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Understanding the Development of Modern Social Science
Before the Second World War, social scientists struggled to define and defend their disciplines. After the war, “high modern” social scientists harnessed new resources in a quest to create a unified understanding of human behavior—and to remake the world in the image of their new model man. In Age of System, Hunter Heyck explains why social scientists—shaped by encounters with the ongoing “organizational revolution” and its revolutionary technologies of communication and control—embraced a new and extremely influential perspective on science and nature, one that conceived of all things in terms of system, structure, function, organization, and process. He also explores how this emerging unified theory of human behavior implied a troubling similarity between humans and machines, with freighted implications for individual liberty and self-direction. These social scientists trained a generation of decision-makers in schools of business and public administration, wrote the basic textbooks from which millions learned how the economy, society, polity, culture, and even the mind worked, and drafted the position papers, books, and articles that helped set the terms of public discourse in a new era of mass media, think tanks, and issue networks. Drawing on close readings of key texts and a broad survey of more than 1,800 journal articles, Heyck follows the dollars—and the dreams—of a generation of scholars that believed in “the system.” He maps the broad landscape of changes in the social sciences, focusing especially intently on the ideas and practices associated with modernization theory, rational choice theory, and modeling. A highly accomplished historian, Heyck relays this complicated story with unusual clarity.
In this deeply considered meditation on aging in Western culture, Jan Baars argues that, in today’s world, living longer does not necessarily mean living better. He contends that there has been an overall loss of respect for aging, to the point that understanding and “dealing with” aging people has become a process focused on the decline of potential and the advance of disease rather than on the accumulation of wisdom and the creation of new skills. To make his case, Baars takes the reader on a survey of contemporary theories of aging, confronting them with their philosophical foundations. He draws on the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, as well as on such contemporary philosophers as Husserl, Heidegger, Habermas, and Foucault. Aging and the Art of Living shows how people in the classical period—less able to control health hazards—had a far better sense of the provisional nature of living, which led to a philosophical and religious emphasis on cultivating the art of living and the idea of wisdom. This is not to say that modern society’s assessments of aging are insignificant, but they do need to balance an emphasis on the measuring of age with the concept of "living in time." Gerontologists, philosophers, and students will find Baars' discussion to be a powerful, perceptive conversation-starter.
A Short History of Osteoporosis
In the middle of the twentieth century, few physicians could have predicted that the modern diagnostic category of osteoporosis would emerge to include millions of Americans, predominantly older women. Before World War II, popular attitudes held that the declining physical and mental health of older persons was neither preventable nor reversible and that older people had little to contribute. Moreover, the physiological processes that influenced the health of bones remained mysterious. In Aging Bones, Gerald N. Grob makes a historical inquiry into how this one aspect of aging came to be considered a disease. During the 1950s and 1960s, as more and more people lived to the age of 65, older people emerged as a self-conscious group with distinct interests, and they rejected the pejorative concept of senescence. But they had pressing health needs, and preventing age-related decline became a focus for researchers and clinicians alike. In analyzing how the normal aging of bones was transformed into a medical diagnosis requiring treatment, historian of medicine Grob explores developments in medical science as well as the social, intellectual, economic, demographic, and political changes that transformed American society in the post–World War II decades. Though seemingly straightforward, osteoporosis and its treatment are shaped by illusions about the conquest of disease and aging. These illusions, in turn, are instrumental in shaping our health care system. While bone density tests and osteoporosis treatments are now routinely prescribed, aggressive pharmaceutical intervention has produced results that are inconclusive at best. The fascinating history in Aging Bones will appeal to students and scholars in the history of medicine, health policy, gerontology, endocrinology, and orthopedics, as well as anyone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities
Never in human history have there been so many people entering old age—roughly one-third of whom will experience some form of neurodegeneration as they age. This seismic demographic shift will force us all to rethink how we live and deal with our aging population. Susan H. McFadden and John T. McFadden propose a radical reconstruction of our societal understanding of old age. Rather than categorize elders based on their respective cognitive consciousness, the McFaddens contend that the only humanistic, supportive, and realistic approach is to find new ways to honor and recognize the dignity, worth, and personhood of those journeying into dementia. Doing so, they argue, counters the common view of dementia as a personal tragedy shared only by close family members and replaces it with the understanding that we are all living with dementia as the baby boomers age, particularly as early screening becomes more common and as a cure remains elusive. The McFaddens' inclusive vision calls for social institutions, especially faith communities, to search out and build supportive, ongoing friendships that offer hospitality to all persons, regardless of cognitive status. Drawing on medicine, social science, philosophy, and religion to provide a broad perspective on aging, Aging Together offers a vision of relationships filled with love, joy, and hope in the face of a condition that all too often elicits anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.
