Society
society
 
* Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. Douglas Rushkoff (NYU and The New School). NY: Current (Penguin Group), 2013, 296p, $26.95. Media theorist and author of 12 books states that, in the 1990s, we were all futurists, energized by new technologies, new theories, new business models, and new approaches that promised something different. And then we got there. We arrived in the future. “That’s when the story really fell apart, and we began experiencing our first true symptoms of present shock.” (p.15) Chapters describe “now-ist pop culture,” TV viewers moving from show to show to capture important moments on the fly, the CNN effect of real-time feed, Occupy Wall Street as the first post-narrative political movement with lack of a specific goal, computer games as pop culture’s answer to the collapse of narrative, change as “a steady state of existence,” our “chronobiological crisis of depression, suicides, cancers, poor productivity, and social malaise” caused by digiphrenia and filter failure, overwinding (in the short forever, when everything is rendered instantly accessible via Google and iTunes, the entirety of culture becomes a single layer deep), the hyperconnected fractal reality, and zombies as the perfect horror creations for a media-saturated age in which we are overloaded. Present shock provides the perfect cultural and emotional pretexts for apocalyptic thinking. “The hardest part of living in present shock is that there’s no end and, for that matter, no beginning. It’s a chronic plateau of interminable stresses that seem to have always been there. This is why the return to simplicity offered by the most extreme scenarios is proving to be so alluring to so many of us.” (p.247) [NOTE: A similar message to that of Hartmut Rosa (above), but in an entirely different style of writing.] (SOCIETY * COMMUNICATION * “PRESENT SHOCK”)
* Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Dec 2012, 352p, $112pb (with free e-book). Gender equality is not just about economic empowerment. It is about fairness and equity, and also a key factor in self-reported well-being and happiness across the world. Gender gaps are pervasive in all walks of economic life and imply large losses in terms of foregone productivity and living standards to the individuals concerned and the economy. The report focuses on how best to close these gender gaps in four broad areas: social norms and public policies, education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Key policy messages: 1) Greater gender equality in educational attainment has a strong positive effect on economic growth; 2) Stereotyping needs to be addressed in educational choices at school from a young age; 3) Good and affordable childcare is a key factor for better gender equality in employment; 4) Support policies for women-owned enterprises need to target all existing firms, not just start-ups and small enterprises. (GENDER GAPS AND SOCIETY * GENDER AND WELL-BEING * ECONOMY AND GENDER)
* How's Life? 2013: Measuring Well-being. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Nov 2013, 212p, $34 (e-book). The OECD's Better Life Initiative covers the 11 key dimensions that shape people's lives and well-being: income, jobs, housing, health, work-life balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective well-being. First published in 2011, this new edition paints a comprehensive picture of well-being in the 34 OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people's material living conditions and quality of life across the population. Countries perform differently in the various dimensions of well-being. For instance, low-income countries in the OECD area tend to do very well in subjective well-being and work-life balance, while their level of material well-being is much lower than that of other OECD countries. Conversely, higher income countries often have more difficulties in reconciling work-life balance. Also, less educated and low-income people tend to fare worse in almost all well-being dimensions. Overall, "OECD countries have made considerable progress in many well-being areas over the past 20 years or so; however, this trend does not hold for jobs or for voting levels and, more importantly, hides a great diversity of patterns both among and within countries." Other findings: 1) the Great Recession has had large implications for both economic and non-economic well-being of households; 2) gender gaps in well-being have narrowed over recent decades, although men still score higher than women in a number of areas; women live longer than men, but suffer more often from illness; men and women are increasingly sharing tasks and roles; 3) "quality of employment and well-being in the workplace are becoming more prominent issues in many OECD countries"; 4) measuring whether well-being is likely to be sustainable over time requires an in-depth understanding of what will matter for well-being in the future; OECD proposes building on the work of the recent UNECE-Eurostat-OECD Task Force on Measuring Sustainable Development as a starting point (the Task Force focuses on stocks of natural, human, social, and economic capital thought to be important for sustaining well-being over time) (SOCIETY * WELL-BEING: OECD INDICATORS * QUALITY OF LIFE MEASURES)
* America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.  James Gustave Speth (Prof of Law, Vermont Law School; Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos). New Haven, CT: Yale U Press, Sept 2013, 288p, $18pb (hardcover, 2012).  Founder and president of the World Resources Institute (1982-1993) and former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1999-2009)  identifies a dozen features of the American political economy—the country's basic operating system—where transformative change is essential; spells out the specific changes that are needed to move toward a new political economy—one in which the true priority is to sustain people and planet, and to offer an auspicious future for American children and grandchildren.   Transitions are needed from GDP (“grossly distorted picture”) to accurate measures of well-being, to a “post-growth society” beyond mere GDP growth, from Wall Street to Main Street, from economic insecurity to security, and from weak democracy to strong democracy.  (AMERICAN POLITICAL ECONOMY: NEEDED CHANGES * SOCIETY * ECONOMY* GDP QUESTIONED * SUSTAINABILITY)


