Tag Archives: book reviews

Review: Allan Holtz, American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide

At $120 on Amazon, Allen Holtz’s 2012 American Newspaper Comics: Am Encyclopedic Reference Guide may well be the most expensive new book I’ve ever purchased. As someone who is working on a dissertation on early newspaper comics, however, it’s an invaluable resource, … Continue reading

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Review: Allan Holtz, American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide

At $120 on Amazon, Allen Holtz’s 2012 American Newspaper Comics: Am Encyclopedic Reference Guide may well be the most expensive new book I’ve ever purchased. As someone who is working on a dissertation on early newspaper comics, however, it’s an invaluable resource, … Continue reading

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Chris Anderson’s “Free” isn’t Perfect, But I Think He’s Right (Part 2)

In my last post, I covered mostly the “Free isn’t perfect” part. So here’s why I think he’s right: While I think that Anderson overstated the whole “Free as a business model” thing at the expense of what I think … Continue reading

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Chris Anderson’s “Free” isn’t Perfect, But I Think He’s Right. (Part 1)

I downloaded Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price from iTunes this weekend. (And I downloaded it for free, naturally.) I was a fan of The Long Tail. It wasn’t always spot on, it was a simplification, and … Continue reading

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The Cold War and the Militarization of the Academy

It is a widely-discussed problem within higher education that the current job market is, to say the least, a difficult one. Universities are creating fewer and fewer tenure-track positions, relying on adjuncts, graduate students, and limited-term visiting professors for a growing share of the teaching load. Many if not most disciplines produce more PhDs than there are academic jobs to be filled. Public Universities in most states face the constant threat of reduced funding. One of the primary reasons for this state of affairs can be traced directly to the first fifteen years or so of the Cold War. In the years between World War II and 1960, the United States government began a massive and unparalleled investment in higher education, through grants, endowments, and the GI Bill, in order to promote its anti-Soviet agenda. The beginning of Perestroika and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, then, created a problem for American academics—the US university system had grown, over fifty years of federal investment for Cold War aims, to a point that was unsustainable without continued levels of funding. But when the specter of Communism was no enough to justify previous levels of spending, disinvestment began, and as is the case with most large, bureaucratic systems, the American university system was slow to react and adapt. […]

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“Bugs” and Blowback: Science and American High Modernism

American policy with regard to science and technology in the twentieth century had often been canceled with what James C. Scott described in Seeing Like a State as a “high modernist ideology”: “…self-confidence about scientific and technical progress, the expansion of production, the growing satisfaction of human needs, the mastery of nature… and, above all, the rational design of social order commensurate with the scientific understanding of natural laws.” (Scott, 4) Implicit in Scott’s “mastery of nature” is one other important characteristic that he doesn’t spell out: the high modernist ideology takes previous modes of human interaction among people and with nature, and reduces these interrelations to zero-sum games. Under the ideological régime of high modernism, war becomes total war, health care shifts its focus from palliative care, abatement, and curing, to the wholesale elimination of specific ailments. Edmund Russell’s War and Nature and David McBride’s Missions for Science both explore American scientific policies that reflect this high modernist tendency toward extermination and elimination, as well as looking at the blowback from such an approach. […] Continue reading

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Herbert Hoover and the Corporatist State

One of those questions that Americanist grad students in History get asked a lot is, "What was new about the New Deal?"

At first it struck me as a pretty obvious question– of course EVERYTHING was new about the New Deal. That’s definitely the story I heard growing up… But when you look at it, things get murky– Hoover wasn’t the laissez faire capitalist he’s often made out to be. In fact, he was a proponent of an interventionist federal government. FDR outspent every president before him on social welfare, but Hoover outspent every president before HIM.

So looking to resolve the question, and looking into it a bit, I’ve come up with– well, at least a theory. Hoover was a corporatist and an associationalist. He was for intervention, but not for the type of big state programs that the New Deal ushered in. And when he needed big state programs, he didn’t like to leave their management in the hands of the state alone. […]

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The (Il)legibility of Smoke

(Some more thoughts on two books I talked about in this post.)

James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State and David Stradling’s Smokestacks and Progressives, while tackling related topics, could not be more dissimilar in approach. Scott’s book is a sprawling history of a type of phenomenon—an account of different iterations of a problem that covers multiple continents and the entire modern era, using a strong theoretical base to tie seemingly unrelated events. Stradling, on the other hand, limits his scope, limiting his book to popular smoke abatement movements in the US between the 1890s and 1940s. Stradling’s book is virtually absent of any underlying theoretical base—his book is primarily a chronicle of the periodic and seemingly unrelated interruptions, upsets, and setbacks that the movement suffered over that time. Despite their widely divergent approaches and subject matter, the two books can be seen as working quite well in dialogue, each book shedding light on what may be perceived as deficiencies of the other. […]

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The (Il)legibility of Smoke

(Some more thoughts on two books I talked about in this post.)

James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State and David Stradling’s Smokestacks and Progressives, while tackling related topics, could not be more dissimilar in approach. Scott’s book is a sprawling history of a type of phenomenon—an account of different iterations of a problem that covers multiple continents and the entire modern era, using a strong theoretical base to tie seemingly unrelated events. Stradling, on the other hand, limits his scope, limiting his book to popular smoke abatement movements in the US between the 1890s and 1940s. Stradling’s book is virtually absent of any underlying theoretical base—his book is primarily a chronicle of the periodic and seemingly unrelated interruptions, upsets, and setbacks that the movement suffered over that time. Despite their widely divergent approaches and subject matter, the two books can be seen as working quite well in dialogue, each book shedding light on what may be perceived as deficiencies of the other. […]

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Historical Atlases a Go-Go

I’ve looked at a bunch of Historical Atlases over the last couple weeks. I’m just going to comment on four that seemed especially worthy of comment, for good or ill. […]

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