Friday, August 31, 2007

About a Boy

Too Late to the Dance

It must be fall semester. I know because Jonathan Dresner burdens his students with my writing. Actually, it's a great syllabus that seeks to include students in conversations about history that are current on the blogosphere. Perhaps in the future his classes will be live-blogged?

Over at the group blog that Jonathan started, Frog in a Well, an interesting discussion has broken out over Brad DeLong's long post on Chinese economic history. It's a fascinating discussion about how Chinese development is understood and explained--entering into areas I am not qualified to discuss. However, the notion of "late industrialization" pops up in the comments there and at Grasping at Reality with Both Hands. Intellectual milieu of Confucian bureaucracy, strong hand of the center, hyper-efficiency of agricultural production--usual suspects make their appearance.

What's interesting is that the trope of late industrialization appears in the historiographical writing of a number of countries. It's used to explain the rise of anti-democratic traditions, especially in Germany, Italy and Russia. (Never mind that more democratically minded countries, like France and Netherlands, took longer to industrialize.) Give the wide application of this trope, it would seem that (proper) industrialization was a one man race only Britain could win. In the case of Germany (among the second wave of industrialization), this has become a hard sell. The work of Geoff Eley, David Blackbourn, George Mosse, and Modris Eksteins has shown that rather than being "peculiar", Germans grasped modernity better than Brits. The timing of economic development does not explain as much, especially since it occurred after many of the Bismarckian compromises between Prussian and dynasties and between Junkers and manufacturers were still to come. Perhaps what was more important was how the nationalist movement was co-opted from the Wirtschaftsbuergertum and handed over to the Junkers.

I don't want to dismiss theories of political economy. Economic backwardness and the timing of industrialization have their place, but they do not provide automatic explanations. China is an interesting case because its ascendancy as a modern economic powerhouse occurs as ideas about energy and environment have changed. Chinese industrialization had been critiqued as an albatross, burdening the global supply of oil and taxing the limits of environment. Perhaps there is no room for an industrialized China: natural resources won't tolerate it.

If this is the case, should the notion of late industrialization stand? Energy and environment put more emphasis on material factors; will to modernize seems less important. Indeed empire may be a more important factor in industrialization. What would the global economy have looked like if China were competitive when England, United States, Germany and Belgium were at the height of their industrial production?

I'm not sure that I am articulating this problem well. Under the weight of environmental history, the timeliness of industrialization ought to be reconsidered. Projecting power, either by force or commerce, may play a greater role.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Standing on Shaky Ground

It's not about the sex, it's about the public lewd behaviour. Sure, whatever. Larry Craig's misdemeanor has driven a lot of talk not just about sexual identities, but the practices of homosexuals.

Andrew at Air Pollution has been critiquing those who would label Senator Craig (as those before him) as being gay. He has also been dissecting the icky factor in reporting this story: bathrooms and cruising. Andrew and I have had a number of discussions about the construction of sexual identities, and for different reasons we have been uneasy with the politics thereof. However, we completely agree that professing sexuality in public has its problems:
Many college students, in my experience, see the development of GLBT identities in a pretty straightforward trajectory: in the nineteenth-century we couldn't speak, now we can. Many of them have, in fact, read Foucault and they understand that identities are historically constituted and change over time. But what is so often missing in these discussions, both on college campus and on the internet, is how the injunction to speak can often be just as limiting as it can be emancipatory. Speaking creates categories, forcing people into them against their will. Obviously Foucault made this point, and it probably does little good for me to say it here in this form, but I think its important to emphasize when this sort of thing happens. The automatic reaction should not be "if only he could have come out of the closet," but rather, "how unfortunate we live in a society where the ability to freely express sexual desires, in all their (consensual) forms, remains a dream."
Indeed the creation of a defined category produces conformity as well. Why should everyone be labeled? Could not Senator Craig simply have sought gratification?

Last semester I assigned André Gide's The Immoralist to some students (a book that I picked with Andrew's assistance). I was myself surprised at one student's reaction: she was unwilling to accept the sexual openness proposed in the book. In her opinion, Michel's unwillingness to come out the closet made him sick, made his wife sick, made the people whom he touched sick. Simply put, his disease was not admitting his true sexuality.

