U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Andrew’s Compulsory Reading

(I title today’s post with tongue firmly in cheek, partly as a playful attempt to tease Tim about his “light reading” series, and partly because some of the “compulsory” reading is my own writing, the height of shameless self-promotion.)

1. Occupy Wall Street: A New Culture War?, by Andrew Hartman, Chronicle of Higher Education

My thinking in this article comes from my October 18 blog post. That post got thousands of hits thanks to a plug by Andrew Sullivan (who also linked to Ben’s post the day before on the ubiquity of being labled a Straussian–the common ingredient: we were both critical of Matt Yglesias).

2. Our Age of Fracture Roundtable.

This link is to the excellent response by Dan Rodgers–which carries links to the entire roundtable, including reviews by me, Jim Livingston, Lisa Szefel, and Mary Dudziak. They all made it a wonderful roundtable, both in person at our conference, and in “print” here at the blog.

3. 2011 Cliopatria Nominations for best historical blogging.

Make your nominations. And enjoy reading some of the best in historical blogging.

4. “America’s Superman,” Adam Kirsch, Prospect Magazine.

This marks the second positive review of Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen’s book, American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas–and her book has only been on shelves for a few weeks!

5. “The Mythologian,” By Perry Anderson, New Left Review.

Unfortunately, this lovely review of Patrick Wilcken’s new biography, Claude Lévi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory, which sounds like a marvelous book, is behind a pay wall. Boo. I’ll paste the final paragraph of the review for flavor:

The final verdict of Wilcken’s delicate and moving book is impeccable. ‘In a world of ever more specialized areas of knowledge, there may never again be a body of work of such exhilarating reach and ambition’, but though ‘there was great breadth and scope to Lévi-Strauss’s ideas’, they were ultimately fitted into an ‘intellectually claustrophobic space’—a ‘one-man enterprise that became so utterly idiosyncratic that it was impossible to build on.’ As a system, ‘structuralism implied depth, but with its interplay of referentless signs, often felt more like skidding along polished glass.’ Yet ‘what gave life to Lévi-Strauss’s output, and introduced the lyricism that baffled his Anglo-Saxon critics, was a profound interest in aesthetic expression and appreciation that ran in tandem with the cognitive side of his work.’ The anthropologist saw himself as an artist manqué. But Lévi-Strauss was not only a great collector and weaver of narratives—‘myths are very beautiful objects’, he remarked, ‘and one never tires of contemplating them, manipulating them’. The second verb tells its own story. He was also a great writer, in the art, no minor one, of rhetoric.

6. BOOK FORUM: The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism by Daniel Bell, Hedgehog Review.

Unfortunately, the contents of this forum, with contributions by Wilfred McClay, David Courtwright, and Krishan Kumar, are not even available online. So if your institutional library carries Hedgehog, check out this neat little forum on a book crucial to 1970s social thought.

7. Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South, by Andrew Zimmerman.

I am currently reading this book with my graduate students. It’s fascinating–in both empirical and methodological terms. Zimmerman applies the cultural theory that informs so much micro-history to the macro-history of capitalism and imperialism.

One Thought on this Post

  1. I hadn’t seen your article on the Culture War background of the Occupy Movement, very interesting piece. I find it telling that we Americans must frame our political discourse in such a dialectic. As I have stated before, it baffles me how people can simplify something as diverse as politics into two parties. I guess that is the nature of the culture war in which we find ourselves and the centrality it has in our society.

    However, I think you’re onto something when you state “Americans have long subscribed to political language… that separates those who earn their way from those who do not”. As you point out in the article this idea goes to the very root of how we frame the current debate. Moreover this argument goes to the heart of Webers work on the Protestant work ethic. The current debate over the Occupy Movement affirms the hold this dialogue has on our culture.

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