Livres en sciences sociales: comptes rendus (août 2011)

(source: Library Journal, 15/08/2011)

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Information et communication

Gibbs, Wolcott. Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs from The New Yorker. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan.  Oct. 2011. c.688p. ed. by Thomas Vinciguerra. ISBN 9781608195503. pap. $22. COMM
Fans of The New Yorker will welcome this collection of pieces written by Gibbs spanning the late 1920s through the early 1950s. New York Times contributor Vinciguerra intends to rescue Gibbs from growing obscurity with his introductory biographical essay and careful selection of articles. Gibbs was versatile, serving as an editor in addition to contributing to “The Talk of the Town” and writing profiles, parodies, short stories, and theater criticism. Profiles include the obscure, like Miss Rita Ross, the eccentric cat lady who collected stray cats to deliver to the SPCA, as well as the more famous, such as presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. Gibbs’s wit shines through in the parodies, including one of “Yes, Virginia…,” in which he portrays Santa Claus as a communist. In a foreword, P.J. O’Rourke provides his own parody of Gibbs. VERDICT Readers who enjoy the style and wit of The New Yorker will love this collection. It is easy to dip into for the perfect piece, and the large selection will satisfy.—Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.

Levine, Robert. Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture
Business Can Fight Back. Doubleday. Oct. 2011. c.320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780385533768. $26.95. COMM
Don’t have a subscription to HBO or Netflix but want to see an episode of True Blood? Just download it. What’s the harm, right? Levine (former executive editor, Billboard) details how—beyond issues of morality—the illegal distribution of cultural products like television shows and music seriously impacts the economic and cultural underpinnings of society. His focus, though, is not on the average consumer who downloads the latest U2 song but on websites that illegally share or sell these copyrighted works. Similar to Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture, Levine’s extensively researched work illustrates how digital piracy undermines artistic creativity and the economy. Furthermore, he offers solid ideas on how artists and businesses can work together to provide timely and inexpensive ways for consumers to obtain the product they want when they want it. VERDICT For anyone interested in trends in Internet usage, copyright law, and mass media and society. [See Prepub Alert, 4/11/11.]—Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL

Economie

Birchard, Bill. Merchants of Virtue: Herman Miller and the Making of a Sustainable Company. Palgrave Macmillan. Sept. 2011. c.256p. index. ISBN 9780230106604. $28. BUS
Herman Miller is best known for its iconic office furniture, which graces the galleries of the world’s modern art museums. But business journalist and former Enterprise magazine editor Birchard reveals a lesser-known side of the company: long before environmentalism was trendy in big business, founder D.J. De Pree committed Herman Miller to environmental stewardship. Though his contemporaries may have thought he was off his rocker, his environmental initiatives were no less visionary than his hiring of brilliant designers like Gilbert Rohde and Charles Eames. Herman Miller’s story reads like a lexicon of nearly every business buzzword of the last half-century: participative management (starting in the 1950s), lean manufacturing (taught by a Toyota guru), sustainability, economic value added, financial literacy of employees, and a dozen other concepts pioneered by this company. Along the way, the firm garnered accolades as a leader in the corporate environmental and social responsibility movements. VERDICT While manufacturing may be a dying art in the United States, this book illustrates how one company can do well by its shareholders, employees, society, and the environment—and still turn heads with its products. Herman Miller’s sustainable sojourn is a remarkable story, capably told.—Carol J. Elsen, Univ. of Wisconsin Libs., Whitewater

Harper, Hill. The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place. Gotham: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2011. c.304p. bibliog.  ISBN 9781592406500. $26. ECON
When personal health is compromised, it naturally prompts a reevaluation of life goals. This is the impetus and concept behind CSI: NY actor Harper’s (Letters to a Young Brother) latest work. With happiness as a new priority, he investigates how to free oneself from the chains of materialism and the quest for wealth to focus on more important objectives such as personal satisfaction. To cure the sometimes frenetic pursuit of wealth, Harper successfully applies the regimen that was used to treat his illness: diagnose, treat, comply, maintain, thrive. He provides tangible ways for people to prioritize their own goals and refocus their lives. VERDICT While some of the author’s anecdotes make one wonder whether he truly comprehends the position of privilege from which he speaks, his pragmatic advice would be generally beneficial to society. A comparable work is Laura Rowley’s Money and Happiness: A Guide To Living the Good Life. This is an inspirational read for those interested in financial self-help and freedom, with a little celebrity auto­biography sprinkled in. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.]— Poppy Johnson-Renvall, Central New Mexico Community Coll. Lib., Albuquerque

Hoopes, James. Corporate Dreams: Big Business in American Democracy from the Great Depression to the Great Recession. Rutgers Univ. Oct. 2011. c.224p. illus. index. ISBN 9780813551302. $24.95. BUS
Hoopes (business ethics, Babson Coll.; Hail to the CEO: George W. Bush and the Failure of Moral Leadership) throws his hat into the crowded ring of books on the evils of corporate America. Others include Ted Nace’s Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy, William D. Cohan’s Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came To Rule the World, and Jeff Madrick’s Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the ­Present. Hoopes seeks to resurrect in Americans a “moderate anticorporatism” by tracing the history of corporate culture from the 1930s to the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. He divides the book into seven parts that correspond to stages in the evolutionary time line of corporate culture, each of which includes four vignettes that describe a defining event or important personality that significantly impacted the stage. VERDICT A quick read with academic flavor, this title will appeal to fans of political and business history as well as those looking to better understand what led to America’s latest recession.—Sara Holder, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

