Category Archives: History

Posts about history and the profession of history


Yesterday I posted a denunciation of Google’s new Ngram Viewer as an example of what Marx called “socially unnecessary labor time”–work that takes skill and craft and time but that nobody wants or needs. Lots of people I respect think more of Google’s Ngram Viewer than I do.  Friends who don’t follow the world of […]

The Segway of Digital Searching

It could be a failure of my imagination, but I’m having a very hard time seeing what would be useful about Google’s new Ngram Viewer. It’s being presented in the Times as some sort of breakthrough, and I suppose it is–it’s never been possible to do this before. But then it was never possible to […]

Rethinking the Beast

Ben Butler had the homely man’s suspicion of genetic advantage, and the poor man’s irreverence about class privilege. Nothing in his appearance inspired admiration. Short, paunchy, no heroic proportions or handsome strong features: his bald pate and droopy, crossed eyes made him a satirist’s delight. And satirize him they did. Butler, U.S. Grant recalled, was […]

Thomas and the Aristocracy of Labor

The Thomas the Tank Engine tv shows have been running for years now. I didn’t really know anything about the show till my son was born, 20 years ago. Within weeks Thomas had cut his right-of-way through our imaginations, blasting the landscape as he went, very much in the same way as actual railroads did […]

The Party after the Party

Like a lot of “progressives” I’m pretty disgusted with the Democratic Party. It’s not that I expect to get my way in American politics, far from it. It’s that the Democratic Party seems absolutely unable to articulate progressive positions in an affirmative way. It seems to mostly accept the conservative critique of big government and […]

the always already of polling

Polling–maybe the worst thing ever to happen to our politics. Somewhere I came across a quote from Foucault–I think it was Foucault[1. lil’ help?]–saying “truth is the product of the system of beliefs designed to produce it.” A Model T Ford was the truth of the Ford assembly line. If we think of the Ford […]

The Gold Standard of Lunacy

The gold standard is coming back in a a big way. Not only do a number of recently elected congressman and Senators favor a return to the gold standard: the President of the World Bank recently initiated a conversation about returning to gold, and the New York Times recently ran an editorial by James Grant […]

Googling Peer Review, Part Two

Talking with a friend about peer review, it occurred to me that the stuff which has been most influential in my intellectual life, the stuff that’s been most profound and useful, is profound and useful in ways that have nothing at all to do with peer review. Was Foucault’s Discipline and Punish peer reviewed? It […]

Social Security was a Jobs Bill

Social Security was first proposed in the mid-1930s, as a jobs bill, an answer to the unemployment problem. In the mid 1930s a California doctor, Frances Townsend, proposed establishing a 2% sales tax on all purchases, and using the resulting funds to guarantee every American over 60 a pension As you can see below, he […]