Calendar

Nov
17
Fri
Yuri Slezkine @ UCLA
Nov 17 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

SlezkineThe House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Grossman’s Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine’s gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin’s purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism and ends with their children’s loss of faith and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Completed in 1931, the House of Government, later known as the House on the Embankment, was located across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. The largest residential building in Europe, it combined 505 furnished apartments with public spaces that included everything from a movie theater and a library to a tennis court and a shooting range. Slezkine tells the chilling story of how the building’s residents lived in their apartments and ruled the Soviet state until some eight hundred of them were evicted from the House and led, one by one, to prison or their deaths.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and interviews, and featuring hundreds of rare photographs, The House of Government weaves together biography, literary criticism, architectural history, and fascinating new theories of revolutions, millennial prophecies, and reigns of terror. The result is an unforgettable human saga of a building that, like the Soviet Union itself, became a haunted house, forever disturbed by the ghosts of the disappeared.

Yuri Slezkine is the Jane K. Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Jewish Century (Princeton), which won the National Jewish Book Award.

Nov
18
Sat
Diane Coyle @ Bristol Festival of Economics
Nov 18 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm

CoyleWhy did the size of the U.S. economy increase by 3 percent on one day in mid-2013—or Ghana’s balloon by 60 percent overnight in 2010? Why did the U.K. financial industry show its fastest expansion ever at the end of 2008—just as the world’s financial system went into meltdown? And why was Greece’s chief statistician charged with treason in 2013 for apparently doing nothing more than trying to accurately report the size of his country’s economy? The answers to all these questions lie in the way we define and measure national economies around the world: Gross Domestic Product. This entertaining and informative book tells the story of GDP, making sense of a statistic that appears constantly in the news, business, and politics, and that seems to rule our lives—but that hardly anyone actually understands.

Diane Coyle traces the history of this artificial, abstract, complex, but exceedingly important statistic from its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century precursors through its invention in the 1940s and its postwar golden age, and then through the Great Crash up to today. The reader learns why this standard measure of the size of a country’s economy was invented, how it has changed over the decades, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The book explains why even small changes in GDP can decide elections, influence major political decisions, and determine whether countries can keep borrowing or be thrown into recession. The book ends by making the case that GDP was a good measure for the twentieth century but is increasingly inappropriate for a twenty-first-century economy driven by innovation, services, and intangible goods.

Diane Coyle is professor of economics at the University of Manchester. She runs the consultancy Enlightenment Economics, and as well as a regular blog, she is the author of numerous books, including The Economics of Enough and The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters (both Princeton).

Jonathan Haskel @ Bristol Festival of Economics
Nov 18 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

HaskelEarly in the twenty-first century, a quiet revolution occurred. For the first time, the major developed economies began to invest more in intangible assets, like design, branding, R&D, and software, than in tangible assets, like machinery, buildings, and computers. For all sorts of businesses, from tech firms and pharma companies to coffee shops and gyms, the ability to deploy assets that one can neither see nor touch is increasingly the main source of long-term success.

But this is not just a familiar story of the so-called new economy. Capitalism without Capital shows that the growing importance of intangible assets has also played a role in some of the big economic changes of the last decade. The rise of intangible investment is, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue, an underappreciated cause of phenomena from economic inequality to stagnating productivity.

Haskel and Westlake bring together a decade of research on how to measure intangible investment and its impact on national accounts, showing the amount different countries invest in intangibles, how this has changed over time, and the latest thinking on how to assess this. They explore the unusual economic characteristics of intangible investment, and discuss how these features make an intangible-rich economy fundamentally different from one based on tangibles.

Capitalism without Capital concludes by presenting three possible scenarios for what the future of an intangible world might be like, and by outlining how managers, investors, and policymakers can exploit the characteristics of an intangible age to grow their businesses, portfolios, and economies.

Jonathan Haskel is professor of economics at Imperial College London. Stian Westlake is a senior fellow at Nesta, the UK’s national foundation for innovation.

Nov
20
Mon
James Whitman @ Busboys and Poets
Nov 20 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

WhitmanNazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Did the American regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The unsettling answer is yes. In Hitler’s American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. Contrary to those who have insisted that there was no meaningful connection between American and German racial repression, Whitman demonstrates that the Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in American race policies.

As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler’s Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.

Indelibly linking American race laws to the shaping of Nazi policies in Germany, Hitler’s American Model upends understandings of America’s influence on racist practices in the wider world.

James Q. Whitman is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School. His books include Harsh Justice, The Origins of Reasonable Doubt, and The Verdict of Battle. He lives in New York City.

Nov
23
Thu
Jonathan Haskel & Stian Westlake @ Royal Society of Arts
Nov 23 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

CapitalEarly in the twenty-first century, a quiet revolution occurred. For the first time, the major developed economies began to invest more in intangible assets, like design, branding, R&D, and software, than in tangible assets, like machinery, buildings, and computers. For all sorts of businesses, from tech firms and pharma companies to coffee shops and gyms, the ability to deploy assets that one can neither see nor touch is increasingly the main source of long-term success.

But this is not just a familiar story of the so-called new economy. Capitalism without Capital shows that the growing importance of intangible assets has also played a role in some of the big economic changes of the last decade. The rise of intangible investment is, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue, an underappreciated cause of phenomena from economic inequality to stagnating productivity.