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* Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common GoodDonna Dickenson (Prof Emerita of Medical Ethics, U of London; research associate, Centre for Health, Law, and Emerging Technologies, U of Oxford). NY: Columbia U Press, June 2013, 304p, $29.95. Personalized medicine – Me Medicine-- illustrates capitalism's flexible talent for creating new products and markets where none existed before and has been triggered by 1) a growing sense of threat in our society; 2) a wave of patient narcissism; 3) corporate interests in creating new niche markets; and 4) the dominance of personal choice as a cultural value. Historically, it is the measures of "We Medicine," such as vaccination, that have radically extended our life spans. We've lost sight of that truth in our enthusiasm for "Me Medicine." Personalized healthcare is radically transforming our longstanding, "one-size-fits-all" model. Technologies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, pharmacogenetics in cancer care, private umbilical cord blood banking, and neurocognitive enhancement claim to cater to an individual's specific biological character. Dickenson examines the economic and political factors fueling the “Me Medicine” phenomenon and explores whether it may, over time, damage our individual health as well as our collective well-being.(PERSONALIZED MEDICINE * HEALTH AND SOCIETY * "ME MEDICINE" VS "WE MEDICINE" * BIOTECHNOLOGY)

* Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. Viktor Mayer-Schonberger (Prof of Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford U Internet Institute) and Kenneth Cukier (Data Editor, The Economist)Boston & NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 242p, $27. The world is awash with more information than ever before, and that information is growing faster. “Big data” is the ability of society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights or goods and services of significant value. “The era of big data challenges the way we live and interact with the world. Most strikingly, society will need to shed some of its obsession for causality in exchange for simple correlations: not knowing why but only what.” (p.7) Big data’s ascendancy represent three shifts in the way we analyze information that transforms how we understand and organize society: 1) in this new world, we can analyze far more data, and in some cases we can process all of it relating to a particular phenomenon (since the19C society depended on samples when faced with large numbers—an artifact of a period of information scarcity; using all the data lets us see details we never could); 2) looking at vastly more data permits us to loosen our desire for exactitude: with big data, we’ll often be satisfied with a sense of general direction; 3) this leads to a move away from the age-old search for causality. Big data changes the nature of business, markets, and society. With sensors placed all over the world, it will become integral to understanding pollution data and climate change. It will improve and lower the cost of healthcare. “There is a treasure hunt under way, driven by the insights to be extracted from data and the dormant value that can be unleashed.” (p15) But there are also risks: threats to privacy, penalties based on propensities (punishing people before they have acted, i.e. “predictive policing”), and falling victim to a “dictatorship of data.” Handled responsibly, big data is a useful tool of rational decision-making and helps us to do things better and to do new things; wielded unwisely, it may be a source of repression. “As big data becomes commonplace, it may well affect how we think about the future… Knowing how actions will play out in the future will allow us to take remedial steps to prevent problems or improve outcomes.” [NOTE: Rather glib and repetitious, but worth considering, even if the techno-swagger “revolution” is not as clear or imminent as suggested in the book title.(BIG DATA “REVOLUTION” * COMMUNICATION * SOCIETY * METHODS)

 

* Handbook of Unethical Work Behavior: Implications for Individual Well-Being. Edited by Robert A. Giacalone (Temple U) and Mark D. Promislo (Rider U). Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2013, 360p, $59.95pb. Unethical behavior in the workplace affects countless people every year. Workers in many organizations are subjected to harmful behaviors such as harassment and discrimination. However, most research and discussion of unethical business behavior has focused solely on its financial and legal effects and not on the health and well-being of the individuals working for the organization. Covers the widest possible range of organizational misbehaviors (age/race/gender discrimination, abuse, bullying, aggression, violence, fraud, and corruption), all with an eye toward the effects on individual and organizational health and well-being. Topics include: revenge, aggression, bullying, and abuse; morality and ethics of workplace revenge; impact of ostracism on well-being in organizations; machiavellianism and well-being in organizational life; organizational justice and cardiovascular health; seeking a compassionate workplace; the virtuous business cycle model; long-term costs of short-term thinking, etc. (WORK * ETHICS * WELL-BEING/HAPPINESS)


* Social Acceleration: A New Theory of ModernityHartmut Rosa (Prof of Sociology and Pol Sci, Friedrich-Schiller-Universitat Jena). Translated by Jonathan Trejo-Mathys. NY: Columbia U Press, 2013, 470p, $35 (first published in 2005). The tempo of life has increased and with it stress, “hecticness,” and lack of time. “We don’t have any time although we’ve gained far more than we needed before. The aim of my book is to elucidate this monstrous paradox of the modern world.” (p.xxxv) Chapters discuss the accelerated transformation of social circumstances and institutions, the acute “time starvation” afflicting contemporary society, modernization as acceleration, the three dimensions of social acceleration (technology, social change, pace of life), five categories of inertia (natural limits to speed, islands of deceleration, slowdown as dysfunctional side effect, intentional deceleration, and structural and cultural rigidity), economic and cultural drivers of social acceleration, and the concluding perception of directionless movement and “frenetic standstill” as “the leitmotif of my analysis of the modern acceleration process…a condition where nothing remains the same but nothing essentially changes.” (p.314) The most likely possibility is “the unbridled onward rush into an abyss…modern society will have to pay for the loss of the ability to balance movement and inertia with nuclear or climatic catastrophes, with the diffusion at a furious pace of new diseases, or with new forms of political collapse and the eruption of uncontrolled violence, which can be particularly expected where the masses excluded from the processes of acceleration and growth take a stand against the acceleration society.” (p.322) (SOCIETY * MODERNIZATION AS ACCELERATION * “FRENTIC STANDSTILL”)


* Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. Douglas Rushkoff (NYU and The New School). NY: Current (Penguin Group), 2013, 296p, $26.95. Media theorist and author of 12 books states that, in the 1990s, we were all futurists, energized by new technologies, new theories, new business models, and new approaches that promised something different. And then we got there. We arrived in the future. “That’s when the story really fell apart, and we began experiencing our first true symptoms of present shock.” (p.15) Chapters describe “now-ist pop culture,” TV viewers moving from show to show to capture important moments on the fly, the CNN effect of real-time feed, Occupy Wall Street as the first post-narrative political movement with lack of a specific goal, computer games as pop culture’s answer to the collapse of narrative, change as “a steady state of existence,” our “chronobiological crisis of depression, suicides, cancers, poor productivity, and social malaise” caused by digiphrenia and filter failure, overwinding (in the short forever, when everything is rendered instantly accessible via Google and iTunes, the entirety of culture becomes a single layer deep), the hyperconnected fractal reality, and zombies as the perfect horror creations for a media-saturated age in which we are overloaded. Present shock provides the perfect cultural and emotional pretexts for apocalyptic thinking. “The hardest part of living in present shock is that there’s no end and, for that matter, no beginning. It’s a chronic plateau of interminable stresses that seem to have always been there. This is why the return to simplicity offered by the most extreme scenarios is proving to be so alluring to so many of us.” (p.247) [NOTE: A similar message to that of Hartmut Rosa (above), but in an entirely different style of writing.] (SOCIETY * COMMUNICATION * “PRESENT SHOCK”)

 

* Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Dec 2012, 352p, $112pb (with free e-book). Gender equality is not just about economic empowerment. It is about fairness and equity, and also a key factor in self-reported well-being and happiness across the world. Gender gaps are pervasive in all walks of economic life and imply large losses in terms of foregone productivity and living standards to the individuals concerned and the economy. The report focuses on how best to close these gender gaps in four broad areas: social norms and public policies, education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Key policy messages: 1) Greater gender equality in educational attainment has a strong positive effect on economic growth; 2) Stereotyping needs to be addressed in educational choices at school from a young age; 3) Good and affordable childcare is a key factor for better gender equality in employment; 4) Support policies for women-owned enterprises need to target all existing firms, not just start-ups and small enterprises. (GENDER GAPS AND SOCIETY * GENDER AND WELL-BEING * ECONOMY AND GENDER


 

* OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, March 2013, 290p, $112pb (with free e-book). Being able to measure people’s quality of life is fundamental when assessing the progress of societies. Measuring subjective well-being is an essential part of measuring quality of life alongside other social and economic dimensions. The OECD has produced Guidelines which provide advice on the collection and use of measures of subjective well-being as part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, which measures society’s progress across eleven domains of well-being, ranging from jobs, health and housing, through to civic engagement and the environment. (WELL-BEING MEASURES * OECD BETTER LIFE INITIATIVE)


* Robot Futures. Illah Reza Nourbakhsh (Prof of Robotics, Carnegie Mellon U; director, Community Robotics Lab).  Cambridge MA: MIT Press, March 2013, 160p, $24.95.  We are inventing a new species that is part material and part digital. Future robots will have superhuman abilities in both the physical and digital realms. They will be embedded in our physical spaces, with the ability to go where we cannot, will have minds of their own (thanks to artificial intelligence), and will be fully connected to the digital world.  Nourbakhsh considers how we will share our world with these creatures, and how our society could change as it incorporates a race of stronger, smarter beings. His imagined future includes adbots offering interactive custom messaging; robotic flying toys that operate by means of “gaze tracking”; robot-enabled multimodal, multi-continental telepresence; and even a way that nanorobots could allow us to assume different physical forms.  Each chapter describes a form of technological empowerment—in some cases, “empowerment run amok, with corporations and institutions amassing even more power and influence, and individuals becoming unconstrained by social accountability. Also offers a counter-vision of robotics designed to create civic and community empowerment.  (ROBOT FUTURES * SOCIETY * SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY)

 

*Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future. Richard Susskind (President, Society for Computers and the Law; Prof at Oxford U and U College London).  NY: Oxford U Press, March 2013, 224p, $18.95pb. The IT Advisor to the UK Lord Chief Justice predicts fundamental and irreversible changes in the world of law, such as a legal world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs for lawyers and new employers too. The guide introduces the new legal landscape, offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law, identifies key drivers of change such as the economic downturn, and considers how these will shape the legal marketplace.  (LEGAL WORLD IN TRANSITION * LAW BUSINESS CHANGING * SOCIETY)

 

*One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble with Stress as an Idea. Dana Becker (Prof of Social Work, Bryn Mawr College).  NY: Oxford U Press, March 2013, 256p, $35.  Americans ignore the underlying social and political conditions that create stress. Our national infatuation with the therapeutic culture has created a middle-class moral imperative to manage the tensions of daily life by turning inward, ignoring the social and political realities that underlie those tensions. Although stress is often associated with conditions over which people have little control, the stress concept focuses most of our attention on how individuals react to stress. A proliferation of self-help books and dire medical warnings about the negative effects of stress on our physical and emotional health all place the responsibility for alleviating stress--though yoga, deep breathing, better diet, etc.--squarely on the individual. The stress concept has come of age in a period of tectonic social and political shifts; we persist in the all-American belief that we can meet these changes by re-engineering ourselves rather than tackling the root causes of stress.              (STRESS RECONSIDERED * HEALTH* SOCIETY)

 

