Saturday, April 30, 2011

Evans - Personal Politics

Evans, Sara M. Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left. New York: Knopf : distributed by Random House, 1979.

Women's experience in the Civil Rights movement as well as the New Left catalyzed and sharpened their political stance. Quickly, though, disillusionment set in as even within these groups they found themselves under-appreciated, minimized, and disregarded. Thus they were motivated to join forces and start their own cause.

Analogy: women in the 1830s-40s abolition movement were motivated to start the first wave feminism.

Evidence: extensive oral history by an insider to the movement.

Friedan, Isserman

Harris - Cultural Excursions

Harris, Neil. Cultural Excursions: Marketing Appetites and Cultural Tastes in Modern America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Chapters 1, 8, 9, 13, 14 (Different essays)

Chapter 1
Addresses changing appeal of the city by constructing an overview of urban culture as its institutions developed in America during four periods: 1. coloniol, 2. early republic to 1870s, 3. 1870s to before WWII, 4. Our own times

Concludes that interest in fostering urban public institutions (museums mainly) peaked before World War II and has since declined, reflecting a broader decline in the appeal of the city.

Chapter 8
Utopian Fiction and its Discontents: Rather than examine turn-of-the-century utopian fiction for the way it reveals the classic, broad anxieties about modernization, Harris uses it to explore relatively more mundane "subterranean anxieties" of the age. "Their urge to describe other worlds was rarely based on any need for artistic fulfillment. More often they wrote from a passion to commnicate some secial idea. Their books, in fact, demonstrate the impact of modernization upon American life, presenting worlds ruled by strange machines, crowded with masses of people, and reverent toward scientific truth. The novels' solutions to political and economic problems built on the classic anxieties we associate with this period. But their fictional details answered more intimate and perhaps more fundamental personal fears. These crudely written books offer surprising insights into long-vanished sensibilities." 150-151

"...faced with disorder the utopians sought to structure and even confine life, rather than expand it. The revolutions we have marked, until recently, as milestones of scientific progress sobered them. Their optimism about the future rested on the achievement of an environmental stasis. Unlimited growth seemed as dangerous as decay." 173

Chapter 9
The Drama of Consumer Desire
Exams 1. ideological national problems in 19th century growing consumer nation, 2. reference to age of consumer consciousness in fiction at end of 19th century, 3. description of 20th century trends, particularly 1920s, which intensified American object consciousness, and 4. examples of the way mass distribution affected novelistic sensibilities.

"mass-produced objects and object relationships came increasingly to enter the American novel, both as symbols and as experiences. But the very standardization which produced such triumphs for the manufacturing and distributing systems is here defined as a major problem for the creative imagination. Thus a national style of purchasing began to be adumbrated by our literary figures, and fixed upon as a cultural metaphor."

To sum: novels revealed consumer consciousness of the importance of objects as representing their own identity.

Chapter 13
The changing Landscape of America
Development of shopping centers
Rise and decline of hotel lobbies
Parking garages

Chapter 14
We need to consider the incredible importance of the turn-of-the-century development of the halftone effect as way to cheaply reproduce images in newspapers. Images burst into mass production, for mass consumption.

Definition of Culture
"[The word culture] has had a complex history and is the subject of continuing debate. Until the nineteenth century changed its meaning, culture was more an activity than a state of being; it represented growth or nourishment and could be applied to almost anything. Some years ago Raymond Wlliams showed how Victorians made culture into a noun signifying the highest and most valued human activities, connected particularly with the high arts. People were defined as cultured according to their interest or proficiency in certain traditional areas: music, painting, architecture, belles letters. In the twentiethc century the word culture has been transformed again, made more comprehensive and catholic. We assume that every people, every civilization, and even every subgroup possesses a culture of some kind, that is, a pattern of value structures, mores, and institutions." 14

Jackson - Crabgrass Frontier, Cohen - A Consumer's Republic, Marchand - Advertising the American Dream

Braudy - The World in a Frame

Braudy, Leo. The World in a Frame: What We See in Films. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1976.


Notes the emergence, beginning with Matthew Arnold in the 1890s, of a hierarchical perspective towards art within art criticism. Meanwhile, there was also an increasing tendency within different arts toward their essential natures: paint in painting, verbal in novels, etc. Thus early and recent film attempted to raise film to a higher plane as an art by concentrating on its material essence: light, sound, celluloid.

Braudy wants to get away from traditional conceptions of film's aesthetic value, which often mistakenly compare it to other arts. He would like to take it on its own, and refute three key attacks: 1. Popularity and commercial success mean it isn't great art. 2. Collective nature of film creation and the immposibility of giving one person credit mean it isn't great art in the Romantic tradition. 3. The mechanical nature of film creation means its creators aren't real artists. All of these pieces are, for Braudy, important to understand in the context of film history.

Braudy highlights three critical approaches in three sections of the book
1.Varieties of Visual Coherence - FRAME
-visual and aural form
-place of objects in film and how they gain significance
-open and closed visual form

2. Genre: Conventions of Connection - CONNECTION
-context of social myth and reality
-genre, influence of tradition and convention
-themes and characters created by genre films
-narrative and thematic form
-History of film

3. Acting and Characterization: Aesthetics of Omission
-psychological relation to the individuals in its audience
-connections we make with the faces and the bodies on the screen
-actors and actresses who dynamism threatens to disrupt the careful arrays of form

Levine - Highbrow/Lowbrow
Arnheimian - "Films are not more real than other arts, nor should their realism be taken for granted."
Kracauer - Followed Arnheim, who was really responding to attacks that film wasn't art. Kracauer blamed film, to an extent, for paving the way for Hitler. 1920s German films were created in studios and thus not realistic and thus bad.

On Arnheim-Kracauer
"At the extreme of one view was unqualified praise for the animated cartoon; at the extreme of the other was similar paise for the documentary. Both, in their most polemical forms, tended to ignore or deride subject matter, narrative conventions that could not be discussed in visual terms, and acting." 32

Friday, April 29, 2011

Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." From Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken Books, 1986.

