This past week I drove to Nebraska and back. It’s beautiful country. I had never been there before, but I will certainly go there again.
This year, two television programs have brought renewed attention to the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial. Airing from February through April, FX’s miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story was a surprisingly subtle and effective true-crime docudrama. And earlier this month, ABC and ESPN presented Ezra Edelman’s truly extraordinary documentary miniseries O.J.: Made in America, which looked not only at the trial itself, but also at Simpson’s earlier career and fame, as well as his life since the verdict. One of the things that both shows successfully attempted to do was to explain why, while most white Americans greeted O.J.’s acquittal with shock and dismay, most African Americans celebrated the verdict as a victory. Events this week have brought to mind the still only partly learned lessons of that trial and those responses. (more…)
In a review of Mark Danner’s latest book, Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War, Samuel Moyn questions the focus of Danner’s polemic: where Danner sees American war efforts around the world as a result of a “state of exception” generated in the early part of the War on Terror, Moyn contends instead that US military action is anything but exceptional—it is regulated, legalized, and controlled and therein lies the problem. “What if,” Moyn argues, “stigmatizing atrocity, making military sprawl less offensive to many even as it transcends all known chronological and territorial limits left the conflict harder to rein in? Indicting dirty war by itself [as Danner does in his book] does not reach the core of our spiral—indeed, doing so may help it continue to spin.” (more…)
Having just passed my tenth anniversary as a holder of the doctoral degree in history, I’ve found myself reflecting back on my training. What did I learn? How did it change me? How have I evolved since completing the degree? Where is it all going? (more…)
The following guest post, by Christian Olaf Christiansen, Associate Professor, University of Aarhus, Denmark is brief introduction to his new book, Progressive Business: An Intellectual History of the Role of Business in American Society. [i]
Toward a “gentler capitalism”?
Prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the view that capitalism could become more enlightened and more civilized had become widespread, at least among a group who saw themselves as business reformers: “We may just be at the beginning of an economic revolution, one that is happening quietly, gradually, and from the bottom up; one that is constantly gaining momentum, despite (or perhaps because of) its lack of revolutionary fanfare, making it more thoughtful and balanced, and thus more likely to succeed.” [ii] These were the editors’ final lines of Humanism in Business, an anthology concerned with how business can take an active role in a global context of poverty and sustainability problems. The authors ambiguously captured the theme of a “silent” revolution, a transformation of the economy already taking place, but combined with an invitation for the reader to join an evolving group of “humanists” that believe in the idea of a “life-serving economy” instead of a “profit-serving economy.” (more…)
“It is easy to imagine a language consisting only of orders and reports in battle.—Or a language consisting only of questions and expressions for answering yes and no. And innumerable others.—And to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.”
It’s hot in Tennessee, and summer brings on odd moods, so here’s a tall tale based upon a recent experience. I’m thinking about a specific phenomenology of work and the laboring self. Doubtless there are countless different kinds of labor and work and ways to think about it. I’m concerned here with simple physical labor and what that does to the mind and to language. The experience described here is true to the best of my recollection. The very brief, hopelessly partial and idiosyncratic intellectual history of drudgery is the tall part of the tale.
I made a deal with my friend Dwayne recently. I go to his house in west Texas to work on a project and then he returns the favor in Nashville. This time he visited me. We built a stone path around sixty feet long on the incline at the side of my house. Doing that sort of thing requires digging out the existing turf to the proper length and width, on down to around five or six inches in depth. Intelligent people who actually do this sort of thing use a small backhoe or a turf digger to do the job, but we rejected that and went with two garden spades and a wheelbarrow. I didn’t know entirely what I was doing, so we plotted the thing out and just started digging.
We bantered quite a lot early on and then bickered some back and forth before deciding to work apart in ten-foot sections so that one person worked above the other and down the hill. We eventually found a better division of labor where one person acted in the role of Excavator, digging down and loosening the turf while the other acted as Shovel, scooping the loosened turf into the wheelbarrow. We alternated those roles and also alternated trips down the hill with the creaky wheelbarrow, dumping load after load of dirt into waste areas at the back of my yard. Excavator man, Shovel man, Wheelbarrow man.