*An Ecology of Happiness.  Eric Lambin (Prof of Geography, U of Louvain, Belgium). Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. Chicago IL: U of Chicago Press, Oct 2012, 192p, $26. Our gas-guzzling cars are warming the planet, the pesticides and fertilizers from farms are turning rivers toxic, and the earth has run out of space for the mountains of unrecycled waste our daily consumption has left in its wake. We are aware of our impact—as humans and as a society—on the natural world but incognizant of the impact on us and our well-being. The natural environment is an essential part of our happiness.   Lambin’s interdisciplinary work  addesses such questions as: 1) To what extent do we need nature for our well-being? 2) How does environmental degradation affect our happiness? 3) What can be done to protect the environment and increase our well-being at the same time?  Case studies from Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America make the case for correlation between healthy ecosystems and happy humans.  “There may be no better reason to value and protect the health of the planet than for our own personal well-being.” (ENVIRONMENT/RESOURCES * HAPPINESS AND HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS)

 

* Social Trends in American Life: Findings from the General Social Survey since 1972. Edited by Peter V. Marsden (Prof of Sociology and Dean of Social Science, Harvard U).  Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press, Sept 2012, 368p, $35pb. Researchers draw on the General Social Survey—a social science project that has tracked demographic and attitudinal trends in the United States since 1972— to provide insight into how American social attitudes and behaviors have changed since the 1970s. Ordinary Americans have been more willing to accord rights of free expression to unpopular groups, to endorse formal racial equality, and to accept nontraditional roles for women in the workplace, politics, and the family. Some forms of social connectedness such as neighboring have declined, as has confidence in government, while participation in organized religion has softened. Despite rising standards of living, American happiness levels have changed little, though financial and employment insecurity has risen over three decades. (SOCIETY * AMERICAN LIFE: TRENDS)

 

* Satisfaction Not Guaranteed: Dilemmas of Progress in Modern Society. Peter N. Stearns (Provost and University Prof, George Mason U). NY: NYU Press, May 2012, 288p, $35 (also as e-book). In the 20th and 21st centuries, modern urban, industrial, affluent societies have made great strides towards fixing some of the problems that plagued other societies for centuries: food shortages are nearly eliminated, infant and maternal mortality has fallen dramatically, birth control is both readily available and effective, education levels are higher, and internal violence is significantly reduced. Modernity’s blessings are many and bountiful—but has modernity really made us happy? Explains why the gains of living in modern urban, industrial, affluent societies have not proved more satisfying than they have; examines why real results that paralleled earlier anticipations of progress have not generated the ease and contentment that the same forecasters assumed would apply to modern life; accounts for the increased incidence of psychological depression, anxiety, and the sense that no one has ever reached a pinnacle of happiness or contentment. Discusses how as a society we might better juggle the demands of modern life with the pursuit of happiness. (SOCIETY * PROGRESS AND HAPPINESS * HAPPINESS/WELLBEING * MODERNITY AND  HAPPINESS)

 

* Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black ProgressBecky Pettit (Prof of Sociology, U of Washington).  NY: Russell Sage Foundation, June 2012, 128p, $29.95pb.  Mass incarceration has concealed decades of racial inequality.  “For African men without a high school diploma, being in prison or jail is more common than being employed—a sobering reality that calls into question post-Civil Right era social gains.  Nearly 70% of young black men will be imprisoned at some point in their lives, and poor black men with low levels of education make up a disproportionate share of incarcerated Americans.” Because prison inmates are not included in most survey data, statistics that seem to indicate a narrowing black-white racial gap – on educational attainment, work force participation, and earning – instead fail to capture persistent racial, economic, and social disadvantage among African Americans.  Since correctional budgets provide primarily for housing and monitoring of inmates, with little left over for job training or rehabilitation, a large population of young men are not only invisible to society while in prison but also ill-equipped to participate upon release.  (SOCIETY * BLACK PROGRESS QUESTIONED * RACIAL INEQUALITY IN U.S.)

 

* Anthropology and Contemporary Human Problems (6th Edition).  John H. Bodley (Regents Prof of Anthropology, Washington State U).  AltaMira Press (dist by Rowman & Littlefield), April 2012, 400p, $79pb (also as e-book). We live in a time of global mega-problems of unsustainable growth and consumption, resource depletion, ecosystem degradation, global warming, escalating energy costs, poverty, and conflict. Anthropology makes it possible to find solutions. The world is out of balance with misdirected growth by the elite. The author of Cultural Anthropology (AltaMira, 5th edition, 2011), and Victims of Progress (AltaMira, 5th edition, 2008) offers examples from prehistoric and modern tribal societies along side of ancient imperial and contemporary commercial societies. (GROWTH MISDIRECTED * WORLD FUTURES * SUSTAINABILITY * SOCIETY)

 

*The Decadence of Industrial Societies: Disbelief and Discredit, Volume OneBernard Stiegler (Centre Pompidou, Paris).  Translated by Daniel Ross.  Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011, 200p, $24.95pb.  New informational technologies, harnessed by out-of control capitalism, destroy collective memory by creating a crisis of belief--a disintegration of symbolic and financial credit.  Refutes the optimistic view of new technologies as facilitators of learning and progress.  Rather, technologies are interwoven with intelligence, temporality, and desire in ways that are more profound and sinister than commonly appreciated.  The industrial model implemented since the beginning of the 20C has become obsolete, leading capitalist democracies to an impasse, as indicated by the banalization of consumers who become caught up in mediated networks concerned with the creation and reproduction of desire.  Also see Uncontrollable Societies of Disaffected Individuals: Disbelief and Discredit, Volume Two by Bernard Stiegler  (Polity Press, June 2012, 200p, $24.95pb), arguing that capitalism is collapsing into a disturbing kind of destructive irrationality, as hyper-power is inverted into hyper-vulnerability and impotence.  (SOCIETY * TECHNOLOGY CRITIQUED *   INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY DECADENCE )

