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!
When was the last time you thought about giving the banking system a complete overhaul? The past few years have shown that risks in banking can impose significant costs on the economy. Many claim, however, that a safer banking system would require sacrificing lending and economic growth. The Bankers’ New Clothes examines this claim and the narratives used by bankers, politicians, and regulators to rationalize the lack of reform, exposing them as invalid.
Authors Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig argue we can have a safer and healthier banking system without sacrificing any of the benefits of the system, and at essentially no cost to society. They show that banks are as fragile as they are not because they must be, but because they want to be–and they get away with it. Whereas this situation benefits bankers, it distorts the economy and exposes the public to unnecessary risks. Weak regulation and ineffective enforcement allowed the buildup of risks that ushered in the financial crisis of 2007-2009. Much can be done to create a better system and prevent crises. Yet the lessons from the crisis have not been learned.
Admati and Hellwig seek to engage the broader public in the debate by cutting through the jargon of banking, clearing the fog of confusion, and presenting the issues in simple and accessible terms. The Bankers’ New Clothes calls for ambitious reform and outlines specific and highly beneficial steps that can be taken immediately.
This year, Anat Admati was listed as one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine, a famous list we’ve become all too familiar with. Check out the article here.
We often wonder just how much influence the average American has in politics. It seems that the wealthy are those that have the most influence in government, but can a country be a democracy if its government only responds to the preferences of the rich? In an ideal democracy, all citizens should have equal influence on government policy–but as this book demonstrates, America’s policymakers respond almost exclusively to the preferences of the economically advantaged. Affluence and Influence definitively explores how political inequality in the United States has evolved over the last several decades and how this growing disparity has been shaped by interest groups, parties, and elections.
With sharp analysis and an impressive range of data, Martin Gilens looks at thousands of proposed policy changes, and the degree of support for each among poor, middle-class, and affluent Americans. His findings are staggering: when preferences of low- or middle-income Americans diverge from those of the affluent, there is virtually no relationship between policy outcomes and the desires of less advantaged groups. In contrast, affluent Americans’ preferences exhibit a substantial relationship with policy outcomes whether their preferences are shared by lower-income groups or not. Gilens shows that representational inequality is spread widely across different policy domains and time periods. Yet Gilens also shows that under specific circumstances the preferences of the middle class and, to a lesser extent, the poor, do seem to matter. In particular, impending elections–especially presidential elections–and an even partisan division in Congress mitigate representational inequality and boost responsiveness to the preferences of the broader public.
This past Wednesday, author Martin Gilens was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in which he and his writing partner Ben Page discussed their work. The duo have co-authored a recent paper highlighting the same issues that Gilens focuses on in Affluence and Influence. Check out their featured interview below.
With all of the fluctuating weather we’ve been having here, it’s good to remember that things could be much, much worse. The year following Mount Tambora’s 1815 eruption became known as the “Year without a Summer,” when weather anomalies in Europe and New England ruined crops, displaced millions, and spawned chaos and disease. In the book Tambora, for the first time, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s full global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, set the stage for Ireland’s Great Famine, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster, inspired by Tambora’s terrifying storms, embodied the fears and misery of global humanity during this transformative period, the most recent sustained climate crisis the world has faced.
Bringing the history of this planetary emergency grippingly to life, Tambora sheds light on the fragile interdependence of climate and human societies, and the threat a new era of extreme global weather poses to us all.
“Persuasively entertaining….If not the first, Mr. Wood’s book is by far the best on the subject, and most comprehensive. What Mr. Wood has achieved in Tambora is to uncover, collect, and collate a great deal of new scientific evidence to bolster his case.” ― Simon Winchester, Wall Street Journal
Want to learn more about this unique disaster? Start reading the Introduction to Tambora here!
Whenever differences of opinion arise, a clarifying account is always helpful. And that’s exactly what Jonathan Israel brings with his book Revolutionary Ideas: An Intellectual History of the French Revolution from The Rights of Man to Robespierre. Historians of the French Revolution used to take for granted what was also obvious to its contemporary observers–that the Revolution was caused by the radical ideas of the Enlightenment. Yet in recent decades scholars have argued that the Revolution was brought about by social forces, politics, economics, or culture–almost anything but abstract notions like liberty or equality. In Revolutionary Ideas, one of the world’s leading historians of the Enlightenment restores the Revolution’s intellectual history to its rightful central role. Drawing widely on primary sources, Jonathan Israel shows how the Revolution was set in motion by radical eighteenth-century doctrines, how these ideas divided revolutionary leaders into vehemently opposed ideological blocs, and how these clashes drove the turning points of the Revolution.
Revolutionary Ideas demonstrates that the Revolution was really three different revolutions vying for supremacy–a conflict between constitutional monarchists such as Lafayette who advocated moderate Enlightenment ideas; democratic republicans allied to Tom Paine who fought for Radical Enlightenment ideas; and authoritarian populists, such as Robespierre, who violently rejected key Enlightenment ideas and should ultimately be seen as Counter-Enlightenment figures. The book tells how the fierce rivalry between these groups shaped the course of the Revolution, from the Declaration of Rights, through liberal monarchism and democratic republicanism, to the Terror and the Post-Thermidor reaction.
In this compelling account, the French Revolution stands once again as a culmination of the emancipatory and democratic ideals of the Enlightenment. That it ended in the Terror represented a betrayal of those ideas–not their fulfillment.
With summer around the corner and trips to the beach in the works, there’s no better time to learn more about the incredible mystery and wonder of the sea. The ocean teems with life that thrives under difficult situations in unusual environments. The Extreme Life of the Sea takes readers to the absolute limits of the ocean world–the fastest and deepest, the hottest and oldest creatures of the oceans. It dives into the icy Arctic and boiling hydrothermal vents–and exposes the eternal darkness of the deepest undersea trenches–to show how marine life thrives against the odds. This thrilling book brings to life the sea’s most extreme species, and tells their stories as characters in the drama of the oceans. Coauthored by Stephen Palumbi, one of today’s leading marine scientists, The Extreme Life of the Sea tells the unforgettable tales of some of the most marvelous life forms on Earth, and the challenges they overcome to survive. Modern science and a fluid narrative style give every reader a deep look at the lives of these species.
The Extreme Life of the Sea shows you the world’s oldest living species. It describes how flying fish strain to escape their predators, how predatory deep-sea fish use red searchlights only they can see to find and attack food, and how, at the end of her life, a mother octopus dedicates herself to raising her batch of young. This wide-ranging and highly accessible book also shows how ocean adaptations can inspire innovative commercial products–such as fan blades modeled on the flippers of humpback whales–and how future extremes created by human changes to the oceans might push some of these amazing species over the edge.
Author Stephen Palumbi was recently interviewed by The Sunday Post about his book and the origins of his interest in marine biology. Check out the interview here. Excited to read The Extreme Life of the Sea? Start reading the Prologue today!