This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
SOURCE: Boston Magazine(June Issue) (6-1-06)
It was late in the afternoon of Tuesday, February 7, and the Harvard faculty had gathered on the second floor of University Hall in Harvard Yard. Faculty meetings usually attract only a few dozen professors, but on this day the Faculty Room was packed.
Tension had been building on campus ever since the night of Friday, January 27, when the Harvard Crimson had reported that Summers was firing Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean William Kirby, a historian he had appointed to that post less than four years before. The faculty, which had mixed feelings about Kirby but was coming to believe that Summers would accept no dean who possessed even a shred of autonomy, was not pleased.
By tradition, Kirby rose to lead the meeting. As he did, the 200 professors in attendance rose with him, saluting their outgoing colleague. The ovation lasted more than a minute. To Summers, the rebuke was surprising, if not mortifying. “Larry was fairly certain that people were so disgruntled with Bill that [firing him] would not be a big deal,” says a professor familiar with Summers’s thinking. In fact, it created an enemy who would actively seek the president’s downfall.
During the meeting’s traditional question-and-answer period, 15 professors rose one by one to question Summers’s leadership. If Summers disliked the faculty so much, suggested Harvard minister Peter Gomes, “surely there are other jobs to be had.” Summers tried to contain his notorious temper and respond with all the tact a man never known for his diplomacy could muster. Perhaps inevitably, the most damaging blow was inflicted by Summers himself.
SOURCE: Wilfred M. McClay in the NY Sun (5-15-06)
"The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast" (William Morrow, 736 pages, $29.95) is the historian Douglas Brinkley's bid for literary and historical greatness. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of David McCullough, whose fine book on the Johnstown flood established his sterling historical reputation, Mr. Brinkley has sought to create an instant epic, parlaying the story of Hurricane Katrina's rampage through the Gulf Coast into a natural and human drama of cosmic scale. This massive book, based mainly on journalistic sources and the author's own interviews, and crammed with an immense amount of detail, is the result.
One can be excused for wondering from the outset whether enough time has passed for anything of this epic scale to be written about these tragic and infuriating events - or whether Mr. Brinkley is the man for the job. Let me confess that I haven't read all of the writings of Douglas Brinkley. I doubt that anyone - perhaps not even Mr. Brinkley himself - has ever done that. He is a veritable ... deluge of literary productivity, with books to his credit on a dizzying array of subjects, ranging from Beat poetry to Jimmy Carter, and from Henry Ford to, most recently, the failed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Indeed, the range of his literary productions is so wide as to seem indiscriminate. But his bestknown writings seem to have three things in common.
First and foremost is their relentless mediocrity. I cannot think of a historian or public intellectual who has managed to make himself so prominent in American public life without having put forward a single memorable idea, a single original analysis, or a single lapidary phrase - let alone without publishing a book that has had any discernable impact. Mr. Brinkley is, to use Daniel Boorstin's famous words, a historian famous for being well-known.
Second is their sloppiness, partly an inevitable product of the haste in their composition, and partly, one suspects, of a mind that becomes easily bored by careful, close analysis. Mr. Brinkley's views may always track the conventional wisdom, but you would never want to rely on his books as sources of accurate detail. Would you trust a writer who trades on his intimate knowledge of the Gulf South, and yet claims at one point (page 548) that a tired-looking President Bush could not have been jetlagged because "Washington was in the same time zone as Mobile"?
Third, and perhaps most important, is their political agenda, although the word "political" does not quite do the matter justice. Better to say that Brinkley always seems to be seeking someone's favor in what he writes.Which is to say that he has the moral instincts of a court historian. And this means that the would-be patron holds the key to the book's real meaning.
In the case of the Kerry biography, that was easy enough to detect. In the case of "The Great Deluge," Mr. Brinkley seems to have three things in mind. First, he clearly is trying to intervene in the New Orleans mayoral race, and more generally in the politics of Louisiana. "The Great Deluge" is notable for its astoundingly nasty and cartoonish treatment of New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, and its near-hagiographical treatment of Mr. Nagin's electoral rival, Mitch Landrieu - an account whose most colorful stories rely heavily on interviews with such objective sources as ... Mitch Landrieu. As before with John Kerry, so now with Mr. Landrieu, Mr. Brinkley has not done the careful, time-consuming work of testing the veracity of his sources....
SOURCE: Christopher Shea in the Boston Globe (5-28-06)
And that may not even be Hofstadter's most respected book. Alan Brinkley, a historian at Columbia University-where Hofstadter himself taught from 1946 until his untimely death from leukemia in 1970-has called Hofstadter's ``The Age of Reform" (1955), his study of the Populist and Progressive eras, ``the most influential book ever published on 20th-century America." And the title alone of ``The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (1965) is one of the great intellectual memes of our time.
What was it about this scholar, the half-Jewish son of working-class parents in Buffalo, that caused his work to seem so emblematic of its age-among his generation of historians, perhaps only C. Vann Woodward and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. have similar reputations-and so vital that we still read it?
``Intellectual charisma and an eclectic mind," answers David S. Brown, author of ``Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography" (Chicago), in an interview. Of course, lots of historian could be described that way. ``It was also his good fortune," Brown adds, ``to be very in tune with his times-knowing where the country was in psychological terms." As it happens, some of his themes seem presciently in tune with our times, too-tension between rural and urban America, grass-roots distrust of experts and intellectuals, democracy's vulnerability to demagoguery. All of which make Brown's biography, the first of Hofstadter, especially timely.
. . .
Hofstadter had a knack for picking topics that resonated with the present. In the late 1940s, Americans hungered to know how history had got them here-to the world of strong federal power and international influence-and ``The American Political Tradition" offered a handy guide to some of the key turning points in, among other things, the evolving relationship between the national government and big business since the era of the Founders. Franklin Roosevelt had partly improvised the New Deal; now it was up to Americans to build a governing philosophy out of the welter of federal programs, he suggested.
In the 1950s, in the shadow of Nazism, scholars were freshly confronting the dark side of popular political movements. Having absorbed books like T.W. Adorno's ``The Authoritarian Personality," Hofstadter contributed ``Age of Reform," which took on the generation of historians, especially an influential group at the University of Wisconsin, who had idolized the American Populists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as restorers of American democratic ideals, reasserting the rights of farmers against the Eastern political and financial elite....
SOURCE: Berkeley Daily Planet (5-26-06)
Willa was also instrumental in establishing oral history as an accepted discipline by working with colleagues from around the country to develop professional standards and methodologies. She was a founding member of the Oral History Association, and although Willa published numerous books and anthologies on the topic of oral history, her 1969 publication titled Oral History for the Local Historical Society, is still considered a fundamental primer on establishing an oral history program.
In her typical self-deprecating style, Willa often remarked that she only wrote the book because she was tired of being asked to give the same speech again and again.
Under Willa’s directorship, ROHO amassed over 1,600 oral histories, filled with first-hand accounts of the participants in significant historical events primarily in California and the West. These permanent eyewitness accounts of history are on deposit at over 800 libraries worldwide, and stand as an invaluable resource to researchers worldwide.
ROHO established a reputation of being ahead-of-the-curve in identifying and documenting historical movements; for example, ROHO’s Suffragists and Women in Politics series began in the early 1970’s before most campuses had women’s studies programs. Similarly, ROHO’s early documentation of the disability rights movement now provides primary research materials for the new disability studies program at UC Berkeley.
Ongoing ROHO projects include oral histories of the wine industry, mining, the environmental movement, the Disability Rights Movement, the Free Speech movement, anthropology, UC history, engineering, science, biotechnology, music, architecture, and the arts. ROHO’s largest projects document California government from the Earl Warren Era to the present.
Upon her retirement, Willa was bestowed the Berkeley Citation for her service to UC Berkeley, the President’s Citation for her contributions to the University of California, and the Hubert Howe Bancroft Award for her leadership of ROHO.
SOURCE: frontpagemag.com (5-25-06)
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Larry Schweikart, the co-author of A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror. He is a professor of history at the University of Dayton and has written more than 20 books on national defense, business, and financial history. He is the author of the new book, America's Victories: Why the U.S. Wins Wars and Will Win the War on Terror.
FP: Welcome back to Frontpage Interview Larry Schweikart.
Schweikart: Thanks, Jamie. It's good to talk to FPM again.
FP: So what made you write this book?
Schweikart: This book emerged from the research I have done over 15 years of teaching a class that I used to call"Stirrups to Star Wars." After the release of A Patriot's History of the United States, as I looked at my next project, it seemed obvious, what with the War on Terror and the ongoing fight in Iraq, to write a book about America's military past.
FP: You point to seven major characteristics that have combined to make American fighting forces the best in the world. What are they?
Schweikart: First, in most conflicts we have relied on citizen soldiers---volunteers---who have joined willingly. But even when we have had drafts, as in Vietnam and in the Civil War, the number of volunteers is staggering. Two-thirds of our troops in Vietnam were volunteers, for example. This has resulted in the military, with a couple of exceptions, almost perfectly reflecting the economic and regional profile of the United States as a whole. Those exceptions are Hollywood (virtually unrepresented in the modern military) and the northeast section of the U.S.---John Kerryland.
Second, we push autonomy down like no military in human history. One U.S. officer, working with some of our Middle Eastern allies, concluded that a U.S. sergeant had more operational autonomy than an Egyptian colonel. Because we rely on free troops, there is a certain respect for each man and woman's abilities and a general assumption that you can give an American almost any task and it will be accomplished. Likewise, we promote from within the ranks like few militaries ever have; move people into the officer corps regardless of caste or origins of birth; and willingly promote people on the battlefield, occasionally jumping them several ranks at once.
