Writing letters to powerful people to win their favor and garner rewards such as political office, tax relief, and recommendations was an institution in Renaissance Florence; the practice was an important tool for those seeking social mobility, security, and recognition by others. In this detailed study of political and social patronage in fifteenth-century Florence, Paul D. McLean shows that patronage was much more than a pursuit of specific rewards. It was also a pursuit of relationships and of a self defined in relation to others. To become independent in Renaissance Florence, one first had to become connected. With The Art of the Network, McLean fills a gap in sociological scholarship by tracing the historical antecedents of networking and examining the concept of self that accompanies it. His analysis of patronage opens into a critique of contemporary theories about social networks and social capital, and an exploration of the sociological meaning of “culture.”
McLean scrutinized thousands of letters to and from Renaissance Florentines. He describes the social protocols the letters reveal, paying particular attention to the means by which Florentines crafted credible presentations of themselves. The letters, McLean contends, testify to the development not only of new forms of self-presentation but also of a new kind of self to be presented: an emergent, “modern” conception of self as an autonomous agent. They also bring to the fore the importance that their writers attached to concepts of honor, and the ways that they perceived themselves in relation to the Florentine state.
Employing social description, social scientific models, and rhetorical analysis, Alicia J. Batten argues that the letter of James is conversant with the topic of friendship within Greek and Roman literature, as well as within various texts of early Christianity. She illustrates how James drew upon some of the language and concepts related to friendship with an intriguing density to advocate resistance to wealth, avoidance of rich patrons, and reliance upon God.
Use of friendship, benefaction, and patronage as lenses through which James and related texts can be viewed
A strong case for how the letter appels to the language and ideas of friendship with regard to God's relationships with humans
Exploration of the relationship between the book of James and the teachings of Jesus
In an analysis that promises to be controversial, Man to Man: Desire, Homosociality, and Authority in Late-Roman Manhood surveys the presence of same-sex desire between men in the later Roman empire. Most accounts of recent years have either noted that sexual desire between men was forbidden or they have ignored it. This book argues that desire between men was known and that it was a way to express friendship, patronage, solidarity, and other important relationships among elite males in late antiquity. The evocation of this desire and its possible attendant corporeal satisfactions made it a compelling metaphor for friendship. A man’s grandeur could also be portrayed metaphorically as sexual attractiveness, and the substantial status differences often seen in late antiquity could be ameliorated by a superior using amatory language to address an inferior.
At the same time, however, there was a marked ambivalence about same-sex desire and sexual behavior between men, and indeed same-sex sexual behavior was criminalized as it had never been before. While rejection and condemnation may seem to indicate a decisive distancing between authority and this desire and behavior, authority gained power from maintaining a relation to them. Demonstrating knowledge of the actual mechanics of sex between men suggested to a witness that there was nothing unknown to the authority making the demonstration: authority that knew of scandalous masculine sexual pleasure could project its power pretty much anywhere.
This startling dissonance between positive uses of same-sex desire between men and its criminalization in one and the same moment—a dissonance which recent discussions have been unable to address—requires further investigation, and this book supplies it.
When Romans applied the term "parasite" to contemporaries in dependent circumstances, or clientes, they were evoking one of the stock characters of ancient Greek comedy. In the Roman world the parasite was moved out of his native genre into the literatures of invective and social criticism, where his Greek origins made him a uniquely useful transmitter of Roman perceptions. Whenever the figure of the parasite is used to mask a person in Roman society, we know that an effort of interpretation is underway. The fit between the mask and its wearer is in the eyes of the beholder, and in Rome the mask seemed to fit people in many different situations: entrepreneurs, tax-farmers, lawyers, female companions, philosophers, and poets.