Originally Publshed: 1936

Art has changed in the age of mechanical reproduction. The reproduced piece of art loses its "aura," as he dubs it. Comparing painting to film, Benjamin sees the painting as a complete picture whereas the film can be cobbled together using the filming and editing processes. Ultimately, he begins to muse on fascism, and the aesthetics of war - the valuing of military technology in the futurist sense.

Most importantly, Benjamin sees the key change as being from an age where art was tied to ritual to an age where art was tied to politics.

He references Arnheim's comment that actors are often made to be like props. Benjamin notes that with film the actor could be caught be surprise on film, and their pure reaction spliced in for a genuine look of shock. To Benjamin, this is undermining the artistic value. He is, thus, an Arnheimian...he wants film to be a creative medium.

Schrecker - Many Are the Crimes

Schrecker, Ellen. Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998.

"McCarthyism... was the most widespread and longest lasting wave of political repression in American history." A broad coalition hounded a generation of radicals and associates. McCarthyism dominated politics from the late 40s through the 50s. The spectrum of acceptable political debate was narrowed. Its power was drawn from he willingness to violate civil liberties in order to eradicate a perceived threat which had actually been contained.

Nitty Gritty
Many McCarthyisms...
-ultraconservative: patriotic groups and right-wing activists who purged textbooks of favorable references to the United Nations
-liberal: supported sanctions against communists but not non-communists.
-left wing: anti-Stalinist radicals who attacked communism as betrayal of socialist ideal
-partisan: Nixon and McCarthy who used it to further their careers

Disputes idea of McCarthyism as populism, and sign of insecurities and resentments of ordinary people. Rather, notes research shows it was a concerted campaign by a loosely structured, self-conscious network of activists who had been working even before the Cold War to drive communists out of the government.

Successful: people were timid to join groups left of the Democratic party.

American Communists were authoritarian, manipulative, conspiratorial, secretive, self-destructive servants of a brutal Soviet tyranny.

Focuses on FBI which, under Hoover, spread the anticommunist agenda.

Kenneth O'Reilly - AHR
"Schrecker makes a convincing case that
historians need a better understanding of McCarthyism
to explain adequately the nihilistic response to
Martin Luther King, Jr., and the modern civil rights
movement. Or the implosion of left-wing labor unions
in particular and an American left in general. Or the
United States' decision to intervene in Vietnam. Or
"the contempt for constitutional limitations" (p. 414)
that characterized so much of the 1970s and 1980s with
the Richard M. Nixon administration's Watergate adventures
and the Ronald Reagan administration's
Iran-Contra mess."

Also, McCarthyism made it so that the Henry Wallace questions of whether the Cold War was in America's national interest were quashed by the Truman administration.

Lasch - The Sexual Division of Labor, the Decline of Civic Culture, and the Rise of the Suburbs

Lasch, Christopher. “The sexual division of labor, the decline of civic culture, and the rise of the suburbs.” From Lasch, Christopher, and Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn. Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminism. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1997

Suburbanization has changed the division of household labor from a barter system based on obligation among trusted friends and family to a private burden that is either managed at the expense of a career or, more likely, arranged for with an impersonal payment. Lasch suggests reading Feminine Mystique alongside Paul Goodman's 1960 Growing Up Absurd, as both seem to deal with two sides of the same suburban dissatisfaction.

Orsi's Madonna of 115th Street tells the story of what life was like in a dense, close-knit urban environment. Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier explains how that urban environment shifted to the suburbs. Lasch builds on Feminine Mystique to explain what society lost in that transformation.

Schulman - The Seventies

Schulman, Bruce J. The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. New York: Free Press, 2001.

The Seventies shouldn't be remembered for its pop culture and as an otherwise lost decade. It should be remembered for:

-The rising again of the South. Political power gained in the Sunbelt. "the South's historic policy prescriptions-low taxes and scant public services, military preparedness and a preference for state and local government over federal supremacy-came to define the national agenda"
-An explosion of public spirituality accompanied this political and ideological shift, especially as conservative Christians emerged as an effective influence outside time-honored denominational spheres.
-the triumph of the market as "the favored means for personal liberation and cultural revolution." The 1970s saw a marked decline in trust in the federal government, as many Americans turned instead to the private sphere and what Schulman calls "an unusual faith in the market." Easy credit led Americans to invest in the market, putting their faith in the market to sustain them in the long run where the government seemed to be failing.
-Other important developments: the rise of feminism, the development of new voices in music and film, the growth of identity movements around ethnicity, sexuality, race, and age, and the rise of New Age religious ideas and personal growth.

Other interesting bits
Schulman tries to synthesize political developments using culture. Disco was the last great expression of integration in the decade, and the anti-Disco movement was a reflection of the shifting to a conservative consensus.

The identity movements reflected the morphing of 60s activism into more individualistic venues.

Katherine Jay - Reviews in American history

"The concept that southern attitudes came to dominate national policy debates is not new, but Schulman explores the concept of "southernization" beyond its political impact, looking at emerging cultural and social manifesta- tions, particularly in a chapter on the "reddening" of America. Here, he offers a fascinating read on the rise of the Sunbelt by examining the widespread popularity of motorcyclist Evel Knievel, country music, and football, includ- ing the promotion of the Dallas Cowboys as "America's team." He convinc- ingly argues that "a new, defiant, resurgent South found its way into country music," whether through Loretta Lynn's pride in being a "Coal Miner's Daughter" in 1970 or the more militant anthems of Hank Williams, Jr. and the group Alabama in the late 1970s (p. 115). These developments made many in the national press uncomfortable, perhaps because they also reflected a larger shift toward conservative southern values. As more Americans began to listen to the twangy sounds of country music, the South itself became a vital center of jobs and production, luring businesses and factories with its nonunion policies and aggressive promotions. This economic growth, along with favorable federal largesse and a rapidly growing population, made southern politicians major players in Washington D.C., while southern cultural norms lost their hillbilly edge and moved definitively into the mainstream."

While Lassiter (in his deeper Silent Majority) argues the south came to look more like the rest of the suburbanizing nation, Schulman argues the nation was "southernized"/"reddened" in that southern culture found broad appeal throughout the nation.

