Category: Social Science

July Theme: Where is the Money?

Everyone from Liza Minnelli to R. Kelly knows that money makes the world go round. This month, Yale University Press authors are expanding on that observation to explore the fields of economics and global finance under the banner Where is the Money? It might seem like a simple question, but to really understand where the money is, why it’s going where it’s going, and what to do about it takes a considerable amount of study and research. Or at least a good book.

In Europe’s Deadlock, David Marsh explains how the Eurozone’s crisis management has actually made things worse. Countries with weak economies come to resent creditor nations, and creditor nations fear they will have to subsidize weaker countries indefinitely. Stephen D. King, author of When the Money Runs Out, finds fault not in the structure of the European Union but in a deficient understanding of economic history. As King explains in an interview with CNBC, sustained economic growth is an anomaly, but leaders have planned for the future as though it were a given.

Jennifer Taub traces the origins of 2008′s financial meltdown in Other People’s Houses. She points to decisions in the 1980s as the underlying problem, and argues that the U.S. is not currently doing enough to prevent another crisis. Tom Clark focuses on the effects of economic crises in his book Hard TimesHe examines the social consequences of Great Recession and the Great Depression, and a great interactive infographic made by Kiln illustrates the outsize negative effects on the poor.

Where is the Money Cover Photo 2

Straits seem dire, but Yale Press authors are hard at work on creative solutions to problems big and small. In Why Nudge? Cass R. Sunstein pushes back against John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle, and argues for a form of paternalism rooted in behavioral economics. The government, his argument runs, should create structures that encourage people to make better decisions, financial and otherwise, in their daily lives. Joseph R. Blasi, author of The Citizen’s Share, writes that the government ought to create tax incentives for companies to share profits and ownership with their employees as a way of alleviating inequality. The book is now out in paperback, and the first chapter is available as an excerpt.

Orly Lobel writes about a different way to shake up companies in her book, Talent Wants to be Free. Lobel says that corporations that aggressively restrict their talent and secrets do more to stifle innovation than to protect revenue. In Austerity, Florian Schui presents another counter-intuitive idea: arguments for austerity are not rooted in economics. Schui explains that austerity—the notion that abstinence from consumption brings benefits to states, societies, or individuals—lingers on in today’s debates because of the moral and political sentiments that have long been associated with it.

Two Yale University Press authors address the economic position of the United States by considering its alliances. Richard Rosecrance writes in The Resurgence of the West that the U.S. should join forces with the European Union in order to unblock arteries of trade and investment. The alliance could also help both parties face East Asian challengers. In a partial echo of Rosecrance’s concerns, Stephen Roach highlights the dangerous ways in which the U.S. and China depend on one another. A pair of interviews about Unbalanced make the situation frighteningly clear.

While analysts like Roach predict that China will be the world’s next superpower, Timothy Beardson expresses his reservations in Stumbling Giant. Beardson makes the case that problems with stability, prosperity, identity, and honor may thwart the country’s ambition. Michael Reid discusses the trajectory of another potential global power in Brazil. The world’s fourth most populous democracy has enjoyed some effective reformist leadership but still has a raft of social problems to address going forward.

Anupam Chander and Edward Castronova focus less on who the major economic powers will be and more on how they will wield economic power in a digital age. In The Electronic Silk Road, Chander reveals the legal complications that have arisen alongside global Internet commerce. Cases like Facebook and the Pirate Bay demonstrate the need for countries to dismantle some barriers while still protecting consumer interests. Castronova’s book, Wildcat Currency, discusses everything from medieval banking to Bitcoin while making a case for the legitimacy of virtual money. He argues that leaders must seriously consider the legal, political, and economic effects of private currencies.

We hope you enjoy these economic titles, and if you want to save money and still read great books you can enter our Goodreads Giveaways for Brazil and Wildcat Currency. Make sure to enter by July 31st!

Austerity: Reading between the lines of the economic debate

In his sweeping new book, Austerity: the Great Failure, historian Florian Schui tackles the central economic debate sprung from the Great Recession: whether decreasing government spending will renew economic growth. To this debate, Schui brings vital historical perspective – a look at the dismal track record of austerity policies over the course of their long history. Examining the arguments of key theorists of consumption, ranging from Aristotle to Margaret Thatcher, Schui demonstrates that no argument against spending has ever successfully refuted the Keynesian logic of anti-cyclical government stimulus.

