Caryl, Strange Rebels

Strange RebelsThis month Basic Books will publish Strange Rebels by Christian Caryl.  The publisher’s description follows.

 Few moments in history have seen as many seismic transformations as 1979. That single year marked the emergence of revolutionary Islam as a political force on the world stage, the beginning of market revolutions in China and Britain that would fuel globalization and radically alter the international economy, and the first stirrings of the resistance movements in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan that ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than any other year in the latter half of the twentieth century, 1979 heralded the economic, political, and religious realities that define the twenty-first. In Strange Rebels, veteran journalist Christian Caryl shows how the world we live in today—and the problems that plague it—began to take shape in this pivotal year. 1979, he explains, saw a series of counterrevolutions against the progressive consensus that had dominated the postwar era. The year’s epic upheavals embodied a startling conservative challenge to communist and socialist systems around the globe, fundamentally transforming politics and economics worldwide. In China, 1979 marked the start of sweeping market-oriented reforms that have made the country the economic powerhouse it is today. 1979 was also the year that Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland, confronting communism in Eastern Europe by reigniting its people’s suppressed Catholic faith. In Iran, meanwhile, an Islamic Revolution transformed the nation into a theocracy almost overnight, overthrowing the Shah’s modernizing monarchy. Further west, Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Britain, returning it to a purer form of free-market capitalism and opening the way for Ronald Reagan to do the same in the US. And in Afghanistan, a Soviet invasion fueled an Islamic holy war with global consequences; the Afghan mujahedin presaged the rise of al-Qaeda and served as a key factor—along with John Paul’s journey to Poland—in the fall of communism. Weaving the story of each of these counterrevolutions into a brisk, gripping narrative, Strange Rebels is a groundbreaking account of how these far-flung events and disparate actors and movements gave birth to our modern age.

Kwall on Women, Synagogue and the Cultural Analysis Paradigm

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall  (DePaul U. College of Law) has posted The Cultural Analysis Paradigm: Women and Synagogue Ritual as a Case Study. The abstract follows.

This Article develops an original cultural analysis paradigm with significant implications for understanding the relationship between law and culture. It also illustrates how this relationship should inform the normative application of areas of law in which tensions exist between modern sensibilities and traditional practices steeped in cultural perspectives form other times. Indeed, the negotiation between preservation and change confronts all ancient cultural traditions in modernity. The specific application invoked in this Article concerns the issue of women being called to read publicly from the Torah, a subject of serious academic debate among observant Jews. The analysis demonstrates that the virtually unanimous practice of excluding women from participation in public Torah reading exists despite long-standing ambiguity in the strictly legal realm of the tradition. This reality reveals that the prevailing practices and legal justifications have been markedly influenced by cultural considerations. Thus, the story of women and public Torah reading provides the ideal subject for exploring the synergies between law, culture, and tradition. This story also serves as a model for how cultural analysis can inform the discourse on a broad range of issues in which settled law confronts cultural shifts.

Scientific Progress and the Socio-Religious Worldview

This month, Baylor University Press publishes Rhetorical Darwinism: Religion, Evolution, and the Scientific Identity by Professor Thomas M. Lessl of the University of Georgia Department of Communication Studies.  Please see the publisher’s abstract below.

Everything evolves, science tells us, including the public language used by scientists to sustain and perpetuate their work. Harkening back to the Protestant Reformation—a time when the promise of scientific inquiry was intimately connected with a deep faith in divine Providence—Thomas Lessl traces the evolving role and public identity of science in the West.

As the Reformation gave way to the Enlightenment, notions of Providence evolved into progress. History’s divine plan could now be found in nature, and scientists became history’s new prophets. With Darwin and the emergence of evolutionary science, progress and evolution collapsed together into what Lessl calls “evolutionism,” and the grand scientific identity was used to advance science’s power into the world.

In this masterful treatment, Lessl analyzes the descent of these patterns of scientific advocacy from the world of Francis Bacon into the world of Thomas Huxley and his successors. In the end, Rhetorical Darwinism proposes that Darwin’s power to fuel the establishment of science within the Western social milieu often turns from its scientific course.

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