Category Archives: Current Affairs

Spring books preview: politics and policy

We’re excited about the books we’ll be publishing this spring—and we’re pleased to start off the new year with a series of posts that highlight our forthcoming titles. Be sure to check out the online edition of JHUP’s entire Spring 2016 catalog, and remember that promo code “HDPD” gets you a 30% discount on all pre-publication orders. Today we feature spring books on policy and politics; click on the title to read more about the book or to place an order:


taylorJust and Lasting Change
When Communities Own Their Futures
second edition
Daniel C. Taylor and Carl E. Taylor


diamondAuthoritarianism Goes Global
The Challenge to Democracy
edited by Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, and Christopher Walker


rojeckiAmerica and the Politics of Insecurity
Andrew Rojecki


sovacoolFact and Fiction in Global Energy Policy
Fifteen Contentious Questions
Benjamin K. Sovacool, Marilyn A. Brown, and Scott V. Valentine


whiteheadIlliberal Practices
Territorial Variance within Large Federal Democracies
edited by Jacqueline Behrend and Laurence Whitehead


Use discount code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount on pre-publication orders for JHUP’s spring 2016 titles.
To order, click on the book titles above or call 800-537-5487.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Politics, Public Health, Publishing News

Religion, politics, and Charlie Sheen

By Kathryn Marguy

Of all the celebratory hullabaloo surrounding the release of Adele’s latest album, my favorite has to be Saturday Night Live’s “A Thanksgiving Miracle” sketch. The scene opens with a family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving. As they pass around the sweet potato casserole, various members of the family start bleating close-minded, occasionally racist commentary about current events. As tensions rise, a young girl, the smallest guest at the table, slowly rises and walks to the nearby stereo to blast Adele’s single, “Hello.” The adults immediately abandon their griping and sing along in synchrony. In typical SNL fashion, the scene unravels into absurdity, and it is glorious and I love it.

But (also in typical SNL fashion) the sketch raises an issue that is all too real: how is one to cope with the strong, often incorrect commentary of those you’re spending Thanksgiving with? Without Adele’s sultry siren’s call, how can you successfully traverse a conversation with your family’s Archie Bunker?

The answer? Cold, hard facts.

That’s where America’s Oldest University Press comes in. We’ve compiled a list of six books that will help you drop some knowledge on those Thanksgiving guests who might need an extra nudge toward reality. Within the pages of these books are many quotable quips to use in discussion. They’d also make great presents for those seeking more answers (bonus: they’re easy to wrap). We can’t guarantee these books will smooth a kerfuffle, but it’s always a good idea to go into a situation prepared with evidence-based reasoning. Plus, you can use the code “HDPD” for 30% off these enlightening texts!

Already on the road? You’ll be happy to know all of these books are available in an electronic format for on-the-go reading.

The holiday season is upon us, curious readers. Spread good cheer and a little bit of knowledge this year.


callahanThe Science of Mom, by Alice Callahan, PhD

It seems everyone has an opinion about proper parenting (this includes those with and without children). Whether you face discussions of co-sleeping, baby’s nutrition, or the absurdly volatile matter of immunizations, Dr. Alice Callahan has you covered.


formisano15Plutocracy in America, by Ronald P. Formisano

This is a big one. Dr. Formisano’s data-driven book gets to the root of inequality in America. After reading its easy-to-digest chapters, you’ll be able to share relevant statistics and information about legislation without batting an eye as you ladle gravy over your potatoes.


paulImmunity, by William Paul

Let’s face it, the topic of Charlie Sheen is ripe for conversation, no matter how dignified your dinner guests. It’s easy to caricature his situation to make assumptions about HIV. Shut down erroneous chatter with a comprehensive look at immunology from the man who led innovation in the field for the past three decades.


smithDiversity’s Promise for Higher Education, second edition,
by Daryl G. Smith

Beyond flashy headlines and dramatic images, the lack of diversity in higher education identifies a problem not with football players or student protesters, but with institutional leadership. Dr. Daryl Smith provides tangible solutions to the growing issues with diversity on college campuses.


prasadEnding Medical Reversal,
by Vinayak K. Prasad, MD, MPH, and Adam S. Cifu, MD

We’d like to think new treatment and tests represent advances in the field of medicine. But what happens when doctors start using a medication, procedure, or diagnostic tool without a robust evidence base? Medical reversal, that’s what. Drs. Prasad and Cifu help readers discern best medical practices based on facts, not Cousin Brittney’s assurances.


dowdGroundless, by Gregory Dowd

The elephant at every Thanksgiving table is the genocide of Native Americans that shortly followed the first Thanksgiving. Groundless looks at rumors and tall tales that pervaded early-American culture, many of which cast aspersions on Native Americans. In this fascinating book, historian Gregory Dowd refutes numerous folk stories, including the legend that the English gave smallpox blankets to Powhatan’s people.


