Absolutely profound. The most intellectual and yet simultaneously immanent account of altered perception I've ever read. The first piece of gonzo jour...moreAbsolutely profound. The most intellectual and yet simultaneously immanent account of altered perception I've ever read. The first piece of gonzo journalism. He captures the way empathy and love are the means through which we conduct our doomed quest to assuage the inescapable solitude of life. The revival of Bergson that forms the backbone of this piece insists on an understanding of the mind that, if accepted, is transformative, bursting with the potential for new ways of life, and disturbing. I find his meditations on art reassuring; perhaps my philistine disinclination towards art and preference for the art of being itself is not so philistine after all.(less)
Decent overview of the major thinkers, problems, and traditions of thought that have shaped the development of social theory. This would be a good tex...moreDecent overview of the major thinkers, problems, and traditions of thought that have shaped the development of social theory. This would be a good textbook for an upper-level undergraduate theory class in sociology departments. If you need to brush up on basics, this is a good book. If you already have a decent grasp of the broad strokes of social theory, this book won't do much for you.(less)
Good book, if you're willing to accept the terms of the debate between liberals and republicans. I fundamentally disagree with some of their assumptio...moreGood book, if you're willing to accept the terms of the debate between liberals and republicans. I fundamentally disagree with some of their assumptions, so it was only meh for me, but if you're into mainstream contemporary analytic democratic theory, I predict you'll like it.(less)
Solid book on the views on the relationship between power and liberty held by four founding fathers. Some of his arguments are a bit of a hard sell (f...moreSolid book on the views on the relationship between power and liberty held by four founding fathers. Some of his arguments are a bit of a hard sell (for instance, that Madison is much more consistent in principle than is typically assumed), but all of them are interesting and well-evidenced nonetheless. This is not an earth-shattering book, but I enjoyed reading it, and I feel like I learned a few things.(less)
Dean is at her best when synthesizing and applying other theorists. As a result, I find her work a bit derivative, but she does have flashes of insigh...moreDean is at her best when synthesizing and applying other theorists. As a result, I find her work a bit derivative, but she does have flashes of insight with respect to her object of interest (blogging and other online media).
I found her steadfast technological pessimism a bit refreshing, because the relenting reminder that new media is often a tool of capitalism rather than a subversion of it sounds a much-needed cautionary note to counterbalance the technological optimism of other media theorists. Yet, it seems that she misses or glosses over some of the truly interesting things about online media because of her investment in her Lacanian theory of communicative capitalism. For instance, she misses some of the interesting ways that the internet affects physical space. What about when new media is used to organize in-person meet-ups, like protests or making an IRL date with an online sweetheart or simply friends gathering at each other's homes for parties planned on Facebook? She mentions that online games seem like the height of fantasy, yet affect the real economy. I would love to hear more on this - what does it mean that people buy imaginary WoW objects? How does Bitcoin relate to her theory of capitalism? What about cases where the real world economy and state infringe on the internet and the internet denizens fight back, like battles over Net Neutrality, illegal downloading, the Silk Road, and Anonymous?
As the previous paragraph may demonstrate, the best part of reading this book was that it helped me formulate some interesting research questions about new media. Another positive is that I gained a greater grasp of the media theory literature, because Dean engages with it comprehensively and gives summaries that make the debate easy to follow even if you haven't read the other theorists. On the negative side, she doesn't make much of a theoretical contribution. I also disagreed with her conclusions a fair amount, but that may be because I'm not a Lacanian.(less)
This book does a good job of engaging with the existing feminist IR literature. His argument was cogent, but ultimately I felt that it relied to heavi...moreThis book does a good job of engaging with the existing feminist IR literature. His argument was cogent, but ultimately I felt that it relied to heavily on his somewhat unconventional definitions of terms (e.g. if force is central to the definition of the state, of course it follows that the state is inherently violent...but if you define the state according to the full range of its characteristics, that puts force in a different context and opens the possibility of reconstructing the state without the element of force the same way he does with the notions of government and sovereignty). Furthermore, in order to make a distinction between the state and government, he reconstructs the definition of consent in a way that may be sensible at the macro-organizational level yet is highly problematic at the interpersonal level. His justification of coercive sexual relationships mars the book as a whole because it undermines his credibility as an anti-patriarchal thinker and suggests that it is not always desirable to collapse individual and collective sovereignty into the same definition as he does. It still gets three stars because despite these problems, he did take an interesting approach to the topic and provide food for thought.(less)