Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsFixme

Now in Paperback

August 31, 1986|ALEX RAKSIN

The Progressive Movement: 1900-1915, edited by Richard Hofstadter (Simon & Schuster: $6.95). No sooner did America regain unity after the Civil War than a new rift began to emerge, this one prompted not by whites exploiting blacks but by industrialism exploiting whites and blacks. The Progressive Movement achieved few policy changes at the federal level, but it remains significant today because it paved the way for the welfare state and emphasized the need for at least some government intervention in the marketplace. To the credit of Richard Hofstadter, this book's main emphasis is not on the relatively well-known muckrakers of the period, but on the leaders who issued more timeless messages about political responsibility (Woodrow Wilson's concern that "individuality is being swallowed up" by giant organizations) and political agendas ("The Socialists point out the connection between industrial maladjustment and individual wrongdoing," said Jane Addams, a sociologist, "but certainly . . . the obligation to eradicate vice cannot belong to one political party").

The Origins of War: From the Stone Age to Alexander the Great, Arther Ferrill (Thames & Hudson: $10.95). A man-ape from the Pleistocene era, glowing with pride after having discovered the destructive potential of a bone, thrusts the bone high into the air. The image of the bone, twirling slowly in the sky, fades into the image of a space station revolving above the Earth. This scene from the beginning of Stanley Kubrick's film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," reflects how closely our notion of progress is tied to technology. In the minds of historians and military strategists, technology plays a particularly prominent role, for while popular myth and legend might glorify the accomplishments of Hannibal, Caesar and Napoleon, most histories covering the period from the Stone Age to Alexander the Great look not at people, but at sticks and arrows in the prehistoric era, the stirrup in the Early Middle Ages, and gunpowder in the Late Middle Ages. In fact, Arther Ferrill writes in this intriguing 1985 work, the periods between these technological triumphs were anything but dark. Ferrill convincingly demonstrates that while the strategies of ancient Near Eastern warfare (particularly in integrating cavalry, skirmishers and light infantry) might not fend off forces in today's Nuclear Age, they remained largely unchallenged until the Industrial Age gathered steam in the 18th Century. Histories of war that begin with the recognition that "war is hell" and then move on to enthusiastically recount "heroic" exploits should be suspect. At times this book does just that--Ferrill is particularly fond of Alexander, for instance, boasting that "Western medieval armies could not have held their ground in the face of Alexander's attack"). For the most part, however, "The Origins of War" is an unusual demonstration of the continuity of military technology and the triumphs of early political leadership.

Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Reed Larson (Basic: $9.95); How to Survive Your Adolescent's Adolescence, Dr. Robert C. and Nancy J. Kolodny, Dr. Thomas E. Bratter, Cheryl Deep (Little, Brown: $9.95). As adolescence is largely about shifting back and forth between egocentrism and altruism, laziness and helpfulness, despair and hope, it presents problems for social scientists attempting to shed clear perspective on the dynamics behind "coming of age." Both of these books have risen to the challenge without resorting to oversimplification or overgeneralization. By concentrating not on the flux of emotions, but on specific crises that can arise from those emotions, the authors of "How to Survive Your Son's Adolescence" provide a practical, helpful guide for parents whose kids are grappling with problems related to unintended teen-age pregnancies, drugs, sex and suicide. The authors of "Being Adolescent," on the other hand, do embark on a risky venture--trying to characterize the attitudes and outlook of "today's younger generation"--but they succeed because of a bizarre but effective research technique: They gave beepers to 75 adolescents, signaled them at random, and asked them to record their thoughts and feelings as they sat in classrooms, socialized with friends and ate dinner with their families. The result is unusually realistic detail, and while the diversity of responses prompted by the beepers is broad enough to be confusing at times, it suggests ways in which society leads some teen-agers to productive, fulfilling lives, and others to disillusionment and despair.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|