Kathryn Marguy (@pubkat) is a publicist at Johns Hopkins University Press.

 

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Filed under Cultural Studies, Current Affairs, Education, For Everyone, History, Holidays, Politics, Public Health, Publishing News, University Presses

Pope Francis inspired a “trust community”

Guest post by Irene S. Wu

The visit of Pope Francis to the United States reminded us what is good about the Church: the pull of an ancient creed, the call to a purpose bigger than ourselves, and the comfort of belonging to a caring community. There are many leaders of important institutions, indeed heads of state, who wish their visits would generate the same excitement.

Wu pope-francisThat Catholics welcomed the Pope’s visit is to be expected. That so many others shared their sentiments—Protestants, who in the olden days rebelled against the Catholic Church for one reason or another; others of competing faiths; and possibly a considerable contingent with no faith at all—is the surprise. This large crowd, this contending mix of people, is a trust community.

Trust communities are one in a continuum of social organizations. At one end are networks, which are largely nonhierarchical groups of loosely connected individuals. At the other end are institutions—like the Catholic Church—with hierarchies, formal rules and procedures, membership lists, budgets, and mission statements. In between are trust communities: groups with a shared cause or identity, held together by communication and exchange rather than common locale.

Trust communities can be small. Our towns, counties, sports associations, civic societies, and cultural appreciation clubs are trust communities that are a powerful draw on our time, attention, and loyalty. Also, there are the global trust communities—now more easily accessible to all of us than before—like the Olympics, the World Cup, the environmental movement, or the fight for human rights.

Trust communities are expansive and diverse. A nation’s trust community includes ministries and departments, the media who observe and report, the citizens who engage, the critics who complain, the rivals who compete, and the enemies who war against. Who is outside the trust community? Those who do not care, who pay no heed, and who are unaware. The challenge for many heads of state is to get attention and be relevant—in other words, to expand their trust community.

Trust communities are built on sharing stories and helping each other. Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein talked about the power of the personal narrative in building shared attitudes, values, and identities. Trading stories gives people a chance to discover commonality and build understanding. This can involve a visit in person, a timeline on Facebook, or even a Twitter feed. Talking and helping each other is also key. James Walker and Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom used empirical experiments that showed communication substantially increased cooperation in many types of social dilemmas. Reciprocity builds trust.

In the places the Pope visited, preparation required a lot of coordination. Volunteers and community chiefs, religious leaders, and school children all pitched in to help. The process of preparation, the reciprocity and storytelling involved, strengthened the trust community. As the Pope continues to deliver his message, we will see how much social capital this trust community can build to propel forward the Church’s work.

The Pope’s visit was a reminder that money and guns are not the only source of power in the world. Ideas, sharing, cooperation, and trust are forces to contend with as well.

wuIrene S. Wu is the author of Forging Trust Communities: How Technology Changes Politics, published earlier this year by JHU Press. She teaches at Georgetown University and is an analyst at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The views she expresses are her own, and not of the FCC.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount
when you order your copy of
Forging Trust Communities.

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Filed under Cultural Studies, Current Affairs, For Everyone, History of technology, Politics, Popular Culture, Social media

Don’t miss the 2015 Baltimore Book Festival, September 25-27

BBF 2015 logo-bbfLook for books from Johns Hopkins University Press at the Ivy Bookshop tent at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival!  The Festival takes place at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor  this weekend–with great music, food, and books, books, books (and more books).  The Ivy tent on Rash Field features a JHUP table with a display of some of our latest regional titles, and several of our authors will speak and sign books during the weekend. Read on for more information and a 2015 festival map.


