Livres en sciences sociales: comptes rendus (juillet 2011)

(source: Library Journal, 11/07/2011)

Information et communication

McKinney, Megan. The Magnificent Medills: The McCormick-Patterson Dynasty; America’s Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2011. c.464p. photogs. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780061782237. $27.99. COMM
With the engrossing sweep of a family saga and the rich details of a genealogical study, this book brings to life four generations of a family that shaped American journalism for over a century. Starting with Chicago Tribune founder Joseph Medill in 1855 and continuing with grandson Col. Robert R. McCormick’s leadership of Chicago’s newspaper of note, the family extended their influence by founding two other successful newspapers, New York’s Daily News and Long Island’s Newsday. By utilizing innovations like the tabloid format, comic strips, and pictorial layouts, they changed how the public consumes news. Journalist McKinney provides colorful snapshots of American history, showing how the family members and their journalistic endeavors interacted—and sometimes clashed—with important political leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. VERDICT For general readers of family dynasty–style nonfiction and anyone interested in American studies, newspaper history, and the glamour of the modern era from the 1850s to the 1950s. [See Prepub Alert, 4/18/11.]—Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL

Petersen, Jennifer. Murder, the Media, and the Politics of Public Feelings: Remembering Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Indiana Univ. Sept. 2011. c.218p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780253356598. $70; pap. ISBN 9780253223395. $24.95. COMM
Petersen (media studies, Univ. of Virginia) analyzes the media handling of the murders of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, WY, and James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, TX, and the hate-crime legislation that was passed as a result. She has done extensive research and conducted interviews with some of the key players to trace the trajectory of what eventually culminated in the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Also discussed is how the media uses our emotions to personalize stories and how regionalism can be used to reinforce stereotypes. Taking a scholarly approach, Petersen makes a case that media allows strangers from all over the United States to come together to “form publics” (large groups of people united by a common interest). She argues that the common interest in these murders helped affect “political-legal changes.” VERDICT Petersen makes use of an intriguing thesis and presents an insightful source for journalism and broadcasting students.—Barb Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO


Nasar, Sylvia. Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius. S. & S. Sept. 2011. c.554p. ISBN 9780684872988. $35. ECON
Nasar (John S. and James. L Knight Professor, Columbia Graduate Sch. of Journalism; A Beautiful Mind) posits that economics theorists have over the last two centuries shown people how they might take charge of their destinies rather than trusting their material progress to fate. It’s an ambitious project, and Nasar offers chapters that mix history and biography while explaining the greatest hits of economic thought. She links theorists with their settings, including Marx and Engels in Paris and England, Beatrice and Sidney Webb in London, Joseph Schumpeter in Vienna, and John Maynard Keynes seemingly everywhere. Nasar’s biographical sketches are lively, but the history sometimes bogs down in the (still simplified) economic details. Although the book proceeds chronologically in three sections (pre–World War I, during World War I and the lead-up to World War II, and the postwar period), it never quite seems to gel as either narrative history or biography. VERDICT Libraries and readers have waited 13 years for Nasar’s second book, and there will be demand. But the story may be too dry for fans of biography and not rigorous enough for hard-core economics wonks. [See Prepub Alert, 2/28/11.]—Sarah Statz Cords, The Reader’s Advisor Online

Rumelt, Richard. Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business. Jul. 2011. c.320p. index. ISBN 9780307886231. $28. BUS
Award-winning author and sought-after consultant Rumelt (Harry and Elsa Kunin Chair in Business and Society, UCLA Anderson Sch. of Management) provides keen insights on how to recognize effective approaches to promoting economic performance. Drawing from his rich experience, he offers numerous examples to help business leaders craft effective strategies. The book contains three essential components. First, it covers how to diagnose a challenge and formulate policy and action plans to address it. Then, it shows how good strategies can build upon the strengths, weaknesses, and sources of power unique to an organization. Finally, it shows the importance of business leaders sharpening their sensitivity to the challenges of an organization by viewing them from the customers’ perspective. VERDICT Readers accustomed to managerial terminology should be able to cut through Rumelt’s thin shroud of consultant hype to get to his practical insights. Although his candid comments and colorful examples convey his passion for counseling readers interested in strategy, the effective application of these concepts requires considerable experience and stamina.—Jerry P. Miller. Cambridge, MA

