Campus News

Bowdoin Faculty Publish Timely Works

Story posted January 21, 2000

Three Bowdoin faculty members -- Daniel Levine, Marcia A. Weigle and Daniel Lieberfeld -- recently published books that are timely for a number of reasons. Two of the books address on-going situations in world politics, and one is significant because, on the eve of Black History Month and the 30th anniversary of the Russwurm House at Bowdoin, it recounts the life of an important American civil rights leader.

In early January, Daniel Levine, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of History and Political Science, published "Bayard Rustin and the Civil Rights Movement" (Rutgers University Press), the first scholarly biography of the civil rights leader who organized the 1969 march on Washington.

Rustin was "a real pioneer in the use of non-violent direct action," Levine said. "He was using when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in high school."

Levine said he met Rustin several times when he visited Bowdoin, and was impressed by his acute intellect and articulate manner.

Rustin was a strong integrationist who ended up being ostracized by the younger black militants, such as Malcolm X, who preached black separatism.

Marcia A. Weigle, associate professor of government, has just published a book about Russia's attempt to establish a liberal democracy from the Gorbachev through the Yeltsin years, an attempt which has had a more successful beginning than is often acknowledged.

"Most accounts focus on Russia's unstable democracy without acknowledging the fact that the country has successfully put into place the institutional parameters of political liberalism, in the classical meaning of that term, for the first time in its history," Weigle said.

The book examines the relationship among the state, political parties, civil society and political culture to explain how Russia is joining the family of politically liberal nations, after centuries of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

The publisher, Penn State University Press, has selected "Russia's Liberal Project: State-Society Relations In the Transition From Communism," as one of only six they will present at the London Book Fair in March, which will give it wide international exposure.

"Talking With the Enemy: Negotiation and Threat Perception in South Africa and Israel/Palestine" (Praeger), by Daniel Lieberfeld, visiting assistant professor of government, draws parallels between the processes that led to negotiation in the long-standing conflicts in South Africa and in Israel/Palestine.

After interviewing dozens of leaders in each case and collecting unpublished archival materials, Lieberfeld concluded that leaders decided to enter into direct peace negotiations after decades of violent conflict because of several common factors. Changes ranging from the end of Soviet interventionism to face-to-face contacts between enemies helped government leaders and their constituents feel less threatened by the enemy group and more confident that negotiation could yield an acceptable solution.

For years, Afrikaner nationalists in South Africa and Jews in Israel fought against the African National Congress and the Palestinian Liberation Organization because they perceived a direct threat to the their physical existence. As that sense of threat diminished, Lieberfeld said, the perception grew that a negotiated settlement might be possible.

"An often overlooked aspect is how domestic politics changed," Lieberfeld said. "In both South Africa and Israel there were essential changes of leadership, after which negotiation took place within a year."

For a future book, Lieberfeld has returned to the Middle East and to South Africa to continue his research, which is supported by the United States Institute of Peace. This time he is evaluating the contribution of face-to-face meetings between representatives of the ANC and PLO and nationally prominent citizens or those with access to high officials on the government sides. These meetings went on for years prior to the official negotiations.

"There is a fair amount of academic and policy debate over how much credit for settling protracted conflicts can be claimed for such initiatives," Lieberfeld said. "This project assesses their contribution in two very prominent cases."

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