Leeb, Stephen. Red Alert: How China’s Growing Prosperity Threatens the American Way of Life. Business Plus: Grand Central. Oct. 2011. c.272p. illus. index. ISBN 9780446576239. $27.99. ECON
Economist Leeb (Game Over: How You Can Prosper in a Shattered Economy) argues that while U.S. officials and politicians engage in short-term myopic planning, endless legal maneuvering, scandals, and wartime investing that are crippling American economic viability, China’s government is run by visionary scholars with backgrounds in such fields as chemistry and engineering who are carefully analyzing the long-term, big picture. China is gaining ground as a superpower and attaining competitive advantage over other countries, especially the United States, by using its profits to invest in and control mineral commodities such as coal, oil, zinc, silver, and gold. These resources are becoming scarce, and the author argues that access to them will determine the standard of living for future generations. According to Leeb, the Chinese government recognizes the importance of these resources to key industries such as renewable energy and electronics and views the ability to accumulate them as proof of the country’s strength. He also discusses the global demand and supply of key resources such as water. VERDICT Because it is useful for understanding current world politics and finances, this book is recommended for all adult readers.—Caroline Geck, MLS, Newark, NJ

Steelman, Julie. The Effortless Yes: Get the Sales You Want and Make All You’ll Ever Need. Franklin Green. Aug. 2011. c.192p. ISBN 9781936487028. pap. $14.95. BUS
By beginning her introduction with a quotation from the Dalai Lama, Steelman, who has 30 years of sales experience, signals that this will be a different kind of sales manual. She has built her particular technique around the philosophy that “selling is an opportunity to serve” and that it should be seen as a positive and helpful practice that enhances and fulfills those to whom the seller makes the pitch. Steelman’s book targets women, to whom, she argues, selling should come naturally, as they are hardwired to take care of others. Using a combination of spirituality, positive thinking, and psychology of personality, she takes readers through seven steps—from “Dust off Your Moxie” to “Perfect Your Natural Ask”—to enable them to secure the effortless yes. Each step is built into a chapter and includes techniques, scenarios, examples from Steelman’s career, and a set of exercises. She concludes with a short financial primer, “Be Bankable.” VERDICT A strange yet interesting combination—like Zig Ziglar on Prozac—that will appeal to the budding momtrepreneur.—Sara Holder, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

Stevens, Mark. Your Company Sucks: It’s Time To Declare War on Yourself. BenBella. Aug. 2011. c.208p. illus. ISBN 9781935618546. pap. $14.95. BUS
CEO of MSCO, Inc., a marketing services company, Stevens offers a rehash of ho-hum marketing and business suggestions in this short treatise on understanding the failures of your company and reinvigorating your business. He cites four main reasons businesses fail (ineffective leadership; “lust-to-lax syndrome,” or hot and cold customer treatment; incompetence; and conventional thinking) and illustrates them with examples before making his recommendations. For someone who states that business leaders should avoid conventional thinking patterns, his suggestions are conventional in the extreme: “declare war on complacency” (war metaphors pop up throughout) by not promoting through tenure alone; make an “action plan” for change; “thrill” your current customers with little unexpected extras. The book is not particularly well organized, although it is a fast and simple read. ­VERDICT Stevens’s previous Your Marketing Sucks was a Business Week best seller, and he writes the business blog Unconventional Thinking (www.msco.com/blog), so some readers may seek out this title; however, other authors, e.g., Seth Godin, have more notoriety and cover much the same territory. For readers looking for basic ideas without a big-time investment, this might be an acceptable title.—Sarah Statz Cords, The Rea der’s Advisor Online

Sciences politiques

Fisher, Louis. Defending Congress and the Constitution. Univ. Pr. of Kansas. Sept. 2011. c.384p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780700617982. $39.95. POL SCI
The author himself provides an apt description of this book when he refers in its final pages to his “battering ram” argument that Congress shares the duty of constitutional interpretation with the Supreme Court. That term might also be applied to Fisher’s 40-year career as a scholar and congressional staff member, when he wrote some 20 books in consistent defense of the prerogatives of Congress against those of the President and the Court. Here again he takes up this argument, that Congress should neither “genuflect” nor engage in “idolatry” toward the other branches, closely analyzing areas such as judicial review, federalism, religious freedom, individual rights, war powers, and, where he provides an especially good critique, the federal budgeting process. Fisher covers less studied topics as well, notably the role of expert congressional staff, an area he knows firsthand. ­VERDICT While Fisher’s learning is broad and deep, his style is pugnacious and repetitive. Readers familiar with Fisher might find the book wearing in a particular way, since he has covered much of this ground in earlier books, most recently in On Appreciating Congress (2010), a more accessible version of this one.—Bob Nardini, Nashville