Sciences politiques

Phillips, Christopher. Constitution Café: Jefferson’s Brew for a True Revolution. Norton. Aug. 2011. c.288p. ISBN 9780393064803. $24.95. POL SCI
Is it time to call a new Constitutional Convention? Building on the small, informal gatherings that Phillips used to collect the information for an earlier book, Socrates Café, he traveled around the country leading discussions on how the U.S. Constitution could be updated to reflect 21st-century values. Basing much of the discussion on Jefferson’s views of individual rights and his wariness of centralized power, Phillips reminds readers that Jefferson advocated replacement of the Constitution every 19 or 20 years. The wide range of topics includes altering the process of amending the Constitution, restricting the power of lobbyists, and providing for a universal “world class” education for every child. Following a description of the participants in each group and its setting, Phillips provides a brief summary of the discussion’s content and progress, then proposes a Constitution Article that the group agreed on. Background information and follow-up commentary accompany each section. VERDICT As an exploration of current governmental theory and philosophy, the book provides an excellent framework for conducting similar discussions. Readers who enjoy political and governmental theory or who participate in politically oriented book clubs will find this a worthwhile choice. [See Prepub Alert, 2/7/11.]—Jill Ortner, Hamburg, NY

Wise, David. Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China. Houghton Harcourt. 2011. c.304p. photogs. index. ISBN 9780547553108. $28. INT AFFAIRS
Wise (Spy: The Inside Story of How the FBI’s Robert Hanssen Betrayed America) explores the spying by China on the United States since 1985, arguing that China’s efforts are very different from traditional Cold War spying, glamorized over the past 50 years. Money and sex are not the main ways that China manipulates and motivates spies. Rather, in thousands of contacts with students, tourists, trade delegations, and visiting scientists, the Chinese intelligence agencies patiently emphasize appeals to personal relationships (guanxi) and ask these contacts to help China better itself. Not only does this create many thousands of potential spies, but there are few simple “just follow the money!” pathways for U.S. agents to use to track and uncover the networks. Through recounting U.S. counterintelligence operations, Wise provides scintillating and embarrassing details of counterintelligence failures and shows how China has penetrated many secret U.S. programs. He also demonstrates that complacency might be the biggest enemy of U.S. security and counterintelligence efforts. VERDICT Wise’s readable and well-researched book is an early effort on a topic that will be important for decades and a must-read for anyone interested in this subject. Highly recommended.—Mark K. Jones, Mercantile Lib., Cincinnati, OH


Adler, Patricia A. & Peter Adler. The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury. New York Univ. Aug. 2011. c.251p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780814705070. pap. $22. SOC SCI
This timely, important book is not an easy read. Although, according to the authors, “self-injury has existed for nearly all of recorded history,” the quantum growth in the last 20 years of people, especially the young, engaging in self-cutting, burning, branding, scratching, picking at skin, reopening wounds, biting, hair pulling, and more supports the need for a comprehensive discussion about self-injury. Patricia A. Adler (sociology, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) and Peter Adler (sociology & criminology, Univ. of Denver) present a clinical but compassionate scholarly treatment. While the recent use of cyberspace for “practitioners” of self-injury to communicate with each other about formerly very private behaviors now provides alarming evidence of this “cult youth phenomenon,” it also offers the possibility for mutual support among practitioners and, perhaps, interventions by professionals and caring families. In their thorough treatment of the subject, the authors include a history and literature review of this difficult topic, discussions of case histories, and examinations of relational dynamics and social contexts that may lead to cutting. VERDICT While literary references and clinical terms may be beyond the average reader, this is a must-read for those connected in any way to this topic.—Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ

Gilligan, Carol. Joining the Resistance. Polity, dist. by Wiley. 2011. c.180p. bibliog. ISBN 9780745651699. $19.95. SOC SCI
In 1982, NYU professor and clinical psychologist Gilligan reformed our understanding of gender and human development in her best-selling In a Different Voice by deconstructing the powerful messages society sends young girls. Discussing how her ideas evolved from her own life experiences, Gilligan here takes a humane approach to thinking about personal and political relationships, holding that both love and citizenship in democratic society spring from the same impulses. She addresses widespread misunderstandings of her earlier work and emphasizes the need for an ethic of care. She also elucidates the current lively discourse on gender relations and discusses the potential for social transformation. VERDICT This is an eloquent, sophisticated analysis of gender relations, individual identity, and human nature that focuses on how women have “lost their voice” in a predominately patriarchal society. It will appeal to erudite or specialized readers interested in issues of gender and psychology. Recommended for university collections in gender studies, philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, and the helping professions.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX

Hollander, Paul. Extravagant Expectations: New Ways To Find Romantic Love in America. Ivan R. Dee. 2011. c.264p. index. ISBN 9781566637770. $27.95. SOC SCI
In this sociological study of modern American ideals of romantic love, Hollander (sociology, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst; The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century) departs from his previous focus on criticism of communism and the Left to examine the impact of individualism and moral relativism on the expectations of romantic relationships. He compares and contrasts 19th-century romanticism with American individualism and examines popular self-help books, print personal ads, and individual profiles on a popular online dating site. By studying self-promotion and descriptions of ideal partners in print and online personal ads, Hollander successfully identifies the desirable traits and characteristics sought by those looking for a romantic partner. He concludes that these attributes are often deeply in contention with one another because of the conflict that arises from individualism vs. the need for community. VERDICT While popular works have been published about personal ads and online dating, Hollander provides a unique scholarly examination about how they mirror contemporary American romantic ideals. Recommended for readers with a serious interest in sociology and contemporary American culture.—Kate Wells, Fitchburg State Univ. Lib., MA

Romero, Mary. The Maid’s Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream. New York Univ. Sept. 2011. c.265p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780814776421. $27.95. SOC SCI
Mexican-born Carmen settled in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s as a live-in maid with her young daughter, Olivia. Aside from occasional visits to relatives in impoverished Mexican neighborhoods, Olivia lived her childhood and teen years with Carmen’s primary employer, the Smiths, who in ways embraced Olivia as one of their own—from paying for her education to, many years later, inscribing her name on a Smith family gravestone. Over the course of 20 years, social justice scholar Romero interviewed the adult Olivia about her childhood experiences. Olivia’s knowledge of two disparate communities gave her broad social capital and a high degree of social confidence, but her cultural competence was muddied while growing up by her proximity to privilege, with her access to the fruits of privilege strictly limited. VERDICT At once a valuable case study and a dramatic life story, this oral history explores identity and illuminates race, class, and gender in America at a peculiarly intimate intersection between upper-middle-class white families and the women of color who provide domestic labor for them. With Romero’s analysis, extensive footnotes, and a through bibliography, it will be of greater interest to scholars than to casual readers of memoir.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

Stoute, Steve. The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2011. c.269p. ISBN 9781592404810. $26. SOC SCI
According to Stoute, a branding consultant and former record executive, “the adhesive of youth culture and inclusive racial diversity” has led to the “tanning of America.” Ignoring the globalization of popular culture is perilous, he argues, and he seeks “to put an end, once and for all, to the boxing of individuals based on color.” Part One traces the evolution of hip-hop and rap, showing how these forms brought success to performers who poetized their frustrations and appealed to urban teens who wanted to be cool. This section offers a detailed chronicle of early hip-hop musicians, including DJ Kool Herc and numerous others, as well as advertisers, such as Adidas and Nike, eager to increase their market share by plugging into hip-hop culture. Part Two details the “Power, Pitfalls and Potential of Tanning,” and Part Three, “The Future of the Tan World,” calls tanning a “cultural bridge” to the American Dream. “Cross-culturism is the next phase of tanning,” writes Stoute, of which the most important element is “loving one another.” VERDICT This detailed history of hip-hop as a musical genre and its genesis, development, and effects on society will appeal to historians and sociologists, as well as some fans of hip-hop. [See Prepub Alert, 12/13/10.]—Joanne B. Conrad, Geneseo, NY

Vander Ven, Thomas. Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard. New York Univ. Aug. 2011. c.208p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780814788325. pap. $19.95. SOC SCI
Vander Ven (sociology & anthropology, Ohio Univ.; Working Mothers and Juvenile Delinquency) delves into well-trod territory, though with a somewhat new perspective and research motive. While previous scholarly efforts have focused on binge drinking and its inherent risks, Vander Ven focuses on the social structure, meaning, and implication of drinking behaviors. With an intended audience of researchers, students, and parents, as well as college administrators, the book recounts the self-reported alcohol-related rationalizations and outcomes of over 400 college students at three different campuses. The author focuses on the impetus for drinking and the important roles codrinkers play, the range of activities that can result during a bout of drinking (fun to potentially fatal), and the ensuing impact and result of the drinking episode. This is not a comfortable read. And yet despite limited analysis and an academic’s awkward touch on somewhat questionable youth-culture language, the book does offer a realistic portrayal of socially bonding drinking behaviors and attitudes. In the end Vander Ven suggests stellar ways campuses can reduce the harm of excessive drinking. VERDICT Recommended for sociologists, university administrators, and college-age students.—Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. Lib., Savannah

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