Third, we learn from loss. Now, to most westerners this seems commonsensical. But there are several cultures, including aspects of the Arab culture that we are now fighting, in which it is a shame to make an error, but a double shame to admit it. How can a military figure out what went wrong if it cannot ever admit it screwed up? We energetically study our battlefield losses (and successes), and analyze them seven ways from Sunday. The result is, we seldom make the same mistake twice. The Battle of Kasserine Pass was a great example of this, where we looked at poor leadership, inadequate training, and flawed weapons, and fixed them all by the next time we fought the Germans.
Fourth, we have unprecedented inter-unit and inter-service autonomy. Our people talk to each other, and work with each other, something that has been extremely difficult for other militaries or terrorist groups. We then use technology to link units together into an unprecedented degree, whereby in the next few years literally a tanker will be able to talk directly to a pilot overhead without going through his headquarters, then calling the pilot's headquarters, then the pilot.
Fifth, we embrace technology---largely due to private property rights---and willingly employ anything that gives us an edge. Yes, there were exceptions: the Thompson .45 caliber submachine gun took a long time to gain acceptance, and there was a reluctance to adopt the submarine. Often, though, this reflects less military myopia than it does some constraint in another area. For example, in the Civil War, the Spencer repeater eventually became a far superior weapon to the Springfield musket, but was not adopted early because preliminary tests showed a lot of jamming, and also (perhaps more important) because each cartridge for a Spencer cost $2 (2006 dollars), and at a rate of fire of seven shots per 10 seconds, well . . . you can go through some serious money very quickly. The War Department just didn't think it could afford that rate of fire. Still, Col. John Wilder, of the Indiana"Lightning Brigade," felt so strongly about the Spencers that he had his regiment's soldiers purchase the rifles for themselves, and if they couldn't afford it, Wilder personally loaned them the money because he believed in the potential of a higher rate of fire.
Sixth, we embrace life. Like most western armies, we subscribe to a concept of sanctity of life that means that we treat enemy prisoners well---Dick Durban not withstanding---and we even seek to rescue our own POWs when possible. I've never found any other nation or group do this----make a determined and regular attempt to rescue its own POWs. In fact, after I wrote the book, I found yet another example of an attempted (unsuccessful) POW rescue.
Last, we tolerate dissent. This will surprise a lot of people on both sides of the aisle, but anti-war protestors actually make our troops more lethal. It works like this: since the First World War, at least, anti-war protestors have found they could not make any headway in popular opinion by emphasizing" collateral damage" of American war efforts. The only tactic that ever worked was to emphasize U.S. casualties. Except this had its own unintended effect: the military, sensitive to"excessive" casualties, consistently studied doctrine, weapons, and so on, revising its policies so as to make U.S. soldiers even more deadly killers. It is absolutely true that such anti-war people damage the immediate war effort, but over the long run, they make the military better than ever because of relentless self examination by the military.
FP: What are some of the myths about Vietnam?
Schweikart: One of the most pernicious was that Vietnam was fought by the poor, uneducated, largely black draftees. In fact, nearly 2/3s of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers; only 12% were black---exactly proportional to the U.S. population at the time; and the education level of the average soldier was about what it was for a non-soldier.
Other myths are that the returning vets had higher levels of mental disease, drug addition, and/or suicide. (Not true at all). Yet another that, because of my background as a rock and roll drummer, I find most interesting, is that the music industry helped" change attitudes" against the war. In fact, no antiwar songs came out until public opinion had substantially shifted against the war, making anti-war music profitable. I found for this book that Jimi Hendrix, who was in the 101st Airbornea and who faked being a homsexual to get out, did so only because he wanted to play his guitar non-stop, and as late as 1968 he spoke very favorably of the U.S. military, once defending our position in Vietnam to European interviewers (to their horror).
A broader myth is that the military"lost" Vietnam. If you look at the 1965 statements of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as given to Pres. Johnson, on what it would take to win, in that year---1965---the military said it would take 1 million men, round the clock bombing of the north, cutting the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and mining Haiphong Harbor. Yet by 1969, we had just over half that number, had never engaged in serious, sustained bombing of the North, and never even made an attempt to sever the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
It's worth mentioning, as a final myth, that Ho Chi Minh ("the Enlightened One," or,"that little Ho," as I like to call him) was not a communist. He was a diehard communist, not a"nationalist."
FP: What do you think about Abu Ghraib?
Schweikart: Broadly, of course, we do not tolerate torture or genuine abuse. It's one of the reasons most of our enemies have no problems surrendering to us. One of the reasons the Japanese were so suicidal in the Pacific islands was that they were convinced by their own propaganda that we would torture and abuse POWS---in short, do to the Japanese exactly what they did in China and to our POWs, such as performing human vivisection experiments, beheadings, and herding prisoners into bunkers, throwing aviation fuel on them, and setting them on fire. Notice, however, that in the information age there was no such propaganda that convinced Iraqis not to give up in 1991, when they were surrendering to CNN news crews. ("Stop or I'll quote you!")
Now, specifically on some of the things that happened at Abu Ghraib, all I can say is, if putting women's underwear on someone's head is torture, then we have abandoned all legitimate use of the English language. However, there is an element about the Lyndie England pictures that no one on the left wants to seriously examine, and it is this: certain of our terrorist enemies---those who come from a Bedouin/Arab mindset---are obsessive about concepts of"shame" and"honor." This goes back to my point about"learning from loss"---for them, it is impossible, because it would be dishonorable to admit that you got"whupped." Moreover, these same groups think women are no better than dogs. So when these jihadists see big, strong terrorist men being held on a dog leash by a little American woman, don't tell me that didn't send shudders down the spines of these people. I read a great deal on the"Arab mind" and Arab culture for this book, including several psychological studies written by Arabs, and they all came to the same conclusions about shame and honor. The result is that while Americans see the Lyndie England pictures and think,"Gee, this is terrible, we shouldn't treat people that way," most Middle Eastern audiences see such pictures and say,"The Americans are really tough. Their women are superior to our men." I make this case at length in a chapter called"Gitmo, Gulags, and Great Raids."
It's too bad, but for reasons of military discipline we must punish Lyndie England and others involved in these shenanigans, but from the standpoint of actual impact on the situation, they helped far, far more than they hurt. If you look at the number and impact of attacks and incidents after the publication of the photos, they fell off a great deal for many months. I say,"FREE LYNDIE!"
FP: Americans may have won many wars, but isn’t the War on Terror different?
Schweikart: Absolutely not. In fact, it is extremely close in all respects to the Filipino Insurrection, of 1899-1902, and the subsequent"insurgency" and"Moro wars" that lasted until about 1910. First, the number of troops deployed in Iraq as a share of total U.S. Army/Marine strength is almost exactly proportional. Second, the objective of Emilio Aguinaldo, like that of Abu Musab al-Zarqari, was to force a change in U.S. policy politically by affecting U.S. elections. Aguinaldo hoped to unseat William McKinley, Zarqari, Bush. Third, almost all"insurrections" or"guerilla wars" of the 20th century have been won by the"government." In this case, that would be us---and this includes Vietnam. The record is that the government won 8/11, losing China and Vietnam. Fourth, despite what the Left thinks, there is a relentless mathematics about warfare: you can only lose so many men, then you run out of fighters and especially suicide bombers.
An interesting aspect of news coverage in Iraq/Afghanistan is the utter blackout on numbers of enemy forces killed, wounded, or captured. There is a good reason for this: we are kicking butt like you wouldn't believe. My estimates are highly flawed, because they are based only on reported numbers (which no one disputes), and the real numbers are likely far, far higher, but so far I estimate we have killed or imprisoned more than 20,000 terrorists and jihadis. I don't care how many kooks they have running in from Syria or Yemen, it's clear they are nearly out of bodies. We killed perhaps 1,000 just in Fallujah---one sniper alone accounted for 100 kills! Several months ago, either Time or Newsweek ran an article about the"women" of terror-dom, and noted that the terrorists had to start recruiting women. Why? Because we have killed all their male suicide bombers. As Victor Hanson shows about the battle of Okinawa, the Japanese ran out of kamikaze volunteers. Well, it's easier to force a"volunteer" to engage in a suicide charge if you have a formal army structure and bayonets at their backs, but in an asymmetric warfare situation, it's virtually impossible to force people to be suicide bombers. So they are running out of peeps. As the line goes in the movie"Major Payne," when Major Payne is being mustered out,"There's got to be some people that need killin'," his superior responds,"No, Major, you've killed them all."
Finally, some people argue that this is a"different kind of war" because we are fighting an"ideology," not an army. Exsqueeeeze me? What was World War II? Seems to me we defeated two ideologies, Japanese bushido-ism and Nazism, then, in the Cold War, defeated another, communism, largely without firing a shot.
FP: So let’s sum it up: why have we won wars and why will we win this one?
Schweikart: Several weeks ago, an exasperated Bill O'Reilly asked a guest,"Why is it we can turn kids into soldiers in six weeks [sic] and we can't turn the Iraqis into a fighting force after a year?" He's completely wrong. We do not turn boys and girls into soldiers in"six weeks" or even a more accurate"nineteen weeks" of training. Rather, what happens is that we take Americans who have absorbed more than 200 years of a specific fighting culture and we turn then into soldiers. This will turn some people off, but the fact is we are attempting to turn the Iraqis into Americans. We are trying to teach them self-governance, individual autonomy, free-market principles, the ability to ignore shame and to learn from loss in order to improve, the abilty to put aside tribal and sectarian differences to work together, and the need to push autonomy down. As they absorb those principles---as they already already are---their military will rapidly replace our forces in Iraq.