What Schui reveals instead is that austerity’s long life is thanks to its moral and political underpinnings – not any economic justification. The moral authority of abstinence over greed, coupled with political maneuverings against labor and the Left, has kept austerity alive in public discourse despite its empirical shortcomings. This confusion of arguments, which Shui ably parses, is as alive in the media today as it has ever been.

Now in their fourth year, the austerity measures placed on debtor nations of the Eurozone by the International Monetary Fund and creditor-state Germany continue to return mixed results. Unemployment in Europe still hangs above 10%, and the situation in the hardest pressed nations remains bleak. In Greece, households burn furniture for heat, and the health care system is a shambles.

Yet Europe’s economic leaders continue to insist on austerity before aid. Their reasoning? Lately, the supporters of austerity have been eager to point to the apparent successes of the policy in the Baltics, particularly Latvia and Estonia.

With Schui’s argument in mind, consider some of the reports on the state of these Baltic nations from local political leaders and major media outlets. Are their arguments purely economic, or might there be moral or political traces in their statements?

  • On Estonia’s adherence to austerity, despite a GDP drop of 14% in 2009: “[Estonian president Toomas Hendrik] Ilves divides Europe into countries that follow the rules and countries that don’t… Estonians, in their own eyes, have always followed the rules, and in 2009 took their lumps to do so.”
  • Swedish economist Anders Aslund responds to Nobel laureate Paul Krugman’s critique of the Baltic ‘triumph’: “[Krugman] praises the fiscally irresponsible and scolds the virtuous, denigrating the Baltic achievements while trying to explain away miserable failures, such as Greece.”
  • On Latvia’s ‘high pain threshold’: “In Greece and Spain, cuts in salaries, jobs and state services have pushed tempers beyond the boiling point, with angry citizens staging frequent protests and strikes… But in Latvia, where the government laid off a third of its civil servants, slashed wages for the rest and sharply reduced support for hospitals, people mostly accepted the bitter medicine.”
  • And anecdotally: “When a credit-fueled economic boom turned to bust in this tiny Baltic nation in 2008, Didzis Krumins, who ran a small architectural company, fired his staff one by one and then shut down the business… But instead of taking to the streets to protest the cuts, Mr. Krumins, whose newborn child, in the meantime, needed major surgery, bought a tractor and began hauling wood to heating plants that needed fuel.”

For more close readings of the austerity debate – from the Commercial Revolution to the modern day – be sure to check out Austerity, in stores now.

Beyond the University Makes a Splash

Wesleyan University recently sat down to talk to Michael S. Roth, president of the university and author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. The video and post originally appeared in Wesleyan University’s blog, which you can read here.


Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters by Michael S. RothA June 10 note to the President’s Office at Wesleyan grabbed attention—Harvard’s Office of Undergraduate Education wanted help in quickly obtaining 125 copies of Michael Roth’s new book to distribute to Harvard faculty members.

The email was indicative of the excitement that Roth’s latest book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press), has generated since it was published in May. The sixth book that Roth has authored, it has received substantial coverage in the national media and has helped put into historical context today’s debates over the value of a broad, liberal education. Roth reminds readers that accusations about the impracticality of liberal education date back to the days of the Founding Fathers, and are never less convincing than now. He draws on the writings of prominent thinkers such as John Dewey, Jane Addams, W.E.B. Dubois and Thomas Jefferson to make the case for a pragmatic liberal education.

Reviews of the book have appeared in The Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed, while a number of related op-eds and essays by Roth have been published in outlets such as The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Boston Globe and The Daily Beast. President Roth has discussed his book with The Atlantic magazine, and on public radio stations around the country.

“We’ve been delighted with the amount of attention the book is getting, both on the local and national levels. It’s engaging precisely with the big and urgent questions out there about higher education, just as we hoped. President Roth has been a great spokesperson for defending the humanities, which have been under scrutiny of late,” said John Donatich, director of Yale University Press. “We are currently selling into a second printing of the book, and it’s very possible we could go into a third printing. We expect it to sell even more in paperback down the road.”

