A Five Books Best Economics Book of the Year A Politico Great Weekend Read
“Absolutely compelling.” —Diane Coyle
“The evolution of modern management is usually associated with good old-fashioned intelligence and ingenuity… But capitalism is not just about the free market; it was also built on the backs of slaves.” —Forbes
The story of modern management generally looks to the factories of England and New England for its genesis. But after scouring through old accounting books, Caitlin Rosenthal discovered that Southern planter-capitalists practiced an early form of scientific management. They took meticulous notes, carefully recording daily profits and productivity, and subjected their slaves to experiments and incentive strategies comprised of rewards and brutal punishment. Challenging the traditional depiction of slavery as a barrier to innovation, Accounting for Slavery shows how elite planters turned their power over enslaved people into a productivity advantage. The result is a groundbreaking investigation of business practices in Southern and West Indian plantations and an essential contribution to our understanding of slavery’s relationship with capitalism.
“Slavery in the United States was a business. A morally reprehensible—and very profitable business… Rosenthal argues that slaveholders…were using advanced management and accounting techniques long before their northern counterparts. Techniques that are still used by businesses today.” —Marketplace (American Public Media)
“Rosenthal pored over hundreds of account books from U.S. and West Indian plantations… She found that their owners employed advanced accounting and management tools, including depreciation and standardized efficiency metrics.” —Harvard Business Review
With such stunning films as Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Bye Bye Brazil, and Pixote, Brazilian cinema achieved both critical acclaim and popular recognition in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming the premier cinema of Latin America and one of the largest film producers in the western world. But the success of Brazilian film at home and abroad came after many years of struggle by filmmakers determined to create a strong film industry in Brazil. At the forefront of this struggle were the filmmakers of Cinema Novo, the internationally acclaimed movement whose flowering in the 1960s marked the birth of modern Brazilian film. Cinema Novo x 5 places the success of Brazilian cinema in perspective by examining the films of the five leaders of this groundbreaking movement—Andrade, Diegues, Guerra, Rocha, and dos Santos. By exploring the individuality of these masters of contemporary Brazilian film, Randal Johnson reveals the astonishing stylistic and thematic diversity of Cinema Novo. His emphasis is on the films themselves, as well as their makers’ distinctive cinematic vision and views of what cinema should be and is. At the same time, he provides a wealth of valuable background information to enhance readers’ understanding of the historical, cultural, and economic context in which Cinema Novo was born and flourished.
Lessons of the Masters
George Steiner Harvard University Press, 2003 Library of Congress LB2331.S74 2003 | Dewey Decimal 378.12
When we talk about education today, we tend to avoid the rhetoric of "mastery," with its erotic and inegalitarian overtones. But the charged personal encounter between master and disciple is precisely what interests George Steiner in this book, a sustained reflection on the infinitely complex and subtle interplay of power, trust, and passions in the most profound sorts of pedagogy. Based on Steiner's Norton Lectures on the art and lore of teaching, Lessons of the Masters evokes a host of exemplary figures, including Socrates and Plato, Jesus and his disciples, Virgil and Dante, Heloise and Abelard, Tycho Brahe and Johann Kepler, the Baal Shem Tov, Confucian and Buddhist sages, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, Nadia Boulanger, and Knute Rockne.
Pivotal in the unfolding of Western culture are Socrates and Jesus, charismatic masters who left no written teachings, founded no schools. In the efforts of their disciples, in the passion narratives inspired by their deaths, Steiner sees the beginnings of the inward vocabulary, the encoded recognitions of much of our moral, philosophical, and theological idiom. He goes on to consider a diverse array of traditions and disciplines, recurring throughout to three underlying themes: the master's power to exploit his student's dependence and vulnerability; the complementary threat of subversion and betrayal of the mentor by his pupil; and the reciprocal exchange of trust and love, of learning and instruction between master and disciple.
Forcefully written, passionately argued, Lessons of the Masters is itself a masterly testament to the high vocation and perilous risks undertaken by true teacher and learner alike.
Chronicling the British pursuit of the legendary El Dorado, Masters of All They Surveyed tells the fascinating story of geography, cartography, and scientific exploration in Britain's unique South American colony, Guyana. How did nineteenth-century Europeans turn areas they called terra incognita into bounded colonial territories? How did a tender-footed gentleman, predisposed to seasickness (and unable to swim), make his way up churning rivers into thick jungle, arid savanna, and forbidding mountain ranges, survive for the better part of a decade, and emerge with a map? What did that map mean?
In answering these questions, D. Graham Burnett brings to light the work of several such explorers, particularly Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, the man who claimed to be the first to reach the site of Ralegh's El Dorado. Commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society and later by the British Crown, Schomburgk explored and mapped regions in modern Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana, always in close contact with Amerindian communities. Drawing heavily on the maps, reports, and letters that Schomburgk sent back to England, and especially on the luxuriant images of survey landmarks in his Twelve Views in the Interior of Guiana (reproduced in color in this book), Burnett shows how a vast network of traverse surveys, illustrations, and travel narratives not only laid out the official boundaries of British Guiana but also marked out a symbolic landscape that fired the British imperial imagination.