On the broader issue of the"War on Terror," we will win because we're Americans. We will win because to beat us, you have to be us. Those countries that have come the closest to defeating us have had to embrace large parts of our American way of war---but since they can never accept all of those principles, and this even applies to CHINA---they cannot beat us. They know it, and our military knows it. Only the American Left hasn't figure this out yet.
FP: Larry Schweikart, thank you for joining us again.
Schweikart: Always great to talk to you, Jamie.
SOURCE: Press Release -- Gilder Lehrman (5-24-06)
“In this time of renewed interest in the founding period, it is especially gratifying to be recognized for my efforts to bring a little-known chapter of Ben Franklin’s life to light,” said Schiff. “To receive this significant award at the home of another illustrious founder is a true honor.”
Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City, and the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association collaborated in 2005 to create the prize, awarded in its inaugural year to Ron Chernow for Alexander Hamilton.
Presented to Schiff at a black-tie event featuring cuisine inspired by recipes found in Franklin’s papers, the George Washington Book Prize is one of the most generous book awards in the United States. Its $50,000 is a far greater sum than that of literary awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for History ($7,500) and the National Book Award ($10,000).
In A Great Improvisation, Schiff draws from new and not widely known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin’s life. She brings to the surface an unfamiliar chapter of the Revolution, a tale of American infighting, and the backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. A particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father emerges as readers get a sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country’s bid for independence.
“In sparkling prose, burnished to a high gloss, Stacy Schiff tells the tale of Benjamin Franklin in Paris with piquant humor, outrageous anecdotes worthy of the finest French farce, and a wealth of lapidary observations…C’est magnifique,” said last year’s prize winner Chernow.
The event at Mount Vernon, complete with fireworks and candlelit tours of Washington’s Mansion, also celebrated the works of the two other finalists before an audience of guests from political, academic, and diplomatic arenas. Finalists were Edward Lengel for General George Washington: A Military Life and Stanley Weintraub for Iron Tears: America’s Battle for Freedom, Britain’s Quagmire: 1775-1783. The books were selected by a three-person jury of early-American history scholars: Carol Berkin of Baruch College, City University of New York; Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute; and Gordon Wood of Brown University.
“In each work selected, the jury saw refreshing perspectives on our nation’s founding era,” said Ted Widmer, director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which administers the prize.
“This prize is a tremendous way to recognize exceptional scholarship on perhaps the greatest period in American history,” said James Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
About the Institutions
Washington College was founded in 1782, the first institution of higher learning established in the new republic. George Washington was not only a principal donor to the college, he also served on the governing board for many years. He received an honorary degree from the college in June 1789, two months after assuming the presidency. The George Washington Book Prize is administered by the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, an innovative center for the study of history, culture and politics.
Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. Increasingly national and international in scope, the Institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. It creates history-centered schools and academic research centers, organizes seminars and enrichment programs for educators, partners with school districts to implement Teaching American History grants, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by historians. The Institute also funds the Lincoln Prize and Frederick Douglass Book Prize and offers fellowships for scholars to work in history archives, including the Gilder Lehrman Collection.
With the completion of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center scheduled for October 27, 2006, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has pledged to create the equivalent of a presidential library for George Washington. The Association will work with scholars at the University of Virginia Press to place all of Washington’s writings on Mount Vernon’s award-winning website. “We want to be the first place people think of when they have a question about George Washington,” noted James Rees, Mount Vernon’s Executive Director. “The George Washington Book Prize is an important component in our aggressive outreach program to historians, teachers, and students.”
About Stacy Schiff
Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra, which won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography, and Saint-Exupéry, a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was a Director’s Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Schiff lives with her husband and three children in New York City.
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SOURCE: Wa Po (5-24-06)
Walter Isaacson, one of three prize judges and himself a Benjamin Franklin biographer, praised Schiff's book yesterday as an unusual combination of "great spadework" and "literate narrative." Franklin scholar Gordon Wood, another judge, had earlier called it "a remarkably subtle and penetrating portrait."
Schiff, however, does not quite fit the profile of such repeat chroniclers of Founding Fatherhood as Wood, David McCullough and Joseph Ellis. "We don't need another birth-to-death biography of Franklin," she said in an interview, explaining why she had narrowed her focus to the 81/2 years Franklin spent playing diplomat in France on behalf of his young nation. "This was really an adventure story."
It began with the 70-year-old Franklin stepping off the boat after "the most brutal voyage of his life." His task: persuading the Bourbon monarchy to support the fragile revolutionary republic in its war against Great Britain. To succeed, Schiff said, he needed to be "truly at the top of his form."
He was. American independence, arguably, was the result. "There are few moments in history," Schiff said, when you can so clearly see "a personality imprinting itself on events."
A couple of other things drew her to the story of Franklin in France. One was the relative freshness of the European archival material. It was "thrilling," she said, "to uncover 18th-century Franklin conversations for the first time."
The second was the opportunity to see a much-chronicled and self-chronicled man from a non-American perspective.
"A biographer is at a great advantage when he or she has the subject out of context," Schiff explained. On the international stage, with a multitude of different people recording their observations of Franklin, "it's easier to get the contours of his personality."
The Washington prize is a joint effort of Washington College in Chestertown, Md., the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. It was to be awarded last night at a Mount Vernon dinner featuring candlelit tours of the mansion and fireworks on the east lawn.
The two other finalists were "General George Washington: A Military Life," by Edward Lengel, and "Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783," by Stanley Weintraub. The third judge was City University of New York historian Carol Berkin.
Schiff was not prepared to say yesterday what her next project would be -- and to judge from her track record, it would be hazardous to guess.
Her first biography, published in 1994, was of French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Her second, on Vladimir Nabokov's wife and close collaborator, Vera, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000.
SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5-21-06)
The removal of the Cherokees in Georgia — and later that summer in neighboring states — marked the start of what history now calls the Trail of Tears.
Most of the tangible evidence — from the hundreds of Cherokee farmsteads that dotted the landscape and the military posts that were built to supervise the removal — have been erased by modern highways, reservoirs and urban development.
To make sure the episode is not also erased from public consciousness, Atlanta historian Sarah Hill has been doggedly pursuing a trail of a different kind.
The paper trail she has uncovered in state and national archives provides the most detailed picture yet of one of the most shameful chapters in Georgia history.
"Seeing some of the accounts firsthand is a shocking reminder of what is going on today in other parts of the world," Hill said. "But it's a story that most people in Georgia know very little about."
The Cherokees have a saying that the Trail of Tears began at the doorstep of every Cherokee family. Included in Hill's research is an account that starkly reinforces that reality — the testimony of a Cherokee woman named Ooloocha, who recalled the day of removal in her subsequent claim for property in Georgia that the family lost:
"The soldiers came and took us from home," she recounted. "They first surrounded our house, and they took the mare while we were at work in the fields and they drove us out of doors and did not permit us to take anything with us, not even a second change of clothes. They kept us in the fort [Fort Wool, near present-day Calhoun] and then marched us to Ross's Landing [near present- day Chattanooga]."
A Cherokee census
But there were other perspectives. Two days later, in May 1838, Georgia Militia Capt. William Derrick rounded up more than 425 men, women and children from Cherokee towns and farms near Ellijay in Gilmer County. Derrick proudly attributed his high capture rate to the fact that he had broken up families and refused to let the Indians bring any of their possessions.
An 1835 census of Georgia recorded 8,936 Cherokees — plus 776 Cherokee-owned black slaves and 68 intermarried whites — living in North Georgia, most of them in small towns and log-house farmsteads. Their property included 6,000 dwellings and outbuildings, 80,000 head of livestock, and 63,000 peach trees.
By the late summer of 1838, however, nearly all of the Cherokees in Georgia and neighboring states — including their slaves, who accompanied them to Oklahoma — were gone. The Indians' land and property had been given to white settlers.
Hill and other researchers say the confiscation of property and the swift, efficient removal of the entire population of Cherokee villages is eerily like the early stages of the waves of "ethnic cleansing" that swept the Balkans in the 1990s.
"In the late spring of 1838, thousands of Cherokees were forcibly marched along roads leading from their settlements to nearby forts or encampments, then on to the New Echota [near Calhoun] headquarters of the Middle Military Command," Hill said.
"Larger U.S. Army forts in North Carolina, Tennessee or Alabama served as holding areas until the Cherokee could be sent on to Oklahoma."
'Shock and awe' of 1830s
Preparations were under way long before the removal — in some cases as early as 1830, when Congress first passed the Indian Removal Act. Hill says the 15 forts or military posts built in Georgia were not intended to be holding areas for the Cherokees, but to house soldiers and serve as a 19th-century form of "shock and awe" to intimidate the Indians in advance of their eviction and discourage any thought of resistance.
"To expedite removal, all posts were positioned near major roads, which had to be sufficiently wide to accommodate wagons as well as horses and thousands of captives," she said. "All but one of the roads was in place by the time the Cherokees were expelled."...
SOURCE: Diane Coutu interview with Robert Caro in Harvard Business Review (5-15-06)
Why should business executives be interested in the life of Lyndon Johnson?
As far as I'm concerned, biography is a tool for understanding power: how it is acquired and how it is used. I never had any interest in writing about a man or woman just to tell the life of a famous person. All my books are about power and about how leaders use power to accomplish things. We're all taught the Lord Acton saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But the more time I spend looking into power, the less I feel that is always true. What I do feel is invariably correct—what power always does—is reveal. Power reveals. When a leader gets enough power, when he doesn't need anybody anymore—when he's president of the United States or CEO of a major corporation—then we can see how he always wanted to treat people, and we can also see—by watching what he does with his power—what he wanted to accomplish all along. And if you pick the right subject—like Lyndon Johnson—you can also see through a biography how power can be used for very large purposes indeed.