Andrew isn't he only one talking about sexual identities. On the other side of the political spectrum, Marc at Spinning Clio is criticizing a work that purports to find same-sex marriage in the late Middle Ages. Projecting contemporary homosexuality, in particular the desire to marry one's same sex partner, reads too much into the past. In communities where each marriage was scrutinized, would not couples affrèrés meet resistance? Would homosexual men and women seek emotional fulfillment through marriage? Marc hits an important point: deep affection between men need not be manifested sexually.

All these examples show more about how identities are constructed and employed than how sexuality is conceived. So many identities are constructed on the belief of unchangeable, unshakable natures that they become essentialist, bordering on nativism or indigenism. These identities become so confining that they tend to isolate those who employ them. Indeed they are best employed when the identifying group wishes to resist modernization. The danger is that they will not participate in the discussion about modernization, rather it will occur around them as they are immune to it. Or that modernization will disturb the root assumptions upon which identities are based. Among the problems faced by Alsatians under German rule, for example, was how to argue that they were who they were (people shaped by history and tradition) and participate in German politics and global commerce.

The point is best driven home by Mahmood Mamdani in Citizen and Subject. By identifying Africans with tribal communities, colonial governments could keep them under traditional tribal justice and traditional tribal authority. Thus they had limited access to European institutions. The African worker, in particular, could not make choices about development and progress. S/he was always a visitor to the modern world, and what s/he experienced could not change African society.

Labeling Senator Craig "gay" potentially constrains him to being a man who cruises for sex in bathrooms--as much as it constrains gay men. It constrains him to live up to an identity that is not as stable as it seems.

(Disclosure: I hate people who fuck in public places. It unnerves me. Sorry, Andrew, I've reported a few couples in various states of passion in the library because, dammit, I have work to do. They were all heterosexual.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Secular Critique for Believers

How times can Christiane Amanpour repeat the phrase "G-d's Warriors," either directly or in variation? What ought to have been compelling reportage on fundamentalism turned into a rhetorical exercise. Perhaps I should expect no more: this was journalism, not rigorous scholarship. However, this leitmotiv couched the fact that Amanpour exposed the mobilization of religious sentiment in conflict while ignoring the conflict writ large. During the segment on "G-ds Jewish Warriors," I was repeatedly troubled that Amanpour did not follow the involvement of secular and atheist Israelis (although she calls them only Jews) in the settlements in the West Bank. What connection was there for the Israeli who cared nothing for religion, who, so to speak, did not "long for Messiah"?

It would be easy to call this anti-religion, but reductive seems more appropriate. These fundamentalists, reactionaries, terrorists ... whatever you will call them ... respond to a call that Amanpour hastens to avoid. By calling the series "G-d's warriors," she invites the audience to believe that this is "G-d's War," the crux of the religious calling. It is religion detached from society, and in many cases, many within society cannot be called religious practitioners. This is the danger that Horkheimer diagnosed: the loss of dialogue between religion and reason to the detriment of both.

The program fits well next to Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins. They reduce religion to hate and intolerance, qualities that are by no means exclusively religious. Religion, like society, politics, and culture, is multi-faceted: a nexus of beliefs, institutions, and practices that are not all harmonious with one another and that can serve as a repository of ideas for both love and hate.

In some ways I welcomed Mark Lilla's essay, "The Politics of God," which appeared in the New York Times magazine last week. Many things in the essay were problematic. Lilla seemed to have unreserved faith in non-religious politics, ignoring the rise of ideology that occurred after Luther, religious and non-religious. When he says, "That is what happened in Weimar Germany," I feel compelled to remind him that Germans longed for leadership, spirit and power, and they checked religion at the door.

However, Lilla's emphasis on political theology has merits. Brandon expressed reservations about the concept because of its vagueness. But there needs to be some means of focusing in on the relationship between religion and politics. In particular, how religion is imported into the field of politics, either directly or symbolically, to justify aggression.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tales from a Monocausal Universe, pt. 2

In my previous post about Prof. Gregory Clark's forthcoming book, I set out several issues that I felt would disfavor a genetic cause of industrialization, whether cultural or biological. I had planned to write about them in depth, but alas, I haven't the time. In place of thoroughness, here is, perhaps, some brevity.

