08 May 2002 |

Is There No Other Way?
The Search for a Nonviolent Future
By Michael Nagler

Michael Nagler, professor emeritus of classics and comparative literature and current chair of peace and conflict studies, has won an American Book Award for his new work, “Is There No Other Way?”

A widely published peace scholar and activist, Nagler demonstrates in an accessible narrative the profound and startling laws that the nonviolence movement has discovered in the last century.

Beginning with the achievements of Mahatma Gandhi and following the legacy of nonviolence through the struggles against Nazism in Europe, racism in America, oppression in China and Latin America, and ethnic conflicts in Africa and Bosnia, Nagler unveils a hidden history.

Nonviolence, he proposes, has proven its power against arms and social injustice wherever it has been correctly understood and applied.

Nagler shows how nonviolence operates and why it has sometimes failed, revealing the principles by which nonviolence has proved effective against mass conflict. He also explores these same principles in the context of the growing violence of American society.

Berkeley Hills Books, 2001
336 pages

The Life of the Law
Anthropological Projects
By Laura Nader

Berkeley legal anthropologist Laura Nader looks at the anthropology of law in the second half of the 20th century, tracing the influences of globalization, alternative dispute resolution, multinational corporations and the free-market economy on social justice. A central theme is that the power of the individual to litigate is eroding in favor of the power of the corporation and the state, both of which shape law.

Drawing on her early fieldwork in the 1950s and ’60s, Nader argues that conflict and litigation keep a society healthy, because they challenge the powerful, and that restricting access to justice by individual plaintiffs weakens democracy.

Robert Fellmeth, director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego, said of the book: “Nader’s conversational commentary illuminates the current central policy debates over tort reform, class-action remedies, the World Trade Organization, criminal prosecution or corporate crime, and Alternative Dispute resolution, which substantially affect U.S. and international legal systems.”

University of California Press, 2002
262 pages

The Shabbat Elevator and Other Sabbath Subterfuges
An Unorthodox Essay on Circumventing Custom and Jewish Character
By Alan Dundes

This book examines the multitude of ingenious means that Jews have devised to avoid breaking the taboos of the Sabbath, using as his sources of Sabbath observances the Old Testament, the New Testament and various rabbinical writings. Because his field is folklore, Alan Dundes, professor of anthropology, introduces jokes and proverbs from the Jewish oral tradition to illustrate Jewish character as he sees it.

Dundes discovered the Shabbat elevator of the title in a hotel in Haifa, Israel, where the lobby had two elevators. One was marked “Shabbat elevator.” Upon inquiry, he learned that Orthodox Jews are prohibited from pushing elevator buttons on the Sabbath, so the hotel installed an elevator that stops automatically at each floor.

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002
199 pages

The Power of Babel
A Natural History of Language
By John McWhorter

Berkeley linguistics professor John McWhorter’s new book on the development of language presents the hypothesis that the first human language emerged about 150,000 years ago in East Africa and that all other languages — some 6,000 of them — developed from that “proto-tongue.”

In a chapter on how languages tend, with time, to become “frozen,” McWhorter offers the example of double negatives, such as “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.” These are forbidden in standard English, although double and even triple negatives are allowed in French.

The source of the English prohibition apparently dates back to the late 1700s, when Lindley Murray wrote a treatise in which he applied to English the Latin-language prohibition on double negatives. “But modeling English on Latin made no more sense,” McWhorter notes, “than declaring that cats ought not to meow because dogs don’t.”

Wrote reviewer Philip Herbst for the American Library Association publication, Booklist: “This book is not for those uncomfortable with change. McWhorter’s main goal is to convey to laypeople what linguists know about the inexorable changeability of languages. He compares our popular understanding of language to Monopoly instructions—static and written as though ‘from on high.’ But whereas Parker Brothers is not likely to revise the rules of its game, language is as transitory as a cloud formation.”

W.H. Freeman & Company, 2002
384 pages


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