First off, the comment thread to the part 1 resulted in something of an informal pomocon booklist. Here are a few of the more interesting recent titles from it, IMO:
Let’s have some more, dear readers, por favor? Meantime, I’ll say some more on my selections:
9) Gary Bruce, The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi
Not as immediately engaging as Anna Funder’s Stasiland , but gives you a much better picture of the organization. Bruce did extensive research, including the sorts of interviews of ex-Stasi agents, and their victims, that Funder’s book featured, focusing in on just two regional Stasi offices. Mentioning it reminds me to let you know that my and Flagg Taylor’s edited collection on the must-see film The Lives of Others , has been given the go-ahead, and so you will likely see the book within a year’s time. Meantime, the best theory-oriented book on communism of late is Flagg Taylor’s edited collection The Great Lie .
10) Pete Townshend, Who I Am
This was in the “pretty bad book” category. Yes, you will wind up agreeing that Pete was wrongly accused in and portrayed by the press on the child-pornography purchasing charges, and this perhaps was his main motive for writing it, but the big result is that you will find yourself wondering where the man behind the “thinking man’s rock band” is. Or, if this is the real guy, how he ever got a reputation for being so thoughtful. Very little insight into the music scene swirling around him, and very old baby-boomerish rock attitudes about lots of things, such as how profound Tommy and Quadrophenia are. You learn things here and there about the music, such as the importance of performance for The Who, and why the demand for that was the real impetus behind the Tommy-esque pattern of the 70s. You see why Live at Leeds is really the pivotal Who album, from this perspective. I have fond memories of that album, and this hard-rock-justifying perspective makes some sense, but I’ve issues with the post-Tommy Who, as I laid out here .
Pete also reveals that the groupie appetite of his fellows, especially Keith and John, was limitless, while displaying an odd and annoying desire to discuss his own sexual conquests one by one by one into one affair after another, particularly after he gave up on his marriage sometime in the mid-70s. Weirdly tone-deaf, and depressing, really. You just come away thinking much less of the man . . . which is not what the more successful Keith Richards bio does to you, for example. Maybe heroin is better for you than being declared the thinker of big rock thoughts.
11) David Mayer, Liberty of Contract: Rediscovering a Lost Constitutional Right
Libertarian theorists of the purist sort (think: Nozick) either make me laugh or retch, libertarian economists, at least once they get beyond the Hayekian basics, are above my pay grade, but I think libertarian constitutional law scholars are AWESOME. Richard Epstein, Randy Barnett, David Bernstein, and this guy. I typically don’t agree with their most fundamental points, but I’m always shifting my feet, admitting they have a point here and there, and getting nervous. A more readable book on the key issue here, whether the 14th amendment really contains a right to contract in its protection of liberty, a la the majority opinion in Lochner , is Bernstein’s Rehabilitating Lochner . But that book is ultimately too limited in scope to get you seriously wrestling with the possibility that Founders and the entire American legal tradition (pre-30s)really had a place for right-of-contract protecting “substantive due process.” Will Mayer convince me? Stay tuned . . . I don’t think so, but only have read a third of this.
12) Alan Gibson, Understanding the Founding, 2nd edition
The reason you want the 2nd edition is that it contains a chapter that partially refutes the over -vindication the Founders and especially TJ on the slavery question in the essential Vindicating the Founders by Thomas West. (In doing so he also takes apart the main over -prosecutor of TJ, Paul Finkelman. While he presents it as an even-handed rejection of both, West comes off far better.)
Gibson is a review-the-scholarship guy, and with respect to the Founding, given the interaction of both historians and political scientists, such work is really needed. His most necessary work on that score is the shorter book Interpreting the Founding, do start there, but this one is more free-wheeling, indulging in a re-examination of the Charles Beard here, and in a summary of our Jim Ceaser’s “foundational ideas” approach there. Much to benefit from.