What We Are Reading Today: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel

What We Are Reading Today: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel
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Updated 15 November 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel

What We Are Reading Today: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel

Assiduously researched and deftly narrated, The Fabric of Civilization tells the story of the world’s most influential commodity.

The Fabric of Civilization is a history about the far-reaching influence that textiles have had on the world. 

Author Virginia Postrel “synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history,” said a review in goodreads.com. “Both extensive historical research and master storytelling makes this book a hidden art.” 

An award-winning journalist, an opinion columnist for Bloomberg and the author of three previous books, including The Substance of Style, Postrel specializes in sharp, informed commentary on broad subjects. So it’s a surprise to find very little opinion in The Fabric of Civilization. Instead, the book is, as she puts it, an “exploration originated in wonder,” said Dana Thomas in a review for The New York Times. 

Thomas added: “At times, Postrel loses her way — and, in turn, us. She explains the mechanics of cloth construction like a scientist,
and includes diagrams, in case we don’t get it.”


What We Are Reading Today: Gangsters and Other Statesmen by Danilo Mandic

Updated 03 December 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Gangsters and Other Statesmen by Danilo Mandic

What We Are Reading Today: Gangsters and Other Statesmen by Danilo Mandic

Separatism has been on the rise across the world since the end of the Cold War, dividing countries through political strife, ethnic conflict, and civil war, and redrawing the political map. Gangsters and Other Statesmen examines the role transnational mafias play in the success and failure of separatist movements, challenging conventional wisdom about the interrelation of organized crime with peacebuilding, nationalism, and state making.

Danilo Mandic conducted fieldwork in the disputed territories of Kosovo and South Ossetia, talking to mobsters, separatists, and policymakers in war zones and along major smuggling routes. In this timely and provocative book, he demonstrates how globalized mafias shape the politics of borders in torn states, shedding critical light on an autonomous nonstate actor that has been largely sidelined by considerations of geopolitics, state-centered agency, and ethnonationalism. Blending extensive archival sleuthing and original ethnographic data with insights from sociology and other disciplines, Mandic argues that organized crime can be a fateful determinant of state capacity, separatist success, and ethnic conflict.

Putting mafias at the center of global processes of separatism and territorial consolidation, Gangsters and Other Statesmen raises vital questions and urges reconsideration of a host of separatist cases in West Africa, the Middle East, and East Europe.