Matusow - The Unraveling of America

Matusow, Allen J. The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.

JFK and LBJ brought liberalism and the welfare state into broad new areas, where FDR didn't go because WWII intervened and where Ike was indifferent to approach. They succeeded in educational desegregation - despite "white flight" education improved for black children. The North managed to resist desegregation. But the War on Poverty ground to an end without reaching a solution to the problems of equal opportunity, amidst liberal divisions over affirmative action. The economy stumbled because of the unbalanced budgets and inflation caused by LBJ's attempts to have both guns and butter - to fund the war and the social programs. Vietnam revealed the generation gap. The counterculture led to the unraveling of America, peaking at the 68 DNC, and collapsing under the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. The backdrop of the period is one of continued economic prosperity, part of the period from 1950-70, ending in the failure of liberalism.

Kirkendall - AHR
" blame the war is to embrace a liberal explanation for liberalism's failure to transform American life, and that is niot tlis author's point of view. For Matusow, the chief obstacle in the way of lar-ge-scale change was liberalism itself. Here the crucial defect was not a tendency to promise too much but weaknesses in perception that rendered the liberals unable to deliver on promises, such as the assurances that liberal measures would create an orderly society. The liberals, according to the author's interpretation, were too soft. They as- sumed that significant changes come easily. They did not understand the problerns they faced, includ- ing poverty, or the solutions to them, including the redistribution of income. Also, they did not think hard enough about the distribution of power and the need to change it. They were too willing to compromise with the corporations, the political bosses, and other power groups."

JAH - Heath
"The book's basic thesis is well summarized on page 127: "By his heroic poses, his urgent rhetoric, his appeal to idealism and the nation's great traditions, Kennedy inadvertently helped to arouse among millions a dormant desire to perfect America.... Only later, during Lyndon Johnson's term as president, would the limits of liberal good will become apparent and the flaws of liberal reform be exposed. "

Wills - Reagan's America

Wills, Garry. Reagan's America: Innocents at Home. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987.

Reagan succeeded because he embodied a more innocent age. He was an actor, and played a role that appealed to Americans - a throwback to individualist capitalism. Reagan is "the great American synecdoche." Emphasizes him as a communicator.

According to Wills "a basic characteristic of Reagan's persona is a confusion of his actual past with a past he wants to remember-a failure to dissociate the real from the unreal." Like America?

"At the time, status was based on the star system and scripts were governed by the Production Code. The stars were less sex symbols than "chastity symbols"..."Reagan was the perfect Hollywood chastity symbol," in Wills' assessment, "one whose innocence became indistinguishable from ignorance"

In 1984 America accepted Reagan's vision of the future because of the appeal of his vision of the past. Americans, concludes Wills, have made "an extraordinary tacit bargain with each other not to challenge Reagan's version of the past."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gaddis - We Now Know

Gaddis, John Lewis. We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

Gaddis addresses the Cold War in the 90s, as new material flows out of the former Soviet Union. Ultimately he sticks to his guns: " long as Stalin was running the Soviet Union a cold war was unavoidable." (292) Authoritarianism in general and Stalin specifically caused the Cold War. Gaddis argues Stalin's personality led him to wage cold wars on all levels, behaving the same at international level, within alliances, within his country, within his party, within his entourage, and even within his family. This diverges from Offner's assessment of Stalin as rather pragmatic on the international stage, seeking security rather than tension.

Good v. evil, morality is key to Gaddis' conception. The U.S. empire was of a better quality than the Soviet Unions, and was thus destined to win a long cold war.

Period is Cold War to Cuban Missile Crisis

Other "new" thesis
Diversification of power did more to shape the course of the Cold War than did the balancing of power: Rather than perceive the world as a bipolar situation, Gaddis argues that both nations exerted power in a variety of ways. (This follows SO much postmodern history its ridiculous.) The Soviet Union's gradual devolution into monodimensional power is what eventually killed it.

Both nations built empires after WWII, although of different sorts

Many people saw the Cold War as a contest of good v. evil: Ex. Germany, where the Soviet Union might have wished to win over the people ideologically, their treatment of the Germans helped them lose the moral high ground to the US.

Democracy proved superior to autocracy in maintaining coalitions: NATO fared better than the Warsaw pact

In contrast to democratic realism, Marxism-Leninism fostered authoritarian romanticism: Stalin wasn't a realist whose ideology was formed based on his objectives. In fact, Stalin was ideologically driven in his behavior

Nuclear weapons exchanged destructiveness for duration: though the US had massive superiority in weapons in the 1960s (a gap which Soviets strove to cover), it nonetheless resisted confrontation because even a few nuclear hits in the US was unacceptable. Gaddis suggests the Reagan administration marked a key change in Cold War policy, a shift to question the balance (SDI), although he is unsure if it was out of ignorance or craft. Also unsure if war ended because of over-exertion or Gorbachev's reforms.

Leffler in JAH

"In contrast to revisionists, who had focused considerable attention on U.S. economic motives and
who assigned the United States a share of responsibility for the Cold War, Gaddis
stressed the importance of geopolitics and power balances. American officials, he
believed, were not seeking economic gain. Constrained by domestic politics,
hamstrung by bureaucratic imperatives, and preoccupied with correlations of power
in the international system, they sought to contain Soviet influence and Communist
power. In so doing, Gaddis acknowledged, the United States established its own
empire, but it was an empire of liberty, an empire of diversity, an empire that
allowed for the exercise of autonomy by allies who were happy to be part of it.
Overall, Gaddis spent rather little time talking about ideas or assigning blame. He
held the Soviet Union primarily responsible for the Cold War, but he did not dwell
on this matter. In Gaddis's view, however, Stalin, an authoritarian leader, had the
flexibility to act more rationally and behave more discreetly within his own sphere
of influence. U.S. officials, in contrast, could not be expected to act quite so
rationally because of the pressures emanating from democratic politics in a pluralist
system. What is so distinctive about Gaddis's new book is the extent to which he
abandons post-revisionism and returns to a more traditional interpretation of the
Cold War. In unequivocal terms, he blames the Cold War on Stalin's personality, on
authoritarian government, and on Communist ideology. As long as Stalin was
running the Soviet Union, "a cold war was unavoidable."

