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James E. Cutting and Ayse Candan

This article investigates historical trends of mean shot durations in 9,400 English-language and 1,550 non-English-language movies released between 1912 and 2013. For the sound-era movies of both sets there is little evidence indicating anything other than a linear decline plotted on a logarithmic scale, with the English-language set providing stronger results. In a subsample of 24 English-language movies from 1940 to 2010 the decline in shot duration is uniform across 15 shot classes, a result that supports a broad “evolutionary” account of film change. The article also explores the proportions of these shot classes across years and genres, with the results showing that 25 percent of the decline in shot duration is due to a shift away from shot classes with longer-than-average shot durations towards those with shorter-than-average durations, and 8 percent of the decline is due to the increased use of shot scales in which characters appear larger.

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'Communities and Jewish Identity in Europe'

Transcript of First Plenary of the Third General Assembly of European Jewry, Budapest (20–23 May 2004)

Anthony Lerman, Barry Kosmin, Mikhail Chelnov, Shmuel Trigano and Alberto Senderey

The European Jewish reality today confounds predictions of decline with demographic decline. We can see that predictions of Jewish decline don't mean that the data was wrong, but rather the interpretation of the data on Jewish life was wrong. To look at the inevitably flawed data and not see trends that cannot be altered is just bad futurology. The fact is (and we know it from our daily life, work life as well as leisure life) that today information is power. Without information about who we as Jews in Europe are, we cannot seriously build a future. The kind of information we need about ourselves is not just how many we are and where we are. This kind of information is sometimes impossible to know definitively. We really need to know what kind of Jews we are, what kind of Jewish identities form our being, what makes up Jewish identities today.

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Randolph Roth

Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature defends Norbert Elias’s “civilization thesis”: the idea that violence has declined gradually in human societies over the millennia. As history, however, Pinker’s defense is flawed. First, the data gathered by historians do not show long-term declines in individual or collective violence. Second, the historical forces that Pinker believes have suppressed violence can also increase violence, depending on historical conditions. And third, neurology, endocrinology, and primatology may contribute more in the long run than evolutionary psychology to the understanding of the history of human aggression.

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Introduction

History, Violence, and Steven Pinker

Mark S. Micale and Philip Dwyer

In the closing months of 2011, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker published The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes.1 Weighing in at over eight hundred closely printed pages, Pinker’s book advances a bold, revisionist thesis: despite the relentless deluge of violent, sensationalist stories in the pervasive electronic media of our day, Pinker proposes, violence in the human world, in nearly every form, has in fact declined dramatically. Over the past several thousand years, and particularly since the eighteenth century, homicides, criminal assaults, war casualties, domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, capital punishment, lynching, and rape have all been steadily diminishing in frequency.

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David Marsh

This article focuses on four areas in which there have been putative changes in democratic practices and processes over the last two decades: decline in, or changing forms of, political participation; the growing power of the corporate sector; the decline in state capacity and, relatedly, the problems of producing what is considered by some to be successful policy; and the growth of depoliticization and anti-politics. The article argues that while not all has changed, these are important, and worrying, developments. Subsequently, the article briefly examines possible ways in which we might re-engage citizens and recouple the government and citizens. Given space-limitations, this piece is best viewed as an informed argument.

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Jonathan Friedman

This is an age of regression, the amplification of class relations and their polarization, the withdrawal of the new political classes into luxurious lives along with other dominant classes, while the declining lower end of the social world recedes into poverty and chaos. Overstated as a description, perhaps, but it does, I suggest, situate current trends.

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Christopher S. Allen

Henry Farrell, The Political Economy of Trust: Institutions, Interests and Interfirm Cooperation in Italy and Germany (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Jeremy Leaman, The Political Economy of Germany under Chancellors Kohl and Schroeder: Decline of the German Model? (New York: Berghahn, 2009)

Wolfgang Streeck, Re-Forming Capitalism: Institutional Change in the German Political Economy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009)

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The Complexity of History

Russia and Steven Pinker’s Thesis

Nancy Shields Kollmann

This article finds Steven Pinker’s argument for a decline of violence too Eurocentric and generalizing to fit all cases. Study of the early modern Russian criminal law, and society in general, shows that different states can develop radically different approaches to violence when influenced by some of the same factors (in this case Enlightenment values). The centralized Muscovite autocracy in many ways relied less on official violence and exerted better control over social violence than did early modern Europe, while at the same time it supported violence in institutions such as serfdom, exile, and aspects of imperial governance. Violence in the form of capital punishment declined but many aspects of social and official violence endured. Such a differentiated approach is explained by the state’s need to mobilize scarce human and material resources to survive and expand.

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Arthur Goldhammer

Belief in the possibility of a revolutionary transformation of French society sustained much of the political and cultural ferment in France in the quarter century following the end of World War II. Perry Anderson, in two articles published in the London Review of Books, argues that the decline of this faith has cast a pall over France, and he traces this decline in large part to the work of historians François Furet and Pierre Nora. It is argued here that Anderson neglects broader economic, societal, and cultural forces that combined to undermine belief in the transformative power of revolution and is therefore led to an unduly pessimistic interpretation of the cultural turn of the 1970s.

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Ton Korver

Why would eligible people decline an offer of welfare services? In regard to this question and in the context of changes in the welfare state, this paper discusses the shift 'from entitlements to provisions'. After sketching the size of non-take-up and the social composition of those declining the offer of services, some tentative reasons or motives for non-take-up are presented. The discussion is derived from various approaches including the capability approach, Dahrendorf's approach of the “modern social conflict”, and social quality theory (SQT). These approaches are placed in the perspective of the “person,” as in the group/grid scheme developed by anthropologist Mary Douglas. The paper concludes that, in order to understand the phenomenon of non-take-up, a differentiated conception of the person, for which SQT is a prime inspiration, is a condition sine qua non.