Friday, September 25, 3:00 p.m. at the Inner Harbor Stage
Michael Olesker, Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age
Charles W. Mitchell, Travels through American History in the Mid-Atlantic: A Guide for All Ages


Saturday, September 26, 12:00 p.m. at the Ivy Bookshop Stage
Martha Joynt Kumar, Before the Oath: How George W. Bush and Barack Obama Managed a Transfer of Power

kumar


Saturday, September 26, 12:30 p.m. at the Food for Thought Stage
John Shields, Chesapeake Bay Cooking

shields


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Filed under American History, Baltimore, Book talks, Current Affairs, Food / Cooking, Press Events, Regional-Chesapeake Bay, University Presses, Writing

A banner year for behavioral science and policy

Guest post by Benjamin L. Castleman

castlemanOn Tuesday, September 15, President Obama issued an Executive Order encouraging federal agencies to use insights from behavioral science to inform the design and implementation of policies aimed at improving the lives of Americans. On the same day, the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team issued a report documenting collaborations with federal agencies over the past year that leveraged behavioral strategies to improve outcomes in areas ranging from health insurance enrollment to retirement savings among military personnel. These announcements by the Obama Administration come on the heels of several other important milestones over the last year, including the inaugural conference of the Behavioral Science and Policy Association and the publication of a directory of academics who focus on applying behavioral insights to address pressing societal issues. Simply put, behavioral sciences has entered the mainstream of American public policy innovation, development, and implementation.

Few sectors have experienced as rapid proliferation of behaviorally-informed policies over the last several years as public education. From pre-K through college, researchers and policy makers in communities across the country have implemented a variety of behavioral strategies to improve educational outcomes for America’s youth. These approaches tend to be guided by one of the following principles:

  • Change policies so that participating in important educational opportunities is the default condition rather than what students have to actively opt in to.
  • Simplify information to help students and families understand their educational options and make choices that are well-suited to students’ personal abilities and circumstances.
  • Prompt students to complete important tasks before they miss binding deadlines.
  • Creatively leverage available student data to make outreach as personalized and salient as possible.
  • Use delivery channels, like text messaging, that effectively reach students and their parents.

In San Francisco, all incoming kindergarten families are automatically enrolled in a college savings plan. These accounts encourage families to begin saving for college at an early age, and more importantly, create a new cultural status quo that all children in the city are going to college. Pediatricians across the country now capitalize on well visits with infants and toddlers—a regularly scheduled occurrence for families across socioeconomic backgrounds—to promote early literacy with parents. Stanford researchers went a step further, sending parents weekly text message prompts with concrete literacy strategies they could practice at home with their children.

Behaviorally-informed strategies continue as students advance in their schooling. In communities where families have a wide variety of choice in which elementary, middle, and high schools they attend, students and parents receive easy-to-digest brochures highlighting, with visual cues like star rating systems and school quality and academic performance information. Parents receive text messages and emails with personalized information about outstanding assignments their child still needs to complete. States from Maine to Illinois have made college entrance exams mandatory for all high school juniors so that students, regardless of their family’s education background, complete important milestones in the college application process. High school seniors receive text message prompts to apply for financial aid, and receive real-time updates if their application is incomplete and requires additional information.

These behavioral interventions are in most cases very low cost, and consistently generate substantial and lasting improvements in both educational achievement and attainment. Behavioral insights are being applied to new educational challenges every day, like helping college students make more informed loan borrowing choices, and to new populations, such as nudging incarcerated youth and adults to continue their education. The Obama Administration’s support for and prioritization of these strategies ensures that creative applications of behavioral insights to improve the lives of American youth will only continue to gain momentum.

Benjamin L. Castleman is an assistant professor of education and public policy at the University of Virginia and the author of The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve EducationRead more about the book and his research in Slate and the Huffington Post.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of The 160-Character Solution.

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Filed under Academia, Current Affairs, Education, Social media

Controversy, thy name be Smithsonian

Guest post by Robert C. Post

Who Owns America's Past? $20.97 (reg. $29.95)

The Smithsonian Institution is currently wrapped in controversy involving an exhibit at its National Museum of African Art, Conversations: African and African Amercian Artworks in Dialogue. Nobody doubts the exhibit’s noble purpose, displaying art with “the power to inspire.” But one-third of the works are from the collection of Bill Cosby and his wife Camille, and the Cosbys donated $716,000 “to assist with the cost.” Moreover, the exhibit is partly about Cosby himself, about his fame, his geniality. Near a display of quilts there is a quote about these quilts telling a story “of life, of memory, of family relationships.” To many people steeped in the 24-hour news cycle, this seems beyond irony.

