Elden on Torture

There must have been a better title for this post. He links to a Der Spiegel story that I also saw on medieval torture:

Interesting piece in Der Spiegelhere (via Medieval News).

A German researcher has studied medieval criminal law and found that our image of the sadistic treatment of criminals in the Dark Ages is only partly true. Torture and gruesome executions were designed in part to ensure the salvation of the convicted person’s soul…

Although it will doubtless get interest for the gory details, the book looks interesting for its reading of medieval legal texts. Looks like it is only available in German. The title would translate as something like Torture, the Pillory and the Stake: Jurisprudence in the Middle Ages. Foucault would have had fun with this. Great closing line to the Der Spiegel piece too.

Schild’s book includes a number of medieval depictions of elaborately staged executions. Nevertheless, says the author, the work can certainly be enjoyed “with a glass of wine in the evening.”

One for the Christmas list then…

I laughed outloud at the last line of the article, too, as if my own amazon wishlist didn’t get me enough gruff from my family—since I’ve asked for everything from the latest fiction to books on the role of women in Athenian society…

(But please, no more chess sets: I think people think you get a Ph.D. and love chess: I don’t mind it, but I don’t need all the sets people have gotten me over the years. I even has a Simpson’s brand chess set, which Brad did enjoy when he was younger…)

Riefer on the new Aristocracy

Tom Riefer, my great colleague in sociology, who seems to have read everything, has a new article up, and the abstract is below. He discussed some of this last night at the reading group event on China and neoliberalism:

In this paper, Reifer looks at the global financial crisis in a long historical context, drawing on the perspective of Fernand Braudel. In it we see how the legal ammendment in New Jersey that created the corporation in the 19th century led to the circumvention of barriers by private owners of capital, allowing them to play states off against one another in a neverending race to compete for mobile capital.

The lawyers themselves, de Tocqueville saw as “bullwarks against democracy” for their role in enabling the removal of laws that would prevent consolidation of private corporate power and the formation of monopolies. We see how this led to the rise of Wall Street, and the cycles of financial crisis and instability that enabled further consolidation over the next century. The military budget and imperial conquests of the United States helped maintain surplus accumulation despite falling profits and overaccumulation, while neoliberal measures helped extend and deepend the reach of the market with globalization. The paper traces this long-term development, dicussing the role of corporate lawyers and investment bankers as key agents driving the consolidation of capitalism, and considers what lies next, the role of a “Beijing Consensus” and the implications this has for global inequality and possibility of alternative, more sustainable paths for the world economy.

Reading Group lecture…

Tonight the reading group held a double-billed lecture on Marxism in China with Liangshan Lu and Lin Yuchuan going over their own recent research (both head back to China in the coming weeks after a stint in the U.S.) The discussion went really well and I’m thankful for their participation. Next week, the Marx reading group (or as one of my colleagues calls it, “you damn commies”) returns to Aroma’s cafe.