In addition, Chinese and Korean translations of the book are in the works.

Reviews of the book have been positive. Writing in The Washington Post, Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, praises it as a “lucid, helpful and accessible account of the current challenges to higher education.”

“By presenting his argument historically, Roth, president of Wesleyan University, maintains a judicious distance from his subject and avoids the trap—all too enticing for a zealous advocate—of delivering a passionate apologia for a broad generalization. Instead, he gives us a substantial and lively discussion that allows the reader to maintain an open mind while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the several threads, each in its own turn,” writes Nelson.

And Kirkus Reviews writes: “While underscoring the democratic spirit of a liberal arts education, one designed to produce ‘active citizens rather than passive subjects,’ Roth traces how even the Founding Fathers of the republic restricted the education to patrician white males, excluding women, slaves and others—and that the question of whether farmers need to be able to read Shakespeare has long sparked debate. Between pragmatism and idealism, the author strikes a moderate, balanced approach. The result is more like a primer on the history of higher education than a manifesto.”

See all media coverage of Beyond the University here.

Read more about Beyond the University in this Wesleyan Connection article.


Should You Invest in Bitcoin? Here’s a Flowchart to Help You Decide.

Wildcat Currency CoverBitcoin is on the rise. The completely digital currency has been covered by Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, among others. Bitcoins have the power to buy anything from a hot dog at a Sacramento Kings NBA game to a hotel room at a Holiday Inn in Brooklyn. It’s a brave new financial world, or at least it might seem that way. According to Edward Castronova, author of Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution is Transforming the Economy, forms of monetary exchange not created by the federal government have existed for a long time. He cites airline miles and S&H Green Stamps as examples, but his underlying argument for Bitcoin’s legitimacy has less to do with 20th century precedents than with the nature of money itself.

Castronova discusses the ways economies spring up everywhere: in online games with internal currencies and in prisons where cigarettes become a medium of exchange.These economies tend to behave the same way “real” economies do, and as Castronova goes into the specifics of each financial community he sheds light on the general principles they confirm. The definition of money, the core idea behind banking, the way inflation works, and debates surrounding these and other issues all become clearer through the book’s telling case studies. These gestures allow the later sections of Wildcat Currency to delve into the implications of virtual currencies, and to seriously consider both the benefits and the drawbacks surrounding Bitcoin as economic, legal, and political entities begin to create policy to address it.

If you are interested in learning more, you can enter our Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Wildcat Currency! In addition, Edward Castronova has been answering questions in a Reddit AMA. And if you are thinking about trying Bitcoin yourself, take a look at this handy flowchart to find out whether you should invest.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Wildcat Currency by Edward Castronova

Wildcat Currency

by Edward Castronova

Giveaway ends July 31, 2014. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Brazil: An Introduction to a Rising Global Power

Brazil CoverBrazil may have lost badly to Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Semifinals on Tuesday, but they are still competing on the world stage and may soon contend with Germany and other more established countries in the global economy. Indeed, a new book by Michael Reid argues that Brazil deserves consistent international recognition and attention, as it may well be one of the world’s most influential nations by 2030. In Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global PowerThe Economist‘s Latin American columnist describes the country’s tumultuous history, notes its achievements, and assesses the challenges that face Brazil if it is to live up to its potential.

Tom Jobim, the composer of “The Girl from Ipanema,” once said that “Brazil is not for beginners,” and Reid‘s book is both a guide for the perplexed and an insightful meditation for the already informed. To initiate the wholly uninitiated—and to whet your appetite—here are a few key pieces of information about Brazil’s economy and culture.

