Ken's Reading Room

This site was designed primarily as an information hub for students of mine, to access online resources related to books that are relevant to one or more of my courses. Other audio books and videos can be found HERE.

For Extra Credit Assignments: If you are visiting this site to get extra credit, you need to engage ALL the material associated with one of the books below, THINK about what you've just learned, and how it relates to other ideas from the course (e.g. our other readings and/or lecture), and then submit a 1-2 page (typed, double-spaced, normal fonts and margins) reflection journal. For full credit, you must summarize key ideas from the book in an articulate paragraph or two, and another paragraph that ties at least one key idea to a specific idea/concept/theory from class. YOU MUST DISCUSS/CITE/QUOTE/REFERENCE specific ideas from the book to get full credit on this assignment! Title the document "NAME OF BOOK-YOUR NAME-NAME OF COURSE-EXTRA CREDIT". Save this document (backup) and submit text of the document in the submission area provided in our course website.

THE REPUBLICAN BRAIN
by Chris Mooney


This book, written by a secular, science-based scholar, discusses in detail the new science of "the psychology of ideology". This review of the research lies in the realm of evolutionary social psychology and the study of socio-biological origins of morals, values and belief systems, which has recently focused on politics and religion (see also Jonathan Haight).

His basic argument is that conservatives have different brains than liberals, in that conservatives are compelled by a mix of innate, social and environmental forces to be more authoritarian (black or white, right or wrong thinking). fearful of different others (less tolerant of diversity), more likely to form tribal alliances (us vs. them), have a greater need for closure, a greater need for certainty (vs. skepticm and doubt), less willing to change their mind, and less likely to accept science as a basis for understanding reality, than liberals. He also shows how these partially inborn characteristics have been fomented by today's peculiar media system in which false claims are used to shape a cultural narrative among conservatives that is historically inaccurate (e.g. Fox News) in order to sustain a larger conservative agenda that is moving further and further away from the truth and reality on many social problems we confront today, such as their denial of climate change, among other things.

He takes great pains throughout the book to say that these are just TENDENCIES and that the actual differences between "conservatives" and "liberals" lies along a continuum of tendencies in either direction on these attitudes, values and beliefs. The book is poorly titled, in my opinion, because it also spends a good deal of time exposing liberal brain tendencies, and because he also talks about the strengths of conservative brains over liberal ones.

If you have a "Republican Brain" you may find yourself resisting or rejecting the comprehensive scientific evidence presented here.

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

The Republican Brain (by Chris Mooney, 2012) (Amazon link)

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):
Chris Mooney - The Republican Brain - Intro & Prelude
Chris Mooney - The Republican Brain-CH1-Denying Minds
Chris Mooney - The Republican Brain-CH2-Smart Idiots
Chris Mooney - The Republican Brain-CH8-The Science of Fox News

Chris Mooney - The Republican Brain - Conclusion

RELATED RESOURCES:
Conversation with Mooney and Haight about The Republican Brain and more.
Watch this AFTER you've listened to at least a chapter from the book (above)
Chris Mooney's Blog/More Articles
What is the Center for Inquiry?
Point of Inquiry (from the Center for Inquiry; Mooney's podcasted show)
Center for Inquiry - YouTube channel


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23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
by Ha-Joon Chang

This book is a powerful re-examination of the mythology of capitalism, dispelling the religion of free market principles that dominate a large part of our American belief system. For example, did you know there is no such thing as a free market? Read on!

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (by Ha-Hoon Chang, 2011) (Amazon link)
About the author (Wikipedia link)

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):
Chapter 1: The Myth of the Free Market
Chapter 2: The Myth of Self Interest
Chapter 13: The Myth of Trickle Down Economics
Chapter 18: The Problem with Corporations
Chapter 19: Economic Planning & Socialism (ch. 19)
Chapter 20: The True Nature of Inequality (ch. 20)
Conclusion


RELATED RESOURCES:
YouTube Video: Ha-Joon Chang on 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism


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Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
by Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes is an author and journalist who can be seen daily on MSNBC. This book examines the "myth of meritocracy": the belief by both liberals and conservatives that success in the American economy is not rigged by those in power, and that we all struggle to succeed on a level playing field. After critiquing this common belief with substantial evidence, he suggests ways in which the field can be leveled through revolutionary acts of true democratic participation.

