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General Interest

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The Unwinding of the Post–Cold War Order

The current conflict in Ukraine has spawned the most serious crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War. It has undermined European security, raised questions about NATO’s future, and put an end to one of the most ambitious projects of U.S. foreign policy—building a partnership with Russia. It also threatens to undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts on issues ranging from terrorism to nuclear proliferation. And in the absence of direct negotiations, each side is betting that political and economic pressure will force the other to blink first. Caught in this dangerous game of chicken, the West cannot afford to lose sight of the importance of stable relations with Russia.

This book puts the conflict in historical perspective by examining the evolution of the crisis and assessing its implications both for the Crimean peninsula and for Russia’s relations with the West more generally. Experts in the international relations of post-Soviet states, political scientists Rajan Menon and Eugene Rumer clearly show what is at stake in Ukraine, explaining the key economic, political, and security challenges and prospects for overcoming them. They also discuss historical precedents, sketch likely outcomes, and propose policies for safeguarding U.S.-Russia relations in the future. In doing so, they provide a comprehensive and accessible study of a conflict whose consequences will be felt for many years to come.

Immigration and the American Backlash

Illegal immigration continues to roil American politics. The right-wing media stir up panic over “anchor babies,” job stealing, welfare dependence, bilingualism, al-Qaeda terrorists disguised as Latinos, even a conspiracy by Latinos to “retake” the Southwest. State and local governments have passed more than 300 laws that attempt to restrict undocumented immigrants’ access to hospitals, schools, food stamps, and driver’s licenses. Federal immigration authorities stage factory raids that result in arrests, deportations, and broken families—and leave owners scrambling to fill suddenly open jobs. The DREAM Act, which would grant permanent residency to high school graduates brought here as minors, is described as “amnesty.” And yet polls show that a majority of Americans support some kind of path to citizenship for those here illegally. What is going on? In this book, John Tirman shows how the resistance to immigration in America is more cultural than political. Although cloaked in language about jobs and secure borders, the cultural resistance to immigration expresses a fear that immigrants are changing the dominant white, Protestant, “real American” culture.

Tirman describes the “raid mentality” of our response to immigration, which seeks violent solutions for a social phenomenon. He considers the culture clash over Chicano ethnic studies in Tucson, examines the consequences of an immigration raid in New Bedford, and explores the civil rights activism of young “Dreamers.” The current “round them up, deport them, militarize the border” approach, Tirman shows, solves nothing.

Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution

Neoliberal rationality—ubiquitous today in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, and culture—remakes everything and everyone in the image of homo oeconomicus. What happens when this rationality transposes the constituent elements of democracy into an economic register? In Undoing the Demos, Wendy Brown explains how democracy itself is imperiled. The demos disintegrates into bits of human capital; concerns with justice bow to the mandates of growth rates, credit ratings, and investment climates; liberty submits to the imperative of human capital appreciation; equality dissolves into market competition; and popular sovereignty grows incoherent. Liberal democratic practices may not survive these transformations. Radical democratic dreams may not either.

In an original and compelling argument, Brown explains how and why neoliberal reason undoes the political form and political imaginary it falsely promises to secure and reinvigorate. Through meticulous analyses of neoliberalized law, political practices, governance, and education, she charts the new common sense. Undoing the Demos makes clear that for democracy to have a future, it must become an object of struggle and rethinking.

Experts, pundits, and politicians agree: public debt is hindering growth and increasing unemployment. Governments must reduce debt at all cost if they want to restore confidence and get back on a path to prosperity. Maurizio Lazzarato’s diagnosis, however, is completely different: under capitalism, debt is not primarily a question of budget and economic concerns but a political relation of subjection and enslavement. Debt has become infinite and unpayable. It disciplines populations, calls for structural reforms, justifies authoritarian crackdowns, and even legitimizes the suspension of democracy in favor of “technocratic governments” beholden to the interests of capital. The 2008 economic crisis only accelerated the establishment of a “new State capitalism,” which has carried out a massive confiscation of societies’ wealth through taxes. And who benefits? Finance capital. In a calamitous return to the situation before the two world wars, the entire process of accumulation is now governed by finance, which has absorbed sectors it once ignored, like higher education, and today is often identified with life itself. Faced with the current catastrophe and the disaster to come, Lazzarato contends, we must overcome capitalist valorization and reappropriate our existence, knowledge, and technology.

