, when compensatory arguments for taxing the rich focused on unequal sacrifice in mass warfare. Today, as technology gives rise to wars of more limited mobilization, such arguments are no longer persuasive. Taxing the Rich shows how the future of tax reform will depend on whether political and economic conditions allow for new compensatory arguments to be made."]

Scott, Brett. "Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets (Harper Business, 2022)." New Books in Economics (August 24, 2022) ["In Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets (Harper Business, 2022), Brett Scott tells an urgent and revelatory story about how the fusion of Big Finance and Big Tech requires “cloudmoney”—digital money underpinned by the banking sector—to replace physical cash. He dives beneath the surface of the global financial system to uncover a long-established lobbying infrastructure: an alliance of partners waging a covert war on cash. He explains the technical, political, and cultural differences between our various forms of money and shows how the cash system has been under attack for decades, as banking and tech companies promote a cashless society under the banner of progress. Cloudmoney takes us to the front lines of a war for our wallets that is also about our freedom, from marketing strategies against cash to the weaponization of COVID-19 to push fintech platforms, and from there to the rise of the cryptocurrency rebels and fringe groups pushing back. It asks the most pressing questions: Who benefits from a cashless society and who gets left behind?
Is the end of cash the end of true privacy? And is our cloudmoney future closer than we think it is?"]

Scott, James C. Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play. Princeton University Press, 2012. ["James Scott taught us what’s wrong with seeing like a state. Now, in his most accessible and personal book to date, the acclaimed social scientist makes the case for seeing like an anarchist. Inspired by the core anarchist faith in the possibilities of voluntary cooperation without hierarchy, Two Cheers for Anarchism is an engaging, high-spirited, and often very funny defense of an anarchist way of seeing—one that provides a unique and powerful perspective on everything from everyday social and political interactions to mass protests and revolutions. Through a wide-ranging series of memorable anecdotes and examples, the book describes an anarchist sensibility that celebrates the local knowledge, common sense, and creativity of ordinary people. The result is a kind of handbook on constructive anarchism that challenges us to radically reconsider the value of hierarchy in public and private life, from schools and workplaces to retirement homes and government itself. Beginning with what Scott calls “the law of anarchist calisthenics,” an argument for law-breaking inspired by an East German pedestrian crossing, each chapter opens with a story that captures an essential anarchist truth. In the course of telling these stories, Scott touches on a wide variety of subjects: public disorder and riots, desertion, poaching, vernacular knowledge, assembly-line production, globalization, the petty bourgeoisie, school testing, playgrounds, and the practice of historical explanation. Far from a dogmatic manifesto, Two Cheers for Anarchism celebrates the anarchist confidence in the inventiveness and judgment of people who are free to exercise their creative and moral capacities."]

Seeley, Thomas D. "Honeybee Democracy." Princeton University Press, 2010. ["How honeybees make collective decisions—and what we can learn from this amazing democratic process. Honeybees make decisions collectively—and democratically. Every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing and traveling to a new home, honeybees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building. In fact, as world-renowned animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley reveals, these incredible insects have much to teach us when it comes to collective wisdom and effective decision making. A remarkable and richly illustrated account of scientific discovery, Honeybee Democracy brings together, for the first time, decades of Seeley's pioneering research to tell the amazing story of house hunting and democratic debate among the honeybees. In the late spring and early summer, as a bee colony becomes overcrowded, a third of the hive stays behind and rears a new queen, while a swarm of thousands departs with the old queen to produce a daughter colony. Seeley describes how these bees evaluate potential nest sites, advertise their discoveries to one another, engage in open deliberation, choose a final site, and navigate together—as a swirling cloud of bees—to their new home. Seeley investigates how evolution has honed the decision-making methods of honeybees over millions of years, and he considers similarities between the ways that bee swarms and primate brains process information. He concludes that what works well for bees can also work well for people: any decision-making group should consist of individuals with shared interests and mutual respect, a leader's influence should be minimized, debate should be relied upon, diverse solutions should be sought, and the majority should be counted on for a dependable resolution. An impressive exploration of animal behavior, Honeybee Democracy shows that decision-making groups, whether honeybee or human, can be smarter than even the smartest individuals in them."]