*Culture in the Liquid Modern WorldZygmunt Bauman (Prof Emeritus, U of Leeds).  Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011, 128p, $14.95pb.  In its original formulation, ‘culture’ was intended to be an agent for change, a mission undertaken with the aim of educating ‘the people’ by bringing the best of human thought and creativity to them. In our contemporary liquid modern world, culture seeks no longer to enlighten people but to seduce them.  Retraces the peregrinations of the concept of culture and examines its fate in a world marked by the powerful new forces of globalization, migration, and the intermingling of populations.  Europe has a particularly important role in revitalizing our understanding of culture because Europe is the space where “the other” is always one’s neighbor.  (CULTURE * LIQUID MODERN WORLD *  EUROPE AND CULTURE CHANGE)

 

*Well-Being: Individual, Community and Social Perspectives. Edited by John Haworth (Research Fellow, Research Institute for Health and Social Change Manchester Metropolitan U) and Graham Hart (Director, Center for Sexual Health & HIV Research, Royal Free & U College Medical School, London). NY & UK: Palgrave Macmillan, Jan 2012, 296 pages, $32pb. Addresses well-being from individual, community, and social perspectives in an integrated manner and complements the harm-based focus of much social scientific research into health. Chapters by a wide range of academics present a new dynamic view of well-being for the 21C and focus on positive psychology and the development of well-being; health, well-being and social capital; a life course approach to well-being; politics and well-being; whether well-being is local or global; interdependence of personal and communal well-being; societal inequality, health and well-being. (SOCIETY * HEALTH * HAPPINESS/WELL-BEING * WELL-BEING PERSPECTIVES)
 
*Post-Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time CapitalismJeffery T. Nealon (Prof of English, Penn State U).  Palo Alto CA: Stanford U Press, August 2012, 248p, $22.95pb.  We’ve experienced an intensification of post-modern capitalism over the past four decades, an increasing saturation of the economic sphere into formerly independent segments of everyday cultural life.  If “fragmentation” was the preferred watchword of postmodern America, “intensification” is the dominant cultural logic of our contemporary era.  Cultural realms of all kinds have been increasingly overcoded by the languages and practices of economics.   American-style capitalism, despite its recent battering, seems nowhere near the point of obsolescence.  Post-postmodern capitalism is seldom late but always just in time.  As such, it requires an updated conceptual vocabulary for diagnosing and responding to our changed situation.   (SOCIETY * POST-POSTMODERNISM * CAPITALISM: POST-POSTMODERN)
 
 
*The New Gilded Age: The Critical Inequality Debates of Our Time.  Edited by David B. Grusky (Prof of Sociology and Director, Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford U) and Tamar Kricheli-Katz (Asst Prof of Sociology, Tel Aviv U).  Palo Alto CA: Stanford U Press, May 2012, 320p, $24.95pb.  Income inequality is an increasingly pressing issue in the US and around the world.  Explores five questions about income, gender, and racial inequality:  1) Do we have a moral obligation to eliminate poverty?  2) Is inequality a necessary evil that is the best available way to motivate economic action and increase economic output?  3) Can we retain a meaningful democracy even when extreme inequality allows the rich to purchase political privileges?  4) Is the recent stalling out of long-term declines in gender inequality a historic reversal that presages a new gender order? 5) How are racial and ethnic inequalities likely to evolve as minority populations grow larger, and as intermarriage increases?  (SOCIETY * INCOME INEQUALITY* INEQUALITY * DEMOCRACY AND INEQUALITY * GENDER INEQUALITY)
 
*Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality.  Richard Thompson Ford  (Prof of Law, Stanford U).  NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Nov 2011, 272p, $27.    Both the progressive left and the colorblind right are guilty of the same error: defining discrimination too abstractly and condemning it too categorically.  Many progressives insist that any policies and practices that disadvantage people on the basis of race, sex, age, or disability should be illegal.  Many conservatives insist that the Constitution is colorblind, and the government should thus never take race into account under any circumstances.  Both left and right reject reasonable, prudent, and innocent distinctions.  Judges and government officials thus concentrate on eliminating even trivial forms of discrimination, at the expense of more effective means of social justice like expanding opportunities for the poor.  Ford calls for a more “nuanced” approach to civil rights, and a return to thoughtful and pragmatic judges who distinguish justified from unjustified acts of discrimination, rejecting selfish or perverse claims of rights gone wrong while protecting people from serious indignities.  “Like an overprescribed antibiotic that kills beneficial organisms, the civil rights approach to social justice, once a miracle cure, now threatens to do more harm than good.”                   (SOCIETY * CIVIL RIGHTS * INEQUALITY * DISCRIMINATION AND LAW)
 