But we must remember that the Smithsonian Institution was born 170 years ago amid controversy and no little irony. When the bequest of an eccentric Englishman, James Smithson, arrived in Washington with instructions to establish an institution “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” it was not clear what he meant. And when the Smithsonian’s first secretary, Joseph Henry, steered the institution into scientific research, he provoked controversy. Others envisioned something quite different—a library, a university, most notably a museum. Henry was totally opposed. A museum, he warned, would squander resources, provoke more controversy, and, worst, render the institution “liable to be brought under direct political influence.”

He was right about that. The irony is that the public has long seen the Smithsonian as primarily a museum, or, rather, a museum complex. And there have been controversies aplenty. Some seemed as much personal as political. The Wright brothers were incensed when the Smithsonian assigned credit for the first “sustained free flight,” totally undeserved, to a man who had once been its secretary. Partisans of Alexander Graham Bell were terribly upset by an exhibit that seemed to deprive Bell of full credit for inventing the telephone, and they threatened to take the matter “to the public and to Congress.” Some controversies were wholly political. A few years ago, a Smithsonian secretary accepted a donation from one Ken Behring with the absurd contingency that there be a halt to exhibits that were “multicultural.” The Smithsonian, said Behring, must do “an American history museum.” Politicization materialized most famously in the 1990s when the National Air and Space Museum was forced to abort a planned exhibit of the Enola Gay, the bomber sent to destroy Hiroshima, along with horrific evidence of what happened on the ground. The airplane was displayed, the rest was not.

Perhaps more shameful in the long run have been episodes that librarians would see as akin to book burning. After the National Portrait Gallery staged Hide/Seek, an exhibit about same-sex intimacy, a video was removed when legislators threatened to “zero out” the Smithsonian’s budget, as had also been threatened with the Enola Gay/atomic bomb affair. Both times, there could be a plea of urgent necessity to capitulate; when an official remarked that “we have to be adept at communication,” he might better have said that “the institution must have its federal dollars or close its doors.” (70 percent of the budget is federal.)

But the Conversations controversy is different from others. No zeroing-out threats, but plenty of outrage. When the exhibit opened, an authorized biography of Cosby had just been published. It was being reviewed in the right places (in the Times Book Review as “wonderfully thorough”) just as Cosby’s rape allegations gained currency. Celebrities wanted their dust-jacket kudos deleted and a paperback was nixed, but there has been little pressure to remove the book from library shelves, to subject it to a figurative or perhaps literal burning. It’s been quite a different tale with the exhibit, with demands to “take it down.” Johnnetta Cole, the museum director and a close friend of the Cosbys, is devastated. So far, however, the institutional response has been that the show must go on, that appearing to celebrate a man accused of serial rape is preferable to “pulling” the exhibit as with the Hide/Seek video—and to harming artists with no responsibility for Cosby’s behavior. As a halfhearted response to critics, there is a sign outside the exhibit saying that the Smithsonian “in no way condones” this behavior, whatever it may have been.

This may be enough to carry the exhibit through to its scheduled closing in January, with no book burning, even in a figurative sense, as with the Hide/Seek video. While commending the Smithsonian’s decision “to stand by the exhibit on its artistic merits,” the Washington Post also expresses hope that the institution has “learned some lessons from this painful experience.” Perhaps it has, but looking back over the Smithsonian’s history, and looking to the emergent power of outsiders who claim a “stake” in the content of exhibits, I’d not be too sure.

Bob Post is the author of Who Owns America’s Past? The Smithsonian and the Problem of History, which was published by JHU Press. It details the controversies mentioned here and many others.

