The Post-Truth About Fake News

This is a guest post by Anthem Press author Steve Fuller, University of Warwick. His new book, Post-Truth: Knowledge As A Power Game, is now availableSteve recently spoke to the BBC. Check out his interview here:

http://www.anthempressblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/ThinkingAllowed-20180919-PostTruth.mp3

In Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game, I argue that the post-truth condition was first understood by Plato nearly 2500 years ago. His most diligent latter-day student has been Walter Lippmann, the man who set the tone for ‘objective’ and ‘professional’ journalism in the twentieth century.  Both Plato and Lippmann agreed that that key to political stability was a public belief in a generally stable reality, with the remaining uncertainties left to be managed by experts, which in Lippmann’s case included journalists.

‘The present crisis in democracy is a crisis in journalism’ is a statement about what we now call ‘fake news’, but it was made not today but in 1920. It appeared in Liberty and the News, one of Lippmann’s early books. He was reflecting on The New York Times’ coverage of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which at the time was heralded as the most detailed, up to-the-minute reporting of any major overseas political event. His analysis had originally appeared as a forty-page supplement to an issue of the progressive US magazine, The Nation.

The New York Times’ reporters had been drawn from the ranks of ‘muckrakers’, the prototype of today’s investigative journalists, whose credibility came from their eyewitness accounts of what was happening ‘in the field’, channelling the mood and feel of the major players. The result was that print readers were subject to an unprecedented immediacy, as editors in New York rapidly reconstructed the accounts they received from the field, mainly by telegram. Keep in mind that this was just before the advent of radio broadcasts, and more than a generation before television.

However, once the dust had settled from the conflict, Lippmann concluded that the reporters had radically misrepresented the course of events. Largely sympathetic to the Bolshevik cause, they ended up trusting Bolshevik press releases and read their own wishful thoughts into what they managed to witness first hand. There may have even been a touch of narcissism, as many of the revolutionaries – not least Lenin and Trotsky – had been very able publicists, appropriating much of the rhetoric that the muckrakers had used to describe poverty, corruption and injustice in America.

Indeed, Lenin is reputed to have coined the phrase ‘useful idiots’ for the journalists that Lippmann went on to criticize. Today we would simply say that Lippmann discovered that they had been ‘spun’.  But what does ‘unspinning’ mean? It is here that Lippmann, a philosophy student at Harvard, shows his mastery of Plato – and the post-truth horizon.

Lippmann was clear that The New York Times’ breathless coverage of the Bolshevik Revolution got enough of the basic facts wrong to undermine the newspaper’s credibility. However, Lippmann’s solution was arguably more about publicizing journalistic credibility than validating specific facts, especially in an increasingly uncertain and complex world. The legacy is that even today newsreaders are normally careful not to display too much affect as they read news copy, which is itself scrupulously written to downplay or neutralize any values at play, unless they can be attributed to specific parties, preferably in their own words. Even more than speaking the truth, it would seem that one must appear to speak the truth. This is the post-truth condition in its most naked form.

Interested in more on the topic? Check out Steve’s interview with Virtual Futures.

Steve Fuller is the Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. Originally trained in history and philosophy of science, Fuller pioneered the field of ‘social epistemology’ in a quarterly journal that he founded in 1987 as well as in more than twenty books. His most recent books are Knowledge: The Philosophical Quest in History (2015) and The Academic Caesar (2016). Connect with Steve on Twitter and Academia.

2018 Award Winning Books and Authors

Several Anthem Press authors have received awards this year. Our congratulations to these authors for this well-deserved recognition!

2018 Schumpeter Prize - John MatthewsGlobal Green Shift: When Ceres Meets Gaia

Schumpeter 3The International Schumpeter Society (ISS) announced John Mathews (Global Green Shift: When CERES Meets GAIA) as co-winner of the 2018 Schumpeter Prize.  The prize winners were announced at the gala dinner of the Schumpeter Society held at Seoul National University, Korea, on July 1, 2018. The prize is supported by 10,000 Euro provided by the prize sponsor, Aurora World, a Korean firm whose founder and chair Noh Hee-Yoel awarded the prize at the gala dinner. Also in attendance were Professor Keun Lee, President of the Schumpeter Society and Chair of the Society’s 2018 conference, and Emeritus Professor Massimo Egidi, of the LUISS Guido Carli university in Rome, chair of the prize selection panel and president-elect of the Schumpeter Society. For more information, click here.