  • The nation is the world’s fifth largest country by area. It is in equal in size to the United States, and all twenty-eight countries of the European Union would fit comfortably inside Brazil’s territory.
  • Brazil is a deeply religious country, with a mix of Christian and African religions. Many Brazilians pray to both a Catholic saint and an African orixá (deity).
  • The country’s population of 200 million makes it the world’s fourth most populous democracy.
  • Brazilians love football so much that on days when the national team is playing in the World Cup, the country completely shuts down, and the streets of major cities effectively fall silent.
  • Brazil has the seventh-largest economy, but it is the third-largest exporter of food and the six-biggest manufacturing power.
  • In Brazil, loyalty to the family is key, and the family is in some ways the central institution of Brazilian society.
  • Brazilians devote more of their disposable income to beauty and personal care products than anyone else in the world.
  • The nation is both self-sufficient in oil and the world leader in plant-based fuels.

If you are interested in learning more about Brazil’s past, present, and possible future, don’t miss your chance to win a copy of Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power through our Goodreads giveaway. Make sure to enter by the end of the month!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Brazil by Michael Reid

Brazil

by Michael Reid

Giveaway ends July 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Recommended Reading for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China by Stephen RoachThe U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) is taking place in Beijing, China on July 9–10. In his new book, Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China, Stephen Roach addresses the current and prospective state-of-play in the economic relationship between China and the United States. As the S&ED approaches, we’ve asked him to weigh in on several key aspects of this important exchange between the world’s two largest and leading economies.

Yale University Press: What is the S&ED and why is it so important?

Stephen Roach: In an effort to formalize and coordinate high level exchanges on economic and financial issues between the U.S. and Chinese governments, a Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) was launched in December 2006 by Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. In 2009, the Obama Administration broadened the focus of the dialogue to include foreign policy and security discussions—hence, inserting an ampersand into the acronym (S&ED)—and reduced the frequency of engagement from twice a year to an annual meeting. The summit continues to rotate back and forth between Washington and Beijing. It brings together on a regular basis the largest delegation of senior government officials of both nations. Its core mission is to generate a “dialogue that will focus on addressing the challenges and opportunities that both countries face on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global areas of immediate and long-term economic and strategic interest.” Bottom line: The S&ED is now the main event in the U.S.-China debate.

YUP: What is the mood heading into the upcoming S&ED?

SR: Not good. Tensions have intensified recently on three key fronts—trade and currency (again), cyberhacking, and maritime and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. Unsurprisingly, both nations are blaming the other for causing these problems. These are classic symptoms of the blame-game of codependency that I stress in Unbalanced—a penchant for partners to hold the other accountable for problems of ones own making. For its part, U.S. complaints are undoubtedly exaggerated by the domestic political cycle—a fairly typical outbreak of China bashing that has broad bipartisan appeal heading into national elections. China is also shaped by its own political agenda—ironic for a one-party system but in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s grass roots appeal for restoration of the so-called China Dream.

YUP: What do you see as the key issues in the U.S.-China economic relationship that you would like to see addressed at this year’s S&ED?

SR: The main problem with the economic relationship is that it has moved into the danger zone of a destructive codependency, where, as I wrote in a recent op-ed on Project Syndicate, both the U.S. and China are focused more on frictions than on synergies. The challenge is to embrace the opportunities of a more constructive interdependency. In that vein, I would like to see progress on two fronts—moving ahead on a U.S.-China bilateral investment treaty (BIT) and reestablishing military-to-military exchanges on the increasingly contentious cybersecurity issue.

YUP: How can the U.S. benefit from a bilateral investment treaty with China?

SR: China is at the early stage of a powerful transformation—moving from a manufacturing-led investment and export growth strategy to a services-led consumer society. In Unbalanced, I estimate that the growth in Chinese services will amount to some $12 trillion between now and 2025. In an environment of ever increasing IT-enabled global connectivity, many services have been transformed from nontradables to tradables. In the book, I calculate that the tradable portion of China’s coming bonanza in services growth could amount to between $4 and $6 trillion by 2025. No one is better positioned than the United States—the world’s largest and most competitive services economy—to garner a significant share of China’s coming wave of services development. The key will be having access to the growth in China’s domestic services market—a critical objective of a bilateral investment treaty.

YUP: Will China enjoy equal benefits from a bilateral investment treaty with the United States?