 

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Patriot (Day) games: exploring the fantasies surrounding 9/11

Guest post by John N. Duvall and Robert P. Marzec

duvallWhat’s happening for the 14th anniversary of 9/11? For one thing, there are a lot of Harley rides. The sixth item in a Google search for “14th anniversary of 9/11” informs you about the 2015 9/11 Memorial Ride Harley Ride starting in Knoxville, Tennessee, in order to “remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on September 11th, 2001.” It will kick of with a ceremony that “includes a flyover, ‘Taps,’ and a 21-gun salute” and end with a “concert that night and special priced meal deal at the Shed Smokehouse & Juke Joint.” Hot damn. But you don’t have to travel to Knoxville to ride in memory of 9/11. In Bay Village, Ohio, “on Sunday, September 6th, there will be a ‘Never Forget 9/11’ Ceremony and Processional Ride to honor and remember the families of the loved ones that lost their lives in the four hijacked airplanes, World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Shanksville.” The ceremony “will conclude with a 21-gun salute, ‘Taps,’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’ ” Similar rides will be held that day in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even Vancouver, Canada, where a “45-minute service is dedicated to all those who perished on September 11th, 2001 and to recognize and thank all who serve each and every day to make the lives of Canadians and Americans safe and free.” BBQ to follow.

It’s not the Fourth of July, for sure, but 9/11 is about as good as Labor Day as an excuse to continue to enjoy summertime activities. Bikers are far from the only ones recreating in remembrance. There are plenty of golf tournaments happening that weekend with the announced goal of helping us remember 9/11. And on Friday, September 11, the Lincoln Center crowd can go hear Mozart’s “Requiem in D Minor.”

Whatever we “do in remembrance,” however, never produces historical thinking. Remembrance is about the creation of local community and non-reflexive national identity. This is why fiction about 9/11 (as well as our new book, Narrating 9/11, which examines this body of literature) matters. Embedded in this transformative historical moment, the best narratives focusing on the terrorist attacks provide nuanced mediations on not only the pain and trauma of the day itself but also on the United States’ Orwellian designated response (from preemptive war to extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation) that turned the American “homeland” into the planet. (If you think that’s rhetorical excess, look at chapter 12 of The 9/11 Commission Report, which declares “the American homeland is the planet,” which implies that the folksong made famous by Woody Guthrie really needs a makeover: “This land is our land / Your land is our land”). Occasionally, this fiction even anticipates our present reality. Jess Walter’s 2006 novel The Zero, for example, imagines a monster truck rally (“WE’RE TURNING VETERANS ARENA INTO A GIANT MUD PIT TO HONOR OUR DEAD HEROES!”) that exactly captures the dehistoricizing of 9/11 that contemporary instances of commodified recreational remembrance produce.

In all this “remembering,” a fundamental fact is forgotten; namely, that the terrorist attacks were immediately instrumentalized by the Bush Administration, which with the aid of Homeland Security’s orange and red alerts constantly reminded Americans to “be afraid, be very afraid.” Has all that much changed since George Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law a month after the terrorist attacks? The Obama administration is bracing for the anniversary by ramping up security around the world. A year ago, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that US military forces were “operating at a high state of readiness” around the globe. Meanwhile, Current Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is in the process of extending this military vision in his new “force of the future” initiative (often referred to as simply “the force”—which may not have much resonance with the next generation of American’s until after the “force awakens” in theaters December 18th of this year). And President Obama’s National Security Strategy, in addition to listing traditional concerns such as “Homeland Security” and “Persistent Threats of Terrorism,” now lists “Climate Change” as a key security issue. As the essays we collected in Narrating 9/11 reveal, the expansion of militarized holds on everyday existence are on the rise. The reduction of the historical complexities surrounding 9/11 to memorialized recreation only further compromises and conceals our depoliticized relations to an event now officially shrouded in the holiday designated “Patriot Day.”

John N. Duvall is the Margaret Church Distinguished Professor of English at Purdue University. The editor of the journal MFS: Modern Fiction Studies, he has published extensively on modernist and contemporary fiction. Robert P. Marzec is an associate professor of English at Purdue University. The associate editor of MFS: Modern Fiction Studies, he is the author of An Ecological and Postcolonial Study of Literature: From Daniel Defoe to Salman Rushdie.  Together, they are the editors of Narrating 9/11: Fantasies of State, Security, and Terrorism, published this month by JHU Press.

Use promo code HDPD to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of Narrating 9/11: Fantasies of State, Security, and Terrorism.

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Filed under American History, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Current Affairs, Journals, Politics

Meet us in San Francisco: American Political Science Association

If you are heading to San Francisco for the APSA annual meeting, be sure to stop by booth #500 to meet our staff, browse our latest publications, and and take advantage of special meeting discounts. On Thursday, September 3 at 3:45 p.m., we’ll host an APSA reception at the booth to toast the publication of Democracy in Decline?, edited by Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner. This title will be available at the special APSA meeting price of $15.00 for on-site sales (while copies last). Throughout the meeting and after, JHUP books will be available at a 30% discount when your use the discount code HEAG. Check out what’s new and recent on JHUP’s political science list!