 

2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought - Dr. Mariana Mazzucato

Dr. Mariana Mazzucato has been awarded the 2018 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought for her research on the role of governments in innovation. GDAE Co-Director Neva Goodwin remarked: “The topic of innovation receives a lot of attention these days. What has been insufficiently recognized, before the work of Mariana Mazzucato, is the critical role of governments in innovation and hence the role of the public sector in the process of wealth creation. Her work argues for concrete ways to make sure both the risks and the rewards are better shared so that smart growth is also more inclusive growth.” Mariana is the author of The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, original version published by Anthem Press in 2015. For more information on the prize, click here.

 

2018 AGBA International Book Award - The Unglobals: Groundbreakers in the Age of Economic Nationalism, J. Mark Munoz

IMG_4227The Unglobals: Groundbreakers in the Age of Economic Nationalism by J. Mark Munoz has won the 2018 AGBA International Book Award. The award was presented to J. Mark Munoz at the Academy for Global Business Advancement 15th Annual World Congress, Thailand.  For more information, click here.

Middlebrow – Feelings and Fury

This is a guest post by Faye Hammill, University of Glasgow. She is an editorial board member for Anthem Studies in Book History, Publishing and Print Culture.  

What does “middlebrow” mean? Is it a label for a particular kind of book, film or artwork – one that is unchallenging, conventional, perhaps mediocre, yet with visible aspirations to be taken seriously? This is the way the word is most often used by reviewers and journalists – usually with a derogatory tone. Or is it a set of practices and institutions: a mode of education, a route to self-improvement? This is what cultural and literary historians tend to mean by “middlebrow”.

One thing is certain: it is a provocative word. A 2015 piece on highbrow and middlebrow in The Conversation by an Australian professor of creative writing, John Dale, sparked an extensive debate, ranging from a verbally dextrous attack on an allegedly middlebrow novel (“What words suffice to describe it… mawkish? pompous? orotund? turgid?”) to a contemptuous dismissal of critical expertise (” John cuts through the academic waffle that surrounds the so-called study of English literature”). Some of the most vigorous commentary related to Dale’s claim that: “The distinctions between highbrow and middlebrow fiction are as old as literature itself.” I do not think that makes any sense. For one thing, fiction is a genre that emerged much later than poetry or drama. For another, the discourse of “brows”, which fragmented readerships into different levels, was generated by the industrialisation of the publishing industry in modern times.

Ah – here I go, entering the fray. I hadn’t meant to, but “Middlebrow” is a word that makes people want to fight. Three Australian writers recently reacted with (controlled) fury to an article by Beth Driscoll in the Sydney Review of Books that cited their novels as examples of books that “slip in and out of the middlebrow”. According to Driscoll, the work of Susan Johnson, Antonia Hayes, and Stephanie Bishop demonstrates that “middlebrow” should be understood “as a set of practices, rather than a label permanently affixed to a cultural product or institution.” The three writers upbraid Driscoll for reinforcing the association of the middlebrow with the feminine, and for apparently accepting the idea that anything that sells well must be of inferior quality.  However, in this case, both the original article and the responses are thoughtful, measured and insightful, with none of the flippant or hasty reaction evident in the Dale example.

Why has this debate reignited in Australia in particular? Does “middlebrow” have a distinctive resonance in Australia that is different from its meanings in other places? The question of the geography of the middlebrow is taken up in fascinating ways in Mitchell Rolls’s and Anna Johnston’s Travelling Home, Walkabout Magazine and Mid-Twentieth-Century Australia (Anthem, 2016). One of their key ideas is that Walkabout, which focused on travel and also on book culture – was used by its readers as a way of “finding their own place in the world” (43). They argue:

Throughout, the magazine mobilized the sentimental discourse common to middlebrow aesthetics, which encouraged personal engagement with others outside metropolitan readerships.  [The editors'] intentions to educate through travel and reading about travel situate Walkabout precisely in the realm of sentimental education typical of middlebrow culture. (52)