Critique: Gaddis still fails to consider USSR loses in WWII.

"Gaddis's We Now Know resonates with the triumphalism that runs
through our contemporary culture, and in many ways it is the scholarly diplomatic
counterpart of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History"

Wilentz - The Age of Reagan

Wilentz, Sean. The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008. New York, NY: Harper, 2008.

Wilentz admits to approaching Reagan with a negative opinion, but his ultimate appraisal is that Reagan is both wrongly critiqued by liberals and wrongly loved by Conservatives. It's a fairly superficial synthesis, but one that is helpful in casting the period from 1980 to present as The Age of Reagan (although Wilentz admits that, if not for Watergate, it would have very likely been titled The Age of Nixon). Nixon consolidated the conservative South for the Republican party and appealed to a national electorate weary of the Vietnam, the Great Society, and the social upheavals of the 60s. Ford lost a narrow election to Carter, who ran successfully as an outsider. But Carter had a poor relationship with the media and Congress, and failed to succeed amidst the defeats of the 70s. Reagan attacked the New Deal, both its coalition and its apparatus, and turned the nation politically back to the right. George W Bush was seen as less an ideologue than a politician, and was never loved by the right. Clinton was hated by the right, but sought a third way through triangulation. George W. Bush proved to be a far more radical version of Reagan. Writing in 2008, I suspect that Wilentz was more approving of Reagan out of a desire to discredit Bush.

Key Quote
"In his political persona, as well as his policies, Reagan embodied a new fusion of deeply conservative politics with some of the rhetoric and even a bit of the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier... This is not to say that Reagan alone caused the long wave of conservative domination — far from it. But in American political history there have been a few leading figures, most of them presidents, who for better or worse have put their political stamp indelibly on their time. They include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt — and Ronald Reagan.”

Douglas Brinkley - NYT
"the supposedly inflexible Reagan emerges here as the pragmatic statesman who greatly reduced the world’s nuclear stockpiles."

"The mistake many pundits and scholars have made, he asserts, is tattooing a convenient label on Reagan’s forehead, like “conservative,” “hawkish” or “pro-business.” One understands the man better, Wilentz says, by exploring the power of optimism and nostalgia. Drawing on psychological assessments of Reagan by Lou Cannon, Garry Wills and Edmund Morris, he concludes that Reaganism was never a party or a faction or a movement — it was the persona of an old-fashioned Midwesterner enveloped in the mythic tenets of Main Streetism."

Unemployment hit 9.7% in 1982, but drifted down thereafter. Still, the income gap expanded drastically under Reagan as it was a good period for the rich. Reagan claimed to be a fiscal conservative but government spending expanded drastically under his Presidency, much to the chagrin of David Stockman. Thus, Reagan's economic policies were essentially Keynesian.

Rolling back the New Deal
Reagan deregulation often consisted of putting deep conservatives in charge of administrations, such as the EPA. Early in his Presidency, many of these heads were caught in scandals. Reagan unsuccessfully tried to reform social security, welfare, and medicare.

Firing the air traffic controllers

Cold War
The idea that Reagan ended the Cold War by expanding the arms race to bankrupt the Soviet Union is ridiculous. Reagan was deeply concerned with the threat of nuclear war. SDI was initiated not out of a desire to create an arms race but because of Reagan's fear of nuclear attack. He was also something of an idealist toward human nature: ex. He loved to imagine how all nations would unite if faced with an extraterrestrial threat. Far from embracing Gorbachev's reforms, the Reagan administration was suspicious of the new leader from the start, expecting him to be a Stalin-like hawk. But Gorbachev's reforms, coupled with his excellent relationship with Reagan (credit both) led to the decline of the Cold War.

Politically, the Reagan administration successfully steered the scandal so it was about supporting the Contras, something explicitly denied by Congress (twice!). The focus never was on the fact Reagan had attempted to trade arms to the Iranians for hostages (negotiating with terrorists). Reagan and Bush certainly knew more about the efforts than they admitted at the time.

Bush I
The economy submarined the political gains Bush got from Gulf War I. But he never enjoyed the love from the right Reagan had.

Suffered from attacks from the right throughout his Presidency, and disappointment from the left for his moderation. He stumbled early, notably with his cabinet appointments, especially attorney general where Janet Reno was third choice to be the first female AG. Put Hilary in charge of health care. Hilary failed to discuss plans with Congress, so when the time came to pass the proposal it lacked the support. The Insurance industry rallied against it (Harry and Louise ads). But Clinton did succeed with Welfare reform, taking credit for what might have been expected to be a Republican initiative. The 1994 midterm was a pivotal moment, as Newt Gingrich led a socially conservative Republican revolution, running a national campaign based on the Contract with America. But Newt underestimated Clinton, who successfully fought off their conservative ventures. Balancing the budget came down to a compromise, which Clinton managed to take credit for.

After Somalia, Clinton was hesitant to get involved in foreign conflicts, though he did eventually support efforts to solve the Yugoslavia crisis. He also bombed Iraq on several occasions, though he was often criticized for Wagging the Dog.

Clinton Scandal
There was nothing to Whitewater, as the first special investigator concluded early on, but Kenneth Starr investigated Clinton throughout his Presidency, egged on by conservatives. This led to Lewinsky.

Perlstein's Nixonland has a similar presence to Wilentz. Both claim one Republican President represents the turn away from the New Deal. Perlstein credits Nixon with seizing on the proper political formula, focusing on Law and Order, to capture the Silent Majority disgusted with the upheavals of the 60s. Wilentz sees the realignment delayed because of Watergate, and eventually leading to a President who was even further right of Nixon.

Rosenberg and White - Mass Culture

Rosenberg, Bernard, and David Manning White. Mass Culture; The Popular Arts in America. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1957.

