Book publishing: 5 Key Topics of the Month

 

September, 2014: Every month, we highlight 5 key topics or new developments in the book publishing industry, with a special emphasis on academic publishing. Whether data, news or commentary, we aim to keep you informed.

 

Nature goes Open Access 
Journal Nature Communications, billed by Nature Publishing Group as the number three multidisciplinary journal in the world behind Nature and Science, is to take the “decisive step” of becoming open access only, reported The Bookseller. It will accept open access submissions from October 20 only, the company said in a press release.The move follows much debate on “open access” in academic publication.

Academic publishing can free itself from its outdated path dependence by looking to alternative review mechanisms, said Benedikt Fecher in this post for LSE’s “Impact of Social Sciences” blog.

How can marketers of academic books take advantage of changes in digital publishing? Beth McAllister finds out in this post for the Oxford University Press blog.  

Amazon Launches New Crowd-Sourcing Publishing Program 
After rumblings surfaced that Amazon is creating a new American Idol-style crowd-sourced publishing platform, the e-tailer has confirmed that the program is “in the works”, reported Publishers Weekly. In the same week, the major retailer has also launched Amazon Unlimited, a “Netflix” for books.

PIPCU shuts down On Read 
E-book download site On Read has been shut down by the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), reported The Bookseller. The issue of E-book content protection remains prevalent after the EU intervened in a clampdown on piracy in the Netherlands earlier this year and Harper Collins recently adopted digital watermarking

 

Book of the Month: Ricardo’s Gauntlet

By Vishaal Kishore
PHOTO 2 Ricardo's Gauntlet (4)

“Ricardo’s Gauntlet” is a brilliant tour de force. Mainstream economists unanimously argue that the logic of comparative advantage and national specialization makes a rigid adherence to free trade the best policy for everyone, all the time, everywhere. Kishore devastates the argument. This is a powerful and timely contribution to the growing body of technically excellent alternatives to a stultifying orthodoxy.”

— Duncan Kennedy, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School

This month, we are excited to present one of our trade titles, Ricardo’s Gauntlet: Economic Fiction and the Flawed Case for Free Trade  as “Book of the Month”. The book’s publication comes at a time when the free trade debate continues to rage in the media. It advances a critique of the mainstream economic case for international free trade and argues that this case relies on a cluster of interconnected and mutually enforcing ‘economic fictions’ – economic theories or doctrines that pretend to be fact but which upon examination turn out to be mirages.

We also caught up with the book’s author, Viashaal Kishore, and asked him a few questions about his experience writing the book and his theories on free trade. You can read the interview here.

 

Interview with Vishaal Kishore, author of “Ricardo’s Gauntlet”

vishaal kishore

Government strategist, public servant and academic Vishaal Kishore talks to Anthem Press about writing his newly released book, Ricardo’s Gauntlet: Economic Fiction and the Flawed Case for Free Trade, which challenges readers to reconsider the concept of free trade. 

Q: Are you following any free trade deals in the news at the moment?  

Vishaal Kishore: There is never a shortage of ‘live’ policy debates concerning free trade in the news – for example the very recently concluded CETA deal between the EU and Canada, on-going US-EU negotiations, or indeed Australia’s recently concluded free trade and economic partnership agreements with both Korea and Japan.

What is quite interesting about much of the broader free trade discussion is that it asserts, rather than really explores, the notion that free trade is a good idea and that it leads to significant economic gains.  

Q: What implications do you think that the book has for these debates?

VK: What I try to do in Ricardo’s Gauntlet is examine this underlying assertion, and find that the story told to support it is less than fully convincing.  Given how critical trade is in our global economy, and how prevalent it is in our public discourse, it’s quite timely for us to consider afresh the goals that we really seek from trade agreements and from trade policy, and whether free trade really is the best way to achieve them.

Q: What was the hardest part of writing Ricardo’s Gauntlet

VK: The best – perhaps even the only – way to engage in a policy debate with the history and prestige that free trade has is to pick up the debate using its own language, and test the dominant arguments as much as is possible on their own terms. This is what Ricardo’s Gauntlet tries to do: it asks the question whether – on its best reading – the case for free trade really stacks up.

And I think ultimately this was one of the hardest things about writing the book – having to be painstakingly scrupulous in examining, and ultimately critiquing, a well-established disciplinary truth.  Genuinely smart people – Nobel Prize winners amongst them – have spent a long time refining the case for free trade. Misstepping risks alienating those with whom you are seeking to engage. So instead you have to chase all the mainstream rabbits down their holes and move between different disciplines and sub-disciplines to make sure that you represent the case for free trade as strongly as you can.  And then you have to try to figure out why you disagree with it!

But what made writing the book hard hopefully makes it better to read!

Q: As you highlight in the book’s introduction, there are many ways to assess trade as a topic. If you were to analyse other types of trade other than free trade, which would you choose?