Democracy in Decline?diamond15
edited by Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, with essays by Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Larry Diamond, Thomas Carothers, Marc F. Plattner, Philippe C. Schmitter, Steven Levitsky, and Lucan Way, and a foreword by Condoleezza Rice

For almost a decade, Freedom House’s annual survey has highlighted a decline in democracy in most regions of the globe. While some analysts draw upon this evidence to argue that the world has entered a “democratic recession,” others dispute that interpretation, emphasizing instead democracy’s success in maintaining the huge gains it made during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Discussion of this question has moved beyond disputes about how many countries should be classified as democratic to embrace a host of wider concerns about the health of democracy: the poor economic and political performance of advanced democracies, the new self-confidence and assertiveness of a number of leading authoritarian countries, and a geopolitical weakening of democracies relative to these resurgent authoritarians.

In Democracy in Decline?, eight of the world’s leading public intellectuals and scholars of democracy—Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Philippe C. Schmitter, Steven Levitsky, Lucan Way, Thomas Carothers, and editors Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner—explore these concerns and offer competing viewpoints about the state of democracy today. This short collection of essays is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the latest thinking on one of the most critical questions of our era.

Join us at booth #500 on September 3 at 3:45 p.m. to toast the publication of Democracy in Decline? at a special APSA reception.


bitarDemocratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, edited by Sergio Bitar and Abraham F. Lowenthal

National leaders who played key roles in transitions to democratic governance reveal how these were accomplished in Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, South Africa, and Spain. Commissioned by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), these interviews shed fascinating light on how repressive regimes were ended and democracy took hold.

In probing conversations with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Patricio Aylwin, Ricardo Lagos, John Kufuor, Jerry Rawlings, B. J. Habibie, Ernesto Zedillo, Fidel V. Ramos, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, F. W. de Klerk, Thabo Mbeki, and Felipe González, editors Sergio Bitar and Abraham F. Lowenthal focused on each leader’s principal challenges and goals as well as their strategies to end authoritarian rule and construct democratic governance. Context-setting introductions by country experts highlight each nation’s unique experience as well as recurrent challenges all transitions faced.


The growing gap between the most affluent Americans and the rest of society is changing the country into one defined—more than almost any other developed nation—by exceptional inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity. This book reveals that an infrastructure of inequality, both open and hidden, obstructs the great majority in pursuing happiness, living healthy lives, and exercising basic rights. A government dominated by finance, corporate interests, and the wealthy has undermined democracy, stunted social mobility, and changed the character of the nation. In this tough-minded dissection of the gulf between the super-rich and the working and middle classes, Ronald P. Formisano explores how the dramatic rise of income inequality over the past four decades has transformed America from a land of democratic promise into one of diminished opportunity.


Other new and recent books from JHU Press:

Disease Diplomacy: International Norms and Global Health Security, by Sara E. Davies, Adam Kamradt-Scott, and Simon Rushton

Pain: A Political History, by Keith Wailoo

Education and Empowered Citizenship in Mali, by Jaimie Bleck
Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism, and American Public Opinion, by Jonathan Auerbach
Light It Up: The Marine Eye for Battle in the War for Iraq, by John Pettegrew


JHU Press Journals:

Journal of Democracy
Humans Rights Quarterly

The SAIS Review of International Affairs

 

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Filed under American Studies, Conferences, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Journals, Politics, Washington

#WDBJShooting and Trust Communities

by Kathryn Marguy

As a publicist, my days are consumed by social media. I post to our JHU Press Twitter and Facebook accounts, solicit content for our blog, and communicate with the media to schedule events and interviews. This position has allowed me the opportunity to connect with authors, reporters, corporate organizations, and fellow book lovers from around the world. There is a sort of safety that comes from this comradery. The WDBJ shooting on Wednesday seriously violated that level of trust.

LedeA real-time communication tool like Twitter allows each user to create his or her own social circles. JHU Press author Irene Wu calls these groups “trust communities.” The idea of trust communities, Dr. Wu writes in her book Forging Trust Communities: How Technology Changes Politics, “joins the ideas of network and community as a social group with the capacity to take collective action but without the rules and enforcement usually associated with institutions.” Sometimes that collective action takes root in social activism; in other cases, these networks provide support to a community physically separated by continents. Whatever your aims, twenty-first century media has allowed us the opportunity to open wide that circle of trust on a global scale.