Haskel and Westlake bring together a decade of research on how to measure intangible investment and its impact on national accounts, showing the amount different countries invest in intangibles, how this has changed over time, and the latest thinking on how to assess this. They explore the unusual economic characteristics of intangible investment, and discuss how these features make an intangible-rich economy fundamentally different from one based on tangibles.

Capitalism without Capital concludes by presenting three possible scenarios for what the future of an intangible world might be like, and by outlining how managers, investors, and policymakers can exploit the characteristics of an intangible age to grow their businesses, portfolios, and economies.

Jonathan Haskel is professor of economics at Imperial College London. Stian Westlake is a senior fellow at Nesta, the UK’s national foundation for innovation. Haskel and Westlake are cowinners of the 2017 Indigo Prize.

Nov
28
Tue
Andrew Lo @ New City Agenda
Nov 28 @ 9:00 am – 10:15 am

LoHalf of all Americans have money in the stock market, yet economists can’t agree on whether investors and markets are rational and efficient, as modern financial theory assumes, or irrational and inefficient, as behavioral economists believe—and as financial bubbles, crashes, and crises suggest. This is one of the biggest debates in economics and the value or futility of investment management and financial regulation hang on the outcome. In this groundbreaking book, Andrew Lo cuts through this debate with a new framework, the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis, in which rationality and irrationality coexist.

Drawing on psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and other fields, Adaptive Markets shows that the theory of market efficiency isn’t wrong but merely incomplete. When markets are unstable, investors react instinctively, creating inefficiencies for others to exploit. Lo’s new paradigm explains how financial evolution shapes behavior and markets at the speed of thought—a fact revealed by swings between stability and crisis, profit and loss, and innovation and regulation.

A fascinating intellectual journey filled with compelling stories, Adaptive Markets starts with the origins of market efficiency and its failures, turns to the foundations of investor behavior, and concludes with practical implications—including how hedge funds have become the Galápagos Islands of finance, what really happened in the 2008 meltdown, and how we might avoid future crises.

An ambitious new answer to fundamental questions in economics, Adaptive Markets is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how markets really work.

Andrew W. Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering. He is the author of Hedge Funds and the coauthor of A Non-Random Walk Down Wall Street and The Econometrics of Financial Markets (all Princeton). He is also the founder of AlphaSimplex Group, a quantitative investment management company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nov
29
Wed
Mitchell Cohen @ New York Institute for the Humanities
Nov 29 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

CohenThe Politics of Opera takes readers on a fascinating journey into the entwined development of opera and politics, from the Renaissance through the turn of the nineteenth century. What political backdrops have shaped opera? How has opera conveyed the political ideas of its times? Delving into European history and thought and an array of music by such greats as Lully, Rameau, and Mozart, Mitchell Cohen reveals how politics—through story lines, symbols, harmonies, and musical motifs—has played an operatic role both robust and sotto voce.

Cohen begins with opera’s emergence under Medici absolutism in Florence during the late Renaissance—where debates by humanists, including Galileo’s father, led to the first operas in the late sixteenth century. Taking readers to Mantua and Venice, where composer Claudio Monteverdi flourished, Cohen examines how early operatic works like Orfeo used mythology to reflect on governance and policy issues of the day, such as state jurisdictions and immigration. Cohen explores France in the ages of Louis XIV and the Enlightenment and Vienna before and during the French Revolution, where the deceptive lightness of Mozart’s masterpieces touched on the havoc of misrule and hidden abuses of power. Cohen also looks at smaller works, including a one-act opera written and composed by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Essential characters, ancient and modern, make appearances throughout: Nero, Seneca, Machiavelli, Mazarin, Fenelon, Metastasio, Beaumarchais, Da Ponte, and many more.

An engrossing book that will interest all who love opera and are intrigued by politics, The Politics of Opera offers a compelling investigation into the intersections of music and the state.

Mitchell Cohen is professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and editor emeritus of Dissent magazine. His books include Zion and State and The Wager of Lucien Goldmann (Princeton). His writing has appeared in such publications as the New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement. He lives in New York City.

Dec
19
Tue
David Assaf, David Biale, and Samuel Heilman @ Smithsonian Associates
Dec 19 @ 6:45 pm – 8:00 pm

HasidismThis is the first comprehensive history of the pietistic movement that shaped modern Judaism. The book’s unique blend of intellectual, religious, and social history offers perspectives on the movement’s leaders as well as its followers, and demonstrates that, far from being a throwback to the Middle Ages, Hasidism is a product of modernity that forged its identity as a radical alternative to the secular world.

Hasidism originated in southeastern Poland, in mystical circles centered on the figure of Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, but it was only after his death in 1760 that a movement began to spread. Challenging the notion that Hasidism ceased to be a creative movement after the eighteenth century, this book argues that its first golden age was in the nineteenth century, when it conquered new territory, won a mass following, and became a mainstay of Jewish Orthodoxy. World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the Holocaust decimated eastern European Hasidism. But following World War II, the movement enjoyed a second golden age, growing exponentially. Today, it is witnessing a remarkable renaissance in Israel, the United States, and other countries around the world.

Written by an international team of scholars, Hasidism is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand this vibrant and influential modern Jewish movement.

David Biale is the Emanuel Ringelblum Distinguished Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Davis. David Assaf is professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University. Benjamin Brown is professor of Jewish thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Uriel Gellman is lecturer in Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University. Samuel Heilman is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Moshe Rosman is professor of Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University. Gadi Sagiv is senior lecturer in Jewish history at the Open University of Israel. Marcin Wodziński is professor of Jewish studies at the University of Wrocław.