VK: There are of course other ways of thinking about assessing trade. While these might not have the same prestige in policy discourse, some of them are very much a part of our broader public imagination. 

One that I think is particularly interesting is what is often called ‘fair trade’.

There are any number of fair trade organisations that seek to certify coffee, chocolate and other products as ‘fair trade’ goods based upon their compliance with certain standards. These standards often relate to the setting of minimum prices to be paid to local producers for goods, and premiums paid towards local community development and infrastructure. 

Don’t get me wrong, this is better than allowing the market – unfettered – to run rough-shod over subsistence farmers. However, is some small premium on top of the market price all that it takes to make international trade fair? 

It’s interesting to think a little more about what is ‘unfair’ about ‘free’ trade, and what it would take to make it ‘fair’. We might think that fairness in trade involves some kind of justice or fairness in the way that benefits are distributed between players involved in the production of goods in a broader supply chain. Is it right to call trade ‘fair’ where subsistence farmers in the developing world continue to eke out a meagre living while others in the supply chain garner massive rents by reason of their privileged position in that supply chain?

I think it would be exciting – ethically and intellectually – to see what more could be done in this area.

Q: What alternative would you propose instead of free trade? Would you describe yourself as an advocate of protectionism? 

VK: This is a great – and indeed a common – question. One of the problems with our current discourse about international trade is that it leads us to the dichotomy between free trade and protection: if you aren’t a free trader, you must be a protectionist.

One of the key points in the book is that this dichotomy – between free trade on the one hand and protection on the other – sets up a false choice. 

In fact, when we look carefully at all of the different ways that the state is involved in the economy, we come to realise that free trade itself is a difficult policy stance to really get hold of. We can start to see that there are lots of different ways that the state can shape the development of the economy, of production, and of patterns of trade. We need to get better at having conversations about the kind of economy that we want, and what we can sensibly do from a policy perspective to get it. In this, we need to break the shackles of thinking that all we have to choose from is free trade or protection.

Author event: Professor Cascetta at the Italian Cultural Institute, New York

Our author Professor Annamaria Cascetta at the Italian Cultural Institute, New York

The event, “Italy Towards Europe”, took place September 24 and was focused on European theatrical heritage and featured readings by Laura Curino

Professor Cascetta is a theatre history academic and the former director of the Department of Communication and Performing Arts at the Catholic University of Milan. She recently published Modern European Tragedy, a study of twentieth century European theatre, with us. 

Here is an extract from Professor Cascetta’s introduction at the event:

There couldn’t have been a better coincidence than the European Union Italian semester presidency to speak about theatre and Europe.

The Italian contribution to the project of the European Union has been significant: Altiero  Spinelli and Alcide De Gasperi were among the founders; in 1957 the treaty defining the European Economic Community, or the Common Market, was signed in Rome, while in 2004, 25 heads of state and government signed the treaty that establishes the European Constitution, the result of a long process of integration yearned so much by us all.

Undoubtedly, over the centuries culture has been Italy’s major contribution to the melting pot that today we call Europe, that feeds on traditions still thriving in our own country: the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations, Christianity, the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightment. Ever since ancient Greece, at the Acropolis in Athens, or from Shakespeare’s time at the Globe in London, a community of active spectators has been meeting up to think, to release the emotions, to mirror itself, to read the present in the light of its history and foundations and to get ready to change. Art becomes the sheltered place where to meet up, separated yet projected into reality.

In the course of this reading, through the analysis of selected texts and authors, our speakers will lead the audience to a journey into the European theatrical heritage exploring the thread that has connected dramatic art across all Europe, and still does.

The Ruskin–Morris Connection

Portrait of William Morris, aged 53

Portrait of William Morris, aged 53

Portrait by John Everett Millais, 1853-1854

Portrait of John Ruskin by John E. Millais

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In late nineteenth-century Britain, theorist and critic John Ruskin and the designer, writer and activist William Morris began pioneering new approaches to design and the decorative arts. But what sort of relationship did they have and how did their approaches to crafts and politics differ? Dr Mark Frost, author of The Lost Companions and John Ruskin’s Guild of St George: A Revisionary History, explores the connection between the two most influential figures of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

 In recalling encounters with William Morris in the 1880s, W. B. Yeats spoke of asking him what led up to the Arts and Crafts movement. Morris replied:

“O Ruskin and Carlyle, but somebody should have been beside Carlyle and punched his head every five minutes.”

The remark, amusing as it is, reveals a great deal about differences in the approaches – to crafts, practical work, and politics – of Ruskin and his disciple, Morris. Ruskin remained deeply indebted to his ‘master’, Thomas Carlyle, and powerful strains of Carlylean authoritarianism darkened his otherwise radical political outlook. Morris, by contrast, managed to extract what he saw as the most productive elements of Ruskin’s vision while rejecting all of its Carlylean elements.

