Friday, January 11, 2008

Gary J. Bass

Gary J. Bass is Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
It's a ways afield from my work, which is on human rights politics, but I'm reading Nathan Glazer's From A Cause To A Style: Modernist Architecture's Encounter with the American City. Glazer is a national intellectual treasure and it's a pleasure to read him. His subject here is something obvious to anyone who looks around a big city: since the 1950s, modernism has left us with a series of massive concrete eyesores. Worse, these were political projects. The modernists thought that were allies of people in the fight against extravagant or traditional architecture. In the name of slogans like "ornament is crime," the modernists contemptuously rejected historical styles -- which we unenlightened slobs thought looked nice. As Glazer writes about modernism's hulking buildings, even fifty years from now, "we won't be eager to preserve it, and we won't find it powerful or beautiful or interesting: we'll be sorry it's there, and we'll wonder how it got there, and how can improve it or replace it." Modernism, like a lot of other -isms that claimed to speak for the people, hadn't actually taken into account how real people live and what we like. And that's why the stuff is so disliked today.
Bass works on international security, human rights and war crimes tribunals. He is the author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals as well as articles and book chapters on international justice. His new book, Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention, is due out in August 2008 from Knopf. Before joining the Princeton faculty, he was a reporter for The Economist. He has also written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and other publications. He has won the Stanley Kelley teaching prize in the Princeton politics department.

--Marshal Zeringue