Sunday, May 20, 2018

Michael Zakim's "Accounting for Capitalism"

Michael Zakim teaches history at Tel Aviv University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Accounting for Capitalism: The World the Clerk Made, and reported the following:
The ninety-ninth page of Accounting for Capitalism is devoted to a pictorial parable that appeared in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1854, depicting the “two paths in life” (earnestness versus dissipation) faced by everyone who assumes exclusive sovereignty over their fate. The Harper’s caricature is part of my book’s third chapter, which contends that the “self-made man,” a distinctly modern cultural hero born of the industrial century, constituted one of the great production projects of the new capitalist economy, namely, the production of oneself. Such “individualism” (a neologism of the times) marked a radical departure from republican tradition in America, which had rested on the moral economy of patriarchal households.

The individual’s transformation into an “ism” was closely related to another etymological event of equal revolutionary significance: capital’s transformation into “capitalism,” which was revealing of the growing relevance of truck and barter to the whole of social experience. The rise of capital to such moral and material status begat a class of “merchant clerks” assigned with administering the industrial century’s second great production project, production of the market. Indeed, the clerk personified both of these developments. Moving from farm to metropolis, from homestead to boarding house, and from growing things to selling them, he not only kept the accounts, delivered bills, distributed samples, paid import duties, figured interest charges, and copied out a constant stream of correspondence, but conceived of his own life as the subject of the same gestalt of utility, enterprise, and calculation. This turned him into an unlikely icon of the age, as well as the anti-hero of Herman Melville’s famous story of the Wall-Street scrivener, “Bartleby,” published a year before the Harper’s pictorial. Negotiable, impermanent, unhinged from the soil, and carried along by commerce’s tides of boom and bust, the clerk did not just produce the market, in other words. He was himself one of its products, the pioneer of what we so casually call today “human capital.”
Learn more about Accounting for Capitalism at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 18, 2018

Stephanie J. Rickard's "Spending to Win"

Stephanie J. Rickard is Associate Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Spending to Win: Political Institutions, Economic Geography, and Government Subsidies, and reported the following:
By chance, page 99 begins with a nice summary of the argument I make in Spending to Win. Discussing two subsidies funded by governments in France and Austria in violation of European Union rules that regulate state aid, I conclude that leaders implemented these subsidies because the benefits of doing so outweighed the costs.
The domestic benefits of these subsidies were large precisely because of the constellation of economic geography and electoral institutions. Together, electoral institutions and economic geography robustly predict the likelihood that a government will violate EU state aid rules – illustrating that domestic politics shape not only national economic policy but also international economic relations.
This paragraph from page 99 nicely illustrates the main argument in Spending to Win. I argue that politicians’ willingness to selectively target economic benefits, like subsidies to businesses, depends on the way politicians are elected and the geographic distribution of economic activities. Based on interviews with government ministers and bureaucrats, as well as new quantitative data, I demonstrate that government policy-making can be explained by the combination of electoral institutions and economic geography. Political institutions interact with economic geography to influence countries’ economic policies and international economic relations. As a result, identical political institutions can have wide-ranging policy effects depending on the context in which they operate.

In the chapter that includes page 99, I explore the politics behind two subsidy programs in France and Austria. I use parliamentary records, industry publications, and local media coverage to elucidate the politics behind these two subsidy programs. Why focus on these two particular programs? As I write on page 99,
Myriad subsidy programs exist. Given the ubiquity of government subsidies, it would be far too easy to cherry pick cases that best fit my theory. To guard against this, I use a methodical, multistep selection criterion.
I go on to describe my selection criterion. I aim to convince readers that I did not cherry pick these two cases but instead investigate the universe of cases that meet the detailed selection criterion. Both subsidies provide evidence in support of my argument and illustrate the importance of electoral incentives and economic geography for economic policy-making. The two cases involve government subsidies to wine makers. Perhaps this is a chapter best enjoyed with a cold glass of Austrian GrĂ¼ner Veltliner!
Learn more about Spending to Win at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lucas A. Powe Jr.'s "America’s Lone Star Constitution"

Lucas A. Powe, Jr. is Anne Green Regents Chair in the School of Law and Professor of Government at the University of Texas.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, America's Lone Star Constitution: How Supreme Court Cases from Texas Shape the Nation, and reported the following:
Page 99 of America’s Lone Star Constitution consists of two paragraphs about the case challenging school financing via local property taxes because of wealth disparities. The first discusses choosing a Hispanic as plaintiff. The second, in detail, illustrates wealth discrepancies between two school districts within San Antonio. The latter paragraph is typical of the book in providing the necessary detail to comprehend both the litigation strategies and the decision of the Supreme Court. The former mentions the lawyer and his substitution of a Hispanic for an Anglo to highlight that the case, while about wealth discrepancies, has a minority component to it.

