Friday, July 07, 2006


By Thomas Riggins

As book review editor I am inundated with far too many books for PA to review. At the same time our readers should be informed about as many new works as possible. So, in addition to our regular reviews we will now have this occasional feature which consists of short notices from many sources of reviews of books that we have not been able to review. These are essentially reviews of book reviews. Please note we will translate the circumlocutions of bourgeois reviewers into the language of Marxism. Brackets enclose the interpolations of the editor. We hope you find this new feature useful. If any of you are inspired to want to read and write a full review of any of these books please contact pabooks.

UNIVERSITY, INC. THE CORPORATE CORRUPTION OF AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION by Jennifer Washburn, Basic Books, NY, 2005, 346pp. Reviewed by Harold T. Shapiro (former president of Princeton) in Science, 29 April 2005, VOL. 308.

The reviewer liked this book and thinks it is an important contribution. He says that Washburn is concerned about the fact that the role of the the university “as a disinterested arbiter of knowledge” is being compromised by the fact that capitalist corporations are being sought out as sources of money. What he calls “the university’s unrestrained search for increased resources.” He says the strength of the book is its concern with what the real role of a university should be and to carry it out in an “ever more pervasive” environment dominated by monopoly capitalist interests. The interests of the big corporations, “the values of the market,” (the government should be included here as well) will trump the interests of the academic search for truth unless the latter are carefully protected. “Society, he writes, “developed a separate set of institutional frameworks for not-for-profit organizations because many important social objectives [such as human rights, peace, democracy, and saving life on earth] cannot be realized through the operation of private markets.” Shapiro says anyone concerned with the future of higher education in the US should read this book.

BETWEEN SEX AND POWER: FAMILY IN THE WORLD, 1900-2000 by Goran Therborn, Routledge, 2005, 379 pp., Reviewed by Perry Anderson (UCLA) in The Nation, May 30, 2005.

The reviewer calls this book “a great work of historical intellect and imagination.” This book discusses the greatest change in human relations in the last hundred or so years. Therborn “provides a truly global history of the family in the twentieth century, omitting no corner of the planet.” He classifies families into five systems: European, East Asian, sub-Saharan African, West Asian/North African and Subcontinental (Indian) (there are also two interzonal types, Southeast Asian and Creole American.) These systems range of all sorts of religions and societies but they do have major core religions-- i.e., Christian, Confucian [not really a religion], Animist, Muslim and Hindu. Therborn, according to Anderson, states that the family comprises “three regimes: of patriarchy, marriage and fertility.” We should note that, “The ‘big loser of the twentieth century’ Goran Therborn argues, was patriarchy, yielding more ground than religion or tyranny.” This blow to patriarchy for the first time allowed women to be treated as equal human beings instead of being dominated as lesser beings by men. Three factors brought this about. First was the October Revolution which “dismantled the whole juridical apparatus of patriarchy in Russia, Around this time Sweden set a good example for the rest of the world too, by being the country “where full legal parity between husband and wife was first enacted.” The second blow came after World War II when Communism liberated China, half of Korea and, eventually, Vietnam. Therborn says that the Communist victory in China “meant a full-scale assault on the most ancient and elaborate patriarchy in the world.” All “legal traces of the Confucian order” have been, according to Anderson, been obliterated. Also, in Japan the US imposed constitution proclaimed “the essential equality of the sexes,” Therborn writes. The third blow was the youth rebellion of the 1960s “which segued into modern feminism. We should also note the UN’s 1975 “Decade for Women” -- initiated by Communists. [Women’s equality seems to have been a communist plot!]. However, Anderson notes that, “The rule of the father has not disappeared.” It is holding out in South Asia, West Asia, and Africa chiefly. The Hindu world is the worst offender against women (the only one of the major systems where men live longer than women), followed by “Arab patriarchy.” But Islam may not be to blame-- rather look to the US and Israel which have “abetted” the destruction of secular democratic forces in the Muslim world. [They both prefer to deal with tyrants as they are easier (usually) to bribe and control.] It is suggested that the most “lasting legacy” of Communism may be the liberation of women, which will eventually be world wide. [It won’t be so bad if Marx, Engels and Lenin and their followers are remembered for having been the ones who freed half the human race from patriarchal slavery]. There is a lot more to this review, we have only covered about a third of it (due to space limitations). Anderson concludes by saying the book is “magnificent” and anyone interested in this subject should read Between Sex and Power.

FREAKONOMICS: A ROGUE ECONOMIST EXPLORES THE HIDDEN SIDE OF EVERYTHING by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, William Morrow, 2005. 242pp. Reviewed by Jim Holt in
The New York Times Book Review, May 15, 2005.

The rogue economist is Levitt who co-authored the book with the journalist Dubner. Jim Holt gives the book a good review, calling Levitt “an all-purpose intellectual detective.” What Levitt does is investigate quirky overlooked economic connections between things and tries to prove that the connections are causative. Holt gives some examples such as the decline of the Ku Klux Klan after some of their secret bizarre customs were exposed on the 40’s radio show “The Adventures of Super Man”. The most contentious theory in the book is the claim that the fall in the crime rate in the 90’s was an unintended consequence of the legalization of abortion twenty years earlier (fewer unwanted children means less criminals). You will have to judge the arguments on their merits. Some practical trivia: in real estate ads “great neighborhood” and “spacious” are code words for a low closing price, while just the opposite are the words “maple” and “state of the art.” Holt says this kind of “trivia alone is worth the cover price”-- which happens to be $25.95.
--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at

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