Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | June 10, 2015

Book Reviews

1. At Howl at Pluto, LFC reviews Sovereignty: Moral and Historical Perspectives, by James Turner Johnson: “Johnson is an expert on ‘the just war tradition,’ and in Sovereignty he considers the co-evolution of ideas about sovereignty and just war. Indeed the book probably should have been called something like The Just War Tradition and Sovereignty, since that would have more accurately indicated its contents than the title it actually carries.”

2. In the NYRB, Cass Sunstein on Friedrich Hayek on John Stuart Mill: “Hayek died in 1992, but the University of Chicago Press is continuing with a multivolume edition of his collected works. Readers are discovering essays by Hayek that were never published, were not easily available, or were not widely known. What would Hayek have to say about a great champion of liberty, in some ways his intellectual ancestor, who ended up embracing socialism? How stunning, then, to find that the volume has only a few snippets on that question. Instead it largely consists of a book, first published in 1951, that grew out of an enormous, uncharacteristic, and somewhat obsessive undertaking by Hayek, which was to assemble what remains of the correspondence between Mill and his eventual wife, Harriet Taylor (one or the other destroyed numerous letters, probably including the most interesting), and to use it as the basis for a narrative account of their mysterious love affair.” (H/T: Althouse.)

3. In the LA Review of Books, Andrew Heisel reviews Brett Martin’s Difficult Men: “Discussions of the new golden age usually just translate the standards of the higher arts into this besmirched sphere. Hence the medium is often called the new film or the new novel. The first golden age was 1950s teleplays. Neither Martin’s new book nor the critics of the time included I Love Lucy. The second golden age, first described in a 1997 book by Robert J. Thompson, lasted from 1978 to 1994 but omits Taxi, The Cosby Show, and other sitcoms. Instead, Thompson focuses on dramas with lower ratings and less staying power like Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and China Beach. Likewise, while comedies have drawn much attention from critics in recent years, think pieces about the present golden age rarely mention them except in passing. (It’s telling that light-on-laughs Louie is the most revered one.) And though a BuzzFeed piece recently knocked The New York Times’ TV critics for “resistance to seeing value in the popular,” the highest rated programs of this era—like NCIS and Two and a Half Men—are almost universally ignored in these discussions. But sometimes the point is less the validity of the ‘golden age’ claims than what they say about the speaker. To be fair, many TV critics now only use the phrase in scare quotes, and some, like Slate’s Willa Paskin and Todd VanDerWerff, formerly of The A.V. Club, fully recognize how the term can limit approaches to the medium and want to put it to rest. It’s actually a little surprising the term could still have such restrictive power anyway. At this point, it is nearly drained of all former associations. The final triumph against the past has been to rewrite the very term by which it was appreciated, to make “golden age” a mere replacement for ‘really good.'” (H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.)


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