A Scientist's Take on Creativity
This book is about having ideas and—a much longer haul—making them work. David Jones, best known for his Daedalus column, tells many stories about creators and their creations, including his own fantastical-seeming contributions to mainstream science—such as unrideable bicycles and chemical gardens in space. His theory of creativity endows each of us with a Random-Ideas Generator, a Censor, and an Observer-Reasoner. Jones applies the theory to a wide range of weird scientific experiments that he has conducted for serious scientific papers, for challenging printed expositions, and for presentations to a TV audience. He even suggests new ones, not yet tried! Creativity is as essential to science as curiosity, physical intuition, and shrewd deduction from well-planned experiments. But, says Jones, ingenuity is very uncertain—even for the greatest inventors, about 80 percent of ideas fail. Jokiness can help, and so can lots of random data. Jones has copious clever advice that will help you have that madly brilliant private thought in the first place—and will encourage you to take it further! Neither dense nor demanding, The Aha! Moment is engrossing, edifying, and scientifically serious; yet it is lightly written, has many jokes, and asks lots of silly questions. As Jones shows, it can often pay to take an absurd idea seriously.
How Journalists Treated Genius during Einstein's 1921 Travels
In 1919, newspaper headlines said that a British expedition had confirmed Einstein's general theory of relativity. The news stirred the public imagination on both sides of the Atlantic and thrust the scientist into the spotlight of fame. Two years later, Chaim Weizmann led a fund-raising mission to the United States and invited Einstein to join it. The mission traveled to New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Hartford to campaign for public awareness and support of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This brought Einstein within the grasp of the American media. His lectures delivered in New York, Princeton, and Chicago, and comments on the Jewish presence in Palestine, made Einstein, on his first trip to America, one of the first media stars. In Albert Meets America, József Illy presents a fascinating compilation of media stories of Einstein’s tour—which cover his science, his Zionism, and the anti-Semitism he encountered. As we travel with Einstein, from headline to headline, we experience his emotional connection with American Jews and his frustration at becoming world famous even though his theories were not truly understood. This exciting collection gives readers an intimate glimpse into the life of one of the world’s first modern celebrities and a unique understanding of the media's power over both its subject and its audience.
From Reconstruction to Prohibition
Despite the lack of medical consensus regarding alcoholism as a disease, many people readily accept the concept of addiction as a clinical as well as a social disorder. An alcoholic is a victim of social circumstance and genetic destiny. Although one might imagine that this dual approach is a reflection of today's enlightened and sympathetic society, historian Sarah Tracy discovers that efforts to medicalize alcoholism are anything but new. Alcoholism in America tells the story of physicians, politicians, court officials, and families struggling to address the danger of excessive alcohol consumption at the turn of the century. Beginning with the formation of the American Association for the Cure of Inebriates in 1870 and concluding with the enactment of Prohibition in 1920, this study examines the effect of the disease concept on individual drinkers and their families and friends, as well as the ongoing battle between policymakers and the professional medical community for jurisdiction over alcohol problems. Tracy captures the complexity of the political, professional, and social negotiations that have characterized the alcoholism field both yesterday and today. Tracy weaves American medical history, social history, and the sociology of knowledge into a narrative that probes the connections among reform movements, social welfare policy, the specialization of medicine, and the social construction of disease. Her insights will engage all those interested in America's historic and current battles with addiction.