Solnit, Rebecca. "Orwell's Roses." Open Source (August 18, 2022) ["George Orwell rests now with the immortal English writers. But why? For impact and influence, you could argue that Orwell in his novels and essays matched Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens—John Lennon, too. Orwell called out the Big Brother barbarism of the twentieth century, but he was more than the author of 1984. He made it his life work to tell the truth about England, which he loved, and the British Empire, which he loathed. He gave us our twenty-first-century assignment: to rescue the language of public life from euphemism and lies, from our various Ministries of un-Truth, so as to save fairness, privacy, the pleasures and shared human interests that met his standard of a decent society. The writer Rebecca Solnit has a clue to getting the inner Orwell. She says: think of him at the core as a gardener. Rebecca Solnit’s striking, fresh take on the late great George Orwell comes in a book-length essay titled Orwell’s Roses. The line that recurs, chapter after chapter, is this: “In the spring of 1936, a writer planted roses.” He also kept a goat, and cared about his trees—factoids about Orwell, but maybe keys to his work. We know everything else about the prolific Orwell, the socialist who abominated the Soviet Union in his masterpiece, 1984. Orwell, the Tory anarchist, he joked about himself, from the lower-upper-middle class. Perhaps the most important all-round treasure of an English writer in the twentieth century, the wintry conscience of his time and still an endless pleasure to read, and admire anew."]

Stone, Asa B. and Eli Revelle Yano Wilson. Beer and Society: How We Make Beer and Beer Makes Us. Lexington Books, 2022. ["Beer and Society: How We Make Beer and Beer Makes Us takes readers on a lively journey through the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of the modern beer world. This book illustrates that beer is far more than a beverage. As a finely-crafted cultural product, beer can be a part of our identity, a source of pleasure and camaraderie, an object of connoisseurship, and a livelihood for those who are behind the beer itself. Drawing on leading sociological and psychological perspectives, the authors argue that our enduring relationship with beer reflects the very roots of our society, including its collective values and norms, power structures, and persistent inequities based on race, gender, sexuality, and social class. Beer and Society explores beer as an embodiment of who we are and a force to energize social change."]

West, Steven. "Bruno Latour - We Have Never Been Modern." Philosophize This! #169 (August 20, 2022) [Bruno Latour's book We Have Never Been Modern: "With the rise of science, we moderns believe, the world changed irrevocably, separating us forever from our primitive, premodern ancestors. But if we were to let go of this fond conviction, Bruno Latour asks, what would the world look like? His book, an anthropology of science, shows us how much of modernity is actually a matter of faith. What does it mean to be modern? What difference does the scientific method make? The difference, Latour explains, is in our careful distinctions between nature and society, between human and thing, distinctions that our benighted ancestors, in their world of alchemy, astrology, and phrenology, never made. But alongside this purifying practice that defines modernity, there exists another seemingly contrary one: the construction of systems that mix politics, science, technology, and nature. The ozone debate is such a hybrid, in Latour’s analysis, as are global warming, deforestation, even the idea of black holes. As these hybrids proliferate, the prospect of keeping nature and culture in their separate mental chambers becomes overwhelming—and rather than try, Latour suggests, we should rethink our distinctions, rethink the definition and constitution of modernity itself. His book offers a new explanation of science that finally recognizes the connections between nature and culture—and so, between our culture and others, past and present. Nothing short of a reworking of our mental landscape. We Have Never Been Modern blurs the boundaries among science, the humanities, and the social sciences to enhance understanding on all sides. A summation of the work of one of the most influential and provocative interpreters of science, it aims at saving what is good and valuable in modernity and replacing the rest with a broader, fairer, and finer sense of possibility."]

Zadra, Antonio. "Why and How Do We Dream." The Joy of Why (August 24, 2022) ["Dreams are so personal, subjective and fleeting, they might seem impossible to study directly and with scientific objectivity. But in recent decades, laboratories around the world have developed sophisticated techniques for getting into the minds of people while they are dreaming. In the process, they are learning more about why we need these strange nightly experiences and how our brains generate them. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with sleep researcher Antonio Zadra of the University of Montreal about how new experimental methods have changed our understanding of dreams."]