Susan Carruthers, associate professor of history, Rutgers University, New Jersey, US, writes in the Times Higher Educational Supplement [Website down 08:30] about three books on contemporary international affairs. Her contribution to the 30Jan04 edition [not free online] should be given to students as an example of how to smother reason with fashionable polysyllabic flannel. Here are a couple of snippets:

With geopolitical sands shifting underfoot, it is hard to avoid intimations of profound systemic upheaval. But the sensation of living through a pivotal phase has generated much perplexity as to why US imperialism has taken a new territorial turn in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reading Harvey and Gamble requires less suspension of disbelief… …If the decline and fall of hegemons is a world-systemic inevitability, Harvey nevertheless avoids an over-determined or fatalistic reading of Washington’s recent actions. America’s predicament has been aggravated by its elite’s chronic inability to apportion the fruits of its international accumulation to its own domestic dispossessed. Instead Washington has let “fictitious capital” flourish, sanctioned corporate corruption on a massive scale, and failed to invest in America’s own, desperately needed, infrastructural regeneration.

Usually, however, the THES‘s book reviews are excellent. This week, for example Chandak Sengoopta, Senior Lecturer in history, Birkbeck College, London, gives Peter Lamont’s The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick the second favourable review of it I have read. The style and content of Sengoopta’s commentary are rather different; his article is concise, clear, informative, accurate and witty:

[Lamont’s] book is meticulously researched but addresses a wider readership, avoiding earnestness, jargon and ideological blather. One shudders to imagine what an English professor, waving his regulation copy of Edward Said’s Orientalism might have done to this story.