“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A New Book: Social Movements and Globalization How Protests, Occupations and Uprisings are Changing the World

By Cristina Flesher Fominaya

Palgrave - 2014

Globalization and social movements are inextricably linked. Contemporary social movements both shape and are shaped by globalization. Social Movements and Globalization explores this link, providing a fascinating insight into the dynamics, challenges and opportunities of contemporary social movements in a globalized world, whilst simultaneously revealing the effects, critiques and limitations of globalization. Engaging and accessible, the book's comprehensive introduction to the definitions, theories and debates surrounding social movements and globalization is richly illustrated by case studies from around the world - from Anonymous, to 15-M/Indignados, to the Zapatistas, the Arab Spring and more. In drawing on cutting-edge research, up-to-date analysis, and offering coverage of key areas of study - with chapters on the 'Global Justice Movement', cultural resistance, media, cyberactivism and the recent 'Global Protest Wave' of anti-austerity and pro-democracy movements - the book makes a vital and original contribution to a range of disciplines, not least Sociology, Politics, International Relations, Media Studies and Cultural Studies.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A New Book: Applying Ibn Khaldun The Recovery of a Lost Tradition in Sociology

By Syed Farid Alatas

Routledge 2013

The writings of Ibn Khaldun, particularly the Muqaddimah (Prolegomenon) have rightly been regarded as being sociological in nature. For this reason, Ibn Khaldun has been widely regarded as the founder of sociology, or at least a precursor of modern sociology. While he was given this recognition, however, few works went beyond proclaiming him as a founder or precursor to the systematic application of his theoretical perspective to specific historical and contemporary aspects of Muslim societies in North Africa and the Middle East. The continuing presence of Eurocentrism in the social sciences has not helped in this regard: it often stands in the way of the consideration of non-Western sources of theories and concepts.

This book provides an overview of Ibn Khaldun and his sociology, discusses reasons for his marginality, and suggests ways to bring Ibn Khaldun into the mainstream through the systematic application of his theory. It moves beyond works that simply state that Ibn Khaldun was a founder of sociology or provide descriptive accounts of his works. Instead it systematically applies Khaldun’s theoretical perspective to specific historical aspects of Muslim societies in North Africa and the Middle East, successfully integrating concepts and frameworks from Khaldunian sociology into modern social science theories. Applying Ibn Khaldun will be of interest to students and scholars of sociology and social theory.


 1. The Errors of History and the New Science: Introduction to the Muqaddimah

 2. Ibn Khaldūn’s Theory of State Formation

 3. Ibn Khaldūn and Modern Sociology: An Aborted Tradition

 4. Pre-modern Readings andApplications of Ibn Khaldūn

 5. A Khaldūnian Theory of Muslim Reform

 6. Ibn Khaldūn and the Ottoman Modes of Production

 7. The Rise and Fall of the Safavid State in a Khaldūnian Framework

 8. A Khaldūnian Perspective on Modern Arab States: Saudi Arabia and Syria

 9. Towards a Khaldūnian Sociology of the State

 10. Bibliographic Remarks and Further Reading. Bibliography

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Liberalism by Edmund Fawcett

By Jonathan Derbyshire 

Prospect  / July 17, 2014

Political philosophers may find Edmund Fawcett’s assertion that “liberty is the wrong place to begin” when telling the story of liberalism rather startling. They tend to be in the business of deriving conclusions about the legitimate activity of the state from a set of assumptions about liberty, consent and individual rights. In Fawcett’s account, by contrast, liberalism is not a settled doctrine arrived at through rational argument but a “political practice” with a history. As for liberty, it’s certainly something liberals believe in, Fawcett writes, but then so too do “most non-liberals.”
In place of the tattered standard of liberty, he puts four key ideas—tolerance of conflict, resistance to power, belief in progress and civic respect. And taking these as his guiding thread through a long history that starts in the first half of the 19th century, Fawcett is able to find family resemblances between thinkers and statesmen otherwise as diverse as François Guizot and William Gladstone, John Stuart Mill and Pierre Mendès France.