Lyndon Johnson was enormously skillful in amassing and wielding power. He once said, "I do understand power, whatever else may be said about me. I know where to look for it, and how to use it." He wanted to use it to change the world, and in some ways—civil rights; the Great Society; unfortunately, Vietnam—he did. That's not only power but leadership in the most important sense. That's a rare combination. Many people want to be leaders, but very few are leaders in the sense that I mean it: using great power for great purposes.
To use biography in that way, of course, you have to pick subjects who understand, and whose lives show they understood, how to acquire power and use it. I picked two men to write about: first, Robert Moses, because he understood urban political power—how power is used in cities. Robert Moses was never elected to anything in his entire life, but he held power in New York City and State for forty-four years, enough power to shape the city the way he wanted it to be shaped. Then I turned to Lyndon Johnson because he understood national political power—understood it better, I think, than any president since Franklin Roosevelt. If you pick men like that, and find out and analyze how they got power and how they used it, you can get closer to an understanding of the true nature of power: how it works in reality—its raw, unadorned essence. [. . .]
How did Johnson get close to powerful people?
Among his many techniques was one that was especially striking. With powerful men, he made himself what his friends called a "professional son." In each institution in which he worked, he found an older man who had great power, who had no son of his own, and who was lonely. In Austin, it was the powerful state senator, Alvin Wirtz; in the House of Representatives, it was the Speaker, Sam Rayburn; in the Senate, it was the leader of the Southern block, Richard Russell of Georgia. In each case, he attached himself to the man, kept reminding him that his own father was dead and that he was looking on him as his new "Daddy." Rayburn and Russell were bachelors; Johnson made them part of his family, constantly inviting them over for meals. Sundays were very important in this technique: On Sundays, Johnson would have Russell to brunch, Rayburn to dinner. He wouldn't have them together because, as one of Johnson's friends put it: "He didn't want his two daddies to see how he acted with the other one."
With older men of authority in general, Johnson would do literally what the cliché says: sit at the feet of an older man to absorb his knowledge. He started using this technique in college. If the professor was sitting on a bench on the lawn, students might be sitting around him or sitting next to him, but Lyndon Johnson would often be sitting on the ground, his face turned up to the teacher with an expression of deepest interest on it....
SOURCE: David Horowitz at frontpagemag.com (5-19-06)
In March, in a move clearly designed to obstruct opinions he didn’t like, Beinin filed suit for copyright infringement against the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (the publisher of FrontPageMag.com). His target was a year-old pamphlet called “Campus Support for Terrorism” that pictured Beinin (among others) on its cover. To make his legal harassment suit possible, Beinin acquired the copyright for the photo, which previously belonged to someone else and was assigned to him after the fact.
If the claims in the pamphlet had been false, Beinin could have sued the Center for libel. But the claims were true. So he resorted to the copyright gambit. Copyrights, however, were designed to protect commercial values (something the leftist Beinin has spent a political lifetime fighting against). The Beinin picture is in fact worthless. It is not art and the face on it is distinguished only by its insignificance. No one would buy the picture and the fact that the Center published it (at a time it did not belong to Beinin) costs him nothing. Nonetheless, the professor has engaged the machinery of the law in an attempt to make the Center pay for a crime it did not commit because he wants to punish it for an ideological crime a democracy like ours does not recognize.
The pamphlet details how academic radicals and the anti-war campus Left have lent their support to Islamic terrorists, while campaigning against the efforts of democracies like Israel and the United States to defend themselves. Although Beinin has indignantly denied being a supporter of terrorism, his suit is not aimed at the substance of that charge but, as noted, at the allegedly improper use of his photo.
That Beinin would resort to a legal subterfuge rather than address the specifics of the criticism in the pamphlet is not surprising. A review of Beinin’s public record shows that while he may object to the Center’s use of his picture, he is in fact the poster case of the academic apologist for terror, having consistently justified acts of terrorism, downplayed the dangers of radical Islam, and lent moral support to groups operating in the terrorist network....
SOURCE: Bruce Craig in the newsletter of the National Coalition for History (5-19-06)
Remini, who was asked to take the position by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL), has now headed the House history office for about a year. Prior to Remini's appointment, the position had been authorized by the House Rules Committee but it had been left unencumbered for nearly a decade. In 1995, when Newt Gingrich (R-GA) became Speaker, he politicized the position and dismissed then House Historian Raymond Smock, who had been appointed by a bi-partisan commission. Gingrich replaced him with an historian of his own choosing, Kennesaw State University professor Christina Jeffrey. She, however, was fired shortly after her appointment because of controversial remarks relating to the Holocaust.
Burned by the entire affair, Gingrich opted not to fill the position at all and merged what was left of Smock's operation into the House Clerk's office. He made the curious decision, however, to retain funding control for the historian position. In recent years, under the guidance of Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl, the history operation grew and became part of the Legislative Resource Center where it once again began to provide the type of assistance to Members and researchers that for years the Senate Historical Office has been performing. An Office of History and Preservation (OHP) was eventually formally established and charged to concentrate its activities in the realms of archives, curatorial services, and publications. Many hoped that the present Speaker would see the logic and cost savings to be achieved if he were to transfer funds for the position to the Clerk and empower Trandahl to fill the vacant "historian" position within the framework of the OHP. Had that happened, the House operation would have more closely resembled the Senate's.
With some prompting by historians who knew Hastert personally, and through the quiet but persistent multi-year effort by several history organizations including the National Coalition for History, a drive was launched to convince Hastert to transfer the funds and fill the Historian of the House position. After several years of advocacy it became clear that Speaker Hastert would not authorize the use of his funds for the position unless a prominent, well respected historian was willing to take what the Speaker envisioned as largely an "honorary" position -- a position that he envisioned as being similar to the Library of Congress's Poet Laureate. Historians working to re-establish the position wanted the House's history operation to mirror the Senate History Office in which all history- related activities would be concentrated in one non-partisan office, headed by a qualified, professional, non-partisan historian with a knack for building collegial relationships with members of both major political parties.
Remini seemed the perfect selection for the position as he met the desires of both the Speaker and the historical community. He was a National Book Award-winning historian with solid credentials, a professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a world-wide recognition as a scholar of Jacksonian America, and he had been engaged by the Library of Congress to write the definitive history of the House. Remini recalls that the offer "came out of the blue" but after some negotiating he agreed to serve as House Historian. Though Hastert insisted that Remini's position be retained in the Speaker's office, Remini, at the time he took the position had hoped, as he still does today, that in time his office as well as the Clerk's OHP will be merged into one operation.
Remini brought on as his D.C. based deputy Fred Beuttler, a University of Chicago trained history Ph.D. who had been working with Remini as Associate University Historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Beuttler brought to the operation ten years experience in teaching political history and other skills needed in a history office -- oral history expertise as well as other history-related skills that are generally viewed as essential for success in a non- academic history position.
Unlike the Senate operation, the House historical activities are fragmented. Though it seems to make little sense rather than merge the House Historians Office with the OHP under the overall supervision of the Clerk, Speaker Hastert wanted to keep Remini's operation separate from the OHP. Though the physical location of offices the OHP and the House History Office are separate, their programmatic responsibilities though theoretically different in reality they somewhat overlap.
A turf battle has thus far been avoided as both Remini and the acting head of the OHP are making a concentrated effort to coordinate activities -- in general Remini and Beuttler seek to fill in the gaps of those activities not covered by OHP which includes a greater emphasis on oral history and documenting the history of the House, on public outreach and on interpretation (a fellows program, for example, is in the works), thus leaving the OHP to focus more on records and archival management, museum collections, and publications.
What lies in the future? It is generally thought on Capitol Hill that after the next election Hastert may step down as Speaker. Should that happen, because the Historian of the House is not protected by Civil Service rules, Remini could be dismissed or be given a new boss depending on what the new Speaker would like to do with the position.
The same fate awaits Remini if the Democrats recapture control of the House. At that time a new Speaker would be selected, who (like Gingrich) may want to put his/her own person in the slot. In either case, early next year there most likely will be a window of opportunity in which Remini's and the historical communities goal of depoliticizing the position of Historian of the House could be achieved and a merger of it into the OHP could be the result.
SOURCE: NYT (5-19-06)
A specialist in Russian history, Professor Viereck was an emeritus professor at Mount Holyoke College, where he had taught since 1948. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for his first collection of poems, "Terror and Decorum" (Scribner, 1948).
Professor Viereck is also widely credited with helping to bring conservatism out of the margins and into the mainstream as an intellectual movement. In books and articles throughout the 1940's and 50's, he condemned what he saw as the hidebound utopianism of Marxist thinking. As he wrote in "The Unadjusted Man" (Beacon Press, 1956):
"The liberal sees outer, removable institutions as the ultimate source of evil; sees man's social task as creating a world in which evil will disappear. His tools for this task are progress and enlightenment. The conservative sees the inner unremovable nature of man as the ultimate source of evil; sees man's social task as coming to terms with a world in which evil is perpetual and in which justice and compassion will both be perpetually necessary. His tools for this task are the maintenance of ethical restraints inside the individual and the maintenance of unbroken, continuous social patterns inside the given culture as a whole."
Professor Viereck's brand of conservatism shunned extremism of either stripe. He was an admirer of the New Deal, a supporter of Adlai Stevenson and an anti-Communist who made it clear that he had little use for Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.
SOURCE: Ralph Luker at Cliopatria, HNN Blog (5-15-06)
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (5-16-06)
... Hope had governed the early stages of my job search this year. Using my three years of experience on the market as a guide, I thought long and hard about how to present myself in the cover letters that would lead to my AHA interviews. In previous years, I opted for the what-I-think-this-institution-is-looking-for letter over the this-is-who-I-am version. The former approach secured me some meetings with prestigious universities, but ultimately left me dissatisfied.
