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Political scientists designing experiments often face the question of how abstract or detailed their experimental stimuli should be. Typically, this question is framed in terms of tradeoffs relating to experimental control and generalizability: the more context introduced into studies, the less control, and the more difficulty generalizing the results. Yet, we have reason to question this tradeoff, and there is relatively little systematic evidence to rely on when calibrating the degree of abstraction in studies. We make two contributions. First, we provide a theoretical framework which identifies and considers the consequences of three dimensions of abstraction in experimental design: situational hypotheticality, actor identity, and contextual detail. Second, we field a range of survey experiments, varying these levels of abstraction. We find that situational hypotheticality does not substantively change experimental results, but increased contextual detail dampens treatment effects and the salience of actor identities moderates results in specific situations.
In the book’s afterword, I suggest that the period studied in this book has drawn to a close, as literary liberals have become both less interested in responding to postmodernism and more interested in rejecting free-market politics, including the centrist, communitarian version of this politics. To illustrate this shift, I compare texts published on either side of the 2008 financial crisis. In Then We Came to the End (2007), Joshua Ferris experiments with a collective first-person narrator in order to dramatize the tensions of office life, tensions which he figures in terms of the oppositions between elitism and egalitarianism and between sincerity and irony. Ferris’s self-reflexive interest in forging empathetic connections between workers, bosses, readers, and writers makes his novel a quintessential post-postmodern text. Philipp Meyer’s American Rust (2009) and Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs (2009) by contrast, are precisely the kind of “angry” books “about work” that Ferris rejects. In formally distinct ways, both novels offer a political vision skeptical of centrism and committed to the irreducibility of class as a source of political and economic conflict.
My second chapter begins with a comparison of Jonathan Franzen and Ben Marcus, two writers who embody the competing aesthetic visions of contemporary “realists” and “experimentalists.” Focusing on their work and their high-profile debate about literary difficulty, I argue that their mutual commitment to their “community of readers” (as Franzen puts it) and to narratives of “the family gone wrong” (as Marcus puts it) actually points to a shared social vision, a vision in which “family” values are more important than aesthetic and political antagonisms. This focus on the family also cuts across the oppositions central to contemporary American politics, I show, and it informs the fiction and criticism of writers like Jeffrey Eugenides, Aimee Bender, and George Saunders. This domestic turn is figured, in several of these texts, as a revision of both American individualism and postmodern impersonality. I make the case that this triangulating impulse generates a range of formal innovations, from Eugenides’s re-invention of “the marriage plot” to Marcus’s self-reflexive blending of experimental impersonality and post-postmodern “emotionality.”
In this chapter, I show how Richard Powers’s 1998 novel Gain symbolically resolves the conflict between transnational corporate “stakeholders” and shareholders. In this way, the novel reveals what is already implicit in such “non-governmental” movements as “stakeholder activism,” which flourished during the 1990s in response to the rise of transnational corporations and right-wing critiques of the state. These non-governmental movements imagine a political field structured not by antagonism but by a plurality of interests, and they assume that these interests can be recognized and coordinated by a government (elected or corporate) that can somehow stand outside this realm of interests. I conclude this chapter by contrasting Gain’s post-political vision, as I call it, with that of Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt (2006), a novel about a “nomenclature consultant” hired to rename a small town. The novel’s resolution stages a rejection of the impulse to allow profitability to drive governance, and the discordant historical name selected by the protagonist — “Struggle” — also names the very thing hidden by corporate governance and non-governmental politics.
This introduction offers an extended reading of David Foster Wallace’s 2000 foray into political journalism, “Up, Simba,” which illustrates what will be the central claim of this book: that literary post-postmodernism is best understood as the means by which left-leaning writers negotiate the neoliberal turn — a version of, rather than an alternative to, this new consensus. To make that case, I trace connections between the communitarian logic of the so-called New Sincerity, the form of post-postmodernism most closely associated with Wallace, and the interventions of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats, who rejected key New Deal principles in favor of a "third way" between liberalism and conservativism. This introduction also historicizes "postcritique" and the various "post-ideological" accounts of neoliberal culture, accounts which, in my view, reproduce contemporary liberalism’s ambivalence about the free market and free-market politics, and therefore can be understood as symptomatic of the very changes they seek to interpret.
Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange (1997) parodies the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it characterizes the fight over free trade in the same terms as NAFTA’s liberal supporters, who represent this fight as a struggle between “zero-sum nationalism” and an emerging network of transnational “enterprise-webs.” Just as NAFTA’s supporters imagine a global free market comprised solely of “human capital,” Yamashita imagines an "expanding symphony" comprised solely of "conductors" attuned to transnational complexity -- a vision which depends on a disavowal of the structural differences that make such collectives possible. Sesshu Foster’s Atomik Aztex (2005), meanwhile, suggests that framing the conflicts faced by Mexican migrants as epistemic conflicts is a mistake. His novel imagines an alternative history in which the “Aztex” defeated the Spanish and non-Western cultural and epistemic values have triumphed, but the violence of exploitation remains. At the same, Foster’s novel ultimately suggests that migrant workers can create the possibility of an “alternative future” by embracing a vision of a world defined by class antagonisms rather than by epistemic conflicts.
This chapter explores texts that articulate the differences and continuities between Reaganite neoliberalism, as represented by Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, and Clintonian neoliberalism, as represented in Clinton’s own speeches, Joe Klein’s Primary Colors, and the work of Mary Gaitskill. Clinton’s defense of welfare reform attaches a therapeutic rationale to right-wing ideals like “personal responsibility," and we see this same logic in in Gaitskill’s post-feminist interventions into ‘90s-era debates about female masochism and campus sex codes. We also see how this personalizing logic resolves political conflict in her novel Two Girls, Fat and Thin, in which what could be understood as an ideological disagreement about capitalism — the tension between a left-leaning journalist and a follower of a thinly-veiled version of Ayn Rand — proves to be a product of the two women’s failure to take "responsibility" for their own emotional experiences. In this chapter, I also examine how the logic of welfare-reform is contested by novels like Richard Price’s Clockers and Sapphire’s Push, both of which seek to demystify the “workfare” state’s idealization of legal, low-wage work.
This essay reads Lydia Maria Child and Henry David Thoreau against the grain of the usual literary taxonomies in order to consider the degree to which two key preoccupations animated their respective work: first, What constitutes a good life and how might people of limited or moderate means achieve it within a volatile and unforgiving US economy? And, second, How might individuals conceive of and act on their responsibilities to suffering others, especially enslaved Americans, and what should one’s disposition be toward injustice more generally? With attention to their overlapping inquiries into frugality, self-improvement, economic instability, and social injustice, I argue that Child and Thoreau are crucial authors for understanding both the mid-nineteenth and the early twenty-first centuries.
Liberalism and American Literature in the Clinton Era argues that a new, post-postmodern aesthetic emerges in the 1990s as a group of American writers – including Mary Gaitskill, George Saunders, Richard Powers, Karen Tei Yamashita, and others – grapples with the political triumph of free-market ideology. The book shows how these writers resist the anti-social qualities of this frantic right-wing shift while still performing its essential gesture, the personalization of otherwise irreducible social antagonisms. Thus, we see these writers reinvent political struggles as differences in values and emotions, in fictions that explore non-antagonistic social forms like families, communities and networks. Situating these formally innovative fictions in the context of the controversies that have defined this rightward shift – including debates over free trade, welfare reform, and family values – Brooks details how American writers and politicians have reinvented liberalism for the age of pro-capitalist consensus.
Several studies link adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to delinquency. Yet, developmental sequalae accounting for this association remain unclear, with previous research limited by cross-sectional research designs and investigations of singular mediating processes. To redress these shortcomings, this study examines the longitudinal association between ACEs and delinquency as mediated by both sleep problems and low self-control, two factors which past research implicates as potentially important for understanding how ACEs contribute to antisocial behavior. Data collected from 480 adolescents (71.3% boys; 86.3% White) and their parents participating in the Michigan Longitudinal Study was used to conduct a serial mediation analysis. The association between ACEs (prior to age 11) and delinquency in late adolescence was found to operate indirectly via sleep problems in early adolescence and low self-control in middle adolescence. Nonetheless, a direct association between ACEs and later delinquency remained. Pathways through which ACEs contribute to later delinquency are complex and multiply determined. Findings indicate that early behavioral interventions, including improving sleep and self-control, could reduce later delinquency. Still, more research is needed to identify additional avenues through which the ACEs–delinquency association unfolds across development.
Patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy have multiple risk factors for lower extremity oedema. This study sought to define the frequency and predictors of oedema. Patients aged 15 years and older were screened by patient questionnaire, and the presence of oedema was confirmed by subsequent physical exam. Twenty-four of 52 patients (46%) had oedema, 12 of whom had swelling extending above the foot and two with sores/skin breakdown. There was no significant difference in age, frequency, or duration of glucocorticoid use, non-invasive respiratory support use, forced vital capacity, cardiac medication use, or ejection fraction between patients with and without oedema (all p > 0.2). Those with oedema had a greater time since the loss of ambulation (8.4 years versus 3.5 years; p = 0.004), higher body mass index (28.3 versus 24.8; p = 0.014), and lower frequency of deflazacort use (67% versus 89%; p = 0.008). Multivariate analysis revealed a longer duration of loss of ambulation (p = 0.02) and higher body mass index (p = 0.009) as predictors of oedema. Lower extremity oedema is common in Duchenne muscular dystrophy but independent of cardiac function. Interventions focused on minimising body mass index increases over time may be a therapeutic target.
Assessing performance validity is imperative in both clinical and research contexts as data interpretation presupposes adequate participation from examinees. Performance validity tests (PVTs) are utilized to identify instances in which results cannot be interpreted at face value. This study explored the hit rates for two frequently used PVTs in a research sample of individuals with and without histories of bipolar disorder (BD).
As part of an ongoing longitudinal study of individuals with BD, we examined the performance of 736 individuals with BD and 255 individuals with no history of mental health disorder on the Test of Memory Malingering (TOMM) and the California Verbal Learning Test forced choice trial (CVLT-FC) at three time points.
Undiagnosed individuals demonstrated 100% pass rate on PVTs and individuals with BD passed over 98% of the time. A mixed effects model adjusting for relevant demographic variables revealed no significant difference in TOMM scores between the groups, a = .07, SE = .07, p = .31. On the CVLT-FC, no clinically significant differences were observed (ps < .001).
Perfect PVT scores were obtained by the majority of individuals, with no differences in failure rates between groups. The tests have approximately >98% specificity in BD and 100% specificity among non-diagnosed individuals. Further, nearly 90% of individuals with BD obtained perfect scores on both measures, a trend observed at each time point.
Behavioral features of binge eating disorder (BED) suggest abnormalities in reward and inhibitory control. Studies of adult populations suggest functional abnormalities in reward and inhibitory control networks. Despite behavioral markers often developing in children, the neurobiology of pediatric BED remains unstudied.
58 pre-adolescent children (aged 9–10-years) with BED (mBMI = 25.05; s.d. = 5.40) and 66 age, BMI and developmentally matched control children (mBMI = 25.78; s.d. = 0.33) were extracted from the 3.0 baseline (Year 0) release of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. We investigated group differences in resting-state functional MRI functional connectivity (FC) within and between reward and inhibitory control networks. A seed-based approach was employed to assess nodes in the reward [orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), nucleus accumbens, amygdala] and inhibitory control [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)] networks via hypothesis-driven seed-to-seed analyses, and secondary seed-to-voxel analyses.
Findings revealed reduced FC between the dlPFC and amygdala, and between the ACC and OFC in pre-adolescent children with BED, relative to controls. These findings indicating aberrant connectivity between nodes of inhibitory control and reward networks were corroborated by the whole-brain FC analyses.
Early-onset BED may be characterized by diffuse abnormalities in the functional synergy between reward and cognitive control networks, without perturbations within reward and inhibitory control networks, respectively. The decreased capacity to regulate a reward-driven pursuit of hedonic foods, which is characteristic of BED, may in part, rest on this dysconnectivity between reward and inhibitory control networks.