Xi proposes trilateral work group on transcontinental South American railway

English.news.cn | 2014-07-17

BRASILIA, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping suggested here Wednesday that Peru and Brazil join his country in forming a work group to promote their cooperation on a planned railway across the South American continent.
During a meeting with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, Xi noted that the three countries will issue a joint statement later in the day on the railway project, which will run all the way from the Peruvian Pacific coast to the Brazilian Atlantic coast.
The Chinese president proposed that a trilateral work group be established to navigate their cooperation in all related aspects, including the planning, design, construction and operation of the transcontinental rail.


Our Moral Tongue

Moral Judgments Depend on What Language We’re Speaking

The New York Times -

ON June 20, 2003, employees of the Union Pacific Railroad faced a difficult decision as a runaway train headed toward downtown Los Angeles: Should they divert the train to a side track, knowing it would derail and hit homes in the less populated city of Commerce, Calif.? Did the moral imperative to minimize overall harm outweigh the moral imperative not to intentionally harm an innocent suburb?
They chose to divert the train, which injured 13 people, including three children who were sent to the hospital.
This extreme real-life situation resembles a philosophical thought experiment known as the trolley problem, which was designed to probe our moral commitments. It goes like this: Imagine you are standing on a footbridge over rail tracks. An approaching trolley is about to kill five people farther down the tracks. The only way to stop it is to push a large man off the footbridge and onto the tracks below. This will save the five people but kill the man. (It will not help if you jump; you are not large enough.) Do you push him?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Students, faculty up in arms against 'elitist academy' at China's Peking University

By  Patrick Boehler and Anne Yi

South China Morning News - Friday, 11 July, 2014

The head of China’s Peking University said plans to build a new elite academy on its picturesque campus was up for debate, constituting a small victory for students and scholars who fear the prestige project would sow divisions and elitism.
On Friday, the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s top newspaper, quoted university president Wang Enge as saying that details about the establishment of the Yenching Academy, set to host a prestigious fellowship programme, would be discussed with students and staff before plans would be finalised.
Yenching Academy would become a symbol of elite privilege, said one graduate student majoring in the English language.
“These 100 Yenching students will live on the school’s best plot of land, have the best teachers, they will have bright and spacious class and dorm rooms,” the student said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They will be the privileged elite and all the other Peking University students will be second-class citizens.”


A Sociological History of Soccer Violence

How social and cultural rifts manifest themselves through sports—especially when fans identify intensely with their team

By Tiffanie Wen

The Atlantic - Jul 14 2014

After yesterday’s relatively uneventful World Cup final, it’s likely that Brazil’s devastating semi-final loss to Germany will be the most memorable match of the tournament. Brazilian soccer fans reportedly dealt with the loss by setting a bus on fire, as Rio dispatched riot police to keep disappointed fans from getting out of control.
In Israel, where I’m based, the Israel Defense Forces are knee-deep in a military campaign in Gaza, and hundreds of rockets have been launched into Israel by Hamas since Monday. It's been reported that all six suspects charged with the brutal murder of Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a crime which acted as a catalyst for the current conflict, are fanatical supporters of Beitar Jerusalem, an Israeli club soccer team whose fans have a reputation for their anti-Arab sentiments.


Living in the Interregnum

Nadine Gordimer

THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS - January 20, 1983 

The following essay is based on the James Lecture presented at the New York Institute for the Humanities on October 14, 1982.

I live at 6,000 feet in a society whirling, stamping, swaying with the force of revolutionary change. The vision is heady; the image of the demonic dance is accurate, not romantic: an image of actions springing from emotion, knocking deliberation aside. The city is Johannesburg, the country South Africa, and the time the last years of the colonial era in Africa.
It’s inevitable that nineteenth-century colonialism should finally come to its end there, because there it reached its ultimate expression, open in the legalized land- and mineral-grabbing, open in the labor exploitation of indigenous peoples, open in the constitutionalized, institutionalized racism that was concealed by the British under the pious notion of uplift, the French and Portuguese under the sly notion of selective assimilation. An extraordinarily obdurate crossbreed of Dutch, German, English, French in the South African white settler population produced a bluntness that unveiled everyone’s refined white racism: the flags of European civilization dropped, and there it was, unashamedly, the ugliest creation of man, and they baptized the thing in the Dutch Reformed Church, called it apartheid, coining the ultimate term for every manifestation, over the ages, in many countries, of race prejudice. Every country could see its semblances there; and most peoples.