In Governing by Debt, Lazzarato confronts a wide range of thinkers—from Félix Guattari and Michel Foucault to David Graeber and Carl Schmitt—and draws on examples from the United States and Europe to argue that it is time that we unite in a collective refusal of this most dire status quo.

George W. Bush and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Although George W. Bush memorably declared, “I’m the decider,” as president he was remarkably indecisive when it came to U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His administration’s policymaking featured an ongoing clash between moderate realists and conservative hard-liners inspired by right-wing religious ideas and a vision of democracy as cure-all. Riven by these competing agendas, the Bush administration vacillated between recognizing the Palestinian right to self-determination and embracing Israeli leaders who often chose war over negotiations. Through the years, the administration erratically adopted and discarded successive approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The results of this irresolution included the stunning triumph of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections, Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, the 2008-2009 clash between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and, in the end, virtually no diplomatic progress toward lasting peace. 

In Indecision Points, Daniel Zoughbie examines the major assumptions underpinning U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East during the Bush years. Was there one policy or two? Was the Bush administration truly serious about peace? In a compelling account, Zoughbie offers original insights into these and other important questions. Drawing on the author’s own interviews with forty-five global leaders, including Condoleezza Rice, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, Tom DeLay, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Shlomo Ben Ami, and Salam Fayyad, Indecision Points provides the first comprehensive history of the Bush administration’s attempt to reshape political order in a “New Middle East.”

Information, E-Government, and Exchange

The computer systems of government agencies are notoriously complex. New technologies are piled on older technologies, creating layers that call to mind an archaeological dig. Obsolete programming languages and closed mainframe designs offer barriers to integration with other agency systems. Worldwide, these unwieldy systems waste billions of dollars, keep citizens from receiving services, and even—as seen in interoperability failures on 9/11 and during Hurricane Katrina—cost lives. In this book, Alon Peled offers a groundbreaking approach for enabling information sharing among public sector agencies: using selective incentives to “nudge” agencies to exchange information assets. Peled proposes the establishment of a Public Sector Information Exchange (PSIE), through which agencies would trade information.

After describing public sector information sharing failures and the advantages of incentivized sharing, Peled examines the U.S. Open Data program, and the gap between its rhetoric and results. He offers examples of creative public sector information sharing in the United States, Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Iceland. Peled argues that information is a contested commodity, and draws lessons from the trade histories of other contested commodities—including cadavers for anatomical dissection in nineteenth-century Britain. He explains how agencies can exchange information as a contested commodity through a PSIE program tailored to an individual country’s needs, and he describes the legal, economic, and technical foundations of such a program. Touching on issues from data ownership to freedom of information, Peled offers pragmatic advice to politicians, bureaucrats, technologists, and citizens for revitalizing critical information flows.

Salvos from The Baffler

There’s never been a better time to be outside the consensus—and if you don’t believe it, then peer into these genre-defining essays from The Baffler, the magazine that’s been blunting the cutting edge of American culture and politics for a quarter of a century. Here’s Thomas Frank on the upward-falling cult of expertise in Washington, D.C., where belonging means getting the major events of our era wrong. Here’s Rick Perlstein on direct mail scams, multilevel marketing, and the roots of right-wing lying. Here’s John Summers on the illiberal uses of innovation in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts. And here’s David Graeber sensing our disappointment in new technology. (We expected teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, and immortality drugs. We got LinkedIn, which, as Ann Friedman writes here, is an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.)

Packed with hilarious, scabrous, up to-the-minute criticism of the American comedy, No Future for You debunks “positive thinking” bromides and business idols. Susan Faludi debunks Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s phony feminist handbook, Lean In. Evgeny Morozov wrestles “open source” and “Web 2.0” and other pseudorevolutionary meme-making down to the ground. Chris Lehmann writes the obituary of the Washington Post, Barbara Ehrenreich goes searching for the ungood God in Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus, Heather Havrilesky reads Fifty Shades of Grey, and Jim Newell investigates the strange and typical case of Adam Wheeler, the student fraud who fooled Harvard and, unlike the real culprits, went to jail.

