Livres en sciences sociales: comptes rendus (mars 2011)

(source: Library Journal, 01/03/2011)


Nussbaum, Martha C. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Belknap: Harvard Univ. Mar. 2011. c.228p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780674050549. $22.95. BUS
Nussbaum (law & ethics, Univ. of Chicago) looks at what it really means for a country to experience prosperity. Traditionally, a country’s economic well-being was measured by its gross domestic product. Nussbaum takes a more personal approach by focusing on how economic prosperity plays out in ordinary citizens’ lives. She analyzes the life of a woman in India by taking a close look at her situation to see what capabilities and opportunities she—and women like her—might have. The key is not to look simply at the hand they’ve been dealt, but whether their particular society affords them opportunities to win with it. Nussbaum calls this the “capabilities approach,” and it offers a novel way to measure prosperity on a national level by seeing how well a country can provide life-changing prospects for all its citizens. VERDICT By demonstrating the philosophical underpinnings of this approach and how the theory plays out in the real world, Nussbaum makes a compelling case. Not only is this a more realistic measure of wealth, but it is also a far more compassionate one. For readers who enjoy economics laced with humanity.—Carol J. Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin Libs., Whitewater

Sciences politiques

Godwin, Peter. The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe. Little, Brown. Mar. 2011. c.384p. maps. ISBN 9780316051736. $26.99. INT AFFAIRS
In 2008, native white Zimbabwean Godwin (former foreign correspondent, Sunday Times, London; When a Crocodile Eats the Sun) returned to his home country, where the world’s oldest dictator was struggling to retain his political power. Godwin intended to “dance on Robert Mugabe’s political grave” after voters overwhelmingly rejected him. Instead, Godwin found his country engulfed in political violence orchestrated by Mugabe in an effort to punish opposition leaders and the ordinary Zimbabweans who had voted for them. The stories Godwin hears—from opposition leaders, displaced white farmers, and black Zimbabweans who are watching democracy fail them—are each more horrific than the next. The most harrowing chapters relate the torture and murder of individuals. Readers learn that in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, voting is a crime that can cost you your home, your family, and your life. The bravery of torture victims telling their stories is remarkable. VERDICT The risks that Zimbabweans take for democracy, for their friends and families, and for their country are extraordinary. While much of the book is bleak and frankly grim, there are instances of personal courage and bravery that speak to the strength of the human spirit. A difficult but essential read; recommended. —Julie Biando Edwards, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula

Gould, Elizabeth & Paul Fitzgerald. Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire. City Lights, dist. by Consortium. (City Lights Open Media). Apr. 2011. c.272p. index. ISBN 9780872865136. pap. $17.95. INT AFFAIRS
Gould and Fitzgerald have covered Afghanistan and the surrounding region for 30 years, as both documentary filmmakers (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) and authors (Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story). This long involvement with the issues has made them sharply critical of America for its lack of understanding of the ethnic diversity and social relations of the people, its application of Cold War thinking and strategy to a new and different kind of conflict, its military’s current counterinsurgency strategy, and its failure to define Pakistan as the real challenge. The authors portray policies of previous years (e.g., U.S. support of insurgents fighting the Soviet invasion) as now coming back to hurt us, part of a repetition of errors previously made by European powers in the region over the past 400 years. They have marshaled an impressive array of sources, both journalistic and academic, to demonstrate that their ideas have long been available, if only policymakers had chosen to heed them. VERDICT Bob Woodward’s recent Obama’s War focuses on the administration’s AfPak deliberations, but this book provides a wider perspective. Readers with a serious interest in U.S. foreign policy or military strategy will find it helpful in thinking about a long-lived issue.—Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., NY

Rudd, Gordon. Reconstructing Iraq: Regime Change, Jay Garner, and the ORHA Story. Univ. of Kansas. (Modern War Studies). Mar. 2011. c.488p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780700617791. $39.95. INT AFFAIRS
In May 2003, President George W. Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed triumphantly “Mission Accomplished” regarding his invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein mere weeks before. However, as Rudd (strategic studies, U.S. Marine Corps Sch. of Advanced Warfighting), an insider, demonstrates, the United States had misjudged the nature of Iraqi society and the enormity of the task of rebuilding the country and transforming it into a stable region. Rudd provides a detailed account of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), set up in April 2003 for the transition, and its leader Jay Garner, a retired army lieutenant general charged with managing the immediate post-Saddam regime. Rudd, who joined ORHA as field historian at Garner’s invitation, demonstrates the enormity of the task of reckoning with postconflict Iraq. Garner’s tenure was brief: Rudd documents Garner’s falling out with the Bush administration and what Rudd considers the disastrous steps taken by the successor Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), led by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer. VERDICT Although Rudd is a Garner insider, his book does not offer many revelations. The author praises Garner but comes across as evenhanded. Readable and accessible, this is a good choice for general readers interested in our recent involvement in Iraq and for academic libraries collecting comprehensively.—Nader Entessar, Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile

Tang, Baiqiao with Damon DiMarco. My Two Chinas: The Memoir of a Chinese Counter-Revolutionary. Prometheus. Mar. 2011. c.350p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781616144456. $26. INT AFFAIRS
In a rare glimpse into the chaotic nature of the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, activist Tang (Anthems of Defeat: Crackdown in Hunan Province 1989–1992), charged and imprisoned afterward as a “counter-revolutionary,” recounts the painful experiences of his rise to become one of China’s most outspoken dissidents. Many who challenged the Communist regime tragically paid the highest price, while others sacrificed their freedom for lifelong imprisonment. Tang here describes being caught and detained as a dissident after the government crackdown, revealing the intense 12 months of captivity he suffered at the hands of his prison guards. He goes on to write about his release, acceptance into the United States via Hong Kong, and life up to the present day as he challenges the Chinese Communist Party from afar for more democracy. China’s government has gone to extraordinary lengths to erase Tiananmen Square from the memory of its people. VERDICT An insightful look into the conditions in China’s hidden prison systems, yet of greatest value as a personal, rather than political memoir. Recommended for readers interested in post-Tiananmen Square China.—Allan Cho, Univ. of British Columbia Lib., Vancouver


Peril, Lynn. Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making it in the Office. Norton. Apr. 2011. c.256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393338546. pap. $16.95. SOC SCI
A freelance writer who has herself worked as a secretary, Peril (College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Co-Eds Then and Now) continues her accessible study of gender-related topics. In this offering her focus turns to women in the workplace, specifically, gender relations and pursuant expectations in the business office environment. Drawing on her examinations of the primary literature, Peril covers the American workforce from the late 19th century to the modern era, with a focus on the early to mid-20th century. While not a “guide” per se, as the subtitle seems to suggest, Peril’s book shows research that clarifies the limited roles women were expected to play and the stringent dictates that governed women’s behavior in the office. Though not from a strictly feminist perspective (there’s little analysis or commentary) and despite the occasionally intrusive sidebars, this engaging volume adds to existing scholarship at the fascinating intersection of gender, labor, and cultural studies. VERDICT Recommended for general readers, including YA, as well as undergraduates interested in gender studies, business, or American popular culture.—Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. Lib., Savannah, GA

Pitzulo, Carrie. Bachelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy. Univ. of Chicago. May 2011. c.216p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780226670065. $25. SOC SCI
Despite demeaning women and its stance against marriage early on, Playboy, founded in 1953 and famous for its Playmate centerfolds and focus on consumer-oriented bachelorhood, evolved into a progressive forum for both men and women. Pitzulo (history, Univ. of West Georgia) makes a convincing case that both Hugh Hefner’s political views as expressed in his editorial column, “The Playboy Philosophy,” and the philanthropic contributions he made through the Playboy Foundation were evidence that the magazine was not the mere purveyor of porn it was thought to be. She argues that it took seriously such issues as gender equality and civil rights, helping its readers to learn about the important issues of the day. VERDICT Fans of Playboy as well as students of feminist studies and gender politics will find this an interesting and well-researched book. For a more general overview of the life and times of Hefner and his magazine, try Elizabeth Fraterrigo’s recent Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America.—Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL

Wheeler, Jacob. Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey through Adoption. Univ. of Nebraska. Apr. 2011. c.280p. photogs. bibliog. ISBN 9780803233621. $24.95. SOC SCI
Journalist Wheeler examines the emotional and ethical complexities of foreign adoption of Guatemalan children, especially by U.S. residents, through the intimately observed experience of one teenager’s reunion with her first mother and her biological brothers. At 14, Ellie (birth name Berenice) had spent half her life with her adoptive family in Michigan. Wheeler reconstructs the circumstances of Berenice’s impoverished mother, abandoned by her husband to raise several children with no support, and dramatizes the mother’s bewildered relinquishment of her seven-year-old daughter to a foster home. He then documents the gripping story of teenage Ellie’s trip to Guatemala to meet her family of origin, a journey driven, yet intermittently impeded, by her understandably conflicted adoptive mother. As observer and documentarian, Wheeler enables and facilitates this profoundly affecting reunion. But he also compromises it, both in his heavy-handed go-between role (though he deserves credit for acknowledging his effect on the unfolding drama) and his awkward presence as a rather intrusive narrator, routinely sharing his own anecdotes and his opinions. Ellie’s story might have been more powerfully shown had it not been so blatantly presented through Wheeler’s lens. VERDICT Not a scholarly treatment, this accessible narrative is of interest to, and will provoke discussion among, readers personally or professionally invested in adoption.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

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