Yes. That’s what I think “middlebrow” means – or rather, that’s how I think the word can do useful work.  As a simple term of abuse, it only generates disagreements based on individual taste: for instance, about which books are or aren’t “middlebrow”.  But in Johnston and Rolls’ nuanced usage, “middlebrow names a phenomenon – a powerful force that we need to take account of when we try to understand contemporary and historical cultures of reading and entertainment.  Studying the middlebrow artefacts of the past, such as the novels chosen by the “Book of the Month” club, the syllabuses for university extension courses, or the magazines that presented a modernising, globalising culture to regional readerships, can help us understand how “sentimental education” might have worked in different times and places – and how it still works today.  Indeed, in this sense, middlebrow culture can be understood as a counter-practice to traditional academic criticism, with its emphasis on aesthetic form. In book clubs, emotional responses to literature are taken seriously; in university seminars, they are often seen as irrelevant. Yet the culture of the middlebrow is itself now a legitimate object of academic study, and professional critics are increasingly likely to reflect explicitly on their own tastes and biases, and to write in a personal voice about the effect of their upbringing and academic training on their responses to art. This makes their work more accessible beyond the academy. In this way, and through the online engagement – however fractious – between academics and wider audiences, we might be seeing a real erosion of the boundaries between elite and popular cultures of reading.

Faye Hammill is Professor of English at the University of Glasgow, and founder of a research group called the Middlebrow Network. She is author of six books, including Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture (2015, with Michelle Smith).

Connect with Faye:

Twitter: @MidBrowNetwork

Academia: http://glasgow.academia.edu/FayeHammill

 

New and Forthcoming Titles from Anthem Press

We are pleased to announce the following newly released and forthcoming titles:

 

 Post-Truth: Knowledge As A Power GamePost-Truth: Knowledge As A Power Game

By Steve Fuller

‘Post-Truth’ was Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year. While the term was coined by its disparagers, especially in light of the Brexit and US Presidential campaigns, the roots of post-truth lie deep in the history of Western social and political theory. This book reaches back to Plato, ranges across theology and philosophy, and focuses on the Machiavellian tradition in classical sociology.

 

Athletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent TimesAthletic CEOs: Leadership in Turbulent Times

By Stanislav Shekshnia, Alexey Ulanovsky and Veronika Zagieva

‘Athletic CEOs is […] a must-read for every leader who’s facing a challenging transformation in today’s chaotic business world.’
—Morten T. Hansen, Professor, University of California Berkeley, USA; coauthor of Great by Choice; author of Great at Work

 

 

Environmental Problem-Solving – A Video-Enhanced Self-Instructional e-Book from MITEnvironmental Problem-Solving – A Video-Enhanced Self-Instructional e-Book from MIT

Edited by Lawrence Susskind, Bruno Verdini and Jessica Gordon

‘This remarkable e-book contains everything you need to teach a rich, dynamic course on the practical and theoretical dimensions of environmental policy as well as to evaluate your students’ work. It integrates classic readings, commentaries, scenarios and assignments, along with videos of talks by faculty and presentations by students.’
—Judith E. Innes, Professor Emerita, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California Berkeley, USA

 

Worst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and FinanceWorst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance

By Frank Ackerman

‘Old-fashioned economics has led to dangerously wrong-headed approaches to climate change and other “extreme event” situations, such as financial crises. In this highly accessible but profound book, Ackerman persuasively shows the urgency of smarter, more recent thinking about how natural and economic systems work and why we need to pay much more attention to worst cases. This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the world we now inhabit.’
—Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth

 

The ImpactAssets Handbook for InvestorsThe ImpactAssets Handbook for Investors

Edited by Jed Emerson

‘The ImpactAssets Handbook for Investors’ offers an introductory overview for those interested in investing their capital in a sustainable, responsible and impactful manner. Offering insights and approaches to developing strategy as well as an understanding of the issues and considerations of impact investors in practice, this handbook discusses portfolio structure and strategy, an overview of due diligence necessary to assess potential investments, communications and performance measurement issues and other factors key to managing capital for multiple returns.

Consensus Building in the Age of Trump

This is a guest post by Professor Lawrence Susskind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA and General Editor, Anthem Press Environment and Sustainability Programme

What’s special about the Age of Trump? I would point to two things. First, our political leaders (not just the President) no longer feel an obligation to represent all the people in the district or state that elected them. Now, they only feel accountable to their “base.” This is a relatively new occurrence (not just in the United States, but in other democracies as well). It used to be that after politicians were elected they felt some obligation to represent the interests of all the people in their district or state. As a result, we now have districts or states (or countries!) where 49.9% of the electorate has no representation. This makes them feel angry, anxious and defense. It also makes them feel combative.