Most of my objections regard the periodization of capitalism. Prof. Clark's argument seems to focus on the pre-industrial, commercial stage of capitalism, when trade dominated. Don't get me wrong: capitalism put pressure on manufacturing to reform, but so-called proto-industry was not industry, and some would argue that was a shaky foundation for industry, at best. Industrialization was an intellectual leap, and capitalism was not deterministically bound to discover it.

Who was the Dutch Arkwright? Well, no one, of course. However, it order for Prof. Clark's argument to be effective, he must deal with "the first modern economy." Why industrialization took hold only late in Netherlands is a compelling subject. Broadly speaking, the Dutch capitalism was a high level equilibrium trap of its own (though I'll still blame wars with England); capitalism continued without making the next step.

In this context, however, the question of why Netherlands did not industrialize is not as interesting as why the Dutch did not develop industry. Prof. Clark seems to want us to believe that the emergence of genetic traits, either biologically or culturally received, created a natural evolution toward industrialization. The same traits appeared in the Dutch bourgeoisie, earlier and just as forcefully, as the English. Certainly, many of the financial tools were already in place. It would not be difficult to imagine a Dutch version of the industrial factory--it would be the Xerox Alto of economic history.

What makes the question more interesting is that regions of Europe that fell under the United Province's broad economic hinterland would next industrialize. Dutch commerce drew Belgian and Rhenish merchants into capitalism, creating classes who were willing not just to take on industry, but to innovate it.

I expect that, on closer examination, Prof. Clark will have played fast and loose with capitalism, industry and proto-industry.

Another area of concern is the effect of the downward social mobility of which Prof. Clark writes. It's not clear to me that the dispossessed sons of aristocrats and bourgeoisie would apply their superior economic ethics (if they had them) to preparing labor for industrialization. Why would they? Would they not be just as likely to apply their good sense to strengthen corporations, notably guilds, at the lower ends? It seems more likely that they would force greater skill among trades rather than lead the trend to a generalized labor force (such as Gellner described).

Tomorrow, Prof. Clark promises to answer his critics. I look forward to his detailed answers.


The Discoveries of America--yes, I'm putting it into the plural. It seems like everyone was there before Columbus, like the English and the Chinese before them. Of course, the first people there were the Vikings ... and, er, the Native Americans (... or aliens).

Discovery, however, is not well defined. At Albion's Seedlings, Peter Saint-Andre argues that England discovered America first, albeit its presence evolved very slowly.
Yet it appears that North America was discovered first, by venturesome sailors from the English port of Bristol who maintained an active trade with Iceland starting in the 1300s and who fished the Grand Banks off Newfoundland as early as 1481. News of these fisheries — and land or islands sighted to the west thereof — filtered down to Portugal and Spain, probably inspiring (in part) the voyages of Columbus. ... Despite the fact that the English seem to have discovered new lands to the west before the Spanish did, their colonization efforts lagged.
Anglers find fertile waters, a few new rocks. Peter underplays the effects of the so-called discovery. Indeed, the Vikings knew of many of the same areas of modern maritime Canada. Even after their colonies in Vinland failed, Greenlanders revisited the territories for logging. Moreover, we ought to consider Greenland to be the first European colony in the Americans. Because settlement was not permanent, the honor is withheld.

More importantly, the Viking discovery, like Richard Amerike's, didn't affect the European imagination. Finding new land was not earth-shattering; mariners had done it many times. Finding a new world was. "The Discovery of America", a term fraught with difficulties, ought to relate to changes of European intellect and culture. This means the processes that would lead to permanent settlement.

Moreover, it should reflect those processes that inspired the cartographic imagination, turning the Americas into knowledge. Amerigo Vespucci's Mundus Novus put the newly discovered territories in global context by attending to their geography and changing how Europeans saw the world.

Let's give props to the real discoverer of America: Amerigo Vespucci, the man who put America on the map (or, at least, got Waldseemuller to put it on the map).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Frankfurt, you're not alone

Another article in Die Welt about a city reconstructing its pre-war city center. This time, it's Kaliningrad, currently a Russian city that was the capital of East Prussia. The website set up by lead architect Arthur Sarnitz is rife with plans and photographs of the restoration, with more to come (perhaps an English version as well).

