Sunday, July 31, 2011

Age of Greed, Turkish Politics, and Google in the book pages

On this weekend when the nation appears to pull back from the brink of a new financial crisis, two major papers feature reviews of AGE OF GREED: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present by Jeff Madrick. David Greenberg in the Washington Post sets the book in the context of other efforts to characterize the period of American history since the 1960s.
In “Restless Giant,” James T. Patterson placed prosperity and freedom at the center of our fin de siecle journey. For Sean Wilentz, it was “The Age of Reagan,” a time of ascendant conservatism. Daniel Rodgers calls it an “Age of Fracture,” when old and widely shared verities splintered into a jumble of irreconcilable premises.
For Madrick, it is an "Age of Greed."  Greenberg finds the book "compelling" and "important." It
chronicles how Americans ended up with the highly unregulated financial system that produced the meltdown of 2008 and the fallout that lingers three years later. What’s most novel about the book, which relies heavily on other secondary accounts, is that unlike other recent treatments of the financial crisis, it traces the origins of the problem not to the Bush or Clinton or even Reagan years, but all the way to the late 1960s.
But the title oversimplifies, Greenberg argues, and the book as a whole "elides...the difference between those rogues whose greed led them to run afoul of the law and those whose greed the system has in fact smiled upon."  Continue reading here.

Sebastian Mallaby in the New York Times emphasizes Madrick's argument that "a cabal of conservatives, driven first by greed and second by 'extreme free-market ideology,' gradually seized power. The result, as proclaimed in his bold subtitle, was 'the triumph of finance and the decline of America.'"  But the author's argument is "slippery," he argues.  "A history of neoconservatism can home in on self-professed neocons, whose actions are clearly informed by a defined body of beliefs. But it’s harder to identify a cabal that self-consciously embraced greed as a guiding philosophy."  Ultimately, for Mallaby, the book's thesis is "unconvincing," though his "worthwhile" stories "rescue" the book.  Read the rest here.

With political change in Turkey in the news, Stephen Kinzer has an essay "Triumphant Turkey" in the August 18 New York Review of Books, discussing:  Turkey and the Dilemma of EU Accession: When Religion Meets Politics by Mirela Bogdani,  The Mobilization of Political Islam in Turkey by Banu Eligur,  Turkey, Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity: A History, 1789–2007 by Carter Vaughn Findley, and Streets of Memory: Landscape, Tolerance, and National Identity in Istanbul by Amy Mills.

Also in the NYRB, How Google Dominates Us by James Gleick, discussing four Google-related books.