The second thing that has changed, and it is related to the first, is that many elected and appointed officials don’t care what evidence or arguments anyone on “the other side” presents. They won’t allow themselves to be convinced by what anyone outside their base has to say. This means that those in control of the levers of power can pursue whatever agenda they choose, without having to explain or justify their actions in a manner that “an independent observer” would agree is reasonable. This adds to the outrage, and even desperation, of those who feel shut out and unrepresented. They are especially angry that scientific evidence can be ignored entirely.

So, in the Age of Trump, many people who have not felt powerless before feel powerless now. They are befuddled by the changes that have occurred in the rules of the game. In the past, they assumed (maybe somewhat naively) that their elected leaders would choose the common good over narrow partisan interests; and, they counted on being able to advocate for what they believe by presenting credible evidence. Now they assume these things won’t happen.

Special challenges for Consensus Builders and other ADR professionals

ADR professionals operate in ways that are intended to ensure fairness – to ensure that all voices are heard and all interests are taken into account when disagreements arise. In a decision-making or governance system that rejects the idea that the interests of all groups matter, ADR professionals are not quite sure what part they are supposed to play. The reason those of us in the ADR field have worked hard to add facilitation, mediation and arbitration to public and private efforts to deal with differences, is to enhance the fairness, efficiency, stability and wisdom of decisions that must be made. In the judicial, executive and legislative branches, at every level of government, we have spent decades demonstrating that adding a professional neutral can, in fact, save time, save money and produce better outcomes (and give stakeholders greater control over what happens to them). In the Age of Trump, ADR professionals now wonder how they can do their job if some of the parties don’t care what the interests of the other parties are; or, some parties feel no obligation to listen to or present credible evidence to support their claims. Many ADR professionals are extremely upset about these changes. Some are so upset they feel compelled to invest their personal time in political efforts to put things back the way they were. When this involves advocacy, though – even when the professionals involved are operating as private citizens — it threatens our most important professional asset – our neutrality.

Neutrality is central to the value we add as ADR professionals. Our neutrality allows us to earn the trust of all sides in any dispute. It also means we can operate in the interstices between the parties and, in so doing, carry messages and provide cover for parties to come together without appearing to be weak. My contention is that many ADR professionals are so upset by what is happening in the Age of Trump that they are ready to risk their perceived neutrality. While I understand their motives, I am convinced this would be a disaster for the profession.

Increasing demand for ADR assistance in periods of heightened conflict

The Age of Trump has certainly generated new conflicts of various kinds. When everyone is escalating their efforts on behalf of their own point-of-view, and more people feel entitled to act in the own interests regardless of the interests of “the other side,” there ought to be increasing demand for our services. So, in these times, we ought to be able to make a greater contribution (in part because no one else is offering to reconcile those in conflict or pursue problem-solving strategies in spite of the conflicts that exist). To succeed in the current context, however, will require several things:

First, we have to remind our potential clients that our goal is not to stamp out conflict. Rather, if they find themselves stalemated and unable to take unilateral action, we can help them find agreeable ways forward in which no one has to give in.

Second, if well managed, conflict can lead to produce change. Conflict is not a bad thing. As others have noted, it is the engine of change. We can help manage conflict in a constructive way.

Third, the fact that parties are inclined to express their interests and concerns with more passion in the Age of Trump, is not a problem for us. In some ways, it should make our work easier. We need to know what the interests and priorities of each party are so we can help them formulate mutually beneficial agreements. We do this by supporting the parties in their search for trades (across issues they value differently) that produce outcomes better for all sides than their BATNAs.

Finally, we need to be sure that our clients understand that our job is not to get anyone to change their beliefs or change their mind. We try to help parties reach mutually advantageous agreements in spite of their differences. We do not allow our own point of view or our own preferences to introduce.

Harmonizing interests through dialogue vs. assisted problem-solving

A segment of the ADR profession has been moving in the direction of facilitating dialogue. Indeed, there are many who think we should devote a substantial portion of our time to helping Red and Blue (and others who have conflicting values) learn to talk with and understand each other more effectively. I’m personally not convinced that dialogue for its own sake should be a high priority for the ADR profession. I don’t think greater understanding is going to lead to harmonization of conflicting values and interests. Perhaps we can help people with diametrically opposed views hear each other, but I’m not sure that’s as important as working out agreements in specific contexts. I think we should emphasize problem-solving — generating “a workable peace” when some action needs to be taken — rather than devoting time to generating a deeper understanding of the sources of disagreement. I don’t think Red and Blue need to believe the same things to find ways of taking action.

