New and noteworthy – 1 June 2017

Financial gain with Jain; Europe’s challenge; demographic engineering in the Middle East; and our many millions of microscopic family members

June 1, 2017
Jain temple Bhandreshwar paintings in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India
Source: iStock

Jainism and Ethical Finance: A Timeless Business Model
Atul K. Shah and Aidan Rankin

Although “knowledge of Jain culture is patchy outside the Indian sphere of influence” and even within India, as Aidan Rankin puts it in his introduction, its spiritual traditions have developed “an ethical system applied to business and finance that differs markedly from the prevailing western paradigm” – and is notable for stressing “the connection between financial and ecological concerns”. Since the 2008 crash, there have been many calls for new forms of ethical finance, yet few have looked seriously to faith-based philosophies. This book explores insights from Jainist ideas about trust, interdependence, organic growth and ethical investment.

After Europe
Ivan Krastev
University of Pennsylvania Press

Rather than “making integration irreversible”, argues Ivan Krastev, the European Union has adopted a strategy of “making…disintegration unthinkable”. Yet tensions within the eurozone, Brexit, the refugee crisis and “a voters’ rebellion against the meritocratic elites” have now made it all too thinkable. As an undergraduate at Sofia University in 1989, Krastev witnessed “the world turned upside down” when the Soviet Union collapsed. Today, he fears, we may well see something similar, with Europe “doom[ed] to disarray and global irrelevance”, “bullying narrow-mindedness” and perhaps “misery and turmoil”. None of this is inevitable, of course, but the attitude of many Western Europeans – “shutting one’s eyes and believing everything will be fine” – strikes Krastev as dangerously inadequate.

States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making 
of the Modern Middle East
Laura Robson
University of California

“By the end of the 1930s,” writes Laura Robson, “the Middle East had become a space for a massive experiment in demographic engineering.” Attempts to bring members of different ethnic groups together in specific territories arose out of the policies of the Ottoman Empire but were furthered by the colonial “mandates” that Britain and France took on after the First World War. Zionist settlement and plans to partition Palestine between Arabs and Jews added another facet. Proposals even envisaged moving Assyrian Christians to South Africa or Brazil. This book traces how “transfer” and “partition” left an indelible mark on the Middle East whose consequences we are living with today.

Kin: How We Came to Know Our Microbe Relatives
John L. Ingraham
Harvard University Press

Darwin included a single figure in On the Origin of Species : a sketchy Tree of Life, showing how the teeming variety of creatures derive from a single common ancestor. Today, explains John Ingraham, we have fleshed out the picture and can demonstrate in detail how “we are all kin…from the smallest bacterium to the largest blue whale”. He describes the process of discovery that revealed the sole three branches on the tree: the recently discovered archaea, the bacteria and the eukaryotes, which include everything from protozoa, algae and fungi up to humans. Our new knowledge of the tree’s structure can help us to understand how bacteria on, in and around us cause disease; it may also offer clues about the origins of life.

Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace, and Security 
in Post-Conflict States
Sabrina Karim and Kyle Beardsley
Oxford University Press

Many writers have studied peacekeepers’ success in protecting civilians and suppressing conflicts. Few have considered issues around peacekeeping and gender. There may now be more female peacekeepers, but what roles are they given? Do stereotypes about men as natural warriors or as protectors limit what women are expected and allowed to do? And can “equal opportunities” peace missions foster gender equality in post-conflict states? This work offers some challenging answers.

Matthew Reisz

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