In her book, Dr. Wu identifies three facets of trust communities (pp. 12-14):

  1. Identity is a person’s sense of self and may motivate a person’s actions. In his work on why people cooperate, Tom Tyler shows that there are two aspects of identity—social and emotional—that explain why an individual may cooperate in the interest of the community rather than acting selfishly. Both of these aspects of identity rest on a fundamental need of people to maintain a favorable and positive sense of self. Social identity is how people define their status through their membership in a group. The more strongly a person identifi es with the group, the more completely he or she merges individual goals with the group’s goals. Group membership also gives individuals a sense of pride and an expectation of respect from other members, both of which motivate people to cooperate. Seen from a different angle, people will avoid adopting signs that they belong to groups that are not respected—such as carrying a book by opposition politicians that are vilified by society—until a time comes when that opposition group gain respect. Emotional identity is another important aspect that explains people’s willingness to cooperate. Psychologists show that people have a fundamental need to have attachments to others and will act to maintain positive, significant personal relationships.
  2. Trust has many facets; the aspect most relevant to this study is trust that enables cooperation. Why is it that people trust each other enough to cooperate, when acting individually might be in their self-interest? Behavioral social scientists like Elinor Ostrom have conducted experiments that show trust can be the result of repeated interaction. For example, a series of communications can lead one partner to believe the other partner can be relied on to reciprocate. When such series multiply, people in a network begin to form expectations about others’ behavior. They trust each other, and then it is easier for them to cooperate.
  3. Social capital makes it easier for members of a community to take action together. It includes trust, norms, and networks, as Robert Putnam puts it in his works on collective action. Trust is the expectation that others will reciprocate. Norms identify when that reciprocity can be expected. Networks of civic engagement are those intense interactions across society in groups like neighborhood associations, sports leagues, and political parties. The boundaries of these networks define the scope of possible action. In Putnam’s analysis there are two kinds of social capital—bonding social capital among people who are similar, and bridging social capital among people who are not similar. It is bridging social capital that is the hardest to create and the most valuable when it comes to cooperation.

The perversion of these three elements formed Vester Lee Flanagan’s social media plan. Flanagan’s own identity as a victim within the WDBJ organization lay at the center of his campaign. As a journalist, he was familiar with the trust factor within social media groups and understood how to curate his content in order to build an audience. Finally, the concept of social capital gained legs as the story broke on larger news venues. People in search of answers flocked to Flanagan’s Facebook page to better understand this tragedy. As Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times, “[Flanagan] had been counting on the mechanics of these services and on our inability to resist passing on what he had posted. For many, that realization came too late. On these services, the killer knew, you often hit retweet, like or share before you realize just quite what you have done.” Flanagan’s run ultimately ended with his own suicide, and we are left with a shooting gone viral, the videos and posts of which will circle the Internet indefinitely.

All shootings like this breed unease, but I can’t help but feel personally violated by Flanagan’s social media efforts. A system I have placed trust in has been used for a tool to broadcast a murderer’s agenda. That hits far too close to home, and makes me examine the trust community I’ve built on social media and the faith I place in its players.

So, how to do we move forward? Conversations about the treatment of mental health and gun control policies are vital for change, and should continue until Washington takes action accordingly. Similar incidents have become disturbingly common in recent years, and it is obvious that action on these matters needs to be taken. But I think this is also a time to reflect on social media’s capacity both for good and for serious harm. Should we pause before sharing inflammatory content? Modern social media can be a source of encouragement and activism, and I think the wide-open nature of sites like Facebook and Twitter contribute to that positive force. But there are sharks in the water, and I think we need to be wary.

wuKathryn Marguy (@pubkat) is a publicist at Johns Hopkins University Press. Irene S. Wu is a senior analyst at the US Federal Communications Commission. The author of Forging Trust Communities: How Technology Changes Politics and From Iron Fist to Invisible Hand: The Uneven Path of Telecommunications Reform in China, she teaches in the Communications, Culture & Technology Program at Georgetown University.