SR: Yes, that’s precisely the point. What we get on access to Chinese markets they will rightfully want and demand from us. That’s not to say that each nation replicates precisely the same industry and product-specific access of the other. There will be differences in what each would consider “out-of bounds”—the so-called negative list characteristic of all trade negotiations. But there can be no mistaking that China is now moving aggressively to invest in foreign markets, including those in the United States. According to a tabulation by the consultancy Rhodium Group, China’s outward-bound foreign direct investment into U.S. markets has just surpassed American fixed investment into China for the first time ever. Just as U.S. companies have sought to capture share in Chinese markets, it is only logical that China’s increasingly globalized multinationals seek to do the same in the United States. Both nations benefit from this aspect of economic integration—consistent with the familiar “win-win” mantra of globalization. Furthermore, if China and the United States reach accord on a rules-based framework of market access, that could well set the stage for broader trade liberalization, including China’s participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that the U.S. is currently negotiating with eleven other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Excluding China from TPP would be a mistake. Progress on a BIT could well avoid such a blunder. That would be icing on the cake.

YUP: But any treaty between nations would need to be approved by the U.S. Senate. What are the chances that a dysfunctional Congress would agree to such an action?

SR: Given the political polarization in Washington, there is little possibility of Senate approval of a BIT with China in the foreseeable future. Realistically, however, U.S. and Chinese negotiators still have considerable ground to cover before presenting any such accord to their respective governments for ratification. The soonest I could envision that occurring would be late 2015 or early 2016—hopefully squeezing through a narrow window in the U.S. political cycle between the upcoming off-year elections and the next Presidential campaign. While this may seem unrealistically optimistic—especially in light of the long and arduous negotiations that preceded China’s accession to the WTO in 2001—there is growing support for such action by trade experts in both countries. An especially strong appeal for a BIT was recently made on the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal by none other than Ambassadors Charlene Barshefsky and Long Yongtu, the two principal negotiators of the China-U.S. WTO accord. Notwithstanding the compelling arguments and growing support outside the Washington Beltway for a U.S.-China BIT, it would be naïve to presume that Congress will suddenly put aside its long-standing anti-China biases. That remains a major fly in the ointment.

YUP: How do the charges and counter-charges over cyberhacking affect the relationship and can the upcoming S&ED do anything to calm the waters on this key issue?

Stephen Roach

Stephen Roach: Photo by Tony Rinaldo

SR: Painfully, cyber-espionage has become a way of life in the Internet Era. In terms of the U.S.-China relationship it has become an increasingly contentious issue in the past eighteen months following the January 2013 release of a report by a leading cyber security firm Mandiant that documents alleged hacking of U.S. companies by a cyber intelligence unit embedded in the Chinese army. That report served as the basis of a recent U.S. Department of Justice indictment of five officers in the People’s Liberation Army on charges of espionage, theft of trade secrets, identity theft, and fraud. Following that indictment, China has withdrawn from the military-to-military exchanges that were established at last year’s S&ED in July 2013, denying the validity of U.S. allegations and arguing that the evidence of U.S. cyber hacking provided by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, portrays equally egregious violations by the United States. This is a classic example of how the finger pointing of codependency can get partners into serious trouble. A resumption of military-to-military exchanges on cyber issues offers the only viable avenue of resolution. The S&ED is the best platform to accomplish that objective.

YUP: How do China’s economic leaders currently view the U.S. economy?

SR: They still view the U.S. economy with great admiration—as the largest and strongest economy in the world and as an economy that sets the bar very high in terms of innovation, technological change, and entrepreneurial start-ups. In the same sense, they recognize that the U.S. was seriously wounded by the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09 and will take a long time to return to its former pre-crisis health and vigor. China continues to worry about macroeconomic imbalances—its own as well as those of the United States. It is attempting to address its imbalances by shifting to more of a consumer-led growth strategy. It is disappointed that America does not seem to be addressing its imbalances after the turmoil of such a wrenching crisis—preferring, instead, to sustain an historic shortfall of domestic saving and thereby still rely on others, such as China, to fill that void. China views this as an inherent source of macro-instability in the U.S. that leads to trade and currency tensions that always seem to be debated at S&EDs. The current Dialogue is hardly an exception in this regard—epically in light of the U.S. Treasury’s recent expression of concern (PDF) over a supposed shift in Chinese currency policy.