* Perspectives on Global Development 2012: Social Cohesion in a Shifting World.  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, Nov 2011, 200p.  “Shifting wealth" – a process that started in the 1990s and took off in the 2000s – has led to a completely new geography of growth driven by the economic rise of large developing countries, in particular China and India.  “The center of economic gravity of the world has progressively shifted from West to East and from North to South, resulting in a new geography of growth.” More than 80 countries grew twice as fast as the OECD average in the last decade, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  The resulting re-configuration of the global economy will shape the political, economic and social agendas of international development as those of the converging and poor countries for the years to come.  Recent events in well-performing countries in the Arab world (but also beyond such as in Thailand, China and India) seem to suggest that economic growth, rising fiscal resources, and improvements in education are not sufficient  to create cohesion; governments need to address social deficits and actively promote social cohesion if long-term development is to be sustainable.  This report examines social cohesion in fast-growing developing countries and provides policy makers with recommendations for ways to strengthen it. A cohesive society works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalization, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward mobility.  Social cohesion is viewed through three different, but equally important lenses: social inclusion, social capital, and social mobility.  Concludes with a policy agenda for social cohesion, including sustainable fiscal policies, employment and social protection policies, enhancing civic participation, and coordinating actions across policy areas.  [NOTE: An important re-grouping of the obsolete “Third World” category into “converging” and “poor” countries.]                                                                  (DEVELOPMENT *
SOCIAL COHESION* “SHIFTING WEALTH” * WORLD ECONOMY * COHESIVE SOCIETY * SOCIETY)
 
* Doing Better for FamiliesOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, April 2011, 278p, €28 .  All OECD governments want to give parents more choice in their work and family decisions.  This report looks at the different ways in which governments support families.  It overviews changes in family formation, household structure, work-life balance, and child well-being; explores use of family policy tools such as benefit packages, spending by age and families with young children; monitors fertility trends (particularly the late 1990s rebound experienced by a large number of states); tracks efforts to reduce barriers to parental employment (through the design of parental leave policy, childcare policy, flexible workplace practices, national tax/benefit systems and financial incentive structures); and looks at policies targeting single-parent families and child maltreatment. 
(SOCIETY * FAMILY POLICY: OECD * CHILDREN)
 
* How's Life?  Measuring Well-BeingOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, Oct 2011, 284p, $34 .  Shapers of people’s lives and well-being include income, wealth, jobs, housing, health, work and life-balance, education and skills, social connections, civic engagement, governance, environment, personal security, and subjective well-being.  The report finds that “well-being has increased on average over the past 15 years: people are richer and more likely to be employed; they enjoy better housing conditions and are exposed to lower air pollution; they live longer and are more educated; they are also exposed to fewer crimes. But differences across countries are large.  Furthermore, some groups of the population, particularly less educated and low-income people, tend to fare systematically worse in all dimensions of well-being.  The report is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, which aims to promote "Better Policies for Better Lives.”  In line with this initiative is the Your Better Life Index (www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org), an interactive composite index that aims at involving citizens in the debate on societal progress.  Some findings on selected indicators: 1) Income and Wealth (“income inequality has been rising in many countries”); 2) Health Status (people in most OECD countries report good or very good health, but a large proportion report chronic health conditions and there are large health disparities across income groups); 3) Civic Engagement (most OECD countries report declining participation rates over the last few decades, despite a shift toward greater transparency and consultation in rule-making; 4) Environmental Quality (the impact of pollutants, hazardous substances, and noise on people’s health is sizeable); 5) Subjective Well-Being (“average life satisfaction appears to have increased over the past 30 years in some countries and stagnated in others”).                                                                 (SOCIETY * WELL-BEING: OECD OVERVIEW) 
 
* Human Development Report 2011: Sustainability and Equity—Challenges for Human Development.  United Nations Development Programme.  NY: United Nations Publications, Nov 2011, 180p, $43.  Examines the urgent global challenge of sustainable development and its relationship to rising inequality within and among countries, as well as long-term inequality trends at national and global level.  Notes that “those who will suffer most from climate change are disproportionately those least responsible for environmental deterioration.”  Seeks to identify policies that would make development both more sustainable and more equitable in coming decades.          (INEQUALITY RISING *
SUSTAINABILITY AND EQUITY * HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT * DEVELOPMENT)
 
* Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging AdulthoodChristian Smith (Prof of Sociology, U of Notre Dame) NY: Oxford UP, Sept 2011, 312p, $27.95pb.  Life for emerging adults is vastly different today than it was for their counterparts even a generation ago. Young people are waiting longer to marry, have children, and to choose a career direction.  As a result, they enjoy more freedom and opportunities than ever before.  But the transition to adulthood is more complex, disjointed, and confusing.  Draws on 230 in-depth interviews with a broad cross-section of emerging adults (ages 18-23) to identify five major problems they face: confused moral reasoning, routine intoxication, materialistic life goals, regrettable sexual experiences, and disengagement from civic and political life.  Much of the responsibility for the pain and confusion young people face has deep roots in mainstream American culture. 
(SOCIETY * YOUTH)
 
* Establishing a Resource-Circulating Society in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities (Sustainability Science series).  Edited by Tohru Morioka, Keisuke Hanaki and Yuichi Morigichi.  Tokyo & NY:  United Nations U Press, March 2011, 375p, $37pb.  Addresses issues associated with resource-circulating societies, with focus on Asia – whose growth is prominent both in population and economy.  Examines theories and visions pertinent to resource-circulating societies, as well as practices and initiatives at all levels, and proposes an integrative approach combining the concepts of a low-carbon and a resource-circulating society.              (SUSTAINABILITY * RESOURCE-CIRCULATING SOCIETY)
 