In discussing the plaintiff, Demetrio Rodriguez, an armed services veteran, was verbally harassed by Anglos. That represents my effort to bring as much local culture into the case discussion as well as illustrating the conservatism of the state.

What page 99 does not have is a single word about a Supreme Court justice even though every justice of the last six decades is evaluated at some point in the book where, unsurprisingly one can learn that William O. Douglas and Thurgood Marshall were the most liberal justices and William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia rank as the most conservative. It also lacks mention of any Texas politician.

Nor does page 99 discuss the outcome of the San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973), the majority and the dissent’s reasoning, or the national importance of the case. A few pages later Justice Lewis Powell, who wrote the majority opinion, in his private note asserts the plaintiff’s claim is both communistic and “the type of thing that emerged from the French Revolution.” Had the dissent of Thurgood Marshall, who was the last century’s most important lawyer, prevailed, federal courts would have been commandeered to supervise how fairly states and localities were funding their schools, a task far better suited to state courts and legislatures. Rodriguez was a conservative victory, but cases banning organized prayer at high school football games and protecting the burning of the American flag were liberal victories, and Texas cases have split evenly between the poles.
Learn more about America's Lone Star Constitution at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

David Charles Sloane's "Is the Cemetery Dead?"

David Charles Sloane is professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He grew up in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York, and is the author of The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History.

Sloane applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Is the Cemetery Dead?, and reported the following:
My book is a discussion of the challenges confronting the cemetery in the 21st century. The modern cemetery was established during the antebellum period, and has throughout the remainder of American history served as the primary place for the interment of our dead.

Yet, circumstances are changing. Over the first one hundred years after the invention of the indoor mechanical crematory, the vast majority of Americans rejected the practice, even though it was cheaper. Over the last few decades the percentage of deaths that are cremated has risen to the point where in the last year or so more Americans were cremated than buried or entombed.

How does this relate to page 99? On page 99, I discuss the meaning of a visitation to the cemetery. I remind readers that even though fewer people seemed to be going, the “cemetery remains a place apart, the last stop of grief for millions of people.”

I note that the visit to the grave is a performance of grief and remembrance. “We tend the grave, replace the old flowers, and dust the top of the monument. We might leave a small memento – a photograph, stone, figurine, or stuffed animal.” These mementos don’t last long in the large cemeteries since they violate the needs for maintenance and standardized appearance, but people keep leaving them.

The restrictions are why some people are moving their mourning away from the memorial landscape of these “special sacred spaces.” As I discuss in the remainder of the book, we mourn online and in public, we place everyday memorials along the roadside, on the back car window, even on our bodies through a memorial tattoo. Many feel a diminished attachment to the place where, others still believe, mourners “can recreate a ‘home’ for the deceased.” Maybe, but many people seem to be learning less from the cemetery, and mourning in other places.
Learn more about Is the Cemetery Dead? at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Emily Ogden's "Credulity"

Emily Ogden is assistant professor of English at the University of Virginia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Credulity: A Cultural History of US Mesmerism, and reported the following:
Credulity tells how mesmerism, an early form of hypnosis, started out as a mind control technique and then became, improbably, a means of free expression. Page 99 is right where this shift occurs. Before, the book is mostly about control; after, freedom takes over.