Joel Kotkin on The New Class Conflict

The role of oil and gas in the Syrian conflict

By Ziad Ghosn

ALAKHBAR -  Wednesday, June 25, 2014    

With the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front in control of several oil fields in Syria, the two radical Islamist groups entered the “oil exporters’ club,” with Western enablement. This, in addition to the closely anticipated hydrocarbon discoveries in Syria’s territorial waters and other pertinent developments, has made the oil issue a strong factor in the Syrian crisis, albeit one that has so far remained behind the scenes.

Damascus: Professor Adnan Mustafa, a Syrian physicist, banks on his years of experience as minister of oil and mineral resources in the 1970s, and his tenure as assistant secretary-general of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries OAPEC, to settle a crucial question related to the role of energy in the regional and international conflict currently raging over Syria. Mustafa, speaking to Al-Akhbar, stressed that Syria’s limited oil and gas output did not ultimately affect the perspective of what he calls the petroleum empire of darkness, which he said eventually decided that Syria was “a major obstacle to its plan for a new world order, and therefore, had to be removed from the new Middle East.”


My father’s double life

He told me she was a friend, and he was just looking out for her seven children. The truth changed my world

Josefina Gonzalez


Growing up, I thought I was an only child. My parents were typical Mexican immigrants, hardworking and poor by society’s standards, though we always had enough. But one detail made my childhood different.
Every few weeks, my dad took me on trips to visit some “friends.” There was a lady my dad’s age and her four children, a number that eventually grew to seven. I played with the kids while my father and the woman hung out. My dad often reminded me I shouldn’t tell my mom about this. She was very jealous.
Looking back, it’s all so obvious. They even called my father “Dad,” though he was quick to explain he was only a “father figure.” But I was a little girl, who believed what she was told. I asked my dad once why he visited that woman so often, buying things for the family and taking them to the grocery store. He told me he’d been in the Vietnam War with her husband, and when he died, my father agreed to help her raise her children. I guess it’s a good story, except for the part where my father never served in Vietnam, and most of her kids were born long after the war’s end.


Peace Corps announces major changes to application process

By T. Rees Shapiro


The Peace Corps, formed more than 50 years ago to send Americans abroad to perform good works, is in the midst of its most serious challenge, with the number of applicants falling rapidly, leaving the volunteer force at its lowest level in more than a decade.  Recognizing that the organization envisioned by President John F. Kennedy could be endangered, its leaders are scheduled to announce Tuesday a series of steps to make it more attractive, including allowing candidates to choose the country where they want to serve, shortening the year-long application period, and recruiting more minorities and young people.  “The Peace Corps is a great brand, but we really needed to bring it into the 21st century,” Carrie Hessler-Radelet, director of the organization, said ahead of the announcement. “This is the most extensive reform effort our agency has ever undertaken.”


BRICS establish $100bn bank and currency pool to cut out Western dominance

RUSSIA TODAY - July 15, 2014

The group of emerging economies signed the long-anticipated document to create the $100 bn BRICS Development Bank and a reserve currency pool worth over another $100 bn. Both will counter the influence of Western-based lending institutions and the dollar.
The new bank will provide money for infrastructure and development projects in BRICS countries, and unlike the IMF or World Bank, each nation has equal say, regardless of GDP size.
Each BRICS member is expected to put an equal share into establishing the startup capital of $50 billion with a goal to reach $100 billion. The BRICS bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, India will preside as president the first year, and Russia will be the chairman of the representatives.
“BRICS Bank will be one of the major multilateral development finance institutions in this world,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday at the 6th BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.