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

Chris Hayes Website

About the author (Wikipedia link)

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):
Chapter 1: The Naked Emperors

RELATED RESOURCES:

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Social  Movements in the World System (Introduction & Environmental Movement)
by
Jackie Smith and Dawn Wiest

In Social Movements in the World-System, Jackie Smith and Dawn Wiest build upon theories of social movements, global institutions, and the political economy of the world-system to uncover how institutions define the opportunities and constraints on social movements, which in turn introduce ideas and models of action that help transform social activism as well as the system itself. Smith and Wiest trace modern social movements to the founding of the United Nations, as well as struggles for decolonization and the rise of national independence movements, showing how these movements have shifted the context in which states and other global actors compete and interact. The book shows how transnational activism since the end of the Cold War, including United Nations global conferences and more recently at World Trade Organization meetings, has shaped the ways groups organize. Global summits and UN conferences have traditionally provided focal points for activists working across borders on a diverse array of issues. By engaging in these international arenas, movements have altered discourses to emphasize norms of human rights and ecological sustainability over territorial sovereignty. Over time, however, activists have developed deeper and more expansive networks and new spaces for activism. This growing pool of transnational activists and organizations democratizes the process of organizing, enables activists to build on previous experiences and share knowledge, and facilitates local actions in support of global change agendas.

As the world faces profound financial and ecological crises, and as the United States' dominance in the world political economy is increasingly challenged, it is especially urgent that scholars, policy analysts, and citizens understand how institutions shape social behavior and the distribution of power. Social Movements in the World-System helps illuminate the contentious and complex interactions between social movements and global institutions and contributes to the search for paths toward a more equitable, sustainable, and democratic world.

Jackie Smith is professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dawn Wiest is senior research analyst at the American College of Physicians.

A Volume in the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology


BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:



AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):

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The Warmth of Other Suns
by Isabel Wilkerson
In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.


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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:
Amazon book page

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):

RELATED RESOURCES:


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Title of Book
by author

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:
Amazon book page
Author website

About the author (Wikipedia link)

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):

RELATED RESOURCES:

TECHNOPOLY: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

by Neil Postman

Neil Postman is a famous American media theorist and author of many well-known book and articles on the subject of the effects of technology on culture and humanity, including his most famous (I think), "Amusing Ourselves to Death" (1985). This book, Technopoly (1993) was his last major work before he died in 2003. His ideas are highly progressive, prophetic and deeply insightful, in the same critical tradition as Marshall McLuhan ("the medium is the message"). This book concentrates on how, particularly in the U.S., technological advances create and transform culture via the ideologies attached to each new innovation, how it radically transforms our other social institutions in unseen and unforeseen ways (education, politics, etc.), and how "winners" and "losers" are cast in this ongoing technological war for our minds. From the printing press to the internet, he covers all the major points here.

“A new technology does not add or subtract something, it changes everything”


He's not a Luddite! Give him your ear below, you will never think about technology and media the same way again! If you are unable to find the focus required to follow Postman's heady and thought-provoking theory of media, or if you just can't understand his words, it is, ironically enough, for reasons he explains in Chapter 4. Welcome to college :)


BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (Neil Postman, 1993) (Amazon link)
The Neil Postman Website

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):
Chapter 1 (Introduction): The Judgment of Thamus
Chapter 4: The Improbable World
Chapter 8: Invisible Technologies


RELATED RESOURCES:
YouTube Interview on the book, Technopoly
Other YouTube clips featuring Neil Postman
Other books by Neil Postman (Amazon)
Wikipedia on the story of Thamus (Socrates' telling of a classic Plato allegory; Postman ref)

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The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins

I'm devoting this entire section to not just Dawkins, but other important authors and scientists who have presented compelling arguments - from a scientific, rational point of view - that God is a uniquely human invention, one that is often dangerous. Are you ready to question your faith with the tools of science?