Tales from the Monocausal Universe, pt. 1

Japanese workers are shorter and have smaller fingers. Thus, they are better suited to working with electronics than Americans. That’s what Crazy People taught me. Throw in something about work ethic, filial responsibility, honor, the smart breeding with the smart, and a few other clichés, and presto: an attractive theory!

You hopefully know from my sarcasm that I won’t read the Clark book. The issues it addresses and the approach it takes not only seem dated, they seem exhausted. Why European countries dominated geopolitics and economics from as early as the seventeenth century to the last few decades is an important question, but cannot be reduced as Clark seems to have done.

Some writers have compared this approach to Jared Diamond, but at least he knew how to use an indefinite article, writing about the role of technology without losing sight of it being a cause of political-economic development, not the cause. Indeed, Diamonds attempt to draw together environment, culture and politics in Collapse, though flawed, raises important questions that historians can’t ignore.

Genetic or evolutionary explanations for industrialization tread on dangerous ground. Biologists and anthropologists from the last century spent great energy to discover reasons for the superiority of the west, sometimes emphasizing the backwardness of culture, other times the limits of biology. This knowledge was often applied in dangerous ways. Personally, I would need a truly good reason--a profound reason--to reconsider this subject.

However, I also think there are numerous reasons why the proposition of a genetic cause/basis for industrialization is problematic. I hope to discuss each of them in future posts.
  • Much of the groundwork for industry was laid as early in the sixteenth century, with the commercial activities of Portuguese and Dutch traders.
  • Why not the Netherlands? The Dutch were social more advanced than the English, and developed similar cultural characteristics before them.
  • Can the intellectual genius of industry be explained by cultural mentality?
  • Much of the success of industry depended on the adaptability and education of workers.
  • After the invention of the factory and steam engine, much of the history of industrialization is a variation on a theme.
  • Industry--technology and skills--was easily imported to other areas.
  • The costs of industrialization from the mid-1850s on rose, depending less on the freedom of the entrepreneurial class and more on state planning. (Should we see a comparable evolution of the sociability?)
  • Freed from their dependence on European nations, non-western nations (like India) could more effectively develop their native industries.

[Part 2 here.]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Kaczyńskis and the Politics of History

Vilhelm Konnander's Weblog has an important post on the political turns of contemporary Poland:
How to deal with the past, has become the central issue in Polish politics with the rise to power of the Kaczyński twins. Their policy of lustracja represents the wrath of the malcontents - a revanchist policy for all those former dissidents, members of Solidarity, or ordinary people, who never got a slice of the pie during the 1990s' privatisation. Their populist target is the "Salon" - communists, apparatchiks, bureaucrats, and collaborateurs, who were able to benefit from the privatisation schemes as only the very top echelons of the communist system were removed from power. However, having not previously dealt with history has made most politicans potential victims of persecution, as more or less fabricated scandals about a communist past have often come in handy when populists or others have wanted to permanently discredit next to any public figure. Being able to taint leading personalities of the Solidarity generation, has become a method for young and aspiring politicians to make careers and gain power by removing their seniors by rumours and allegations.

Stegner: American Mobility vs. Stability

From "The Sense of Place" by Wallace Stegner:

But if every American is several people, and one of them is or, would like to be a placed person, another is the opposite, the displaced person, cousin not to Thoreau but to Daniel Boone, dreamer not of Walden Ponds but of far horizons, traveler not in Concord but in wild unsettled places, explorer not inward ‘but outward. Adventurous, restless, seeking, asocial or -antisocial, the displaced American persists by the million, long after the frontier has vanished. He exists to some extent in all of us, the inevitable by-product of our history: the New World transient.

To the placed person he seems hasty, shallow, and restless. He has a current like the Platte, a mile wide and an inch deep. As a species, he is non territorial, be lacks a stamping ground. Acquainted with many places, he is rooted in none. Culturally he is a discarder or transplanter, not a builder or conserver. He even seems to like and value his rootlessness, though to the placed person he shows the symptoms of nutritional deficiency, as if be suffered from some obscure scurvy or pellagra of the soul. . . .

Indifferent to, or contemptuous of, or afraid to commit ourselves to, our physical and social surroundings, always hopeful of something better, hooked on change, a lot of us have never stayed in one place long enough to learn it, or have learned it only to leave it.