Topography and Social Conflict
Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity's most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians—among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria's bustling urban milieu. Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria's neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city's religious and ethnic blocs—Jews, pagans, and Christians—he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups' struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed—a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other. Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration—a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.
Science, Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift
Alfred Wegener aimed to create a revolution in science which would rank with those of Nicolaus Copernicus and Charles Darwin. After completing his doctoral studies in astronomy at the University of Berlin, Wegener found himself drawn not to observatory science but to rugged fieldwork, which allowed him to cross into a variety of disciplines. The author of the theory of continental drift—the direct ancestor of the modern theory of plate tectonics and one of the key scientific concepts of the past century—Wegener also made major contributions to geology, geophysics, astronomy, geodesy, atmospheric physics, meteorology, and glaciology. Remarkably, he completed this pathbreaking work while grappling variously with financial difficulty, war, economic depression, scientific isolation, illness, and injury. He ultimately died of overexertion on a journey to probe the Greenland icecap and calculate its rate of drift. This landmark biography—the only complete account of the scientist’s fascinating life and work—is the culmination of twenty years of intensive research. In Alfred Wegener, Mott T. Greene places Wegener’s upbringing and theoretical advances in earth science in the context of his brilliantly eclectic career, bringing Wegener to life by analyzing his published scientific work, delving into all of his surviving letters and journals, and tracing both his passionate commitment to science and his thrilling experiences as a polar explorer, a military officer during World War I, and a world-record–setting balloonist. In the course of writing this book, Greene traveled to every place that Alfred Wegener lived and worked—to Berlin, rural Brandenburg, Marburg, Hamburg, and Heidelberg in Germany; to Innsbruck and Graz in Austria; and onto the Greenland icecap. He also pored over archives in Copenhagen, Munich, Marburg, Graz, and Bremerhaven, where the majority of Wegener’s surviving papers are found. Written with great immediacy and descriptive power, Alfred Wegener is a powerful portrait of the scientist who pioneered the modern notion of unified Earth science. The book should be of interest not only to earth scientists, students of polar travel and exploration, and historians but to all readers who are fascinated by the great minds of science.
American Humor and Its Discontents
In this examination of stand-up comedy, Rebecca Krefting establishes a new genre of comedic production, “charged humor,” and charts its pathways from production to consumption. Some jokes are tears in the fabric of our beliefs—they challenge myths about how fair and democratic our society is and the behaviors and practices we enact to maintain those fictions. Jokes loaded with vitriol and delivered with verve, charged humor compels audiences to action, artfully summoning political critique. Since the institutionalization of stand-up comedy as a distinct cultural form, stand-up comics have leveraged charged humor to reveal social, political, and economic stratifications. All Joking Aside offers a history of charged comedy from the mid-twentieth century to the early aughts, highlighting dozens of talented comics from Dick Gregory and Robin Tyler to Micia Mosely and Hari Kondabolu. The popularity of charged humor has waxed and waned over the past sixty years. Indeed, the history of charged humor is a tale of intrigue and subversion featuring dive bars, public remonstrations, fickle audiences, movie stars turned politicians, commercial airlines, emergent technologies, neoliberal mind-sets, and a cavalcade of comic misfits with an ax to grind. Along the way, Krefting explores the fault lines in the modern economy of humor, why men are perceived to be funnier than women, the perplexing popularity of modern-day minstrelsy, and the way identities are packaged and sold in the marketplace. Appealing to anyone interested in the politics of humor and generating implications for the study of any form of popular entertainment, this history reflects on why we make the choices we do and the collective power of our consumptive practices. Readers will be delighted by the broad array of comic talent spotlighted in this book, and for those interested in comedy with substance, it will offer an alternative punchline.