In The Mask of the Parasite, Cynthia Damon maintains that the parasite of Latin literature is a negative reflection of the cliens. In Part One she assembles a composite picture of the comic parasite using as evidence fragments of Greek comedy, works from Greek writers of the imperial period whose works reflect the comic tradition, and the ten complete plays of Roman comedy in which a parasite appears. In parts two and three she examines the ways in which Cicero and the satirists use the figure of the parasite: Cicero in belittling his opponents in court, Horace and Martial in creating a negative foil for the poeta cliens, Juvenal in painting contemporary patron/client relationships as morally and spiritually bankrupt.
The Mask of the Parasite is a fascinating study of the intersection of literature and society in ancient Rome. However, neither the parasite nor patronage is confined to the Roman world. Students of classical studies as well as students of literature and cultural studies will find this to be a work of utmost importance in understanding these complex issues of human interaction.
Cynthia Damon is Assistant Professor of Classics, Amherst College
Colombia’s western Coffee Region is renowned for the whiteness of its inhabitants, who are often described as respectable pioneer families who domesticated a wild frontier and planted coffee on the forested slopes of the Andes. Some local inhabitants, however, tell a different tale—of white migrants rapaciously usurping the lands of indigenous and black communities. Muddied Waters examines both of these legends, showing how local communities, settlers, speculators, and politicians struggled over jurisdictional boundaries and the privatization of communal lands in the creation of the Coffee Region. Viewing the emergence of this region from the perspective of Riosucio, a multiracial town within it, Nancy P. Appelbaum reveals the contingent and contested nature of Colombia’s racialized regional identities.
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century Colombian elite intellectuals, Appelbaum contends, mapped race onto their mountainous topography by defining regions in racial terms. They privileged certain places and inhabitants as white and modern and denigrated others as racially inferior and backward. Inhabitants of Riosucio, however, elaborated local narratives about their mestizo and indigenous identities that contested the white mystique of the Coffee Region. Ongoing violent conflicts over land and politics, Appelbaum finds, continue to shape local debates over history and identity. Drawing on archival and published sources complemented by oral history, Muddied Waters vividly illustrates the relationship of mythmaking and racial inequality to regionalism and frontier colonization in postcolonial Latin America.
The notion that groups form and act in ways that respond to objective, external costs and benefits has long been the key to accounting for social change processes driven by collective action. Yet this same notion seems to fall apart when we try to explain how collectivities emerge out of the choices of individuals. This book overcomes that dilemma by offering an analysis of collective action that, while rooted in individual decision making, also brings out the way in which objective costs and benefits can impede or foster social coordination. The resulting approach enables us to address the causes and consequences of collective action with the help of the tools of modern economic theory. To illustrate this, the book applies the tools it develops to the study of specific collective action problems such as clientelism, focusing on its connections with economic development and political redistribution; and wage bargaining, showing its economic determinants and its relevance for the political economy of the welfare state.
"Medina's study is a great step forward in the analytics of collective action. He shows the inadequacies of currently standard models and shows that straightforward revisions reconcile rational-choice and structural viewpoints. It will influence all future work."
—Kenneth Arrow, Stanford University
"Olson, Schelling, and now Medina. A Unified Theory deepens our understanding of collective action and contributes to the foundations of our field. A major work."
—Robert H. Bates, Harvard University
"Medina thinks that the main problem of social action is not whether or not to cooperate but how to do it. To this end he has produced an imaginative approach to analyzing strategic coordination problems that produces plausible predictions in a range of circumstances."
—John Ferejohn, Stanford University
Luis Fernando Medina is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia.
Most of the world’s population lives in cities in developing countries, where access to basic public services, such as water, electricity, and health clinics, is either inadequate or sorely missing. Water and Politics shows how politicians benefit politically from manipulating public service provision for electoral gain. In many young democracies, politicians exchange water service for votes or political support, rewarding allies or punishing political enemies. Surprisingly, the political problem of water provision has become more pronounced, as water service represents a valuable political currency in resource-scarce environments.
Water and Politics finds that middle-class and industrial elites play an important role in generating pressure for public service reforms.