Calendar

Apr
23
Mon
Edward J. Balleisen @ Cons and Scams: Their Place in American Culture
Apr 23 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

FraudThe United States has always proved an inviting home for boosters, sharp dealers, and outright swindlers. Worship of entrepreneurial freedom has complicated the task of distinguishing aggressive salesmanship from unacceptable deceit, especially on the frontiers of innovation. At the same time, competitive pressures have often nudged respectable firms to embrace deception. As a result, fraud has been a key feature of American business since its beginnings. In this sweeping narrative, Edward Balleisen traces the history of fraud in America—and the evolving efforts to combat it—from the age of P. T. Barnum through the eras of Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff.

Starting with an early nineteenth-century American legal world of “buyer beware,” this unprecedented account describes the slow, piecemeal construction of modern regulatory institutions to protect consumers and investors, from the Gilded Age through the New Deal and the Great Society. It concludes with the more recent era of deregulation, which has brought with it a spate of costly frauds, including the savings and loan crisis, corporate accounting scandals, and the recent mortgage-marketing debacle.

By tracing how Americans have struggled to foster a vibrant economy without enabling a corrosive level of fraud, this book reminds us that American capitalism rests on an uneasy foundation of social trust.

Edward J. Balleisen is professor of history and public policy and vice provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University. He is the author of Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Apr
24
Tue
Keith Whittington @ University of Dallas
Apr 24 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

FreelyFree speech is under attack at colleges and universities today, with critics on and off campus challenging the value of open inquiry and freewheeling intellectual debate. Too often speakers are shouted down, professors are threatened, and classes are disrupted. In Speak Freely, Keith Whittington argues that universities must protect and encourage free speech because vigorous free speech is the lifeblood of the university. Without free speech, a university cannot fulfill its most basic, fundamental, and essential purposes, including fostering freedom of thought, ideological diversity, and tolerance.

Examining such hot-button issues as trigger warnings, safe spaces, hate speech, disruptive protests, speaker disinvitations, the use of social media by faculty, and academic politics, Speak Freely describes the dangers of empowering campus censors to limit speech and enforce orthodoxy. It explains why free speech and civil discourse are at the heart of the university’s mission of creating and nurturing an open and diverse community dedicated to learning. It shows why universities must make space for voices from both the left and right. And it points out how better understanding why the university lives or dies by free speech can help guide everyone—including students, faculty, administrators, and alumni—when faced with difficult challenges such as unpopular, hateful, or dangerous speech.

Timely and vitally important, Speak Freely demonstrates why universities can succeed only by fostering more free speech, more free thought—and a greater tolerance for both.

First published in 2018.

Keith E. Whittington is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University and a leading authority on American constitutional theory and law.

Apr
25
Wed
Geoffrey Robinson
Apr 25 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

RobinsonThe Killing Season explores one of the largest and swiftest, yet least examined, instances of mass killing and incarceration in the twentieth century—the shocking antileftist purge that gripped Indonesia in 1965–66, leaving some five hundred thousand people dead and more than a million others in detention.

An expert in modern Indonesian history, genocide, and human rights, Geoffrey Robinson sets out to account for this violence and to end the troubling silence surrounding it. In doing so, he sheds new light on broad and enduring historical questions. How do we account for instances of systematic mass killing and detention? Why are some of these crimes remembered and punished, while others are forgotten? What are the social and political ramifications of such acts and such silence?

Challenging conventional narratives of the mass violence of 1965–66 as arising spontaneously from religious and social conflicts, Robinson argues convincingly that it was instead the product of a deliberate campaign, led by the Indonesian Army. He also details the critical role played by the United States, Britain, and other major powers in facilitating mass murder and incarceration. Robinson concludes by probing the disturbing long-term consequences of the violence for millions of survivors and Indonesian society as a whole.

Based on a rich body of primary and secondary sources, The Killing Season is the definitive account of a pivotal period in Indonesian history. It also makes a powerful contribution to wider debates about the dynamics and legacies of mass killing, incarceration, and genocide.

First published in 2018.

Geoffrey B. Robinson is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali and “If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor. Before coming to UCLA, he worked for six years at Amnesty International’s Research Department in London. Robinson lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.

Julian Zelizer @ Princeton Public Library
Apr 25 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

ZelizerBarack Obama’s election as the first African American president seemed to usher in a new era, and he took office in 2009 with great expectations. But by his second term, Republicans controlled Congress, and, after the 2016 presidential election, Obama’s legacy and the health of the Democratic Party itself appeared in doubt. In The Presidency of Barack Obama, Julian Zelizer gathers leading American historians to put President Obama and his administration into political and historical context. 

These writers offer strikingly original assessments of the big issues that shaped the Obama years, including the conservative backlash, race, the financial crisis, health care, crime, drugs, counterterrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan, the environment, immigration, education, gay rights, and urban policy. Together, these essays suggest that Obama’s central paradox is that, despite effective policymaking, he failed to receive credit for his many achievements and wasn’t a party builder. Provocatively, they ask why Obama didn’t unite Democrats and progressive activists to fight the conservative counter-tide as it grew stronger.

Engaging and deeply informed, The Presidency of Barack Obama is a must-read for anyone who wants to better understand Obama and the uncertain aftermath of his presidency.

Contributors include Sarah Coleman, Jacob Dlamini, Gary Gerstle, Risa Goluboff, Meg Jacobs, Peniel Joseph, Michael Kazin, Matthew Lassiter, Kathryn Olmsted, Eric Rauchway, Richard Schragger, Paul Starr, Timothy Stewart-Winter, Thomas Sugrue, Jeremi Suri, Julian Zelizer, and Jonathan Zimmerman.

Julian E. Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN Political Analyst. He is the author and editor of eighteen books on American political history, has written hundreds of op-eds, and appears regularly on television as a news commentator.