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“Learn from these remarkable leaders”

Guest post by Abraham F. Lowenthal and Sergio Bitar

bitarDemocratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, to be published next month by Johns Hopkins University Press, began as an initiative by Vidar Helgesen, then Secretary-General of International IDEA—an intergovernmental organization of 28 member countries, based in Stockholm, that promotes sustainable democracy worldwide. Mr. Helgesen observed that International IDEA’s work had focused sharply on strengthening the procedures and techniques of democratic governance: the preparation, conduct, counting and monitoring of elections; the selection of candidates; the oversight of campaign finance and media access; and expanding the rights and participation of women in politics. But International IDEA had not provided insights into how authoritarian rule is brought to an end and transitions toward democracy achieved, though these are prerequisites to the democracy promotion work that IDEA carries out.

At a time when the Arab Spring was underway and other transitions to democracy were contemplated or foreseeable elsewhere, Helgesen suggested that it would be useful to learn how prior transitions from authoritarian rule were achieved. He suggested that this could be done by interviewing actors who had been at the apex of successful democratic transitions in several countries that moved from authoritarian rule of diverse types toward democracy. He invited us to undertake this project jointly, with international IDEA’s support. We are long-term friends with complementary experiences in the worlds of politics and policy, as well as academic analysis. We also share a commitment to the construction of sustainable democracy.

Political actors who are now seeking to help their countries move from autocracy toward democracy—whether in Egypt, Tunisia, Myanmar, Cuba, Venezuela or elsewhere—could learn a great deal from prior experiences, especially from “success stories.” But to suggest that they simply consult the established political science texts on democratic transitions, including some Johns Hopkins University Press classics, would not be useful. Those volumes were written by academic political scientists for other scholars, not for busy practitioners in search of practical insights. Current political actors would likely not take the time to read volumes that are often presented in academic jargon and that emphasize disciplinary techniques rather than tough political choices.

If it were somehow possible to bring experienced political leaders who have managed democratic transitions to visit those nations that are now near such transitions, current politicians would no doubt want to learn from such peers. They would enjoy talking with practitioners about what strategies and tactics they developed, what unexpected obstacles arose, how they confronted these, what dilemmas they found most difficult, and how these were resolved.

Bringing wise but aging transition leaders of the last generation to visit Cairo, Tunis, Havana, Caracas or Naypyidaw (in Myanmar) would not be practical, however. We aimed to provide a second-best approach, by undertaking well-prepared and probing interviews with important transition leaders: Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Patricio Aylwin and Ricardo Lagos of Chile, John Kufuor and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, B. J. Habibie of Indonesia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, Fidel Ramos of the Philippines, Aleksander Kwasniewski and Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Poland, F. W. deKlerk and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, and Felipe González of Spain.

We sought the advice of leading academic authorities on each case to help us understand the history and context of each transition and identify the principal issues that arose. We did not administer a questionnaire but rather engaged the leaders in dynamic conversations about their experiences, how they worked, what their toughest choices were, how and why they made them, and how they learned. The resulting interviews do not present rigorous comparative political science, but they illuminate agency and decision-making in ways that are often obscured by other methods of analysis. Most comparative politics texts downplay the role of political leadership; this book emphasizes and illustrates it.

We know of no comparable source of practical insights and considered judgments on the challenges democratic transitions pose and how these have been successfully confronted. The seniority of most of the leaders we interviewed makes it unlikely that others will have this opportunity to learn from so many successful transition-makers.

We hope our book will be valuable for politicians and political parties; officials of governments, non-governmental organizations, social movements and international institutions; journalists; scholars and students; and all who want to understand, conduct or support successful transitions to democracy. We are grateful to International IDEA’s current Secretary-General Yves Leterme for helping to ensure that the book will be widely available, published in Arabic, French, Spanish, Dutch and possibly in Burmese and other languages. We invite readers to follow in our footsteps and learn from these remarkable leaders.

Sergio Bitar is a Chilean political leader and public intellectual. He served as minister in the governments of Salvador Allende, Ricardo Lagos, and Michelle Bachelet. He was also a senator and served as the president of the Party for Democracy. He is the president of Chile’s Foundation for Democracy and the director of the Project on Global Trends and Latin America’s Future at the Inter-American Dialogue.  Abraham F. Lowenthal, a widely-published scholar, is professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Southern California, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and an adjunct professor at Brown University’s Watson Institute. He was the founding director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American Program, the Inter-American Dialogue, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.

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