The key is to convince as many stakeholders as possible that there is a way to meet their interests in a manner that will get them more than what no agreement (stalemate) guarantees, and more than they are likely to get if they continue to battle.

Coming back to neutrality

As I have already said, we must be absolutely diligent about maintaining our neutrality – no matter how strongly we feel personally – if we want to make a case for the value we add. I’m convinced that the way we act in our personal lives may shape how we are perceived in our professional roles. While each of us has opportunities to take direct political action in our personal lives, remember that if you sign a petition, march peacefully, write op eds, or lobby for your point of view, there is no way anyone on the other side will accept you as a dispute resolution professional they can trust. We need to think very carefully about how we carry ourselves in public. I promise you that whatever actions we take in our personal lives will be noted. Being perceived as neutrals in the Age of Trump is, in my view, the key to contributing to conflict resolution in these difficult times.

Professor Lawrence Susskind is Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning and Head of the Environmental Policy and Planning Group at MIT. One of the founders of the field of environmental dispute resolution, he has been teaching at MIT and Harvard for 45 years.

[Based on Lawrence Susskind’s keynote presentation made to the Biennial Conference of the New England Association for Conflict Resolution (NEACR) in Waltham, Massachusetts on 9/8/17. Originally posted on https://lawrencesusskind.mit.edu/blog and reproduced here with permission from the author.]

Sociology: New Series Announcements

sociologyAnthem Press is pleased to announce the launch of five new Sociology series, each highlighting a compelling area of research.

The first of these is the Anthem Law and Society Series, which delves into the role of law and legal institutions in everyday modern societies in order to understand and discuss many relevant and fundamental legal issues. Law and Society discusses both theoretical and empirical issues and is edited by Bryan S. Turner of the City University of New York.

The Anthem Companions to Sociology series, also edited by Turner, offers authoritative and comprehensive assessments of major figures in the development of sociology from the last two centuries. Covering the major advancements in sociological thought, these companions deliver critical evaluations of key figures in the American and European sociological tradition and provide students and scholars with an in-depth assessment of the makers of sociology while charting their relevance to modern society.

Forthcoming titles in this series address figures including Pierre Bourdieu, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, and Auguste Comte.

Fran Collyer of the University of Sydney will edit the Anthem Health and Society Series, which focuses on the role of health and health care in modern societies. Volumes in the series range over topics including the sociology of medical knowledge, health professions, hospitals, primary care, bio-medical science and medical technologies.

The series also encourages critical interdisciplinary viewpoints on health and illness from both social science and humanities. The first title in the series is Socialising the Biomedical Turn in HIV Prevention which addresses the major challenge for HIV prevention: reaching beyond the limitations of biomedical approaches to disease and designing prevention strategies informed by and connected with the social realities of people’s lives.

What does it mean to make a grounded judgement on the success of failure of a city or nation-state? The Anthem Successful Societies Series explores this question by focusing on their contextual inheritance, and on the normative, conceptual and empirical considerations that need to be brought to bear on evaluative assessments.

Volumes may examine practices holistically but may also concentrate on particular institutional spheres, such as the economy, health, education, migration, civil society, and politics. This series will be edited Rob Stones of the University of Western Australia.

Turner and Universidad Diego Portales’s Yuri Contreras-Vejar will edit the Anthem Religion and Society Series, which will include scholarly works on comparative religions throughout the modern world. The decline and disappearance of religion in secularizing modern societies had been taken by many theorists as inevitable, but the past decades have increasingly put this perspective into question.

This series aims to move toward a new understanding of religion in the modern world by highlighting innovative research on new religious movements, secularization and post-secularism, radical religions and fundamentalism, revivalism and conversion, and religion and violence. Its primary focus is on public religions in a changing world.

We welcome submissions of proposals for challenging and original works that meet the criteria of these series. Should you wish to send in a proposal for a new series or one of the following types of works — Monographs (mid-length and full-length), Edited Collections, Handbooks, Reference, Upper-Level Textbooks, Academic Non-Fiction — please contact us at: proposal@anthempress.com.