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

The God Delusion (by Richard Dawkins, 2008) (Amazon link)
About the author (Wikipedia)

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):
The God Delusion -what's wrong with religion? - Dawkins
The God Delusion - why are we good? - Dawkins

The Magic of Reality - Ch 1 - Dawkins (from Dawkins' latest book; examines what is reality and how do we know?)
The Magic of Reality - miracles - Dawkins

War of the Worldviews: Chopra vs Mlodinow (this book offers an intriguing, mutually-respectful debate between the competing worldviews of religion and science by a Buddhist and a Physicist)
War of the Worldviews: Chopra vs. Mlodinow - on belief

Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris (atheist)

The God Virus - Darrel Ray - Introduction  |  Ch 12-The Future of anf Illusion

RELATED RESOURCES:
YouTube Video: The God Delusion, narrated by Richard Dawkins
The Sociobiology of Morality & Religion (J. Haight)
Religulous (Bill Maher)
Atheism in Illinois: God is Not on Trial Today


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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics & Religion
by Jonathan Heidt

BOOK REVIEW (from Amazon.com): As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you’re ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.

This book is what I would call the "New Sociobiology", in the tradition of E.O. Wilson, but with a more current scholarly emphasis in evolutionary psychology and cultural anthropology as it explains the more innate human tendencies for ingroups and the formation of moral systems. A major thesis here is that (emotional) intuitions come first, reason and rationality comes second; that certain core emotional states (as evolutionary adaptations) carry us along, and rationality is the servant to these states. I was surprised by Heidt's sociological emphasis on group-level adaptations, such as the evolved capacity of humans to organize into societies. He integrates Durkheim with Darwin in his discussion of group level natural selection processes that lead to moral development toward cooperative societies, which simultaneously compete with our "selfish" genetic predispositions. For Heidt, in this world of fiercely opposed political ideologies (progressives vs. tea party) and religiously-driven intolerance and conflict (e.g. terrorism), understanding how our ability to think rationally is constrained by these evolutionary-cultural forces allows us to understand why our political and religious divisions are having such devastating global impacts. He delivers his thesis in an easy to understand narrative, introducing and summarizing all major points at both the beginning and end of each chapter. 

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

About the Author: Wikipedia
Haidt's Website

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3
):
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics & Religion
        -
Intro & Ch 1(excerpts)
        -Chapter 11 - Religion is a Team Sport
        -CH 12 - Can't We All Disagree More Constructively (Political Morality PART 1)
        -CH 12 - Can't We All Disagree More Constructively (Political Morality PART 2)
        -Conclusion

RELATED RESOURCES:
Haidt on TED Talks
Haidt on YouTube
Your Morals.org


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The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
by Nicholas Carr

Nicholas Carr is an acclaimed writer on technology and culture. His new book, "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us," examines the personal and economic consequences of our growing dependence on computers to do our jobs and live our lives. The New York Times Book Review called the book "essential," and the Wall Street Journal termed it "elegant." Carr's 2010 book, "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains," was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. A New York Times bestseller, "The Shallows" discusses the personal consequences of Internet and computer use and, more broadly, examines the role that media and other technologies have played in shaping the way people think.

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:

Nicholas Carr Website
Amazon book page

About the author (Wikipedia link)

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):
Chapter 1: 

RELATED RESOURCES:
Is Google Making Us Stupid? (article in Atlantic Monthly)

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You Are Not So Smart
by David McRaney
Whether you’re deciding which smartphone to purchase or which politician to believe, you think you are a rational being whose every decision is based on cool, detached logic. But here’s the truth: You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us—but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human. (from Amazon site)

BOOK/AUTHOR WEBSITE:
Amazon book page

AUDIO CLIPS (MP3):

RELATED RESOURCES:
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