"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself," cautioned Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Man, you was who you was 'fore you got here," said Jay-Z. So this year I followed what every worthwhile career counselor, 19th-century wiseman, and 21st-century rapper advises: Be yourself.
My cover letter spoke of combining music history and American history, "storytelling and scholarship" (a phrase that likely made the multitudes attached to the Germanic Order of Dissertation Writing turn in their graves -- if they were dead). My letter also talked about my careful attention to writing as an invaluable tool for learning. If I was going to be reading rejection letters, I made sure it was going to be me that those letters were rejecting.
It turned out that, for a while, they loved me. And one campus interview did arise from my convention interviews.
Which explains why I spent Valentine's Day 1,800 miles away from my wife, looking across a dinner table into the eyes of Mr. Late, the search-committee head who had needed a wake-up call. He told me he has trouble sleeping; that was why he had been delayed for the first interview.
After two nights and a day in the steamy South, I headed back to snowy New England armed with a positive attitude, formal institutional information, and less formal institutional gossip. I had learned all the departmental news about divorces and sexual preference (and changes in sexual preference that had led to divorces).
Then came the wait. During my visit, I had been assured that, in an effort to close the job search as quickly as possible, a decision would be made in the week following my departure.
One week passed. Then two weeks. Ah, let's give them three weeks for good measure. After the third week, I accepted what I had begun to suspect: My 2005-6 job search was going to end without an offer. Notification arrived in week eight: "The position was offered to the other candidate, who ultimately accepted."
In years past, that would have been the point at which I would scrutinize the whole process to figure out what tweaking was required to make next year's search a success. But four years without a permanent job offer is too long. It is time to explore other interests (which, fortunately, I have)....
SOURCE: Michiko Kakutani in the NYT (5-16-06)
By moving back and forth between panoramic views and up-close zoom shots of individuals, Mr. Brinkley is able to convey both the larger arc of the tragedy that engulfed the Gulf Coast and the intimate fallout that that catastrophe had on the lives of ordinary people — many of them black and most of them poor and lacking the resources to evacuate on their own.
Published less than a year after Katrina's rampage, "The Great Deluge" remains heavily indebted to newspaper, magazine and television reporting, most especially to articles that appeared in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. And in writing a "fast out of the gates" book, Mr. Brinkley focuses his energies on providing a you-are-there sort of narrative. He does not try to address questions about the future of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the costs of rebuilding, environmental issues or the need to implement better methods of flood control, much less the broader sort of questions about long-term political, social and economic fallout that "Rising Tide," John M. Barry's extraordinary account of the great Mississippi flood of 1927, examined so brilliantly from a vantage point many decades removed.
SOURCE: Ira Berlin in the NYT Book Review (5-14-06)
The genius of "Inhuman Bondage" is in Davis's ability to identify the big questions: Why slavery? Why did slavery become identified with Africans and their descendants? Why was slavery so easily accepted before 1776 and so readily challenged thereafter? Why did racism outlast slavery? On each of these matters, and dozens more, Davis expertly summarizes the debates, bringing clarity to the contending arguments. "Inhuman Bondage" is a tour de force of synthetic scholarship.
But Davis is not merely a referee among historical gladiators. He gets in with the lions, forcing a rethinking of many of the most fundamental issues. He examines the twists and turns of slavery's development and the contingencies that set human history off in unexpected directions: the patent evil that redounds to the good and the earnest benevolence that creates untold pain.
Tracing slavery back to its beginnings, Davis links it to the domestication of wild animals. Associations with animals range from Aristotle's musing that an ox is a poor man's slave to the brutish treatment of enslaved people — throughout history, slaves, like domesticated beasts, have been given the names of barnyard animals and household pets, branded with hot irons and forced to wear collars, making it easy for slave masters to dehumanize them. Although the masters often rationalized slavery as a variation of patriarchal paternalism, Davis sees bestialization as the means by which slaveholders elevated themselves, creating the illusion that they enjoyed "something approaching divine power."
A s for American slavery in particular, Davis traces several critical transformations. The first was the mass production of previously exotic commodities — sugar, coffee, rice and tobacco — for sale on the international market. These products joined Europe, Africa and the Americas together, spurred the investment of an unparalleled amount of capital, stimulated technological innovation and, most important, resulted in the enslavement of millions of men and women. At first some of these were taken from Europe and others from the Americas. Eventually, however, Africa became the exclusive source of slave labor.
SOURCE: NYT (5-16-06)
The cause was lung cancer, said his son Michael.
A prolific author of essays and nearly 40 books, Dr. Pelikan joined the Yale faculty in 1962 and was appointed Sterling professor of history 10 years later. He wrote more than a dozen reference works covering the entire history of Christianity.
Among his important books were "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine" in five volumes (University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989); "The Riddle of Roman Catholicism" (Abingdon, 1959); and a multivolume English edition of Martin Luther's writings.
While other historians of religion focused mostly on an era or an aspect of it, Dr. Pelikan ventured to become an authority on the gamut of Christian history. His body of work threw light on the Reformation and Medieval philosophy, Saint Augustine and Kierkegaard even as he widened church scholarship to embrace the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
SOURCE: David S. Brown in the LAT. (Mr. Brown is an associate professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author of "Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography," published last month) (5-14-06)
This was a world raised in the collective memory of the Depression '30s, tormented by the anti-intellectualism of the McCarthy '50s and ultimately rejected in the student wars of the radical '60s. The preferences of Hofstadter's generation for exploring the politics of ideas and elite personalities yielded before a broad canopy of studies focusing on race, class and gender that revolutionized the way historians presented the past.
Yet for those interested in the historical context from which our current conservative politics has emerged, Hofstadter's work remains indispensable. More than three decades after his death from leukemia at 54, legions of journalists and bloggers still routinely adopt the social-psychological concepts — "status anxiety," "the paranoid style" and "anti-intellectualism" — he popularized to explore and explain the radical right.
Among professional historians, only the distinguished "Progressive school" thinkers Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles Beard and postwar notables C. Van Woodward and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. made as lasting impressions on their culture as Hofstadter. A generation of liberal policymakers imbibed his books, taking from them historical lessons for why the nation's social and civil rights goals could only be accomplished under the aegis of an activist government.
The most activist politician of all, President Lyndon Johnson, recognized Hofstadter's influence publicly, inviting him in 1964 to serve as a domestic advisor.
Born in 1916 to a Jewish immigrant father from Krakow, Poland, and his German American bride, Hofstadter grew up in the ethnic tinctured city of Buffalo, N.Y. He arrived at Columbia University in 1936 to begin graduate studies in history. Like many intellectuals of his generation, he made the ideological pilgrimage in the 1940s from the Communist Party to a postwar liberalism that embraced the social and economic reforms used to combat the Depression....
SOURCE: Inside Higher Ed (5-10-06)
Rosanvallon has written about the welfare state. Still, he isn’t really engaged in political science. He closely studies classical works in political philosophy — but in a way that doesn’t quite seem like intellectual history, since he’s trying to use the ideas as much as analyze them. He has published a study of the emergence of universal suffrage that draws on social history. Yet his overall project — that of defining the essence of democracy — is quite distinct from that of most social historians. At the same time (and making things all the more complicated) he doesn’t do the kind of normative political philosophy one now associates with John Rawls or Jurgen Habermas.
Intrigued by a short intellectual autobiography that Rosanvallon presented at a conference a few years ago, I was glad to see the Columbia volume, which offers a thoughtful cross-section of texts from the past three decades. The editor, Samuel Moyn, is an assistant professor of history at Columbia. He answered my questions on Rosanvallon by e-mail.
Q:Rosanvallon is of the same generation as BHL. They sometimes get lumped together. Is that inevitable? Is it misleading?
A: They are really figures of a different caliber and significance, though you are right to suggest that they lived through the same pivotal moment. Even when he first emerged, Bernard-Henri Lévy faced doubts that he mattered, and a suspicion that he had fabricated his own success through media savvy. One famous thinker asked whether the “new philosophy” that BHL championed was either new or philosophy; and Cornelius Castoriadis attacked BHL and others as “diversionists.” Yet BHL drew on some of the same figures Rosanvallon did — Claude Lefort for example — in formulating his critique of Stalinist totalitarianism. But Lefort, like Castoriadis and Rosanvallon himself, regretted the trivialization that BHL’s meteoric rise to prominence involved.
So the issue is what the reduction of the era to the “new philosophy” risks missing. In retrospect, there is a great tragedy in the fact that BHL and others constructed the “antitotalitarian moment” (as that pivotal era in the late 1970s is called) in a way that gave the impression that a sententious “ethics” and moral vigilance were the simple solution to the failures of utopian politics. And of course BHL managed to convince some people — though chiefly in this country, if the reception of his recent book is any evidence — that he incarnated the very “French intellectual” whose past excesses he often denounced.
In the process, other visions of the past and future of the left were ignored. The reception was garbled — but it is always possible to undo old mistakes. I see the philosophy of democracy Rosanvallon is developing as neither specifically French nor of a past era. At the same time, the goal is not to substitute a true philosopher for a false guru. The point is to use foreign thinkers who are challenging to come to grips with homegrown difficulties.
Q:Rosanvallon’s work doesn’t fit very well into some of the familiar disciplinary grids. One advantage of being at the Collège de France is that you get to name your own field, which he calls “the philosophical history of the political.” But where would he belong in terms of the academic terrain here?