YUP: What do you advise as the steps needed to correct the “imbalance” in our two economies?

SR: The solution is conceptually quite simple—China needs to save less and consume more. America needs to do the opposite—consume less and save more and deploy that saving toward rebuilding competitiveness by investing in human capital, infrastructure, and manufacturing capacity. But talk is cheap—the heavy lifting of implementation is where the rubber meets the road. China. I believe, is on that road to rebalancing. The United States, I fear, is not. Instead, we remain fixated on the excesses of debt- and asset-driven consumer-led growth as the crux of the American Dream. In a codependent relationship, this asymmetrical response is troubling. America is likely to feel pressure as China shifts from surplus saving to saving absorption and thereby provides support for the safety net of its own citizens rather than offering such support for American citizens. In response, the United States will find itself lacking the external source of saving it has long relied on as the sustenance of its unbalanced growth. This is the subtext of what is likely to be an equally asymmetrical engagement at the upcoming S&ED in July 2014. It’s the “S” that remains the big problem for Washington—a failure to comprehend the strategic imperatives of America’s rebalancing agenda.


Stephen Roach is senior fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and School of Management, Yale University. Prior to that he was Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, and for the bulk of his career on Wall Street was Chief Economist of Morgan Stanley. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley in 1982, Mr. Roach served on the research staff of the Federal Reserve Board and was also a research fellow at the Brookings Institution. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from New York University. Roach has written extensively for the international media and appears regularly on television around the world.

Five Reads for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is this Sunday, and to celebrate we bring you five books about fathers and family. These are books about American Revolutionaries, innovative photographers, domestic Victorians, virtual currencies, and literary Jews for any family to enjoy.

Founders as Fathers

Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries by Lorri Glover

Even if you are an American history buff, you may not know the intimate details of the founders’ home lives. Lorri Glover describes the sacrifices made and the challenges faced by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other Virginians. As the Revolution transformed the country’s political institutions, it profoundly affected family life as well.

Family in the Picture

Family in the Picture, 1958-2013 by Lee Friedlander

Photo enthusiasts might appreciate this chronicle of the family life of one of the most inventive photographers in the U.S.  The book contains over 350 photos, most of them newly released from the artist’s personal archive. Most families try to preserve their memories in one way or another, but, as the New York Times put it, “When your husband or father is the accomplished photographer Lee Friedlander, the family photo album can’t help becoming a work of art.”

A Man's Place

A Man’s Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England by John Tosh

Fathers taking on a greater share of the domestic load might seem like a 21st century phenomenon, but John Tosh describes how men in the 19th century came to place new value on the home. Case studies on married life and fatherhood from the 1830s and onwards show the domestic trend emerging as men react urbanization and Evangelical Christianity.  By the 1870s, domesticity held less appeal, and Tosh’s gender history explains how that waning interest set the stage for the next century.

Wildcat Currency

Wildcat Currency: How the Virtual Money Revolution is Transforming the Economy by Edward Castronova

The 21st century economy is changing rapidly, and the currency used is changing too. Edward Castronova delves into the world of virtual finance, discussing everything from credit card perks like airline miles to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. The researcher considers how we conceive of money itself, how we relate to it emotionally, and how virtual currencies could affect our legal and political futures.

Jews and Words

Jews and Words by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger

This father/daughter, writer/historian team investigate and describe the profound relationship between Jews and the language they use, arguing that words provide the link from generation to generation. The book traces central Jewish themes through important names, canonical texts, ancient arguments, and memorable quips. The authors ultimately synthesize those words into an essay, a story, a history, and a collaboration.

Have a happy Father’s Day!

Thoreau: Fully Annotated

Walden JacketIn a month, it will have been ten years since Jeffrey S. Cramer published Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition. Cramer has had a prolific and successful decade, editing numerous volumes on Henry David Thoreau and racking up awards and praise. In 2012, radio host Jim Fleming said that Cramer “may know more about the bard at Walden Pond than anyone else alive.” He has earned that reputation, at least in part, on the basis of his annotations.