* Designing Our Future: Local Perspectives on Bioproduction, Ecosystems, and Humanity (Sustainability Science series).  Edited by Mitsuru Osaki, Ademola K. Braimoh and Ken’ichi Nakagami.  Tokyo & NY:  United Nations U Press, Jan 2011, 504p, $39pb.  On the ideal of a society in harmony with nature. Examines relationships between villages and towns, their independence and access to natural renewable energy and material circulation systems, and necessary collaboration among diverse elements.  Stresses the importance of fostering local traditions and cultures, and local ways of thinking that steer toward coexistence with nature.  (SUSTAINABILITY * SOCIETY: HARMONY WITH NATURE)
 
* We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of ExcessDaniel Akst (Hudson Valley NY; former Fellow, UC-Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism; public policy scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Washington).  NY: Penguin, Jan 2011, 304p, $26.95.  More calories, distractions, sex, and intoxicants are more readily and privately available than at any time in memory.  “The weapons of mass consumption—McDonald’s, credit cards, the Internet—are everywhere.” Pornography and gambling are now instantly and anonymously accessible to anyone on the Internet.  While temptations—overeating, overspending, procrastination, wayward sex--have multiplied, many of the longstanding social constraints on behavior have eroded. Tradition, ideology, and religion have lost their grip on many of us, while commonly accepted standards of attire, speech, and comportment in the public sphere have largely dissolved.  Financial constraints were swept away by surging affluence and the remarkable openhandedness of lenders.  The financial crisis of 2008 was the best example yet of the self-control challenge posed by modern life.  For affluent societies, the struggle for self-mastery is the preeminent challenge of our times.                                (SOCIETY * SELF-CONTROL IN AGE OF EXCESS)
 
* The Atlas of Global InequalitiesBen Crow (Prof of Sociology, U of California, Santa Cruz) and Suresh K. Lodha (Prof of Computer Science, UC, Santa Cruz).  Berkeley CA: U of California Press, Feb 2011, 128p, $21.95pb (produced by Myriad Editions, Brighton UK).   Organized in nine thematic parts, revealing differences between and within countries with maps, charts, and brief discussion: 1) Economic Inequalities (income, household wealth, consumption, work and unemployment, labor migration to help address global inequalities; 2) Power Inequalities (international trade, budget priorities, government action, measures of freedom and democracy, rates of imprisonment and execution); 3) Social Inequalities (gender, age, class, race/ethnicity, child labor); 4) Inequalities of Access (poverty, hunger, household water and fuel, energy, mobility, the digital divide); 5) Health (life expectancy, maternal and child mortality, access to healthcare, infectious diseases); 6) Education (literacy, barriers to education, early childhood care/education); 7) Environment (climate change impacts, deforestation, air pollution, clean water and sanitation); 8) Towards Equality (on state and international action); 9) Data, Definitions, and Sources.  [Also see The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic (Basic Books, Jan 2011, 258p, $27.95), who notes that 60% of a person’s income is determined by place of birth.]  
(SOCIETY * INEQUALITY ATLAS * ATLAS OF INEQUALITIES)
 
* Lament for America: Decline of the Superpower, Plan for RenewalEarl H. Fry (Prof of Pol Sci and Canadian Studies, Brigham Young U).  Toronto: U of Toronto Press, June 2010/227p.  No superpower is too big to fail, and “tragically, over the past 10 years, the US has become less prosperous, less egalitarian, and less democratic.  In view of its serious challenges at home and overextended commitments abroad, the US can ill afford to be complacent about the decade ahead.”  The US is in the throes of decline, and 15 major fault lines are examined.  “It is almost inevitable that America’s superpower status will experience relative decline between 2010 and 2050,” with repercussions reverberating throughout the world.  Chapters discuss Beltway follies, indebtedness, unsustainable foreign policy, and the rise of competitor nations.  Concludes with a positive scenario of the US in 2050, involving meaningful campaign finance reform, control of health care expenses, a revamped tax code with strengthened compliance, revamped K-12 education, illegal immigration curtailed, military spending reduced, etc.                                   (SOCIETY * U.S. IN DECLINE)
 
* The Measure of America, 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience. American Human Development ReportKristen Lewis (lead author on water and sanitation report, UN Millennium Project) and Sarah Burd-Sharps (former deputy director, UNDP Human Development Report Office).   NY: New York U Press & Social Science Research Council, Nov 2010/304p (8x10”)/$24.95pb.  The American Human Development Index provides a single measure of the well-being for all Americans, disaggregated by state, congressional district, race, gender, and ethnicity.  Reveals huge disparities in health, education, and living standards for different groups; for example, between the states of Connecticut (ranked first) and Mississippi (ranked last) there seems to be a 30 year gap in human development. This second edition of the Index series reflects threats to progress and opportunities for some Americans, and highlights approaches to foster resilience among different groups.
(SOCIETY * HUMAN DEVELOPMENT IN U.S. * AMERICAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX)
 
*Punishing Race: A Continuing American DilemmaMichael Tonry (Prof of Law and Public Policy, U of Minnesota).  NY: Oxford UP, Feb 2011/208p/$24.95.  A leading criminologist notes that one-third of young black men are controlled by the justice system and black men are seven times likelier than whites to be in prison.  These patterns result from crime and drug control policies that disproportionately affect black Americans.  The criminal justice system is simply the latest in a series of devices that maintain white dominance over blacks.   Pushes for changes in racial profiling and sentencing to reduce their huge human and social costs.       (CRIME/JUSTICE * SOCIETY: RACE * RACIAL PROFILING)
 