A: You’re right. It’s plausible to see him as a trespasser across the various disciplinary boundaries. If that fact makes his work of potential interest to a great many people — in philosophy, politics, sociology, and history — it also means that readers might have to struggle to see that the protocols of their own disciplines may not exhaust all possible ways of studying their questions.
But it is not as if there have not been significant interventions in the past — from Max Weber for example, or Michel Foucault in living memory — that were recognized as doing something relevant to lots of different existing inquiries. In fact, that point suggests that it may miss the point to try to locate such figures on disciplinary maps that are ordinarily so useful. If I had to sum up briefly what Rosanvallon is doing as an intellectual project, I would say that the tradition of which he’s a part — which includes his teacher Lefort as well as some colleagues like Marcel Gauchet and others — is trying to replace Marxism with a convincing alternative social theory.
Most people write about Marxism as a political program, and of course any alternative to it will also have programmatic implications. But Marxism exercised such appeal because it was also an explanatory theory, one that claimed, by fusing the disciplines, to make a chaotic modern history — and perhaps history as a whole — intelligible. Its collapse, as Lefort’s own teacher Maurice Merleau-Ponty clearly saw, threatened to leave confusion in its wake, unless some alternative to it is available. (Recall Merleau-Ponty’s famous proclamation: “Marxism is not a philosophy of history; it is the philosophy of history, and to renounce it is to dig the grave of reason in history.")
Rosanvallon seems to move about the disciplines because, along with others in the same school, he has been trying to put together a total social theory that would integrate all the aspects of experience into a convincing story. They call the new overall framework they propose “the political,” and Rosanvallon personally has focused on making sense of democratic modernity in all its facets. Almost no one I know about in the Anglo-American world has taken up so ambitious and forbidding a transdisciplinary task, but it is a highly important project....
SOURCE: Jeffrey Goldberg in the New Yorker (5-8-06)
Naftali is a less than obvious choice. He is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Until last year, he was a Canadian. He is an expert not on Nixon’s Presidency but on the Cold War and American counterterrorism. Nor is he a museum curator, although the ideological reëngineering of the museum may become his first task. “I’m going to give people a museum that will lay out the peaks and valleys,” he said recently, over breakfast in Washington.
Taylor concedes that the museum’s exhibits now shade toward veneration. “All of the libraries do it,” he said. “Because of President Nixon’s particular status in history, our exhibits get attention that is far more”—he paused—“acute.”
Naftali is not a keen admirer of Nixon, but he is not an acid critic, either. In his latest book, “Blind Spot,” a history of American counterterrorism, he praises Nixon for his foresight. “Nixon took terrorism very seriously,” he said. “Kissinger told him not to, but he was very concerned, very early on.”
Naftali is forty-four, and he is thin and excitable. His boss, Allen Weinstein, who is the Archivist of the United States, calls his new employee “cheerfully caustic.” Service in the federal bureaucracy may eventually cure Naftali of insouciance, but in the meantime he is happy to offer a blunt critique of President Bush. He suggested that the current Administration has many of the Nixon Administration’s vices but few of its virtues. “I think that Nixon was a pragmatic internationalist, and every great foreign-policy President has understood that you can’t do it alone,” he said.
His principal mission, he said, is to insure open access to the Nixon material at a time when, he believes, secrecy has become an executive-branch fetish. The National Archives itself has lately become entangled in a scandal: not long after 9/11, the Archives secretly agreed with the C.I.A. and the Air Force to reclassify once open documents. (Weinstein, who was not the archivist at the time, placed a moratorium on the reclassification.) Naftali says that the scandal is reminiscent of Nixon-era attitudes, and he described himself as “doubly angry.” He said, “This is a cover-up of a reclassification effort, if you can imagine such a thing.”...
SOURCE: Nation (5-22-06)
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (5-11-06)
No formal charges have been issued, but newspapers aligned with the Iranian regime have denounced Mr. Jahanbegloo as an American agent engaged in "cultural activities against Iran." He is reported to be in custody at Evin Prison, which has been notorious as a torture center.
On Wednesday, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, a professor of history and Near- and Middle-Eastern civilizations at the University of Toronto, spoke with The Chronicle about Mr. Jahanbegloo's detention. Mr. Tavakoli-Targhi has been a friend of Mr. Jahanbegloo's since 1997, and he contributed a chapter to Mr. Jahanbegloo's edited volume Iran: Between Tradition and Modernity (Lexington Books, 2004).
Q. In his essays, Mr. Jahanbegloo often refers to a "fourth generation" of Iranian intellectuals. What does he mean by that term?
A. What he argues is that the postrevolutionary generation has been inaugurating a shift in Iran's intellectual orientation. There is a new focus on rights and on nonviolence. Whereas the "third generation," people who came of age in the 1960s and early 1970s -- they were all revolutionaries, enthused by revolution, by Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara. They had a collectivist imagination. ... Ramin was one of the earliest people who identified the shift away from a collectivist imagination. His interest is in dialogue, and a dialogue of civilizations. He has been a major theorist of this, and also a practitioner. He has invited some of the world's leading intellectuals to lecture in Tehran. He has wanted to create a vibrant and cosmopolitan community there.
Q. How did Mr. Jahanbegloo develop his interest in Gandhi?
A. He started to write about Gandhi when he was a graduate student at the Sorbonne. And his writing has been so significant here that the family of Gandhi knows about his contributions. Yesterday I had an e-mail from one of the daughters of Gandhi asking what she could do to help him. ... Gandhism and its relevance to contemporary Iran is a very important part of Ramin's work. And not only Gandhi, but I must say, also, Martin Luther King. He has used both of those figures as a way of rethinking politics, and moving away from a politics of violence and confrontation toward a politics of dialogue and tolerance. ...
SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News (5-10-06)
So it was a shock when he saw his own face on the cover of a new book titled ``Campus Support for Terrorism,'' linking him to radical Islam.
He's suing the book's publishers in what is the first counteroffensive by a professor against a growing campaign by conservative groups targeting left-leaning college educators.
Conservative groups acknowledge they are watching scholars like Beinin in an effort to combat what they believe are inaccuracies perpetuated by liberal faculties on college campuses. But while many of the monitored faculty have stayed silent -- saying they lack the tenure or campus support necessary to protect their careers from outside critics -- Beinin hired an attorney.
``They have used my picture as part of their war on free expression,'' Beinin said. ``I have never, in any way, supported terrorism. I've spoken out against it. They're trying to intimidate people into silence.''
David Horowitz, publisher of the book that is the subject of Beinin's complaint, says he is simply exercising his right to free speech and considers the suit harassment.
``I didn't say he was a terrorist. I said he supported terrorism,'' said Horowitz, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture. ``It is my view. If he doesn't like it, he can respond anytime he wants, instead of playing legal games.''
SOURCE: Interviewer Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch.com (5-9-06)
A small lecture on the local real-estate market follows the complaint that"all anybody talks about these days in San Diego is real-estate values!" Each military base and reservation you pass is carefully pointed out."People here don't notice the wall-to-wall military. They don't see the death all around them, the killing platforms. They just edit it all out." And every now and then, an odd memory from earlier days surfaces. ("The only good thing about growing up in San Diego was Navy-town and its cheap movie theaters. It was a teenage paradise.") Sitting shotgun in his car, you can't help but be aware that you are watching a dazzling -- if everyday -- performance from a polymath who seems never to have forgotten a thing.
His modest house is at the edge of one of San Diego's poorest neighborhoods which you get a brief spin through -- with a passing discussion of local graffiti thrown into the bargain. His small living room, where we set up my tape recorders, is dominated by a giant, multi-colored plastic playhouse for his two year-old twins, James and Cassandra (or Casey). To interview him in this house is to be surrounded by a world of revolutionary history. No wall, no nook or cranny, not even the bathroom, is lacking its revolutionary poster. ("Camarada! Trabaja y Lucha por la Revolution!") All around you feet threaten to stamp on Russian plutocrats, giant hands to smash the German exploiting class, while you are urged to"Vote Spartacus!" in 1919.
Mike Davis, whose first book about Los Angeles, City of Quartz, burst into bestsellerdom and put him on the map as this country's most innovative urban scholar, has since written about everything from the literary destruction of LA to Victorian holocausts of the 19th century and the potential avian flu pandemic of our own moment. He has most recently turned his restless, searching brain upon the global city in a new book, Planet of Slums, whose conclusions are so startling that I thought they should be the basis for our conversation.
We create a makeshift spot in the living room, my tape recorders between us, and begin. Davis has in him something of the older, nearly lost American tradition of the autodidact. In a tribal world, he would certainly have been any tribe's storyteller of choice. Midway through our interview, which is largely an inspired monologue, we are suddenly interrupted by weeping from elsewhere in the house. Casey has awoken from her nap upset. He quickly excuses himself, returning moments later with a collapsed, still sniffling, dark-haired little girl in pink pants and shirt on his shoulder. Under his ministrations she perks up, then sits up, then begins to talk, hardly less volubly (though slightly less comprehensibly) than her father. Soon she is seated inside the large plastic house, engaging both of us in a game of"big bad wolf." When she wanders off, perhaps twenty minutes later, he turns back to me and, before I can cue him on the interview (I've just checked his last words), he picks up in mid-sentence exactly where he left off and just rolls on.
Tomdispatch: I was hoping you would start by telling me how you came to the subject of the city.
Mike Davis: I came to the city by the most parochial path, which was studying Los Angeles, and I came to LA because, having been a Sixties new leftist and having invested a lot of time in studying Marxism, I thought radical social theory could explain just about anything. But it struck me that the supreme test would be understanding Los Angeles.