Cramer has published three fully annotated volumes by Thoreau: Walden (2004), The Maine Woods (2009), and Essays (2013). To begin to understand why these books are “fully annotated” and not merely “edited,” one need only take a quick glance at Walden. Thoreau’s text occupies the half of the page closest to the spine and Cramer’s copious annotations run along the outside. Between the transcendentalist’s prose and the scholar’s commentary, most of the pages are, indeed, completely full. There are only a handful of places where Thoreau’s text proceeds without Cramer’s accompaniment, and rarely for longer than a few paragraphs. Far more commonly, Cramer’s annotations outstrip Thoreau’s chapters.

The fullness of the fully annotated edition comes not only from the volume of the commentary but also from its breadth and depth. Cramer provides the expected historical, philosophical, and geographical contexts for Walden and goes well beyond their bounds. He explains the writer’s puns, calls him on his exaggerations, and knowingly undercuts his more bombastic pronouncements. When Thoreau declares that “Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race,” Cramer chimes in to say that “Although Thoreau could read Greek, he did not always read the Greek authors in the original, but would use Latin, French, or English translations.”[1]

walden_page

Cramer annotates Walden with the care and thoroughness usually reserved for Shakespeare plays or the Bible, and one might ask why the scholar feels compelled to explicate Thoreau so fully. Perhaps it is simply Cramer’s passion that leads him onwards. Most people will expound upon their favorite subject to an attentive audience for hours if given the opportunity. Indeed, some of that spirit comes through in Cramer’s interviews. In 2012, he was asked what three scenes from Thoreau’s life he would include in a biopic. The scholar begins carefully, selecting major life events, but quickly finds himself on a roll, listing scene after scene, finishing with “and— and— how long can we make this movie?”

Benjamin_D._Maxham_-_Henry_David_Thoreau_-_RestoredYet even as Cramer’s interviews imply that his breathless enthusiasm may be the impetus for the full annotations, his introduction hints at a justification rooted in Walden itself. Cramer quotes Thoreau’s claim that “The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out of what wisdom and valor and generosity we have.”[2] Thoreau, Cramer argues, is suggesting a way of approaching Walden. To “seek the meaning of each word and line” is precisely the task of the annotator, who identifies the precise significance of each moment. At the same time, the annotator expands the language beyond its common use, and does so with “wisdom and valor and generosity.” Cramer’s wisdom lies in his paramount knowledge of the bard at Walden Pond, his valor in his perseverant attention, and his generosity in the abundance of his commentary. It is in this sense, in fulfilling a need Thoreau himself seems to recognize, that Cramer’s editions are fully annotated.

 


[1] Thoreau, Henry. Walden. 1854. Ed. Jeffrey Cramer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. 101.

[2] Jeffrey S. Cramer. Introduction. Walden. By Henry D. Thoreau. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. xx.

Analyzing Freud, the Master of Psychoanalysis

“Biographers, Freud knew even as a young man, spoke on other people’s behalf—like parents, doctors, rabbis, and politicians. Psychoanalysis was to be a medical treatment which enabled people to speak on their own behalf.”—Adam Phillips, Becoming Freud


Freud

In his biography of Sigmund Freud’s early life, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psycholanalyst, Adam Phillips acknowledges the awkwardness of documenting Freud’s life when Freud himself hated biography. Freud angrily rejected offers to from hopeful biographers. He believed that biographies could reveal no truths about a life. He even went so far as to destroy personal documents from his young life in order to confound future biographers.

Freud’s vehement opposition to biography and, in particular, his own biography, says a great deal about his life and his character. His preemptive destruction of documents to keep them from the hands of “biographers” (he specifically used the plural) shows his sense of self-importance and his need to control his biographical record. It should not be surprising that the father of psychoanalysis—the “treatment which enabled people to speak on their own behalf”—desired to tell his own story of his life.

Though he stops short of actually psychoanalyzing Freud, Phillips’ displays a fine understanding of the tenets of psychoanalysis. His sensitive descriptions of Freud’s personal development, invite the reader to make parallel comparisons to the development of his work in psychoanalysis.


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Becoming Freud by Adam Phillips

Becoming Freud

by Adam Phillips

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