Why I’m Not a Liberal

By Robin Marie Averbeck

Jacobin - 7.15.14

To many liberals, injustice is a product of misunderstanding, the result of faceless processes that no one really benefits from.

I was standing in the National Mall, surrounded by nearly a quarter million people, when I realized I wasn’t a liberal.  I had come to Washington, along with 215,000 others, to participate in Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity,” an event inspired by Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor.” The festival reached its height as the spectators were treated to a video montage of fire-breathing pundits from all the major news networks denouncing their political opponents.  The message was clear: Those who tell you there are fundamental differences between Americans that are worth getting emphatically angry about are lying to you.  This divided America — an America that contains people with radically different values and radically different ideas of what a just, moral society looks like — does not exist. If it seems otherwise, it is simply because, as one sign at the rally put it, we fail to use our “inside voices.”


Remembering India’s forgotten holocaust

British policies killed nearly 4 million Indians in the 1943-44 Bengal Famine

Rakesh Krishnan Simha

TEHELKA.COM - June 13, 2014, Issue 25 Volume 11

The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 must rank as the greatest disaster in the subcontinent in the 20th century. Nearly 4 million Indians died because of an artificial famine created by the British government, and yet it gets little more than a passing mention in Indian history books.  What is remarkable about the scale of the disaster is its time span. World War II was at its peak and the Germans were rampaging across Europe, targeting Jews, Slavs and the Roma for extermination. It took Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts 12 years to round up and murder 6 million Jews, but their Teutonic cousins, the British, managed to kill almost 4 million Indians in just over a year, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill cheering from the sidelines.  Australian biochemist Dr Gideon Polya has called the Bengal Famine a “manmade holocaust” because Churchill’s policies were directly responsible for the disaster. Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh.


A New Book: On the State By Pierre Bourdieu

On the State By Pierre Bourdieu POLITY PRESS, 2014

What is the nature of the modern state? How did it come into being and what are the characteristics of this distinctive field of power that has come to play such a central role in the shaping of all spheres of social, political and economic life?  In this major work the great sociologist Pierre Bourdieu addresses these fundamental questions. Modifying Max Weber’s famous definition, Bourdieu defines the state in terms of the monopoly of legitimate physical and symbolic violence, where the monopoly
of symbolic violence is the condition for the possession and exercise of physical violence. The state can be reduced neither to an apparatus of power in the service of dominant groups nor to a neutral site where conflicting interests are played out: rather, it constitutes the form of collective belief that structures the whole of social life. The ‘collective fiction’ of the state Ð a fiction with very real effects - is at the same time the product of all struggles between different interests, what is at stake in these struggles, and their very foundation.  While the question of the state runs through the whole of Bourdieu’s work, it was never the subject of a book designed to offer a unified theory. The lecture course presented here, to which Bourdieu devoted three years of his teaching at the Collège de France, fills this gap and provides the key that brings together the whole of his research in this field. This text also shows ‘another Bourdieu’, both more concrete and more pedagogic in that he presents his thinking in the process of its development. While revealing the illusions of ‘state thought’ designed to maintain belief in government being oriented in principle to the common good, he shows himself equally critical of an ‘anti-institutional mood’ that is all too ready to reduce the construction of the bureaucratic apparatus to the function of maintaining social order.  At a time when financial crisis is facilitating the hasty dismantling of public services, with little regard for any notion of popular sovereignty, this book offers the critical instruments needed for a more lucid understanding of the wellsprings of domination.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wall Street gets former NSA chief to help banks create ‘cyber war council’

Russia Today - July 08, 2014

The top trade group on Wall Street wants the White House to assemble a “cyber war council,” according to a new report, as America’s banks continue to brace for hackers to hit their computer systems with an unprecedented attack.
Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday this week that its journalists have viewed an internal document from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or Simfa, calling for the United States government to create such a council “to stave off terrorist attacks that could trigger financial panic by temporarily wiping out account balances” by way of a cyberattack previously unseen on US servers.
According to Bloomberg journalist Carter Dougherty, the unpublished Simfa draft proposes that executives and deputy-level representatives from no fewer than eight US agencies join forces to ensure that the banking industry can withstand a severe cyberattack.
“We are concerned that the industry may not have the capabilities that we would like to effectively defend against this newer form of potential attack, the capability that we would like to stop such an attack once commenced from spreading to other financial institutions, or the capability we would like of effectively recovering if an initial attack is followed by waves of follow-on attacks,” Dougherty quotes from the document, reportedly dated June 27.