Maybe I shouldn't say this, but almost everything I've written about other cities has grown, at least in part, out of my LA project. For instance, investigating the tendency toward the militarization of urban space and the destruction of public space in Los Angeles has led me to explore similar trends as a global phenomenon. Interest in suburban Los Angeles got me considering the fate of older suburbs across the country and then the emergent politics of edge cities. So, in this consistently parochial way, the world emerged from Los Angeles which, in my original project, was a mosaic of about 450 individual pieces.
Let me explain: Back in the 1950s, when county welfare agencies were worried that war veterans moving into new suburbs had no sense of place, it did this big study of how many actual life-worlds there were in Greater Los Angeles and came to the conclusion that people lived in about 350 communities -- small towns, neighborhoods, suburbs. (Now, there are maybe 500 of these.) Behind my strategy for doing Los Angeles lay the thought that each of these constituent pieces had an entirely local, totally eccentric story to tell about itself, but also refracted some important aspect of the larger whole. I literally believe I could spend several lifetimes telling a story in each of these places about Los Angeles; so that was my methodology. I suppose in the process I only became an urbanist because people started calling me that. I've never actually considered myself a historian, sociologist, political economist, or urban theorist.
TD: So do you have a name for yourself?
Davis: Like some of the other survivors of the New Left, I thought of myself as an organizer, as doing power-structure or political analysis. Almost everything I've written or thought about corresponds in some insane way to what, in my mind at a given moment, seems to be the imperative from a strategic or tactical standpoint -- as if I were still answerable to the SDS National Council or the Chicago office of the IWW.
And this was all part of the strategic puzzle I addressed in City of Quartz. LA was at a critical cusp in its history. Globalization had reorganized its economy, rewiring it in dramatic ways, and many people were being left behind. Yet the city had -- and still has -- this incredible, protean potential for better things, for progressive politics, for surprising activism. At the time, I wanted to write a book that was usable by a new generation of activists, while trying to figure out how to look at a place like Los Angeles whose fantasy self has been embodied materially in its structure. It's a city that lives its images.
TD: And then the riots of 1992 burst out, no?
Davis: …and I tried to understand them as a direct consequence of the globalization process. Some people were victors, some losers. It was also a fact that globalization ultimately came to South-central LA in the form of the transnational drug industry. That was the only form of globalization which ever put any money on those streets. The successor volume to City of Quartz was to be a history of the Rodney King riots, told on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis -- the only narrative strategy that could possibly grasp the complexity of the events. Almost by accident, I had access to some of the key protagonists. I knew, for example, the mother of the guy who went to prison for almost killing the truck driver. I was also friends with the family of Dewayne Holmes, the principle instigator of the gang truce in Watts.
I hoped to weave these stories together with neighborhood histories to explain an uprising that was simultaneously a justifiable explosion of rage at the police, a postmodern bread riot, and a pogrom against Asian shop owners. But my ambition encountered crisis on two fronts. I could never find sufficient moral ground to loot people's lives for my narrative purposes or to assume the right to tell their stories. At the same time, I found the project too emotionally harrowing. The lives of my friends and acquaintances were filled with so much difficulty and pain, so much sadness and frustration. To live that with them -- and this was a time when I was working several jobs and about to become a single parent to a teenager -- this, I decided, was not what I could do. I had what I thought was an extraordinary design for a book in mind, but I couldn't find either the clear conscience or emotional stamina to write it.
Fortunately, natural disasters were added to my project -- and the riot book morphed into Ecology of Fear, a study of the fetishism of disaster in Southern California where the natural gets seen in social terms (with coyotes and mountain lions compared to street gangs), while social problems (like street gangs) are seen as natural events ("feral and wilding youth"). Ecology of Fear was about the inability of Anglo-American civilization ever to completely understand the metabolism of the actual Mediterranean world it lives in -- a misunderstanding that constitutes the very essence of Southern California.
In essence, I retreated to science and shifted from the micro-scale of biographies to the macro-scale of plate tectonics and El Nino. Science was my first love and I ended up writing that book largely in the geology library at Cal Tech rather than in the living rooms of people I knew in South and Central LA.
TD: If we jump 15 years to your newest book, Planet of Slums, with its vast urban canvas, can we imagine that you're now taking your marching orders from some global central committee? And can you launch us on the subject of our slumifying planet today?
Davis: Stunningly enough, classical social theory, whether Marx, Weber, or even Cold War modernization theory, none of it anticipated what's happened to the city over the last 30 or 40 years. None of it anticipated the emergence of a huge class, mainly of the young, who live in cities, have no formal connection with the world economy, and no chance of ever having such a connection. This informal working class isn't the lumpenproletariat of Karl Marx and it isn't the"slum of hope," as imagined 20 or 30 years ago, filled with people who will eventually climb into the formal economy. Dumped into the peripheries of cities, usually with little access to the traditional culture of those cities, this informal global working class represents an unprecedented development, unforeseen by theory.
TD: Just lay out some of the figures on the slumification of the planet.
Davis: Only in the last few years have we been able to see urbanization clearly on a global scale. Previously, the data was untrustworthy, but the United Nations Habitat has made heroic efforts involving new data bases, household surveys, and case studies to establish a reliable baseline for discussing our urban future. The report it issued three years ago, The Challenge of Slums, is as pathbreaking as the great explorations of urban poverty in the 19th century by Engels or Mayhew or Charles Booth or, in the United States, Jacob Riis.
By its conservative accounting, a billion people currently live in slums and more than a billion people are informal workers, struggling for survival. They range from street vendors to day laborers to nannies to prostitutes to people who sell their organs [for transplant]. These are staggering figures, even more so since our children and grandchildren will witness the final build-out of the human race. Sometime around 2050 or 2060, the human population will achieve its maximum growth, probably at around 10 to 10.5 billion people. Nothing as large as some of the earlier apocalyptic predictions, but fully 95% of this growth will occur in the cities of the south.
TD: In essence, in the slums…
Davis: The entire future growth of humanity will occur in cities, overwhelmingly in poor cities, and the majority of it in slums.
Classical urbanization via the Manchester/Chicago/Berlin/ Petersburg model is still occurring in China and a few other places. It's important to note, though, that the urban industrial revolution in China precludes similar ones in other places. It absorbs all the capacity for light manufacturing goods -- and increasingly everything else. But in China and a few adjacent economies, you still see city growth with an industrial motor. Everywhere else it's occurring largely without industrialization; even more shockingly, often without development in any sense. Moreover, what were, historically, the great industrial cities of the south -- Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Bello Horizonte, Buenos Aires -- have all suffered massive deindustrialization in the last twenty years, absolute declines in manufacturing employment of 20-40%.
The mega-slums of today were largely created in the 1970s and 80s. Before 1960, the question was: Why were Third World cities growing so slowly? There were, in fact, huge institutional obstacles to fast urbanization then. Colonial empires still restricted entry to the city, while in China and other Stalinist countries, a domestic passport system controlled social rights and so internal migration. The big urban boom comes in the 1960s with decolonization. But then, at least, revolutionary nationalist states were claiming that the state could play an integral role in the provision of housing and infrastructure. In the 70s, the state begins to drop out, and with the 80s, the age of structural adjustment, you have the decade of going backwards in Latin America, and even more so in Africa. By then, you had sub-Saharan cities growing at faster velocities than Victorian industrial cities in their boom periods -- but shedding formal jobs at the same time.
How could cities sustain population growth without economic development in the textbook sense? Or, to put it differently, why didn't Third World cities explode in the face of these contradictions? Well, they did to some extent. At the end of the 80s and in the early 90s, you have anti-debt riots, IMF [International Monetary Fund] riots, all across the world.
TD: Are the '92 LA riots part of that?
Davis: Because Los Angeles combines features of a Third World as well as a First World city, it fits into the global pattern of unrest. What was invisible to LA's policymakers and leaders at the time, but obvious on the streets was the impact of the most severe recession since 1938 in Southern California -- from which the worst damage wasn't to the aerospace industry (though that was much written about at the time), but to the city's poor and immigrant neighborhoods. In a year -- where I lived downtown -- a vacant hillside populated by a handful of homeless, middle-aged black males suddenly had 100, 150 young Latinos camped out. They had been day laborers or dishwashers six months before.
If the detonating event was the Rodney King atrocity and the accumulated grievances of black youth in a community where global employment meant crack cocaine, it became a more complex, larger-scale event because of the widespread looting in Latino neighborhoods where people were hungry and living at the edge of homelessness.
TD: How did policymakers and leaders globally interpret what was happening in the cities?
Davis: The discovery by the World Bank, developmental economists, and big NGOs in the 1980s that, despite the almost total abdication of the role of the state in planning and providing housing for poor urban dwellers, people were still somehow finding shelter, squatting, surviving, led to the rise of a bootstrap school of urbanization. Give poor people the means and they'll build their own houses and organize their own neighborhoods. This was, in part, an entirely justifiable celebration of rank-and-file urbanism. But in the World Bank's hands, it became a whole new paradigm: The state is done; don't worry about the state; poor people can improvise the city. They just need some micro-loans…
TD: …And high-interest micro-loans at that.
Davis: Yes, that's right, and then poor people would miraculously create their own urban worlds, their own jobs.
Planet of Slums is intended to follow up the UN Challenge report, which alerted us that the global urban unemployment crisis was coequal to climate change as a threat to our collective future. Admittedly an armchair journey to cities of the poor, it is an attempt to synthesize a vast specialist literature on urban poverty and informal settlement. Two fundamental conclusions emerged.