This book of essays from 1957 is interesting to me because of how it reveals the state of popular cultural studies in the 50s. Rosenberg's intro essay notes three different groups: Radicals (like Dwight Macdonald and, I think, TW Adorno), arch conservatives (TS Eliot), and moderate liberals (Gilbert Seldes and David Riesman). The Radicals loathe popular culture because of the nefarious messages it promotes to uphold the dominant power. Arch conservatives see popular culture as "low." Moderate liberals dispute the conservative distinction of low and high, and argue that popular culture is more of an output from and value for the people than radicals might admit.

Dwight MacDonald - "Argues that mass culture constitutes a grave, unremiting threat to High Cultue, as well as Folk Art. HE sees mass culture as imposed from above, finally reaching out to engulf even the lords of 'kitsch'."

Gilbert Seldes - Not uncritical, but "takes issue with those who blanketly damn them"

Robert Warshow - On comic books. Views them as a concerned parent, but lets his child speak for the comics to try to understand that perspective.

Siegfried Kracauer - Essay on national types in Hollywood, and how this perpetuates stereotypes of foreigners. This would concern his sense of the nature of film being to present realism because this power could be used damagingly.

T.W. Adorno - Television "transforms modern mass culture into a medium of undreamed of psychological control." Modern mass culture adheres to the ideology of middle-class society.

Marshall McCluhan - Taking a typically broad view and comparing different media, McCluhan wonders if America has been too hypnotized by book culture to the extent that we cannot regard the new media as serious.

Gilbert Seldes - Questions whether degredation is inevitable when the public arts popularize the classic arts. "The fundamental values of our lives and those of our children will be affected by the revolutionary change in entertainment and communications; we have an obligation to control the speed and direction of this change."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

hooks - Reel to Real

hooks, bell. Reel to Real: Race, Class and Sex at the Movies. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Hollywood suffers from inherent white supremacy, as well as masculine dominance. As a result, it is extremely difficult for films to portray minorities and women in a non-discriminatory way.

Hooks writes approvingly of Stuart Hall's theories on audience viewing, and describes that blacks must find themselves consistently viewing films from an oppositional viewpoint. "When most black people in the United States first had the opportunity to look at film and television, they did so fully aware that the mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy. To stare at the television, or mainstream movies, to engage its images was to engage its negation of black representation. It was the oppositional black gaze that responded to these looking relations by developing an independent black cinema. ...looking was also about contestation and confrontation." 255-6

Hooks also notes the difficulty for black filmmakers in creating a truly radical, revolutionary, oppositional portrayal of blacks. In fact, she credits some white filmmakers with proceeding further into avant-garde experimentation and thus having better success in this area.

Hooks is an Arnheimian: "Movies make magic. They change things. They take the real and make it into something else right before our very eyes. ... They give the reimagined, reinvented version of the real." 1

She also mentions Stuart Hall (noted above). She complicates Laura Mulvey's discussion of the male gaze, noting that black viewers would have a much more complex reaction to the scopophilic gaze of a white female sex object. She also approvingly mentions Manthia Diawara's theories on the power of the spectator, and the rupture that occurs when the spectator resists "complete identification with the film's discourse." (Diawara's words)

Woodward - The Strange Career of Jim Crow

Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. [Commemorative Edition]

Originally Published 1955, updated 57, 66, 74.

Contrary to the arguments made by the South in favor of Jim Crow, and traditional historiography which suggested Jim Crow emerged immediately on the heels of the collapse of reconstruction, Woodword's brief, non-footnoted account explains that Jim Crow was actually a very recent development in the South, developing around the turn of the century. During slavery, fieldhands (the vast majority of slaves) certainly lived a segregated existence, but house servants lived in close proximity and had often intimate relationships with white masters. After the Civil War, Jim Crowism threatened to emerge but blacks protested successfully (thanks to the presence of the army and Republican governance).

After reconstruction, though, Jim Crow did not immediately return. In fact, blacks may have been worse off, in some ways, north of the Mason-Dixon line. Black travelers through the south reported they could travel in first class train cars without harassment throughout the south, and would often be served in mixed dining cars.

Even political participation was not immediately restricted, with some states taking until 1900 to disenfranchise blacks. The populist party is an important example of a radical movement which sought to unite poor whites and poor blacks as a political bloc. But populists like Tom Watson eventually betrayed this ideal in favor of a scapegoated attitude toward blacks. Meanwhile, conservative Southerners courted black voters through a racialized paternalism, and an accusation that northern Republicans were in no position to take care of them. Booker T. Washington looms large for his inadvertent surrender to Jim Crow.

Woodward's revisions continues the story to what he calls "Second Reconstruction," following Brown v. Board. Encouraged by the Supreme Court, a black movement arose to attack Jim Crow. Despite dire predictions of a racial Civil War, black leaders steered a peaceful course from the 50s into the successes of the 60s. But by 74 Woodward lamented that the Second Reconstruction had ended, as segregation crept back in some ways.

Harold Rabinowitz, JAH

Woodward Thesis: (As Woodward himself put it) "first, that racial segregation in the South in the rigid and universal form it had taken by 1954 did not appear with the end of slavery, but toward the end of the century and later; and second, that before it appeared in this form there occurred an era of experiment and variety in race relations of the South in which segregation was not the invariable rule." Though Woodward emphasizes that much of Jim Crow was enforced through custom, the existence of law was an important variable in its existence. Still, Woodward hedges his use of laws as mileposts by emphasizing that laws alone are not a perfect index of segregation. Rabinowitz points out that Woodward's thesis is much more fluid than critics of Woodward might hope. "Woodward seems to have been wrong about the extent of nonsegregated behavior and the prospects for forgotten alternatives in that realm during the Reconstruction and post- Reconstruction periods, but he did inject the issue of segregation into the study of nineteenth-century southern history." "...Woodward's profound insight into the importance of discontinuity in the study of southern race relations and especially the watershed nature of the 1890s"

Greene - The Limits of Power

Greene, John Robert. The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

This is a useful overview of the Nixon and Ford administration. In combining the two, Greene seeks to somewhat transcend Watergate by offering a more nuanced description of the Presidential style and achievements of the two inherently linked Presidencies. Nixon, of course, expanded executive power like no one before him. Watergate was an outgrowth of the atmosphere of blind loyalty under him. The title refers to the fact that the power of the executive administration reached a peak under Nixon and had to be rolled back during Ford's admin. Nixon had a horrible relationship with Congress. Ford, well-liked throughout Washington and perceived as a regular guy by the public, wasted that political capital with his pardoning of Nixon.