Engagingly written and beautifully illustrated, Masters of All They Surveyed will interest anyone who wants to understand the histories of colonialism and science.
Masters of Contemporary Brazilian Song is a critical study of MPB (música popular brasileira), a term that refers to varieties of urban popular music of the 1960s and 1970s, incorporating samba, Bossa Nova, and new materials.
A riveting account of the conquest of the vast American heartland that offers a vital reconsideration of the relationship between Native Americans and European colonists, and the pivotal role of the mighty Mississippi.
America’s waterways were once the superhighways of travel and communication. Cutting a central line across the landscape, with tributaries connecting the South to the Great Plains and the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River meant wealth, knowledge, and power for those who could master it. In this ambitious and elegantly written account of the conquest of the West, Jacob Lee offers a new understanding of early America based on the long history of warfare and resistance in the Mississippi River valley.
Lee traces the Native kinship ties that determined which nations rose and fell in the period before the Illinois became dominant. With a complex network of allies stretching from Lake Superior to Arkansas, the Illinois were at the height of their power in 1673 when the first French explorers—fur trader Louis Jolliet and Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette—made their way down the Mississippi. Over the next century, a succession of European empires claimed parts of the midcontinent, but they all faced the challenge of navigating Native alliances and social structures that had existed for centuries. When American settlers claimed the region in the early nineteenth century, they overturned 150 years of interaction between Indians and Europeans.
Masters of the Middle Waters shows that the Mississippi and its tributaries were never simply a backdrop to unfolding events. We cannot understand the trajectory of early America without taking into account the vast heartland and its waterways, which advanced and thwarted the aspirations of Native nations, European imperialists, and American settlers alike.
Qatar is a country of spectacular contrasts: from pearl fishing, its main industry until the 1930s, to gas and oil, which generate immense wealth today; to famously being at the center of both triumph and controversy in recent years for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Almost a lifetime since he grew up in Qatar, Michael Quentin Morton writes about the country’s colorful past and its astonishing present. The book is filled with stories about the people of this land: the tribes and the travelers, the seafarers and slaves—as much a part of Qatar’s history as its rulers and their wealth. The opaque Arabian world guards its secrets well, but Masters of the Pearl penetrates the veil to shed light on a country that until now has defied explanation.
Masters of the Sabar is the first book to examine the music and culture of Wolof griot percussionists, masters of the vibrant sabar drumming tradition. Based on extensive field research in Senegal, this book is a biographical study of several generations of percussionists in a Wolof griot (géwël) family, exploring and documenting their learning processes, repertories, and performance contexts—from life-cycle ceremonies to sporting events and political meetings. Patricia Tang examines the rich history and changing repertories of sabar drumming, including dance rhythms and bàkks, musical phrases derived from spoken words. She notes the recent shift towards creating new bàkks which are rhythmically more complex and highlight the virtuosity and musical skill of the percussionist. She also considers the burgeoning popular music genre called mbalax. The compact disc that accompanies the book includes examples of the standard sabar repertory, as well as bàkks composed and performed by Lamine Touré and his family drum troupe.
This account of the financial crisis of 2008–2009 compares banking systems in the United States and the United Kingdom to those of Canada and Australia and explains why the system imploded in the former but not the latter. Central to this analysis are differences in bankers’ beliefs and incentives in different banking markets.
A boom mentality and fear of being left behind by competitors drove many U.S. and British bank executives to take extraordinary risks in creating new financial products. Intense market competition, poorly understood trading instruments, and escalating system complexity both drove and misled bankers. Formerly illiquid assets such as mortgages and other forms of debt were repackaged into complex securities, including collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). These were then traded on an industrial scale, and in 2007 and 2008, when their value collapsed, economic activity fell into a deep freeze. The financial crisis threatened not just investment banks and their insurers but also individual homeowners and workers at every level. In contrast, because banks in Canada and Australia could make good profits through traditional lending practices, they did not confront the same pressures to reinvent themselves as did banks in the United States and the United Kingdom, thus allowing them to avoid the fate of their overseas counterparts.
Stephen Bell and Andrew Hindmoor argue that trading and systemic risk in the banking system need to be reined in. However, prospects for this are not promising given the commitment of governments in the crisis-hit economies to protect the “international competitiveness” of the London and New York financial markets.
Winner of the the Susan Elizabeth Abrams Prize in History of Science.
When Isaac Newton published the Principia three centuries ago, only a few scholars were capable of understanding his conceptually demanding work. Yet this esoteric knowledge quickly became accessible in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Britain produced many leading mathematical physicists. In this book, Andrew Warwick shows how the education of these "masters of theory" led them to transform our understanding of everything from the flight of a boomerang to the structure of the universe.