Mesmerists claimed they had the ability to entrance people, transforming them from ordinary citizens into obedient robots with clairvoyant powers. The practice first emerged in France, then took an extraordinary journey across three continents to get to the US in 1836. From strictly run French hospitals, it migrated to Caribbean plantations and then to American factory towns. A slaveholder, Charles Poyen, brought it to America. Here's how I summarize the travels of this brainwashing method on page 99:
In Paris, the powers that magnetism had borrowed from the world's false religions made some patients compliant and helped diagnose others. In Guadeloupe, mesmerism warded off rebellion. And in the United States, it made a more tractable weaver [factory worker] out of the first American somnambulist. ("Somnambulist" is a name for the mesmeric subject.)
On page 99, things look dark. But this program of domination is about to unravel. In the chapters to come, mesmeric clairvoyants turn mind control into entertainment. They fly through the air, they do impressions of other people's personalities, and eventually they develop something similar to the stage hypnosis you can still see today, where people quack like ducks and do other outlandish things at the mesmerist’s bidding. By the end of the book (and of mesmerism’s history), brainwashing is no longer a dark art; it’s an improv technique.
Learn more about Credulity at the University of Chicago Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Credulity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Gregory Barton's "The Global History of Organic Farming"

Gregory Barton is Professor of History at Western Sydney University and the University of Johannesburg, and the author of Empire Forestry and the Origins of Environmentalism, Lord Palmerston and the Empire of Trade, and Informal Empire and the Rise of One World Culture. For eight years he was the Editor-in-Chief of the noted historical journal, Britain and the World.

Barton applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Global History of Organic Farming and reported the following:
While Ford Madox Ford spent much of 1931 writing his autobiography, Return to Yesterday, another writer in that same year launched the organic farming movement with a book that also harkened back to the romantic world of the past.

Alas, the book was titled, unappealingly, The Waste Products of Agriculture. But despite the off-putting title, Albert Howard along with his first wife Gabrielle, and then his second wife Louise, would soon take his place as the founder of the organic farming movement and change forever how millions of consumers thought about modern industrial farming.

Page 99 of my book, The Global History of Organic Farming, captures the essence of this story that marries ancient wisdom with scientific discovery. Page 99 also captures the tragic death of his first wife and fellow scientist, Gabrielle, who worked side by side with Albert in the blinding heat and grinding poverty of India. Here they devised a new method of composting that allowed Indian peasants to fertilize their crops without artificial fertilizers and pesticides.

After Gabrielle’s tragic death Howard retired to England broken hearted and exhausted from overwork. With the help of Louise, Gabrielle’s sister, Albert began writing for a popular audience of farmers and gardeners that launched a new movement that would throw down the gauntlet and challenge the values of chemical farming and mass consumerism. This book—based on newly discovered archives— tells the untold story of how the organic farming movement attracted the support of millions of followers from Gandhi to Prince Charles, and from both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

The story also highlights the forgotten role of women in the broader environmental movement. After Albert Howard’s death, Louise Howard almost single handedly carried the message of the organic farming to the world. Throughout the 1950s to the 1960s she maintained a network of amateur activists fighting against the damage of DDT on the environment and against the ill effects of industrial pollution on human health. Little could she foresee at the time, that her lonely battle for organic farming would gain widespread acceptance after 1980 and change the way hundreds of millions of consumers think about how the food they eat affected human health and the health of the entire world of nature.
Learn more about The Global History of Organic Farming at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tim Bartley's "Rules without Rights"

Tim Bartley is Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, and studies globalization, regulation, and social movements. He applied thePage 99 Test” to his new book, Rules without Rights: Land, Labor, and Private Authority in the Global Economy, and reported the following:
On page 99, you’ll read about the troubled and controversial attempts to make the Indonesian timber industry more sustainable. There has been an explosion of interest in corporate sustainability and social responsibility, and yet we know very little about what this means on the ground. Rules without Rights tries to change that by comparing land and labor standards as they are put into practice in newly democratic Indonesia and authoritarian China.

On one hand, page 99 captures only one slice of the book, which also looks at sustainability standards in China and corporate responsibility for labor conditions (especially in clothing and footwear manufacturing) in Indonesia and China.

On the other hand, page 99 captures some central themes of the book as a whole—including the risk of greenwashing/fairwashing and corporate sustainability/responsibility programs’ inability to deal with contentious land and labor rights (such as the rights of indigenous people to control rural land or the rights of workers to form independent labor unions).