First, the supply of free land for squatting had ended, in some cases a long time ago. The only way you can build a shack on free land now is to choose a place so hazardous that it will have no market value whatsoever. This increasing wager with disaster is what squatting has become. So, for instance, if I were to take you a few miles south and across the border to Tijuana you'd see almost immediately that land which once made up squatters' neighborhoods is now being sold, sometimes even subdivided and developed. Very poor people in Tijuana are squatting in the traditional fashion only at the edges of ravines and in streambeds where their houses will collapse in a couple of years. This is true all over the Third World.
Squatting has been privatized. In Latin America, it's called"pirate urbanization." Where, twenty years ago, people would have occupied vacant land, resisted eviction, and eventually been recognized by the state, they now pay high prices for small parcels of land or, if they can't afford it, rent from other poor people. In some slums, the majority of dwellers aren't squatters, they're renters. If you went to Soweto [in Johannesburg, South Africa], you'd see that people fill their backyards with shanties which they rent. The major survival strategy of millions of poor urban dwellers, who have been in the city long enough to have a little property, is to subdivide it and become landlords to yet poorer people, who sometimes subdivide and rent to others. So a fundamental safety valve, this much romanticized frontier of free urban land, has largely ended.
The other major conclusion concerns the informal economy -- the ability of poor people to improvise livelihoods through unrecorded economic activity like street vending, day labor, domestic service, or even subsistence crime. If anything, economic informality has been romanticized more than squatting, with vast claims about the ability of micro-entrepreneurship to leverage people out of poverty. Yet scores of case studies from around the world show ever more people squeezed into a limited number of survival niches: Too many rickshaw wallahs, too many street vendors, too many African women turning their shanties into shabeens to sell liquor, too many people taking in laundry, too many people queued up at work sites.
TD: In a way, aren't you saying that the former Third World is being turned into something like the Three Hundredth world?
Davis: What I'm saying is that the two principle mechanisms for accommodating the poor to cities in which the state long ago ceased to invest have reached their limits just when we're looking forward to two generations of continued high-speed growth in poor cities. The ominous but obvious question is: What lies beyond that frontier?
TD: Here's a quote from Planet of Slums:"With a literal great wall of high-tech border enforcement blocking large-scale migration to the rich countries, only the slum remains as a fully franchised solution to the problem of warehousing this century's surplus humanity."
Davis: The two major poor cities of 19th century Europe that fit our present model were Dublin and Naples, but nobody saw them as the future; and the reason there weren't more Dublins and Naples was, above all, the safety valve of the Atlantic emigration. Today, most of the south is, in fact, blocked from migrating. There's simply no precedent, for instance, for the kinds of borders Australia and Western Europe have constructed, essentially designed for total exclusion -- except for a limited flow of high-skill labor. The American border with Mexico has historically been of a different kind. It acts as a dam to regulate the supply of labor, not to close it off completely. But more generally, for people in poor countries today, there aren't the options poor Europeans had back then.
Inexorable forces are expelling people from the countryside and that population, made surplus by the globalized economy, piles up in the slums, on city peripheries that are neither countryside, nor really city, and that urban theorists have difficulty wrapping their minds around.
In the United States, we would call them exurbia, but exurbs here are quite a different phenomena. If you look at American cities, the most striking thing is that exurban settlement -- people who commute to edge cities from the former countryside are now living in McMansions on ever larger lots with more SUVs parked in front. They're making the traditional 50s Levittown suburb, with its ticky-tacky homes, its little cubicles of consumption, look environmentally efficient. In other words, as middle-class people move farther out, their environmental footprint goes up two or three shoe sizes.
The other side of this is the poorest people shoehorned into the most dangerous sites on tumbling hillsides, next to toxic waste dumps, living in flood plains, leading to every year's rising toll from natural disasters -- less a measure of changing nature than the desperate wagers poor people have to make. In the large cities of the Third World, you do have the flight of some of the rich to gated communities far out in the suburbs, but what you mainly have is two-thirds of the slum dwellers of the world piled up in a kind of urban no-man's land.
TD: You've called this"existential ground zero."
Davis: It is, because it's urbanization without urbanity. An example of this is the case of the radical Islamist group that attacked Casablanca a few years ago -- about 15 or 20 poor kids who grew up in the city but were in no sense part of it. They were born on the edge, not in traditional working-class and poor neighborhoods that support a fundamentalist Islam but not a nihilist one, or they were expelled from the countryside but never integrated into the city. In their slum worlds, the only kind of society or order was provided by mosques or Islamicist organizations.
According to one account, when these kids attacked the city, some of them had never been downtown before and this, for me, became a metaphor for what is happening across the world: a generation consigned to the urban dumping grounds, and not just in the poorest, most savage cities either.
Take Hyderabad, India's high-tech showcase, a city of 60,000 software workers and engineers where people duplicate the California lifestyle in Santa Clara Valley-like suburbs and you can go to Starbucks. Well, Hyderabad is surrounded by endless exterior slums, several million people. There are more rag pickers than software engineers. Some of these urban dwellers consigned to pick over the scraps of the high-tech economy had been expelled from more centrally located slums, torn down to make room for the research parks of the new middle class.
Copyright 2006 Tomdispatch
This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.
Mr. Horowitz claims, “Professor Foner participated in an anti-war ‘teach in’ at Columbia University, where he invoked Communist Party icon Paul Robeson as a model of patriotism.” (178)
The Robeson quote Professor Foner used is, “The patriot is the person who is never satisfied with his country.” Professor Foner responds, “I wonder how Mr. Horowitz explains that if Robeson is an enemy of America, the postal service recently issued a stamp in his honor.”
Referring to the same teach-in at Columbia, Mr. Horowitz writes, “Professor Foner had been preceded on the podium by fellow Columbia professor Nicholas DeGenova, who told the 3,000 students and faculty in attendance, ‘The only true heroes are those who would find ways that help defeat the U.S. military. I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus.’” (178)
Mr. Horowitz fails to mention that Professor Foner “publicly reprimanded DeGenova, calling his statements idiotic.” Professor Foner’s reaction and those of other Columbia faculty members were reported by the media at the time. A New York Times article appearing days after the teach-in contained the following passage:
“’Professor DeGenova's speech did not represent the views of the organizers,’ said Eric Foner, a history professor who was one of the teach-in’s organizers. ‘I personally found it quite reprehensible. The anti-war movement does not desire the death of American soldiers. We do not accept his view of what it means to be a patriot. I began my talk, which came later, by repudiating his definition of patriotism, saying the teach-in was a patriotic act, that I believe patriots are those who seek to improve their country.’”
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger also condemned the content of DeGenova’s remarks, as did numerous other members of Columbia’s faculty.
Mr. Horowitz quotes a negative review of Professor Eric Foner’s work by the intellectual historian John Patrick Diggins, in which Diggins describes Foner as “‘an unabashed apologist for the Soviet system and an unforgiving historian of America.’” (178)
Mr. Horowitz fails to mention that in the same article, Diggins writes, “Professor Foner himself, I happily hasten to add, has been willing to hire and support teachers of differing ideological loyalties, and in his remarkable academic career he has been more professional than political, a gentleman scholar rather than an academic apparatchik.”
Mr. Horowitz claims that following the 9/11 attacks, “Professor Foner focused not on the atrocity itself but on what he perceived to be the threat of an American response” – based on an essay that someone else wrote but which Mr. Horowitz attributes to Professor Foner. (177)
Mr. Horowitz bases his claim on this quote, which he attributes to Professor Foner:
I write this in an ominous lull between the talk of vengeance and vengeance itself. The moment any such retribution is sought with bombs and guns will be the moment for the mobilisation of anti-war forces all over the world … [Terror] merely enhances and exaggerates the feeling among exploited people that the matter of protest has to be left to a few martyrs. And just as the signs were growing of a renewed confidence in the world anti-capitalist movement, the attention of the world's leaders is focused on a single, dreadful act that gives them the excuse they need to gun the engines of oppression.
However, this quote comes from an essay written by Paul Foot, not Professor Foner.
Confronted with this error, Mr. Horowitz blamed it on the fact that his book was “the work of 30 researchers” and stated that it did not change the content of his profile on Professor Foner.
 Margaret Hunt Gram, Columbia Spectator, 3/31/03.
 Tamar Lewin, New York Times, 3/29/03.
 Margaret Hunt Gram, Columbia Spectator, 3/31/03.
 John Patrick Diggins, The National Interest, 9/1/02.
 Paul Foot, London Review of Books, Vol. 23 No.19, 10/4/01.
SOURCE: San Antonio Express-News (5-9-06)
The San Antonio native and prize-winning author of "Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas" teaches at UC-Berkeley and is chairman of its Center for Latino Policy Research.
Recent immigrant-rights marches "are giving immigrants voices," he says, and 500,000 people marching through Dallas must have been particularly disturbing to anti-immigrant leaders.
He also dismisses some of the changes anti-immigration groups want as simplistic and ill-informed.
"We already have (employer sanctions) laws but we don't enforce them, except for the showcase raids last week on a pallet maker," he says, while major U.S. corporations were given a bye.
Montejano also dismisses guest-worker proposals as unrealistic.
"A guest-worker program that is anything like the bracero program — even with better protections — is not a solution to the structural problem," he says. "It will actually create even greater immigration."
And while most have forgotten about them, fervent anti-Mexican sentiments are hardly the first registered in the United States.
"In the 1920s there was a whole 'Mexican problem' that newspaper editorials and politicians — including those from Texas — were ranting and raving about," he says.
"And did that generation lead to the undoing of America?" the professors asks. "No, that generation's sons fought World War II, and their daughters served in the factories."
And their grandchildren were the first who attended universities in significant numbers.
"You also had Operation Wetback in the 1950s, and there were protests, but they didn't get the attention these latest protests have commanded," he continues. "The major difference (between the two waves of protests) is that now you have leading elected officials who can present the case, and that represents an advance." ...