Rebuilding Frankfurt

Some of my thoughts on Germany's mania to recover the architectural past at Cliopatria.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday Reading

If you have a lot of time and a settled stomach, check out Subtopia's interview of geographer Stephen Graham on the subject of military urbanism. Check out his comments about the nostalgia for the military history of the city and the subsequent invisibility of urban violence. If you finish that, check out Traveling Wild's discussion of the history of wildness (that is to say, wild landscapes).

Jonathan Dresner's post about Akutagawa Ryonosuke's supposed pacifism has me thinking again about opposition and resistance in fascist states. Of course, I've discussed big A's reputation ad nauseam. As Jonathan writes, "Akutagawa died in 1927 kept him from becoming a victim of the changing political situation post-1931 and therefore kept his politics a bit under the radar." I wonder if the converse could be true: that his early death spared him from difficult decisions about opposition. Too many Germans figures, at least, opposed Nazism on narrow grounds rather than en toto.

Finally, the Robert Putnam article brought me back to a classic: Georg Simmel's Metropols and Mental Life. Alienation and anonymity in the city were persistent themes of sociology that they could be taken separately from any discussion of diversity. Hell, there was much less urban ethnic diversity 104 years ago. Has this theme dropped from contemporary sociology? Should it be revisited? Indeed, do we not all die alone in the city?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Emotion in the Archive

An eulogy for Raul Hilberg.

The Chemistry of Diversity

"The Downside of Diversity" discusses problematic findings from the research of Robert Putnam. The sociologist discovered that civic participation dropped in more diverse communities, thus limiting "social capital." Putnam himself found the results disturbing, especially as his findings were taken as reason to justify denying rights of immigration, etc. However, his findings also flew in the face of logic: the more diverse communities, which were also larger (mostly cities), tended to be more creative and productive.

I could raise many issues about this: white flight and gentrification as processes that limit the potential of cross-cultural contact. But two things should be noted above all: type of community and how integration works. First, the geographic concentration of cities allows exchanges to occur with greater frequency and rapidity than in small communities, thus multiplying their potential effect. Second, new arrivals don't surrender their identities so much as moderate them continually such that differences are thinned. They slowly fold their way into society. (The "melting pot" was always a bad analogy. No one, especially Anglo-Americans, lives in such a state of flux.)

[ETA:] Perhaps I should word this more strongly: social capital may not be the best measure or explanation of diversity and its benefits.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Things that annoy me

  • I must rely on Alex Rodriguez to save baseball.
  • Pipers dominate every Celtic session (my underpowered mando can't compete).
  • The three leading candidates in the Democratic primary race have the least experience in federal government.
  • I never notice the baby snot and drool on my shirts until after I leave home.
  • It's friggin' humid.
  • Lou Dobbs still has a bully pulpit on cable.

Religious Contradance: Everybody swing to the right?

During a rather blasé search for new material concerning German history on the blogosphere, I came upon an unusual new blog: one written by Ludwig Windthorst, one of the founders of the Zentrum and a towering figure in Catholic democracy, called Der Vasall!

I doubt that it is the historical Windthorst, or even a coincidental appellation, but the blog takes on an interesting subject: the theological basis for monarchy in Catholicism. Well, it's more of a Catholic perspective on politics, an interesting "thought experiment", but apparently German bloggers seem to pine for monarchy with some frequency (if the links are any indication).

Anyway, blogger Windthorst raises an interesting question: is monarchy a "right" form of state? is it necessarily conservative? On the surface, his claim that it could be both holds water. The alliance of European kings and queens with more conservative parties, especially nationalist parties, is inseparable from historical development. Who would join the radicals who called into question the legitimacy of monarchy? Even talk of "nation" from the right could be uncomfortable for the monarch trying to fit into the modern world.

This leads to another question: how did religion, particularly Catholicism, affect the political orientation of monarchy? Was there a swing to the right?

The question only makes sense, of course, in terms of modern partisan politics in an era of popular participation. Party platforms articulated the relationship between head of state, legislature, and administration. Religious voters, who reluctantly came into the system, tended to see the monarch as a guarantor of religion in public life. On paper, it would seem that religious voters would carry the monarch with them.