Nixon administration was strongly hierarchical with firm view of Nixon at the top, while Ford sought to organize his administration like a "wheel" with spokes leading to him at the middle. Donald Rumsfeld as chief of staff helped to alleviate some of the flaws in this approach.

Kissinger - Ambitious and spotlight-seeking, Kissinger was actually the first in the administration to arrange for wiretaps of other administration members to seek out a leak. Kissinger's relationship with the media was so strong that he was impervious to the scandals and somewhat resented by Nixon. Greene credits Nixon's Cold War policy - opening relations with Red China and subsequent detente - as Nixon's realism rather than a product of Kissinger's efforts.
H.R. Haldeman - Chief of Staff. Old friend of Nixon's from the 1950s. In the early days of the administration, Nixon sought a close connection with key members of the administration. Quickly, Haldeman, along with Erlichman, stepped into the hierarchy just below Nixon to control access to the chief. Both were charged with carrying out any firings, a part of the job Nixon strongly resisted. It was a Nixon meeting with Haldeman that was missing in the 18.5 minute gap on the Oval Office Tapes
John Erlichman - White House Counsel. Worked on Nixon's campaigns, close friends with Haldeman, but his star rose in Nixon's eyes much later than Haldeman's.
Chuck Colson - Special Council for Nixon. Nixon's political operative, and the main connection between the President and the dirty tricks, plumbers, break in to Ellsberg's psychiatrists, and other abuses of political power.
Spiro Agnew - As VP, useful political tool for Nixon allowing the administration to attack political opponents with verbal tenacity without Nixon himself entering the fray.

Nothing new here, but that is not the point of the book. It's a terrific read, as syntheses go: accessible and nicely-paced. I would assign this book to undergrads for a unit on Nixon.

Larson - Summer for the Gods

Larson, Edward J. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion. New York: BasicBooks, 1997.

Split into 3 parts, Larson surveys the before, during, and after of the Scopes Trial, rightly marking it as a pivotal and representative moment in the clash between traditional, literal theology and science and modernity. Larson uses his knowledge of law and history to trace the legal arguments of the two sides in the test case brought through the efforts of the resurgent ACLU. "While the prosecution wished to defend the right of legislatures to control the schools and their curriculum and to discredit the theory of evolution, defense attorneys sought to defend individual freedom and scientific authority and to discount biblical literalism." (JAH review)

Larson raises other conflicts revealed by the case. North-South, rural economies-New South urban, changes in evangelicalism, Progressive era transformation.

Larson traces the resonance of the case through history, through literature and the play "Inherit the Wind." Cases finally reached the Supreme Court in the 1960s where Justice Fortas, who grew up in Tenn in the 1920s, fought for the overturn of the laws. Evangelicals retreated from the debate until the 1980s.

Cohen - Racketeer's Progress

Cohen, Andrew Wender. The Racketeer's Progress: Chicago and the Struggle for the Modern American Economy, 1900-1940. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004

Cohen complicates the historiography from the Progressive Era through the New Deal by adding a large new body of actors to the corporations and their laborers: craft workers and small businessman. Focusing on Chicago, Cohen shows how craftsmen resisted corporate modernization and battled against corporations to protect their trades' spaces. Cohen reveals a system of order and law governed not by the official legal system but by cooperation and oversight among the trade unions and associations, enforced "through fines, strikes, boycotts, pickets, assaults, bombings, and shootings." In the twenties these associations began to turn toward powerful crime syndicates such as Al Capone to defend their trade, leading to the legal term "racketeer" which differentiated (quite loosely) illegal organization from legal organization, and was often used to persuade jurors against craft unions. Throughout, corporations sought to break up the craft associations through traditional legal routes with some success, although quite often craftsmen managed to merely ignore court rulings and quickly bounced back from any union-busting moments. Ironically, racketeering during the New Deal was redefined in a way that protected craft unions.

Craftsmen were ambivalent toward Progressives and their ideas of reform, who in turn had a superior attitude toward craftsmen. Progressive Era courts rebuked craftsmen for their attempts at controlling trade.

Key Terms
open shop/closed shop - Early in the century corporations campaigned for an "open shop" relationship to craftsmen which would allow them to pursue craft services in an open market, while craftsmen sought to maintain their market power through organization in a "closed shop" excluding non-members.

Jentz, JAH
Cohen "wants to displace mass production labor from the center of labor history before World War II." In the 1920s courts moved from using injunctions against union activities to criminal prosecution of craft leaders.

Elliot J. Gorn, Business History Review

"Modernizing the economy was not a smooth process?it was "violent, contingent, and contested." Powerful labor organizations, which occasionally resorted to tactics like bomb ings and beatings, prevented national corporations from wholly impos ing their will on Chicago; such labor activism also provided the tem plate for federal practices during the New Deal. Cohen goes on to contest five ideas he says dominate historians' in terpretation of the early twentieth century. Modernity implies that the American economy, along with the state and society, had attained maturity by the Progressive Era; that incorporation, technology, mechanization, and free markets had transformed the nation. In fact, large segments of Chicago were still "premodern," in the sense that many workers re mained ensconced in small-scale firms where their muscle, knowledge, and skill gave them considerable power."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Goodwin - Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Like Dallek, Goodwin aims at an amateur psychological evaluation of what went wrong with the LBJ presidency.

Andrew Rolle - Pacific Historical Review

"What does the Kearns volume tell us about Johnson intrapsychically
that would help to explain his later conduct during America's
greatest recent tragedy, the violent war in Vietnam? Filled with
powerful emotions, including a vague and ill-defined rage, Johnson
also revealed a deep-seated need to be loved. Ambivalence resulting
from deprivation lay at the heart of his "life-style." At times Johnson
was alternatively cold, distant, sober, energy-bound, humble, earnest,
and desensitized (lacking in affect) to the point of dullness and
boorishness...Kearns creates a portrait of a flawed yet gifted manipulator."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Schlesinger - The Imperial Presidency

Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Imperial Presidency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

The Constitution granted the President extraordinary power and authority in leading America in foreign affairs. As a consequence, the modern President has been able to expand his powers to enormous levels out of times of foreign crises. The Cold War, in particular, led the executive branch to increase its power in making war without a declaration by Congress, to expand its secrecy protections, and to expand the use of Executive privilege.

Schlesinger also provides another concept: The Revolutionary Presidency, which seeks to stretch the power acquired through the Imperial Presidency into domestic affairs.

Nitty Gritty
The founders granted the President extraordinary leeway in foreign policy because it was expected that neither Congress nor the public would be experts in foreign affairs. Indeed this has more or less proven to be the case.

Schlesinger uses Lincoln as a model for how Presidents might reasonably exceed their explicit constitutional powers in an emergency; critically, Lincoln insisted that his broad claims of power were specific to the setting, and thus should not be taken as a permanent expansion of the office.

Schlesinger also notes the tendency of Congress to move to reclaim its power after periods of strong executive power. (After the Civil War, after WWI, and momentarily after WWII).

The Cold War looms over the Imperial Presidency. WWII led to a resurgence of the Presendancy, with Korea pushing it to a new level. But Vietnam is the key war. Both LBJ and especially Nixon expanded the powers of the President immensely, particularly in its secrecy system (which Schlesinger intriguingly suggests is based on the false assumption of national security, but actually exists largely to protect the government from embarassment).

Nixon's creation of a large professional army also gives the Presidency extraordinary leeway in sending an army on peacekeeping missions and other foreign ventures quickly with limited oversight.

After Watergate, Schlesinger wondered if the Imperial Presidency was in jeopardy. But Reagan and, more so, Bush II led to a resurgence. Bush II relied on the secrecy system to an even greater extant than even Nixon.

JAH - Sydney Warren
"Richard M. Nixon, the author says, "for all his conventionality of utter- ance and mind was a genuine revolutionary." By his style and actions he defied tradition and made unprecedented assaults on the Constitution: his usurpation of the war-making power, his interpretation of the appointing power, his unilateral termination of statutory programs, his enlargement of executive privilege, his theory of impoundment, his deliberate disparage- ment of his cabinet, his discrediting of the press." [Warren points out that it is unclear whether Nixon's personality caused this or the national security state inevitably led to this.]

Dallex - Flawed Giant

Dallek, Robert. Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Dallek proposes that the best explanation for both the remarkable successes and devastating defeats of the LBJ presidency lie in his personality. He believed he was and strove to be the greatest President ever. At the same time, he suffered a constant crisis of confidence that led him to paranoia and indecision.

How did he get so much done? p.236
1. The Johnson treatment - unparalleled relationship with a Congress that was, until 1966 midterm, incredibly favorable. 2/3 of both houses is a rarity
2. The legacy of Kennedy's death
3. The "national receptivity to righting historic wrongs and using federal power to improve people's lives." p.236

"Johnson had at least one indisputable triumph in domestic affairs for which he deserves credit. He played a large part in bringing the South into the mainstream of the country's economic and political life." p.625

"One observer of the mourners...overheard one black woman say to her little girl: 'People don't know it, but he did more for us than anybody, and President, ever did.'" p.623

Civil Rights Act 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965
Medicare for the elderly
Medicaid for the impoverished
War on Poverty
Environmental Protection
Education - teachers, high school, college
Urban development - response to urban riots

Dallek portrays LBJ as constantly searching and hoping for an avenue to negotiate with Hanoi, a sign that part of him knew he had not quite grasped a winning strategy for Vietnam. By 1966, he felt he had to see the episode through though he knew his previous estimate of reaching an end to the conflict by 1967 would not come to pass.

Given America's aerial supremacy, LBJ long believed that bombing North Vietnam would tip the tide. But it didn't.

Dallek also frequently notes public opinion polls that show the American public generally agreed with LBJ's assessment of how the war should be fought, up until Tet.

The mounting American death toll led LBJ to personalize the war, drawing the conclusion that he had better not lose the war (not that he had better end the war).

While Halberstam blames the Vietnam quagmire largely on the flow of information created by a willful desire by those close to the action to deceive those in Washington into continuing a hopeless situation, Dallek presents Vietnam as a problem caused by LBJ's personality and political maneuverings. Following the Gulf of Tonkein incident, LBJ wanted to hide the growing scope of Vietnam as long as possible to thus avoid diminishing the momentum of the Great Society. By the time the public and Congress began to pay closer attention to Vietnam in 1966, it was too late to reverse course (at least in LBJ's mind and the mind of most of his advisors). Once it became apparent to other experts that Vietnam had reached a stalemate, LBJ still refused to seek a way out. For example, he saw McNamara's proposal to declare victory and leave as a personal betrayal, and banished McNamara to the World Bank.

Connection to Broad Political Themes
The irony of LBJ is that he tried more than any President to create programs for the benefit of just about every American, conceivably bringing them all into the Democratic camp. Yet his Presidency marks the end of the New Deal coalition.

Gil Troy - JAH
Both the Great Society and Vietnam were rooted in LBJ's emotional emptiness, which fed his grandiosity. "Fearing rejection, Johnson minimized the commitment to achieve both goals." Ultimately, then, he never felt he fully achieved his Great Society goals.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Parmet - The Democrats

Parmet, Herbert S. The Democrats: The Years After FDR. New York: Macmillan, 1976.

The book begins with the funeral of LBJ. Though it was published in 76, Parmet is fully aware that LBJ's demise represented the decline of the New Deal coalition. This book tells how that coalition changed and maintained after FDR.