Sociologie

OrangeReviewStar.2(Original Import) Berns, Nancy. Closure: The Rush To End Grief and What It Costs Us. Temple Univ. Aug. 2011. c.224p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781439905760. $75.50; pap. ISBN 9781439905777. $24.95. SOC SCI
“Our grandparents did not seek closure after the death of a loved one,” observes Berns (sociology, Drake Univ.; Framing the Victim: Domestic Violence, Media and Social Problems) in this compelling book. “Closure” as a signifier for the end of grief has come into wide use, and Berns, who experienced a profound loss when she gave birth to a stillborn son, is here to reinforce what most of us intuitively know: feeling bad about losing a loved one never really ends. By commodifying the concept of closure in order to sell products and services, however, society has put pressure on us to conform to the prevailing “feeling rules,” suggesting that disappointment, loss, and grief can and should come to an arbitrary end. Berns angrily dismisses this notion. Surely the desire to love (and miss) someone who is gone continues, despite “the tangled mess of closure talk,” with the same word used for neatly tying up divorce, death, school violence, the death penalty, and grief for a dead pet. VERDICT Berns wisely counsels us to find other language and perspectives for living with grief, and this lucid debunking of the current use of the word “closure” is a breath of fresh air, recommended for both general readers and specialists.—Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ

Scocca, Tom. Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2011. c.384p. ISBN 9781594487842. $26.95. SOC SCI
Scocca (Slate.com) lived and worked in Beijing leading up to the 2008 Olympics. He observed the mammoth preparations undertaken to welcome the world and display China’s ascendancy. In this book, he covers the astonishing array of planning for change, such as training the Chinese on the art of queuing. In an antispitting campaign, 10,000 bags for spitting were distributed (the Chinese were used to having spittoons). Cabbies were instructed to bathe, brush their teeth, and stop eating in the cab. Then came the earthquake of May 12, 2008, in which many thousands were killed. The government and the Olympics committee nearly ignored the tragedy. The Chinese press, however, for once did not follow the usual censorship. Thus reality infringed on the best-laid Olympic plans while the nation mourned. Particularly poignant here are Scocca’s post-Olympic observations: memorabilia going cheap, ignored, or trod upon, much like the hutongs, rickshaws, and gardens destroyed to make way for infrastructure for the big event. The epilog reveals that Ai Weiwei, one of the designers of the Beijing National Stadium (the “Bird’s Nest”), was imprisoned this spring, allegedly for tax evasion but likely for speaking out about the rights of earthquake victims. Meanwhile the three Beijings—the moneyed, the wretched, and the bustling—carry on as usual. VERDICT A brilliant cultural study written in a surprisingly poetic style, this is highly recommended to all interested readers. [Ai was released from prison on June 22 but cannot at this point leave Beijing.—Ed.; see Prepub Alert, 1/31/11.]—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., Chicago

Shteir, Rachel. The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). 2011. c.250p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594202971. $25.95. SOC SCI
“Shoplifting has been a sin, a crime, a confession of sexual repression, a howl of grief, a political yelp, a sign of depression, a badge of identity, and a backdoor to the American Dream,” writes Shteir (criticism & dramaturgy, DePaul Univ. Theater Sch.; Gypsy: The Art of the Tease) in her introduction to this fascinating and accessible study. In tracing the cultural history of shoplifting, she lays out three main themes in society’s understanding of it: as a crime, an illness, or a political act. She traces society’s response to shoplifting in Western history and literature, from Plato and St. Augustine, through over 400 years of laws and punishment for petty crimes. From there she surveys the idea of kleptomania, Freudian explanations for stealing, and political justifications for shoplifting by everyone from Emma Goldman to Abby Hoffman. The second part of the book is a more contemporary history of the crime and efforts to stop it. Shteir suggests that shoplifting and society’s response have more to do with our ideas of consumption and desire than they do with crime. VERDICT A well-written and notable book on an under-studied topic. Highly recommended.—Jessica Moran, California State Archives, Sacramento

True Confessions: Feminist Professors Tell Stories Out of School. Norton. Aug. 2011. c.400p. ed. by Susan Gubar. ISBN 9780393076431. $29.95. SOC SCI
Gubar (Distinguished Professor Emerita of English, Indiana Univ.; coauthor, with Sandra M. Gilbert, The Madwoman in the Attic) collects new pieces by 27 feminist professors in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, most of whom began their careers in the 1960s or 1970s. Their autobiographical essays, divided into two sections, “Personal Views” and “Professional Vistas,” display a wide variety of concerns and treat gender prejudice with the related issues of race, social class, and sexual orientation. They also cover the difficulties of gaining tenure, providing child care, and accusing others or being accused of sexual harassment. VERDICT The stories here are poignant and instructive for those who may be unaware of the real struggles of women in academia and the difficulties educated women can face outside the academy. They are also cautionary; some of the writers feel, with good reason, that in the last decade or two women have lost ground in some areas. Especially for those familiar with the challenges discussed, the pieces are gripping and provide much material for reflection.—Carolyn M. Craft, formerly with Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA

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