Warwick focuses on Cambridge University, where many of the best physicists trained. He begins by tracing the dramatic changes in undergraduate education there since the eighteenth century, especially the gradual emergence of the private tutor as the most important teacher of mathematics. Next he explores the material culture of mathematics instruction, showing how the humble pen and paper so crucial to this study transformed everything from classroom teaching to final examinations. Balancing their intense intellectual work with strenuous physical exercise, the students themselves—known as the "Wranglers"—helped foster the competitive spirit that drove them in the classroom and informed the Victorian ideal of a manly student. Finally, by investigating several historical "cases," such as the reception of Albert Einstein's special and general theories of relativity, Warwick shows how the production, transmission, and reception of new knowledge was profoundly shaped by the skills taught to Cambridge undergraduates.
Drawing on a wealth of new archival evidence and illustrations, Masters of Theory examines the origins of a cultural tradition within which the complex world of theoretical physics was made commonplace.
Though we commonly make them the butt of our jokes, weather forecasters are in fact exceptionally good at managing uncertainty. They consistently do a better job calibrating their performance than stockbrokers, physicians, or other decision-making experts precisely because they receive feedback on their decisions in near real time. Following forecasters in their quest for truth and accuracy, therefore, holds the key to the analytically elusive process of decision making as it actually happens.
In Masters of Uncertainty, Phaedra Daipha develops a new conceptual framework for the process of decision making, after spending years immersed in the life of a northeastern office of the National Weather Service. Arguing that predicting the weather will always be more craft than science, Daipha shows how forecasters have made a virtue of the unpredictability of the weather. Impressive data infrastructures and powerful computer models are still only a substitute for the real thing outside, and so forecasters also enlist improvisational collage techniques and an omnivorous appetite for information to create a locally meaningful forecast on their computer screens. Intent on capturing decision making in action, Daipha takes the reader through engrossing firsthand accounts of several forecasting episodes (hits and misses) and offers a rare fly-on-the-wall insight into the process and challenges of producing meteorological predictions come rain or come shine. Combining rich detail with lucid argument, Masters of Uncertainty advances a theory of decision making that foregrounds the pragmatic and situated nature of expert cognition and casts into new light how we make decisions in the digital age.
The Medici controlled fifteenth-century Florence. Other Italian rulers treated Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449–1492) as an equal. To his close associates, he was “the boss” (“master of the workshop”). But Lorenzo liked to say that he was just another Florentine citizen. Were the Medici like the kings, princes, and despots of contemporary Italy? Or were they just powerful citizens? The Medici: Citizens and Masters offers a novel, comparative approach to answering these questions. It sets Medici rule against princely states such as Milan and Ferrara. It asks how much the Medici changed Florence and contrasts their supremacy with earlier Florentine regimes. Its contributors take diverse perspectives, focusing on politics, political thought, social history, economic policy, religion and the church, humanism, intellectual history, Italian literature, theater, festivals, music, imagery, iconography, architecture, historiography, and marriage. The book will interest students of history, Renaissance studies, Italian literature, and art history as well as anyone keen to learn about one of history’s most colorful, influential, and puzzling families.
In this groundbreaking work, Michael Tadman establishes that all levels of white society in the antebellum South were deeply involved in a massive interregional trade in slaves. Using countless previously untapped manuscript sources, he documents black resilience in the face of the pervasive indifference of slaveholders toward slaves and their families. This new paperback edition of Speculators and Slaves offers a substantial new Introduction that advances a major thesis of master-slave relationships. By exploring the gulf between the slaveholders’ self-image as benevolent paternalists and their actual behavior, Tadman critiques the theories of close accommodation and paternalistic hegemony that are currently influential.
By one of the most original and learned critical voices in Hispanic studies—a timely and ambitious study of authority as theme and authority as authorial strategy in modern Latin American literature. An ideology is implicit in modern Latin American literature, argues Roberto González Echevarría, through which both the literature itself and criticism of it define what Latin American literature is and how it ought to be read. In the works themselves this ideology is constantly subjected to a radical critique, and that critique renders the ideology productive and in a sense is what constitutes the work. In literary criticism, however, too frequently the ideology merely serves as support for an authoritative discourse that seriously misrepresents Latin American literature. In The Voice of the Masters, González Echevarría attempts to uncover the workings of modern Latin American literature by creating a dialogue of texts, a dynamic whole whose parts are seven illuminating essays on seminal texts in the tradition. As he says, "To have written a sustained, expository book ... would have led me to make the same kind of critical error that I attribute to most criticism of Latin American literature.... I would have naively assumed an authoritative voice while attempting a critique of precisely that critical gesture." Instead, major works by Barnet, Cabrera Infante, Carpentier, Cortázar, Fuentes, Gallegos, García Márquez, Roa Bastos, and Rodó are the object of a set of independent deconstructive (and reconstructive) readings. Writing in the tradition of Derrida and de Man, González Echevarría brings to these readings both the penetrative brilliance of the French master and a profound understanding of historical and cultural context. His insightful annotation of Cabrera Infante's "Meta-End," the full text of which is presented at the close of the study, clearly demonstrates these qualities and exemplifies his particular approach to the text.