The page begins with the story of how giant pulp and paper companies—Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL)—sought to use the logo of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the leading multi-stakeholder sustainable forestry initiative, to greenwash their image. The vast majority of their operations could not meet the FSC’s standards, but they engaged in several projects that they hoped would allow them to use the “FSC-Mixed” label on some paper products. This was an important and controversial moment for the FSC, which clamped down on some of these sorts of projects while still working to expand the market for certified paper.
In sum, the big pulp and paper companies were not prepared to abandon their harvesting practices, but they did navigate the margins of FSC certification in search of sustainability assurances. The FSC and its constituents, in turn, further policed these margins to retain their credibility, especially when prompted by external scrutiny. As theorized in the previous chapter, the rigor of transnational private regulation depends in part on scrutiny from external and internal watchdogs.
Page 99 then transitions into a focus on land rights, which turn out to be incredibly contentious in Indonesia:
FSC standards [and many other sustainability initiatives] call for stable, clear, and legitimate land use rights, but in several ways the rights to use forest land in Indonesia are unstable, overlapping, and contentious. First, because there were sizable incentives to convert forested land into oil palm plantations, forests were in a real sense fleeting—and whatever premiums might be gained by getting certified were far too low to reverse this trend. The Indonesian government began supporting fast-growing oil palm plantations in the 1980s by helping foreign investors secure land in “frontier” areas, often suppressing or displacing local smallholders.
In addition to palm oil development, forest land in Indonesia was often subject to competing claims—from different government agencies, different permit holders, and by both companies and indigenous communities who claimed customary rights to land. These customary rights were symbolically endorsed by the Indonesian constitution but practically nullified by the Forestry Law. This created a difficult situation for sustainability certification and a problem that this tool has largely failed to resolve. Here you can see one meaning of the title, Rules without Rights.
Learn more about Rules without Rights at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 10, 2018

David Weintraub's "Life On Mars"

David Weintraub is a Professor of Astronomy and directs the Communication of Science and Technology Program at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Is Pluto a Planet?, How Old is the Universe?, and Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal With It?

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book Life On Mars: What to Know Before We Go and reported the following:
I thought professors give, not take, tests, so the idea of me taking the Page 99 Test sounded like a mistake. Of course, almost everything we do in life tests us, and the Page 99 Test seemed innocuous enough. Then I worried. What if my page 99 stinks? Four years of research and writing down the drain. I should decline this offer, I thought, or let my dog eat the rough draft. But I took the test and feel good about it.

On page 99, I report that the century of planetary exploration began when “On July 23, 1896, Lowell Observatory opened for business.” Percival Lowell had used his personal wealth to build an observatory in Arizona. His goal: prove the existence of Martians whom he believed had built a planet-girdling system of canals. A decade later, he would switch his attention to a search for Planet X. That search would be completed in 1930 when Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto.

Lowell launched planetary astronomy as a unique astronomical sub-discipline, but his belief in intelligent Martians and his infatuation with the surface markings on Mars first identified as canali by Giovanni Schiaparelli also gave planetary astronomy a bad reputation for half a century. Lowell almost single-handedly drove astronomers away from the study of planets and toward the study of stars and galaxies. We can thank Lowell both for inventing planetary astronomy and for pushing some of the best astronomical minds of the early twentieth century away from planetary astronomy into (then) more reputable areas of study. Edwin Hubble could have pointed the great 100-inch Hooker telescope on Mt. Wilson at Mars and Saturn; instead, he discovered the expanding universe.

As a facility for studying Mars, a slew of NASA missions --- Mariner, Viking, Spirit, Opportunity, MAVEN, Curiosity, and soon InSight --- have surpassed Lowell’s observatory. All of these missions appear in Life on Mars, which tells the story of the science of searching for life on Mars over the last century.

We remain infatuated by Mars because Mars might harbor life. Lowell would be disappointed: Mars has neither engineers nor canals. Nevertheless, we know that Mars is habitable and might host microscopic Martians.

Does it? We simply don’t know, yet. The answer is worth the money and effort involved in the quest for answers, and Life on Mars takes you deep into the story of humankind’s quest for those answers.
Learn more about Life on Mars at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Spencer Piston's "Class Attitudes in America"

Spencer Piston is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Class Attitudes in America: Sympathy for the Poor, Resentment of the Rich, and Political Implications, and reported the following:
Political analysts often scapegoat the public for government’s stingy orientation toward poor people in the United States. The logic is as follows: Americans must not want government to help the poor, or government would not be able to get away with passing policies that do so little to help poor people.

