New and noteworthy – 26 October 2017

Rewriting the rules of journalism; pondering ways of thinking; competing with capitalism; marginalised scientists; and a history of jealousy

October 26, 2017
Source: iStock

Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between
Linda Greenhouse
Harvard University Press

Linda Greenhouse once got her knuckles rapped when she criticised the Bush administration in an address at Harvard – because US journalists were supposed to report the facts and keep their opinions to themselves. Yet the “objectivity norm” has recently come under severe pressure, with even The New York Times calling Donald Trump a “serial fabulist” and referring to his “lies”. Here Greenhouse reflects on her own 40 years at the Times, the competing urges she sometimes felt as journalist and citizen – and why journalists still have a vital role as “participants in the ongoing democratic project of arming fellow citizens with the information they need”.

How to Think: A Guide for the Perplexed
Alan Jacobs
Profile Books

Most books about thinking, writes Alan Jacobs, are “really depressing to read”, because they insist on showing us “the infinitely varied paths we can take toward the seemingly inevitable dead end of Getting It Wrong”. Even his fellow academics seem “reluctant to engage in genuine reflection” or to “question [their] impulsive reactions”. Yet we can, he believes, do better. If we disagree with someone, we should avoid rushing into a “Refutation Mode”, which may help us feel self-righteous but prevents us from learning anything. Debating tricks and “talking for victory” may be fun, yet the rewards are far greater when we genuinely make the effort to engage with other views.

Graphic Science: Seven Journeys of Discovery
Darryl Cunningham
Myriad Editions

In what his publisher describes as an “alternative Nobel prize gallery”, cartoonist Darryl Cunningham has reconstructed the lives of seven scientists who had to fight to get their voices heard. Fossil hunter and palaeontologist Mary Anning was constantly patronised as a woman, while botanist and inventor George Washington Carver was born into slavery. Astronomer Fred Hoyle often found his achievements denigrated because of his controversial views. Yet whether or not they ever gained their due, their careers – like those of Antoine Lavoisier, Nikola Tesla, Alfred Wegener and Jocelyn Bell Burnell – are all fascinating. Cunningham hopes that they will also encourage us to “be scientist[s] in [our] own lives”.

Is Capitalism Obsolete?: A Journey through Alternative Economic Systems
Giacomo Corneo; translated by Daniel Steuer
Harvard University Press

Capitalism “wastes resources on a grand scale”, is “an affront to justice” and encourages people to “set goals for themselves that are just simply incompatible with meaningful self-actualization”. Such is the central challenge put by a daughter to her father in Giacomo Corneo’s new book. His response is to carry out “a rational analysis of all the serious suggestions for alternative economic systems our species has managed to formulate so far”. The result is “an exciting journey beyond capitalism”, exploring and critiquing common ownership, anarchism, “planning”, shareholder socialism, universal basic income and (apparently Corneo’s preferred option) a market economy plus welfare state.

Jealousy: A Forbidden Passion
Giulia Sissa

Jealousy may be shameful, argues Giulia Sissa, but “how many of us, in the course of our lives, could swear to never having experienced such shame? I, for one, must plead guilty.” And in many ways it is a highly “realistic” emotion, given that lovers are “fully aware of how mobile the desire of another person can be”. So what might it mean to write a history of this forbidden passion? Sissa ranges from the ancient Greeks, through Shakespeare, 18th-century libertines, Proust and Freud to today’s erotically charged memoirs. Far from being something merely to be condemned, she concludes, jealousy reveals some essential truths about human relations.

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