No Future for You offers the counternarrative you’ve been missing, proof that dissent is alive and well in America. Please be warned, however. The writing that follows is polemical in nature. It may seek to persuade you of something.

Copublished with The Baffler.

Contributors
Chris Bray, Mark Dancey, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Thomas Frank, Ann Friedman, James Griffioen, David Graeber, A. S. Hamrah, Heather Havrilesky, Chris Lehmann, Rhonda Lieberman, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Evgeny Morozov, Jim Newell, Rick Perlstein, John Summers, Maureen Tkacik

How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics

Anyone who has ever been to a public hearing or community meeting would agree that participatory democracy can be boring. Hours of repetitive presentations, alternatingly alarmist or complacent, for or against, accompanied by constant heckling, often with no clear outcome or decision. Is this the best democracy can offer? In Making Democracy Fun, Josh Lerner offers a novel solution for the sad state of our deliberative democracy: the power of good game design. What if public meetings featured competition and collaboration (such as team challenges), clear rules (presented and modeled in multiple ways), measurable progress (such as scores and levels), and engaging sounds and visuals? These game mechanics would make meetings more effective and more enjoyable—even fun.

Lerner reports that institutions as diverse as the United Nations, the U.S. Army, and grassroots community groups are already using games and game-like processes to encourage participation. Drawing on more than a decade of practical experience and extensive research, he explains how games have been integrated into a variety of public programs in North and South America. He offers rich stories of game techniques in action, in children’s councils, social service programs, and participatory budgeting and planning. With these real-world examples in mind, Lerner describes five kinds of games and twenty-six game mechanics that are especially relevant for democracy. He finds that when governments and organizations use games and design their programs to be more like games, public participation becomes more attractive, effective, and transparent. Game design can make democracy fun—and make it work.

The United States is on the brink of intervention in Syria, but the effect of any eventual American action is impossible to predict. The Syrian conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions, yet most observers warn that the worst is still to come. And the international community cannot agree how respond to this humanitarian catastrophe. World leaders have repeatedly resolved not to let atrocities happen in plain view, but the legacy of the bloody and costly intervention in Iraq has left policymakers with little appetite for more military operations. So we find ourselves in the grip of a double burden: the urge to stop the bleeding in Syria, and the fear that attempting to do so would be Iraq redux.

What should be done about the apparently intractable Syrian conflict? This book focuses on the ethical and political dilemmas at the heart of the debate about Syria and the possibility of humanitarian intervention in today’s world. The contributors--Syria experts, international relations theorists, human rights activists, and scholars of humanitarian intervention--don’t always agree, but together they represent the best political thinking on the issue. The Syria Dilemma includes original pieces from Michael Ignatieff, Mary Kaldor, Radwan Ziadeh, Thomas Pierret, Afra Jalabi, and others.

Contributors:
Asli Bâli, Richard Falk, Tom Farer, Charles Glass, Shadi Hamid, Nader Hashemi, Christopher Hill, Michael Ignatieff, Afra Jalabi, Rafif Jouejati, Mary Kaldor, Marc Lynch, Vali Nasr, Thomas Pierret, Danny Postel, Aziz Rana, Christoph Reuter, Kenneth Roth, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Fareed Zakaria, Radwan Ziadeh, Stephen Zunes

The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions

From natural disaster areas to zones of political conflict around the world, a new logic of intervention combines military action and humanitarian aid, conflates moral imperatives and political arguments, and confuses the concepts of legitimacy and legality. The mandate to protect human lives—however and wherever endangered—has given rise to a new form of humanitarian government that moves from one crisis to the next, applying the same battery of technical expertise (from military logistics to epidemiological risk management to the latest social scientific tools for "good governance") and reducing people with particular histories and hopes to mere lives to be rescued. This book explores these contemporary states of emergency.

Drawing on the critical insights of anthropologists, legal scholars, political scientists, and practitioners from the field, Contemporary States of Emergency examines historical antecedents as well as the moral, juridical, ideological, and economic conditions that have made military and humanitarian interventions common today. It addresses the practical process of intervention in global situations on five continents, describing both differences and similarities, and examines the moral and political consequences of these generalized states of emergency and the new form of government associated with them.

Distributed for Zone Books

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