In Class Attitudes in America, I challenge this understanding of public opinion. Analyzing nationally representative survey data, I show that majorities of Americans are sympathetic toward the poor, and sympathy for the poor leads many Americans to support downwardly redistributive policies.

Sympathy for the poor can also cause Americans to support candidates for public office perceived to take actions that will benefit the poor. On page 99, I present the results of a survey experiment in which some subjects are randomly assigned to read about a political candidate who is described as unlikely to transfer resources to the poor if elected. Other subjects are randomly assigned to read about a candidate who is identical to the first candidate except that he is likely to transfer resources to the poor.

Contrary to some existing accounts of public opinion in the United States, I find that the candidate is actually more popular when he is likely to help the poor – and, as shown on page 99, this pattern is driven by those Americans who are most sympathetic to the poor.

Why, then, doesn’t government do more to transfer resources to poor people? The simple answer is that this is yet another case in which government does not pass policies that majorities of the public prefer. Policies that would help the poor are – with some important exceptions – generally popular in the United States. And yet government continues to do much less than it might to transfer resources to those who need them most. I argue, therefore, that political analysts should not be so quick to blame the American public for what politicians do. Just the opposite: we should ask why more politicians aren’t listening to those they are supposed to represent.
Visit Spencer Piston's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 7, 2018

Rosina Lozano's "An American Language"

Rosina Lozano is Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to An American Language: The History of Spanish in the United States, her first book, and reported the following:
Page 99 is not a winner for An American Language.

The book begins when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848, extended citizenship to the former Mexican residents in the ceded territories. I unite these new citizens who almost universally spoke Spanish under a single term, treaty citizens, and the book explores the ways that these new citizens—with the help of official state, territorial, and federal language policies—used the Spanish language as U.S. citizens.

Page 99 follows an extensive look at the ways that California and Colorado used translations to reach treaty citizens in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Both included Spanish-language translation protections in their constitution. It begins a less than two-page section on how the territory of Arizona approached the politics of language very differently:
In the generation following Arizona’s establishment as a territory, treaty citizen families—and the territory’s other Mexican inhabitants who naturalized—voted with no legal restrictions, regardless of their language preference. But while the territorial government made few attempts to restrict these Spanish-speaking residents’ access to the franchise, neither did it do much to ensure their participation.
Despite Arizona’s limited language-related laws that would have addressed its Spanish-speaking citizens, the territory did extend some Spanish-language translations to help with the courts.
The legislature voted in 1875 to permit interpreters in all courts of the territory at the rate of $5 a day upon the request of the presiding judge. Relatedly, in 1887, the legislature permitted police officers to employ an interpreter for taking depositions. The use of interpreters in the courts may have worked from Spanish to English as well as from English to Spanish. At least some local justices of the peace lacked English-language skills, leading the territory to authorize the translation and printing of five hundred copies of a Spanish-language version of court laws in 1881. The proceedings unfortunately offer little commentary on why this project was undertaken so late or what the general practice was prior to the 1881 translation.
Translations of official documents and proceedings into the Spanish language was crucial if states and territories in the U.S. Southwest wished to reach all of their constituents. The section that follows this Arizona one examines New Mexico, where Spanish speakers made up the vast majority of citizens in the nineteenth century. Arizona’s neighboring territory not only required the use of Spanish, but they made it the norm in the legislature, courts, and in elections.

Page 99 not only offers a limited view of this chapter on translation, it also offers a mere sliver of the book’s larger arguments about the politics of Spanish.

Spanish was a language of politics in the nineteenth century following the U.S.-Mexican War as was described a bit here, but it was also a political language in the twentieth century that intersected with such distinct national interests as Americanization and Pan-Americanism. The United States had competing perceptions of the Spanish language—as useful for hemispheric relations, and, as foreign, radical, and expendable. These debates continued in federal agencies, schools, courts, and in territories like Puerto Rico. Part II of An American Language covers these themes.

I welcome a reader to offer an alternative page they think works better.
Learn more about An American Language at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue