Saturday, January 10, 2004

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January and February's book recommendations

I've been a bit tardy in updating the book recommendations -- still recovering from being Andrew Sullivan. So these recommendations will cover the next two months.

The international relations book for the next six weeks is Kenneth Dam's The Rules of the Global Game: A New Look at U.S. International Economic Policymaking. It's one of the primary textbooks for my U.S. Foreign Economic Policy class.

From an academic perspective, the book is a somewhat unusual recommendation -- there's not a lot of original theory or new models explaining either the global economy or U.S. economic policy. However, Dam's comparative advantage is formidable. First, his policy experience (OMB staffer under Nixon; Deputy Secretary of State under George Schultz; Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Paul O'Neill) dwarfs that of any academic currently writing on the subject. Second, Dam's academic experience at the University of Chicago makes him singularly suited to translate the arcana of policy into an accessible format. Go check it out.

The general interest book is Robert Fogel's The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism. This choice is partially inspired by a series of blog entries that Brad DeLong, Mark Kleiman, and Tom Spencer posted at the end of last month about living "through both the Fourth Great Awakening and the Second Gilded Age," as Mark put it. As I read this, I was ruminating about something Kevin Drum posted last month after hosting a blog dinner party:

Most lefty bloggers are actually pretty moderate liberals: me, Josh Marshall, Atrios, Matt Yglesias, Jeralyn Merritt, Brad DeLong, etc. (Atrios is a hardnosed partisan, but his politics are actually fairly centrist liberal. Surprise!) Most righty bloggers are actually libertarians, not conservatives.

I think Kevin's assessment is correct. What's missing from that political spectrum is anyone who would actually participate in any kind of religious activity that could be linked to a Great Awakening -- the evangelical community in particular. I wouldn't say that the leading lights of the blogosphere are exactly hostile to the devoutly religious. There might, however, be a gulf of understanding that needs to be bridged. The Fourth Great Awakening -- written by a Nobel prize-winning economic historian -- seems like a good start, in discussing the role that religious awakenings have played in American history.

Fogel's book is an interesting mix of economic and social history, with a partial explanation for the occurrence of religious revivals. It's also something that's been on my "need to read" list for some time. Click here for a precis of Fogel's argument, and here for his whiggish predictions for the future.

posted by Dan on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM


You're right about the lack of representation for the devout, but then that's pretty much true of all media. It's a shame too, because that lack makes it hard for many bloggers to reach the great mass of ordinary Americans who are neither "moderate liberals" nor libertarians.

posted by: James Maliszewski on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

You are surely missing the extent to which the bulk of the great awakening beginning in the 1960's manifested itself as a resurgence of leftist utopianism and that other great atheist religion, unscientific environmentalism, instead of as a revival of evangelical christianity.

posted by: JK on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

In your 2nd paragraph, I think you mean "Dave Johnson," not Tom Spencer.

posted by: Ralph E. Luker on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

Weak labor numbers are reported by the Department of Labor this past Friday. Dan has shown willingness to comment on the economic recovery, and to enter the joblessness debate. Does he care to comment that the "jobless" economy is not quite gone yet? It's true that judging by one month's numbers isn't a good idea, but if you read the article past job creation numbers were downwardly revised to the tune of some 66,000 jobs. In other words if the trend holds, falling short of projections by merely 147,000 jobs may be somewhat optimistic.

posted by: Oldman on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

activate the regular canoe!

posted by: jason on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

“Most righty bloggers are actually libertarians, not conservatives.

I think Kevin's assessment is correct. What's missing from that political spectrum is anyone who would actually participate in any kind of religious activity that could be linked to a Great Awakening -- the evangelical community in particular.”

I am a theological modernist. The Unitarianism of Ralph Waldo Emerson may best represent my religious views. Indeed, I have little in common with the Old Right represented by Russell Kirk and the “I’ll Take My Stand” Southern reactionaries. Those inclined towards evangelicalism are not my enemies---but they are definitely not my close allies. My contempt towards many academic liberals has nothing to do with defending traditional beliefs. I take these idiots to task because of their postmodern attacks on rational thinking. Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science, by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont is a book I value highly.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

Obviously, a true and practicing libertarian cannot exist in a social milieu as the two ideas are diametrically opposed. That is, of course, you can manage to live on an island of two and manage never to interact.

Modern "libertarians" are the product of a dream for a perfect world wherein each person is compassionate to the extreme; selfless if called upon to help or sacrifice (I'm not giving him a choice to decline); capable of feeding and sheltering himself if necessary; completely tolerant to the differences of others (within legal parameters); productive in some craft with which to barter for everthing he cannot make for himself; self guiding so as to be independent of the directives of others; and intelligent enough to pull all this together.

In other words, libertarianism is a wish for perfect freedom that cannot be realized in the real world, so we plug along, living our highly social lives, consistent with what we hope is our best effort and occasionally re-read our well worn copy of Walden's Pond.

posted by: Marcel Perez on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

I'm confused. We're in the middle of a 4th great spiritual awakening but there are no evangelical bloggers of note? Looks to me like a data point against Fogel's thesis.

posted by: decon on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

I'm not sure I buy into this idea of a "4th Great Awakening." But let's lay that issue aside and look at the very narrow question of socially and politically conservative bloggers.

There is NRO, of course, but its orientation is Catholic -- and urban Anglo Catholic at that -- not evangelical. The blogosphere is not a closed shop; explicitly evangelical (or Mormon, or AME, or whatever) bloggers with the skill, energy and staying power of a Drezner or Glenn Reynolds certainly have every opportunity to achieve equal prominence, provided they speak to a general audience. Why haven't they emerged?

I don't know the answer to this question. I suspect it has something to do with strong tendencies among certain communities of faith in this country to seek retention of a measure of separation between their faith and the rest of society (as opposed, for example, to some Jews or Catholics who may take such separation for granted and so feel less inhibited about putting themselves "on display" to the degree bloggers do. It may be -- speaking frankly here -- that modern evangelicals do not value literacy as the evangelicals of past centuries did. I mean here not that they are ignorant or can't read, but rather that they may emphasize emotional experience in their faith so much that they see little value in a word-driven medium like the blogosphere.

These two ideas are not mutually exclusive, and both may be completely wrong. I'd be interested to know if anyone has any better ones.

posted by: Zathras on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

“There is NRO, of course, but its orientation is Catholic -- and urban Anglo Catholic at that -- not evangelical.”

Nope, you are not even close. Please take a look at NRO’s list of authors: Very few of them are Roman Catholic or “urban Anglo Catholic.” Subtly, but most assuredly, the National Review has truly become a multi-religious, multiracial, and multiethnic publication.

Religious people who are involved in secular politics are those who believe that this temporal existence is of value. It is not simply an awful period of time they must endure before going to heaven; that God truly wants them to be active participants in the world around them. Fundamentalists of every stripe argue that their sacred books possess all of the necessary knowledge one will ever require. This attitude is inherently anti-intellectual.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

The gap is more cultural and temperamental than theological. Clinton's problem was not his irreligiosity-- in fact he wore his religion on his sleeve, talked about it constantly-- but his deceitfulness and the basic contempt for others that it represented. By contrast, Gene McCarthy was a straight-shooter and a gentleman who earned the respect of Barry Goldwater and many other conservatives. Likewise, no one has a problem with Dean's draft-dodging; it's his boasting, sneering, smug posture toward all and sundry, fellow Dems included, that will doom him with the red state folks. Mad How can get religion but he can't get (real) humility.

posted by: tombo on 01.10.04 at 10:36 AM [permalink]

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