How Birth Year Influences Political Views


The New York Times - JULY 7, 2014

A new model of presidential voting suggests President Obama’s approval rating — currently in the low 40s — will inform not only the 2016 election, but also the election in 2076. The model, by researchers at Catalist, the Democratic data firm, and Columbia University, uses hundreds of thousands of survey responses and new statistical software to estimate how people’s preferences change at different stages of their lives.
The model assumes generations of voters choose their team, Democrats or Republicans, based on their cumulative life experience — a “running tally” of events. By using Gallup’s presidential approval rating as a proxy for those events, Yair Ghitza, chief scientist at Catalist, and Andrew Gelman, a political scientist and statistician at Columbia University, were able to estimate when political preferences are formed.


When Beliefs and Facts Collide


The New York Times - July 5, 2014

Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?
At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the public believes “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.
As a result of surveys like these, scientists and advocates have concluded that many people are not aware of the evidence on these issues and need to be provided with correct information. That’s the impulse behind efforts like the campaign to publicize the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists believe human activities are causing global warming.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can't Have It All

"If you ask our daughters," she said in a frank interview on work-life balance, "I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom."

Conor Friedersdorf

The Atlantic - Jul 1 2014

ASPEN, Colo.—While interviewing Indra K. Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiC0, at the Aspen Ideas Festival Monday*, David Bradley, who owns The Atlantic, asked two questions that elicited as frank a discussion of work-life balance as I've seen from a U.S. CEO. Below is a lightly edited transcript. The second question was preceded by a brief discussion of Anne-Marie Slaughter's "Why Women Still Can't Have It All."

Q. You come home one day as president of the company, just appointed, and your mom is not that impressed. Would you tell that story?
This is about 14 years ago. I was working in the office. I work very late, and we were in the middle of the Quaker Oats acquisition. And I got a call about 9:30 in the night from the existing chairman and CEO at that time. He said, Indra, we're going to announce you as president and put you on the board of directors... I was overwhelmed, because look at my background and where I came from—to be president of an iconic American company and to be on the board of directors, I thought something special had happened to me.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: The Globalization Paradox

Book Review: The Globalization Paradox: Why Global Markets, States, and Democracy Can’t Coexist by Dani Rodrik

Reveiwed by Kate Saffin

The School of Economics and Political Science - April 14, 2012

Dani Rodrik is Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University and has been a vocal critic for over a decade of what he sees as the unbridled tide of globalisation present in today’s worldwide economy. Rodrik’s 1997 book Has Globalization Gone Too Far? was hailed as one of the best economics books of that decade by Business Week, and was a forerunner to The Globalisation Paradox, in which Rodrik sets out the perils of financial globalization without any constraints, as he says perfectly evidenced by the most recent financial crisis and the rapid domino effect that it had around the world.
He cautions that the crisis was predictable and that economists – both academic and practising – became blind to obvious pitfalls because they believed too strongly in their own invented narrative: “markets are efficient, financial innovation transfers risk to those best able to bear it, self-regulation works best, and government intervention is ineffective and harmful”.
Rodrik believes in the power of globalisation to lift millions out of poverty and create widespread good but only if it is done more thoughtfully. The paradox is essentially that in order for globalisation to bring proper economic benefits that are broadly distributed throughout society, national democracies need to be strengthened and international rules need to be in place, that protect all players, whilst still allowing for manoeuvrability and enterprise. This is in contrast to the oft-cited doctrine that the true powers of globalisation can only be harnessed when there is a complete free flow of capital with minimal regulation.