Archive for July, 2010

Even I Can Dance Better Than This

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Russian tanks performing an armored ballet at an arms expo in Zhukovsky:

Who Says Higher Education Doesn’t Pay?

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Today’s Inside Higher Ed tells us that

fraud perpetrators with only a high school diploma cost organizations a median of $100,000, compared with a median of $300,000 for those with postgraduate degrees, according to ACFE.

Documenting the History of the Great Patriotic War

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Although there’s no shortage of books and monographs devoted to the history of the Eastern Front during the Second World War, readers interested in supplementing their personal libraries with documentary collections have been hard-pressed to find accessible and affordable volumes.

Fortunately, this situation is about to change. Late next month, Routledge publishers will make its 2009 release The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945: A Documentary Reader by Alexander Hill (Associate Professor of Military History, University of Calgary) available in a handy paperback edition.

Hill’s edited volume contains documents covering wide-ranging aspects of the Soviet military experience: from pre-War diplomacy and preparations, through the debacle of 1941, to the Fall of Berlin and invasion of Manchuria. Separate chapters covering the Siege of Leningrad, Lend-Lease and the Economy, and the Partisan movement round out the volume. The collection is accompanied by Hill’s expert commentary and suggestions for further readings.

The book is an ideal supplement for individuals interested in the documentary history the Soviet war effort. And it makes a terrific companion text for courses devoted to the Second World War.

To pre-order your copy directly from Routledge, just click on the link above.

Figes update, updated.

Friday, July 16th, 2010

For his sock-puppet reviews and threats of legal action against fellow academics, Orlando Figes has apologized and paid damages as reported here.

UPDATE: Figes’ victims, Robert Service and Rachel Polonsky, make their comments at History Today, and they’re both still mad. Being threatened with libel lawsuits for telling the truth could do that, I suppose. What they say suggests that the three-month lapse between exposure and apology was related to a fight over the precise wording of Figes’ apology, which has not yet been made public. Evidently it was circulated to the circle of British academics who were copied on the original emails about the controversy, and none of them have posted it. I welcome correction if it is indeed online.

A Hit, a Very Palpable Hit: Academic Jargon

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Anyone who’s spent time around academia has had a close encounter of the unpleasant kind with academic jargon. To be sure, all fields have some necessary technical vocabulary required to allow for precise expression of meaning. Even history, which can generally use standard English, has some terms of art. “Historicism,” for example, has a clear and specific meaning which is handy to have at our disposal. One of my objections to casually throwing around “socialist” and “fascist” as political abuse is that I’d prefer to have those terms reserved for their relatively clear and distinct historical referents.

But most of us can agree that a lot of academic jargon simply serves the purpose of claiming erudition and membership in the club of Great Thinkers. I just read (hat tip to Ralph Luker at Cliopatria) a marvelous takedown of unnecessary jargon in Simon Blackburn’s review of John Searle’s Making the Social World:

“Sometimes the mountains labor and bring forth something not much larger than a mouse. Here is a salient example. Suppose we enter on a joint enterprise. Together we are to shift a rock, carry a coffin, or row a boat. I cannot perform the task solely by myself, and neither can you. In Searle’s pleasantly old-fashioned example we set about getting a manual-shift car with a flat battery to start, by means of my pushing and you letting in the clutch at the right moment. I will only push if I expect you to let in the clutch–and if you do not let in the clutch, I will stop pushing and be annoyed at the waste of effort. Here is Searle’s account of this situation, in what he bills as his canonical notation for representing the structure of intentionality:

a collective B by means of singular A (this ia causes: A car moves, causes: B engine starts). In English this is to be read as: I have a collective intention-in-action B, in which I do my part by performing my singular act A, and the content of the intention is that, in that context, this intention-in-action causes it to be the case, as A, that the car moves which, in that context, causes it to be the case that B, the engine starts. Notice furthermore that the free variables “B” and “A” are bound inside the bracket by the verb phrases “car moves” and “engine starts,” that follow the respective letters.

It may be that Searle is right that this paraphrases the original. He may even be right that the sentence said to be in English is indeed so, although I must say that it is a rather strange and unfamiliar dialect of English. But how, exactly, are we to understand this dialect? Putting my hand on my heart I should say that for all my gray hairs and many years’ experience of fearsome bushwhacking through tangled thickets of logic and philosophy of language, I myself understand it by supposing that it means more or less that we are together trying to start the car by means of my pushing it and you letting in the clutch, which is where we started.”