However, it was never so neat. In France, Bourbonists and Catholics seemed to make common cause against godless republic. Germany was a more complicated story. Protestants seemed strongly to support the Hohenzollern dynasty, but Catholics and Jews were a different story. In the wake of anticlerical repression, German Catholics demanded rights of self-governance even as they trumpeted the principle of monarchy. On the other hand, German Jews seemed to tolerate the Protestant aura of German culture while asking for the deconfessionalization of public life.

Religious voters were, however, only one aspect of the Church. Clergy also affected political life (even though they claimed neutrality). Yet still, there is ambiguity. Missionaries on the frontier of Spanish America generally restrained Spaniards from overtly abusing and exploiting native subjects, especially converts (even as they profited from them). In early 20th-century Africa, missions were safe havens from the plantation economy and a place from which Africans could reconstruct their lives. More importantly, the Rhenish Mission in South-West Africa protected natives from the physical manifestations of aggressive, nationalistic rhetoric. In many nations, clergy encouraged the state to undertake more social programs, both as a reflection of religious conscience and to dampen the growth of socialism. Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum attempts to balance the two impulses of the Church, supporting patriarchy (by extension, monarchy) and the cultivation of social services.

Assessing the effects of the Church is difficult because after the Reformation, the Church cannot be isolated. In general, religion became more reliant on the state. Efforts to restore the universal church and promote the authority of the Papacy succeeded only ideologically.
Doctrines, such as Papal Infallibility, negatively effected religious voters of many nations, forcing clergy and voters alike to qualify their intent and reach into public life.

The Septennat Crisis in Germany provides an important example of the relationship between Catholicism and the state. In its platforms, the Zentrum consistently argued for the restraint of the military budget. Their opposition to military spending further cast Catholics into the category of "enemies of the state." In the 1880s, Bismarck concluded a treaty with the Papacy which included issues related to the military budget. Accordingly, the Pope instructed the deputies of the Zentrum to approve the Septennat. Rather than falling in line, the deputies refused, and the historical Windthorst declared that the party was not an organ of the Church. Twenty years later Catholic politicians would not hesitate to vote for more military spending, but the crisis marked the divergence of the Catholic public in Germany and Rome. If one of them asserted more influence on the Hohenzollern monarchy, it was the former.

Catholicism could push monarchy in either direction. But, if the Church encourages the monarchy to move to the left, it is usually only on two grounds: first, caring for the needs of the people and second, supporting the rights of individuals and minorities (subject to qualification). Social programs were among the most important areas of state growth in the twentieth century and must be taken seriously as evidence of a liberal redirection of monarchy. What we could not expect is that Catholicism would encourage monarchs radically to reconstruct the state and authority.

Crossposted at Cliopatria

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Other Asterisk

Wonderful: a new home run record on par with the accomplishments of Louis Pasteur and the application of penicillin in medicine. Barry Bonds should be proud, even if his legend should be surrounded with a cloud of suspicion.

However, I would draw attention to other aspects of Bonds' accomplishment. Baseball has been making it easier and easier to hit home runs, building smaller stadiums and changing rules in favor of hitters. In an era where all baseballers (such an old fashion word) could enjoy the boost and repair of steroids, hitters, not pitchers, have been able to enjoy their benefits more thoroughly. Good pitching has become a rare and precious commodity, turned over to cadres of relievers as early as the fifth inning. Perhaps the more significant of this weeks milestones has been Tom Glavine's 300th win, something many sports analysts is unlikely to happen soon, if not ever again. This era has sacrificed many aspects of the game in favor of the cheap thrill of the long ball. Other aspects of the game, like pitching, but also defense and "little ball," have diminished by comparison.

Perhaps the case has been made better by Bill Jenkinson. In The Year Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, he argues that had Babe Ruth played his 1923 season in contemporary stadiums by contemporary rules, he would have had an additional 40-50 home runs. Many gargantuan blasts were contained by the cavernous stadiums in which Ruth played, and eyewitness evidence shows that many very long flyballs that became outs would have easily cleared fences that barely reach 400 feet in centerfield.

If Barry Bonds deserves an asterisk in his name in the record books, than so does "most home runs, career." Baseball as trivialized the long ball in the last twenty years, and consequently, trivialized its own traditions and legends. It will add context to the era, one in which the home run totals were super-sized but the reputation of baseball diminished.