Category Archives: Books

New Book: The Eclipse of the Utopias of Labor

AHP readers may be interested in Anson Rabinbach‘s new book The Eclipse of the Utopias of Labor. Rabinbach is the author of the now classic The Human Motor.His new book is described as follows:

The Eclipse of the Utopias of Labor traces the shift from the eighteenth-century concept of man as machine to the late twentieth-century notion of digital organisms. Step by step—from Jacques de Vaucanson and his Digesting Duck, through Karl Marx’s Capital, Hermann von Helmholtz’s social thermodynamics, Albert Speer’s Beauty of Labor program in Nazi Germany, and on to the post-Fordist workplace, Rabinbach shows how society, the body, and labor utopias dreamt up future societies and worked to bring them about.

This masterful follow-up to The Human Motor, Rabinbach’s brilliant study of the European science of work, bridges intellectual history, labor history, and the history of the body. It shows the intellectual and policy reasons as to how a utopia of the body as motor won wide acceptance and moved beyond the “man as machine” model before tracing its steep decline after 1945—and along with it the eclipse of the great hopes that a more efficient workplace could provide the basis of a new, more socially satisfactory society.

CONTENTS

ONE From Mimetic Machines to Digital Organisms: The Transformation of the Human Motor

TWO Social Energeticism in Fin-de-Siècle Europe

THREE Social Knowledge and the Politics of Industrial Accidents

FOUR Neurasthenia and Modernity

FIVE Psychotechnics and Politics in Weimar Germany: The Case of Otto Lipmann

SIX The Aesthetics of Production in the Third Reich

SEVEN Metaphors of the Machine in the Post-Fordist Era

The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century

A new edited volume, The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century, on the emergence of decision theory in twentieth-century social science may be of interest to AHP readers. The volume, edited by Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot, is described as follows:

In the decades following World War II, the science of decision-making moved from the periphery to the center of transatlantic thought. The Decisionist Imagination explores how “decisionism” emerged from its origins in prewar political theory to become an object of intense social scientific inquiry in the new intellectual and institutional landscapes of the postwar era. By bringing together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, this volume illuminates how theories of decision shaped numerous techno-scientific aspects of modern governance—helping to explain, in short, how we arrived at where we are today.

CONTENTS

Introduction: Who Decides?
Daniel Bessner and Nicolas Guilhot

Chapter 1. Reading the International Mind: International Public Opinion in Early Twentieth Century Anglo-American Thought
Stephen Wertheim Continue reading The Decisionist Imagination: Sovereignty, Social Science and Democracy in the 20th Century

The Invention of Madness: State, Society, and the Insane in Modern China

AHP readers may be interested in a new book available from University of Chicago Press: Emily Baum’s The Invention of Madness: State, Society, and the Insane in Modern China. As described on the publisher’s website:

Throughout most of history, in China the insane were kept within the home and treated by healers who claimed no specialized knowledge of their condition. In the first decade of the twentieth century, however, psychiatric ideas and institutions began to influence longstanding beliefs about the proper treatment for the mentally ill. In The Invention of Madness, Emily Baum traces a genealogy of insanity from the turn of the century to the onset of war with Japan in 1937, revealing the complex and convoluted ways in which “madness” was transformed in the Chinese imagination into “mental illness.”

Focusing on typically marginalized historical actors, including municipal functionaries and the urban poor, The Invention of Madness shifts our attention from the elite desire for modern medical care to the ways in which psychiatric discourses were implemented and redeployed in the midst of everyday life. New meanings and practices of madness, Baum argues, were not just imposed on the Beijing public but continuously invented by a range of people in ways that reflected their own needs and interests. Exhaustively researched and theoretically informed, The Invention of Madness is an innovative contribution to medical history, urban studies, and the social history of twentieth-century China.

Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

A new book  on Hans Asperger will interest AHP readers: Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna by Edith Sheffer. As described on the publisher’s site:

Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler’s Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children.

As the Nazi regime slaughtered millions across Europe during World War Two, it sorted people according to race, religion, behavior, and physical condition for either treatment or elimination. Nazi psychiatrists targeted children with different kinds of minds—especially those thought to lack social skills—claiming the Reich had no place for them. Asperger and his colleagues endeavored to mold certain “autistic” children into productive citizens, while transferring others they deemed untreatable to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich’s deadliest child-killing centers.

In the first comprehensive history of the links between autism and Nazism, Sheffer uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich. With vivid storytelling and wide-ranging research, Asperger’s Children will move readers to rethink how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities.

 

The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

AHP readers will be interested in Sarah Igo’s new book The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America:

Every day, Americans make decisions about their privacy: what to share and when, how much to expose and to whom. Securing the boundary between one’s private affairs and public identity has become a central task of citizenship. How did privacy come to loom so large in American life? Sarah Igo tracks this elusive social value across the twentieth century, as individuals questioned how they would, and should, be known by their own society.

Privacy was not always a matter of public import. But beginning in the late nineteenth century, as corporate industry, social institutions, and the federal government swelled, increasing numbers of citizens believed their privacy to be endangered. Popular journalism and communication technologies, welfare bureaucracies and police tactics, market research and workplace testing, scientific inquiry and computer data banks, tell-all memoirs and social media all propelled privacy to the foreground of U.S. culture. Jurists and philosophers but also ordinary people weighed the perils, the possibilities, and the promise of being known. In the process, they redrew the borders of contemporary selfhood and citizenship.

The Known Citizen reveals how privacy became the indispensable language for monitoring the ever-shifting line between our personal and social selves. Igo’s sweeping history, from the era of “instantaneous photography” to the age of big data, uncovers the surprising ways that debates over what should be kept out of the public eye have shaped U.S. politics and society. It offers the first wide-angle view of privacy as it has been lived and imagined by modern Americans.