Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!
What do you say to chatting over soup with a Nobel Laureate? We like the idea too. Check out this Financial Times piece by Martin Wolf, where he recounts his lunch discussion with Edmund Phelps, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in economics and author of Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change. The men discuss Phelps’ feelings on creativity, innovation in Europe, and the decision to rescue the financial sector in 2008. Phelps speaks about his book, and Wolf writes:
What, I ask, led to writing Mass Flourishing? He tells me he started thinking about capitalism and socialism in the 1990s. But “it was only around 2002 that I began to think about creativity. I realised that the economics profession was mired in the idea that advance is ultimately the result of scientific discovery.
“Joseph Schumpeter [an Austrian economist of the first half of the 20th century] said that it requires entrepreneurs to do the work of building commercial applications. Yet he also argued one hardly ever sees creativity in entrepreneurs.
“I was appalled by this. So I started to think about what drives innovation and what its social significance might be. The next step was to think: innovators are taking a leap into the unknown. That led me to the thought that it is also a source of fun and employee engagement.”
In Mass Flourishing, Phelps draws on a lifetime of thinking to make a sweeping new argument about what makes nations prosper–and why the sources of that prosperity are under threat today. Why did prosperity explode in some nations between the 1820s and 1960s, creating not just unprecedented material wealth but “flourishing”–meaningful work, self-expression, and personal growth for more people than ever before? Phelps makes the case that the wellspring of this flourishing was modern values such as the desire to create, explore, and meet challenges.
These values fueled the grassroots dynamism that was necessary for widespread, indigenous innovation. Most innovation wasn’t driven by a few isolated visionaries like Henry Ford; rather, it was driven by millions of people empowered to think of, develop, and market innumerable new products and processes, and improvements to existing ones. Mass flourishing–a combination of material well-being and the “good life” in a broader sense–was created by this mass innovation.
The book is also mentioned in a post about patent and copyright laws on the AEI Ideas blog. James Pethokoukis looks to a quote from Mass Flourishing, in which Phelps argues that “now the economy is clogged with patents.” Check out the full post on the AEI Ideas blog.
“What’s the Matter with Russia?” asks Keith Gessen in a recent article in Foreign Affairs. Gessen, a Russian-born journalist who co-edits n+1, recounts a recent trip on Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, where he spoke with a fellow passenger about Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He writes:
I kept thinking — I keep thinking — what, exactly, is wrong with Russia? Why is it still so aggressive nearly 30 years after the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev launched the process of “normalizing” Russia and its relations with the world? Why, despite two decades of optimistic predictions that it was on the path to becoming, or was on the verge of becoming, or had already become a “normal” country, had it never become one? Why couldn’t it be more like Germany, another country that used to invade other countries but now focuses on making quality automobiles and protecting the health of the euro?
Gessen turns to two books, including William Zimmerman’s Ruling Russia: Authoritarianism from the Revolution to Putin, to explore the history that led to the Russia of today. Check out the full article in Foreign Affairs.
Ruling Russia is the only book of its kind to trace the history of modern Russian politics from the Bolshevik Revolution to the presidency of Vladimir Putin. It examines the complex evolution of communist and post-Soviet leadership in light of the latest research in political science, explaining why the democratization of Russia has all but failed.
“Western democracies often view the Russian political structure as something ‘abnormal.’ Zimmerman peels back this Western lens and looks systematically into Russian political history from Vladimir Lenin to Vladimir Putin. He delves into how a consolidated political structure solidified with each passing generation of rulers.”
See for yourself, and view the introduction of Ruling Russia here.
When PUP author Gillen D’Arcy Wood talks about a big volcanic explosion, he means big. On the volcanic explosivity index (VEI), the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora registered a seven out of eight. Wood’s new book, Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World, chronicles the aftermath of the explosion, which unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. Wood is interviewed on Voice of America’s Science World to discuss the book. Hear Wood’s portion of the program below (at about 16:10).
Tambora is reviewed in the South China Morning Post and given four stars. Matthew Scott writes:
“Gillen D’Arcy Wood tells this story with skill and convincing research in Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World, bringing together science, historic records and anecdotes from 200 years ago….Wood delivers an intriguing anecdote of historical science, describing how humans are oblivious to the links to nature all around us.”
The book also made the Edmonton Journal nonfiction bestseller list. Preview the introduction here.