Truman - Moved right in foreign affairs (Cold War), and never able to put his Fair Deal into practice because of foreign distractions. Parmet also argues that the splintering of the Democratic party in 1948 actually helped Truman. Wallace's Progressive party actually placated moderates, making Truman look moderate. Thurmond's Dixiecrats made Truman look good in Civil Rights.

Eisenhower years - Adlai appealed to intellectuals and liberals, and while the Democrats managed to retake the House and Senate, the public showed a preference for the apparently non-politician President who was willing to work with the Democrats and didn't take on the New Deal.

JFK - Upon election, seen as the Democratic version of Nixon: the product of a slick political package, rather than a true Liberal. Style over substance. Even his inaugural address was mostly style with very little specifics

New Frontier - education, Civil Rights, housing

LBJ - Thought to be conservative but turned out to be quite Liberal, in Civil Rights and Great Society.

Doenecke - Journal of Southern History

Parmet portrays Stevenson as a conservative, a man whose "stature
impressed just about everybody but a majority of the electorate" (p. 102).
The Illinois governor had a probusiness bias, endorsed FEPC with obvious
reluctance, refused to take a militant pro-Israel stance, and stressed education
as the primary solution to racial tensions. During the Eisenhower
years the party leadership-concentrated in the Congress-shied away
from attacking McCarthyism, presented few alternatives to the President's
programs, and avoided the liberal Democratic Advisory Council.
The Kennedy leadership, so the author continues, was personal, not
partisan, as the party machine had little to do with policy making. Unlike
historians who stress the inertia in America during the early 1960s, Parmet
sees the new administration as remarkably successful, and he cites as
evidence congressional acceptance of a series of proposals ranging from
liberalized trade to the Peace Corps. Problems lay rather in JFK's overreacting
to such international crises as Cuba and Berlin and in a political
style that stressed rhetoric over reality.
In his coverage of the Johnson years Parmet stresses that the executive
department assumed patronage and fund-raising activities, thereby virtually
dismantling the Democratic National Committee. Turning to the
party defeats of 1968 and 1972, he calls Robert F. Kennedy's bid to power
"one of the most . .. clumsy moves in American political history" (p. 249)
but notes that Eugene McCarthy was "regarded as a moderate liberal at
best . . ." (p. 265) and that George McGovern was "certainly not a
radical" (p. 297). After Nixon's second presidential victory the party
hardly possessed anything resembling a program.
The book is particularly strong in its coverage of the South. Like V. 0.
Key, Parmet finds that the South was never monolithic. He shows that
poll-tax proponents were afraid of "undesirable" whites as well as of
blacks and that regional fears of racial equality emerged from a desire to
preserve the economic status quo. He notes how many prominent southern
politicians helped keep most of the South for Truman in 1948, how
Stevenson's detente with the South secured his nomination in 1956, and
how Kennedy depended upon the South to get important bills through

Dershowitz - Supreme Injustice

Dershowitz, Alan M. Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000. Oxford: New York, 2001.

Bush v. Gore marked the low point in the history of the Supreme Court measured against the ideal of a nonpartisan branch of government. Dershowitz goes through the legal analysis of the case, reiterating again and again to his most damning point: that the justices would not have decided the same way if the roles of the two candidates had been reversed. Also repeated: the ruling was inconsistent with previous rulings by the justices.

Importantly, Dershowitz suggests motives for the 5 majority justices.

Nov 18 - The Florida Supreme Court decided to prevent Sec State of FL Kathleen Harris from certifying the election until it heard Gore's case for the merits of making a hand recount.
Nov 21 - Fl supreme court ordered to count all ballots that reflected the clear intent of the voter.
After this - Republicans went to site of counting in Miami-Dade and intimidated the counters into stopping.
Nov 24 - The Supreme Court shocked most experts by agreeing to hear the case, appealed by Bush's team.
Nov 26 - Harris certifies Bush as the winner. Bush's legal team almost withdraws case, but decides to go forward.
Dec 3 - Supreme Court unanimously vacates the Fl SC Nov 21 decision, asking it to clarify its opinion. Argument: state legislature has right to determine how electors are chosen, and the SC may have given too much weight to the constitution in its interpretation. (Dershowitz: Fl SC had done what all courts have done for centuries in resolving conflict between two statutes.)
Dec 8 - Fl Court followed implicit advice, clarifying the standards employed by the Legislature.
Dec 9 - US SC ruled that the court actually DID have the power to impose a standard for the recount, but since they didn't they violated the equal-protection standard, thus causing irreparable harm to Bush and the nation. The counting was stopped even before hearing argument.

Nitty Gritty
Significant Firsts
-Presidential election decided by a Supreme Court
-Vast majority of law experts and observers, across the spectrum, agreed that the majority decision was bad constitutional law, and motivated by improper considerations.

The case was about the overall recount, not about specific voting problems in Florida, although Dershowitz discusses:
-The Butterfly Ballots of Palm Beach County
-The flaws (up to 5% inaccuracy) of the Votomatic machine - the punch ballot reader. Dershowitz notes that every machine recount comes up with different numbers.

Gore's camp's strategy was to "Count all the votes," which they tried to stick to because it helped their public image, although they focused extra-hard on counting the votes that would presumably favor Gore.


O'Connor - Wanted a Bush victory so she could retire and thus assure a conservative replacement. (Note: in the aftermath of the debacle, as Dershowitz predicted, she waited until 2005 to retire to thus rebuild her legacy.)
Kennedy - The swing-vote in this court, Kennedy was hoping to be named chief justice when Rehnquist stepped down, as he would be expected to do under a Republican President. He would have little chance of being promoted by a Democratic President because of his ties to Reagan.
Thomas - Reliably right wing, and bitter at the Democrats for the Anita Hill hearings.
Scalia - Most ideological and opinionated of all the justices, but Dershowitz (admitting to liking him personally) found it hard to believe he would be motivated by personal factors (while others called for him to recuse himself). Scalia abandoned principle for a partisan decision (to Dershowitz's disappointment).
Rehnquist - "No one I know seriously considered the possibility that Rehnquist had an open mind in this case." He wanted to retire, and he has always been a partisan.