Some of the latest publications from our prolific faculty, covering vital topics such as campaign finance reform, the real-world impact of social science research, the U.S. healthcare system, and more.
Youth Politics in Putin’s Russia: Producing Patriots and Entrepreneurs, Julie Hemment
Julie Hemment provides a fresh perspective on the controversial nationalist youth projects that have proliferated in Russia in the Putin era, examining them from the point of view of their participants and offering provocative insights into their origins and significance. The pro-Kremlin organization Nashi(“Ours”) and other state-run initiatives to mobilize Russian youth have been widely reviled in the West, seen as Soviet throwbacks and evidence of Russia’s authoritarian turn. By contrast, Hemment’s detailed ethnographic analysis finds an astute global awareness and a paradoxical kinship with the international democracy-promoting interventions of the 1990s. Drawing on Soviet political forms but responding to 21st-century disenchantments with the neoliberal state, these projects seek to produce not only patriots, but also volunteers, entrepreneurs, and activists.
The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World, M. V. Lee Badgett
The work of academics can matter and be influential on a public level, but the path to becoming a public intellectual, influential policy advisor, valued community resource or go-to person on an issue is not one that most scholars are trained for. The Public Professor offers scholars ways to use their ideas, research and knowledge to change the world. The book gives practical strategies for scholars to become more engaged with the public on a variety of fronts: online, in print, at council hearings, even with national legislation.
This Program Is Brought to You By… : Distributing Television News Online, Josh Braun
Journalism, television, cable, and online media are all evolving rapidly. At the nexus of these volatile industries is a growing group of individuals and firms whose job it is to develop and maintain online distribution channels for television news programming. Their work, and the tensions surrounding it, provide a fulcrum from which to pry analytically at some of the largest shifts within our media landscape. Based on fieldwork and interviews with different teams and organizations within MSNBC, this multi-disciplinary work is unique in its focus on distribution, which is rapidly becoming as central as production, to media work.
Campaign Finance and Political Polarization: When Purists Prevail, Raymond La Raja and Brian Schaffner
Efforts to reform the U.S. campaign finance system typically focus on the corrupting influence of large contributions. Yet, as Raymond J. La Raja and Brian F. Schaffner argue, reforms aimed at cutting the flow of money into politics have unintentionally favored candidates with extreme ideological agendas and, consequently, fostered political polarization. Drawing on data from 50 states and the U.S. Congress over 20 years, La Raja and Schaffner reveal that current rules allow wealthy ideological groups and donors to dominate the financing of political campaigns. In order to attract funding, candidates take uncompromising positions on key issues and, if elected, take their partisan views into the legislature. As a remedy, the authors propose that additional campaign money be channeled through party organizations-rather than directly to candidates-because these organizations tend to be less ideological than the activists who now provide the lion's share of money to political candidates. Shifting campaign finance to parties would ease polarization by reducing the influence of "purist" donors with their rigid policy stances. La Raja and Schaffner conclude the book with policy recommendations for campaign finance in the United States. They are among the few non-libertarians who argue that less regulation, particularly for political parties, may in fact improve the democratic process.
Music/City: American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport, John Wynn
Wynn tracks the history of festivals in Newport, Nashville, and Austin, taking readers on-site to consider different festival agendas and styles of organization. It’s all here: from the musician looking to build her career to the mayor who wants to exploit a local cultural scene, from a resident’s frustration over corporate branding of his city to the music executive hoping to sell records. Music/City offers a sharp perspective on cities and cultural institutions in action and analyzes how governments mobilize massive organizational resources to become promotional machines. Wynn’s analysis culminates with an impassioned argument for temporary events, claiming that when done right, temporary occasions like festivals can serve as responsive, flexible, and adaptable products attuned to local places and communities.
In the Face of Inequality: How Black Colleges Adapt, Melissa Wooten
The contributors to Beyond Civil Society argue that the conventional distinction between civic and uncivic protest, and between activism in institutions and in the streets, does not accurately describe the complex interactions of forms and locations of activism characteristic of twenty-first-century Latin America. They show that most contemporary political activism in the region relies upon both confrontational collective action and civic participation at different moments. Operating within fluid, dynamic, and heterogeneous fields of contestation, activists have not been contained by governments or conventional political categories, but rather have overflowed their boundaries, opening new democratic spaces or extending existing ones in the process. These essays offer fresh insight into how the politics of activism, participation, and protest are manifest in Latin America today while providing a new conceptual language and an interpretive framework for examining issues that are critical for the future of the region and beyond.
Sonia E. Alvarez is Leonard J. Horwitz Professor of Latin American Politics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Agustín Laó-Montes is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.