Calendar

Jan
22
Tue
Hassan Malik @ CFA Society
Jan 22 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Hassan Malik @ CFA Society

Following an unprecedented economic boom fed by foreign investment, the Russian Revolution triggered the worst sovereign default in history. Bankers and Bolsheviks tells the dramatic story of this boom and bust, chronicling the forgotten experiences of leading financiers of the age.

Shedding critical new light on the decision making of the powerful personalities who acted as the gatekeepers of international finance, Hassan Malik narrates how they channeled foreign capital into Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While economists have long relied on quantitative analysis to grapple with questions relating to the drivers of cross-border capital flows, Malik adopts a historical approach, drawing on banking and government archives in four countries. The book provides rare insights into the thinking of influential figures in world finance as they sought to navigate one of the most challenging and lucrative markets of the first modern age of globalization.

Bankers and Bolsheviks reveals how a complex web of factors—from government interventions to competitive dynamics and cultural influences—drove a large inflow of capital during this tumultuous period in world history. This gripping book demonstrates how the realms of finance and politics—of bankers and Bolsheviks—grew increasingly intertwined, and how investing in Russia became a political act with unforeseen repercussions.

Hassan Malik is an investment strategist and financial historian. He earned a PhD at Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the European University Institute in Florence and the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse. He lives and works in London.

Rob Reich @ Politics & Prose
Jan 22 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Rob Reich @ Politics & Prose

The troubling ethics and politics of philanthropy

Is philanthropy, by its very nature, a threat to today’s democracy? Though we may laud wealthy individuals who give away their money for society’s benefit, Just Giving shows how such generosity not only isn’t the unassailable good we think it to be but might also undermine democratic values and set back aspirations of justice. Big philanthropy is often an exercise of power, the conversion of private assets into public influence. And it is a form of power that is largely unaccountable, often perpetual, and lavishly tax-advantaged. The affluent—and their foundations—reap vast benefits even as they influence policy without accountability. And small philanthropy, or ordinary charitable giving, can be problematic as well. Charity, it turns out, does surprisingly little to provide for those in need and sometimes worsens inequality.

These outcomes are shaped by the policies that define and structure philanthropy. When, how much, and to whom people give is influenced by laws governing everything from the creation of foundations and nonprofits to generous tax exemptions for donations of money and property. Rob Reich asks: What attitude and what policies should democracies have concerning individuals who give money away for public purposes? Philanthropy currently fails democracy in many ways, but Reich argues that it can be redeemed. Differentiating between individual philanthropy and private foundations, the aims of mass giving should be the decentralization of power in the production of public goods, such as the arts, education, and science. For foundations, the goal should be what Reich terms “discovery,” or long-time-horizon innovations that enhance democratic experimentalism. Philanthropy, when properly structured, can play a crucial role in supporting a strong liberal democracy.

Just Giving investigates the ethical and political dimensions of philanthropy and considers how giving might better support democratic values and promote justice.

Rob Reich is professor of political science and faculty codirector for the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. His recent books include Education, Justice, and Democracy.

Jan
23
Wed
John P. McCormick @ Seminary Co Op Book Store
Jan 23 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
John P. McCormick @ Seminary Co Op Book Store

To what extent was Machiavelli a “Machiavellian”? Was he an amoral adviser of tyranny or a stalwart partisan of liberty? A neutral technician of power politics or a devout Italian patriot? A reviver of pagan virtue or initiator of modern nihilism? Reading Machiavelli answers these questions through original interpretations of Niccolò Machiavelli’s three major political works—The PrinceDiscourses, and Florentine Histories—and demonstrates that a radically democratic populism seeded the Florentine’s scandalous writings. John McCormick challenges the misguided understandings of Machiavelli set forth by prominent thinkers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and representatives of the Straussian and Cambridge schools.

McCormick emphasizes the fundamental, often unacknowledged elements of a vibrant Machiavellian politics: the utility of vigorous class conflict between elites and common citizens for virtuous democratic republics, the necessity of political and economic equality for genuine civic liberty, and the indispensability of religious tropes for the exercise of effective popular judgment. Interrogating the established reception of Machiavelli’s work by such readers as Rousseau, Leo Strauss, Quentin Skinner, and J.G.A. Pocock, McCormick exposes what was effectively an elite conspiracy to suppress the Florentine’s contentious, egalitarian politics. In recovering the too-long-concealed quality of Machiavelli’s populism, this book acts as a Machiavellian critique of Machiavelli scholarship.

Advancing fresh renderings of works by Machiavelli while demonstrating how they have been misread previously, Reading Machiavelli presents a new outlook for how politics should be conceptualized and practiced.

John P. McCormick is professor of political science at the University of Chicago. His books include Weimar Thought (Princeton) and Machiavellian Democracy.

Jan
29
Tue
Austin Carson @ Seminary Co Op Book Store
Jan 29 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Austin Carson @ Seminary Co Op Book Store

Secret Wars is the first book to systematically analyze the ways powerful states covertly participate in foreign wars, showing a recurring pattern of such behavior stretching from World War I to U.S.-occupied Iraq. Investigating what governments keep secret during wars and why, Austin Carson argues that leaders maintain the secrecy of state involvement as a response to the persistent concern of limiting war. Keeping interventions “backstage” helps control escalation dynamics, insulating leaders from domestic pressures while communicating their interest in keeping a war contained.

Carson shows that covert interventions can help control escalation, but they are almost always detected by other major powers. However, the shared value of limiting war can lead adversaries to keep secret the interventions they detect, as when American leaders concealed clashes with Soviet pilots during the Korean War. Escalation concerns can also cause leaders to ignore covert interventions that have become an open secret. From Nazi Germany’s role in the Spanish Civil War to American covert operations during the Vietnam War, Carson presents new insights about some of the most influential conflicts of the twentieth century.

Parting the curtain on the secret side of modern war, Secret Wars provides important lessons about how rival state powers collude and compete, and the ways in which they avoid outright military confrontations.

Austin Carson is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

Jan
30
Wed
Eboo Patel @ Family Action Network
Jan 30 @ 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm
Eboo Patel @ Family Action Network

A timely defense of religious diversity and its centrality to American identity

America is the most religiously devout country in the Western world and the most religiously diverse nation on the planet. In today’s volatile climate of religious conflict, prejudice, and distrust, how do we affirm the principle that the American promise is deeply intertwined with how each of us engages with people of different faiths and beliefs? Eboo Patel, former faith adviser to Barack Obama and named one of America’s best leaders by U.S. News & World Report, provides answers to this timely and consequential question.

In this inspiring and thought-provoking book, Patel draws on his personal experience as a Muslim in America to examine broader questions about the importance of religious diversity in the cultural, political, and economic life of the nation. He explores how religious language has given the United States some of its most enduring symbols and inspired many of its most vital civic institutions—and demonstrates how the genius of the American experiment lies in its empowerment of people of all creeds, ethnicities, and convictions.

Will America’s identity as a Judeo-Christian nation shift as citizens of different backgrounds grow in numbers and influence? In what ways will minority religious communities themselves change as they take root in American soil? In addressing these and other questions, Patel shows how America’s promise is the guarantee of equal rights and dignity for all, and how that promise is the foundation of America’s unrivaled strength as a nation. The book also includes incisive commentaries by John Inazu, Robert Jones, and Laurie Patton on American civil religion, faith and law, and the increasing number of nonreligious Americans.

Eboo Patel is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a nonprofit organization that promotes interfaith leadership on college campuses. He is the author of Interfaith Leadership: A PrimerSacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America; and Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. He lives in Chicago.