CONFINED TO CRAFTS

Morris shared Ruskin’s belief in the superiority of medieval crafts. He imbibed Ruskin’s conviction that a nation can be judged by its aesthetic productions; that an immoral nation is incapable of creating great art; and that only non-mechanical, freely creative crafts could produce genuine beauty.

This message, articulated most effectively in the chapter entitled ‘The Nature of Gothic’ in the second volume of Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice (1851, 3 vols), a work described by Morris as ‘one of the very few necessary and inevitable utterances of the century’, sought not merely to inspire beautiful buildings, paintings, and crafts, but to transform what Ruskin saw as the inhuman conditions of labour endured by Victorian workers.

Morris was so inspired by Ruskin that he produced an 1892 edition of The Nature of Gothic for his Kelmscott Press, influenced by Ruskin’s insistence on the virtues of high quality hand labour. Morris’s amazing Kelmscott books, like the famous William Morris & Co. wallpapers, textiles, ceramics, furniture, metalwork, and glass, represent the finest flowerings of the Arts and Crafts movement that Ruskin did so much to inspire. While Morris & Co. was a commercial success and provided a fine school for many workers, it also underlined the limitations of arts and crafts as a genuine challenge to modern industrial practices because such products were so expensive that they could never reach large sections of the mainstream market.

This limitation was even more evident in of one of the craft experiments with which Ruskin was associated. The Langdale Linen Industry, a revival of Lake District spinning and weaving led by Ruskin devotees, Marian Twelves and Albert Fleming, only ever found a market amongst wealthier buyers, including some illustrious aristocratic figures. The Linen Industry was loosely connected to Ruskin’s major utopian venture, the Guild of St George, begun in 1871 and conceived as a means to fundamentally challenge the steam-powered dragons of Victorian modernity.

IDEALISM TURNS TO DRUDGERY

Ruskin hoped that the Guild would attract many adherents or ‘Companions’ and create a series of agricultural and artisanal communities devoted to hand labour, fine products, and the socially transformative effects of non-mechanised land work. They would, he believed, encourage sustainable practices and environmental good practice. The reality, sadly, was much more modest – less than a hundred Companions joined the Guild and its projects were relatively few in number. It was also a disaster for a significant number of young idealists who signed up as agricultural Companions only to find that their time on Ruskin’s estates around the country was a nightmare of drudgery and neglect.

Their stories are only now being fully understood. A number of reasons have routinely been forwarded for the failure of the Guild to fulfil its laudable intentions. These have included Ruskin’s failing mental health, his incapacity in the organisation of practical schemes, and the disastrous impact of his failed relationship with Rose La Touche, the young Irishwoman he had pursued from the mid-1860s until her tragic death in 1875. While these were certainly contributory factors, the Guild’s principal weakness was arguably the adverse effects of Ruskin’s authoritarian politics.

For the Guild’s agricultural Companions, Ruskin’s authoritarianism meant that they were consigned to obey while suffering neglect, or to submit to the leadership of unscrupulous and unsympathetic local agents. Embracing the Guild with genuine zeal, they found all possibilities to exercise personal agency in the Guild’s work barred to them, while all of the potential energy and creativity that they might have used to make the Guild estates succeed was squandered – with often tragic consequences.

In Morris’s fictional utopia, News From Nowhere, contented citizens lived in creative harmony amidst beautiful landscapes while effortlessly producing exquisitely beautiful goods and a plenitude of necessities. They do so because their shared commitment to socialism rested on fundamental principles of egalitarianism and libertarianism. Whether such a society is possible in reality remains an open question, but Ruskin’s Guild certainly offered the painful lesson that it is simply impossible to combine ideals of free, creative labour with authoritarian power structures.

 

Celebrating Indian Independence Day

Globalization, Nationalism and the Text of the Kichaka-Vadha

As India celebrates its 68th anniversary of independence from colonial rule, many look to the massive political demonstrations and innovative theorists that prompted sociopolitical change. While such things were highly effective in attaining independence, a number of playwrights in colonial India crafted didactic works that forced an Indian audience to ponder existing political situations with the use of allegory and subtle suggestion that prompted social change. Even with close political censorship enforced by the British Raj, playwrights such as Krishnaji Prabhakar Khadilkar laced their plays with coded political messages that supported the end of colonial rule.

In the very first English translation of Kichaka-Vadha, Globalization, Nationalism and the Text of the “Kichaka-Vadha” , Rakesh H. Solomon of Indiana University Bloomington offers the most extensive scholarly analysis to date on the Marathi play. With the use of colonial-era police, judicial, administrative, legislative and newspaper sources, this study highlights the allusions in the play that parallel Indian political circumstances of the time and the dramaturgic tactics used to prompt political change.

For more information, check out the book’s webpage.