* Brain Gain: Rethinking U.S. Immigration PolicyDarrell M. West (VP and director, Brookings Governance Studies).  Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, Aug 2010/160p/$24.95.  Addresses why immigration policy is so politically difficult in the US, despite the substantial social, economic, intellectual, and cultural benefits it brings.  Identifies a problem “largely of vision”: public discourse and political debates emphasize the perceived downsides only and the “myopic press” is to blame. Advocates immigration policy reforms that: 1) improve legal justice, 2) take border security more seriously, 3) tighten employment verification, 4) depoliticize political conflict through an independent commission, 5) tie immigration levels to national economic cycles, 6) take stronger steps to integrate new immigrants into American life.            (SOCIETY * IMMIGRATION POLICY * MIGRATION)
 
* The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion.     Edited by Richard A. Shweder (Distinguished Prof of Anthropology, U of Chicago). U of Chicago Press, Sept 2009/1160p/$75. Offers both parents and professionals access to the best scholarship from all areas of child studies, and from all regions of the world; over 500 articles consider such topics as child development, education, home schooling in the US, law, adoption in different cultures and at different times, public policy in the US and elsewhere, and the many worlds of childhood within the US and around the world.       (CHILDREN * ENCYCLOPEDIA)
 
** Doing Better for Children. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD, Sept 2009/195p. Analyzes indicators of child well-being across the OECD in six key areas: material well-being, housing and environment, education, health and safety, risk behaviors, and quality of school life; finds that “no one OECD country performs well in all areas, and that every OECD country can do more to improve children’s lives”; also examines country policies for children under age 3, the impact of single parenthood on children, and the effect of inequalities across generations. The way forward involves early investment in children’s lives, concentrating on vulnerable children, collecting high-quality information on well-being, etc.        (CHILDREN: OECD COMPARISON* INDICATORS: OECD CHILD WELL-BEING)
 
* Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture. Naomi Cahn (Prof of Law, GWU) and June Carbone (Chair of Law, UM-Kansas City). NY: Oxford UP, Jan 2010/288p/$29.95. The Blue Family Paradigm emphasizes women’s workplace participation, egalitarian gender roles, and delay of family formation, while the Red Family Paradigm rejects these new family norms; yet, the areas of the US most committed to traditional “Red” values have the highest divorce and teen pregnancy rates, fueling greater calls for traditional values.                                              (SOCIETY)
 
* Twenty-first Century Motherhood.   Andrea O’Reilly (Assoc Prof of Women’s Studies, York U; director, Association for the Research on Mothering).  NY: Columbia U Press, Aug 2010, 384p, $32.50pb.  Study of motherhood has traditionally focused on the institution, experience, and identity of motherhood.  Motherhood in the 21C has been transformed by increasing agency, along with immense social and technological changes.   O’Reilly considers recent developments unimaginable even a decade ago—the Internet, interracial surrogacy, raising transchildren, male mothering, intensive mothering, queer parenting, and species-altering applications of new biotech.  Also considers the effects of globalization, HIV/AIDS, welfare reform, political mothers, third wave feminism, and the evolving motherhood movement.                                                        (MOTHERHOOD IN 21C * SOCIETY * FAMILIES)
 
* The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation. Theodore Roszak (Prof Emeritus of History, Cal State U-Hayward). New Society Publishers, Sept 2009/288p/$18.95pb. Author of 15 books, including The Making of a Counter Culture (1969), reminds retiring boomers of the creative role they once played, and of the moral and intellectual resources they have for radical transformation in their later years. Predicts an “elder insurgency” where boomers return to take up what they left undone in their youth, fusing the green, the gray, and the just for a truly sustainable future.                                     (SOCIETY: U.S. * ELDER CULTURE)
 
* Blurring the Color Line: The New Chance for a More Integrated America. Richard Alba (Distinguished Prof of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center). The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures. Cambridge: Harvard UP, Sept 2009/296p/$29.95. In coming decades, the social cleavages that separate Americans into distinct unequal ethno-racial groups could narrow dramatically; as the baby boom generation retires, many fewer whites will be coming of age, creating an opportunity for other groups to move up—if provided with access to education and training.                                           (SOCIETY * MINORITIES)
 
* The Insecure American: How We Got Here and What We Should Do About It. Edited by Hugh Gusterson (Prof of Anthropology, George Mason U) and Catherine Besteman (Prof of Anthropology, Colby College). Foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich. U of California Press, Nov 2009/348p/$24.95pb. Essays from 19 ethnographers on an anxious country, as concerns the new economy, the “war on terror,” the “war on drugs,” racial resentments, a fraying safety net, undocumented immigration, a health care system in crisis, and alternatives to an insecure life.        (U.S. SOCIETY * ANXIETY IN U.S.)
 
** The Future of International Migration to OECD Countries. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD, Aug 2009/285p. Explores forces that may attract migrants to OECD countries or persuade them to stay at home under five 2030 scenarios: Progress for All, OECD Long Boom (gap between OECD and BRIC countries grows), Uneven Progress (gap between OECD and LDCs grows), Globalization Falters (dramatically reduced demand in all nations), and Decoupled Destinies (opportunity improves in non-OECD nations); overall in all scenarios, demand for migrants will persist (albeit at different levels), and “migration flows are very likely to rise or at least remain constant over the next 20 years,” but migration flows are unlikely to offset the economic effects of population aging.
(MIGRATION SCENARIOS)
 
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