Susan Wallace Boehmer
Assistant Director & Editor-in-Chief
With the United States’ grueling elections behind us, a divided nation now turns to the difficult work of governing, and being governed. Drawing on recent and upcoming books, Harvard University Press respectfully offers a recommended reading list to members of the new administration and Congress, and to all those whose interests are affected by the actions—or inaction—of Washington.
Russia: The Story of War. Outsiders view Russia as an aggressor, but Russians see themselves as surrounded by enemies, defensively fighting off invader after invader or called upon by history to be the savior of Europe or Christianity or civilization itself, often at immense cost. For Gregory Carleton, war is the unifying thread of Russia’s national epic.
Cuba’s Revolutionary World. As Castro’s democratic reform movement veered off course in the 1950s, a revolution that seemed to signal the death knell of dictatorship in Latin America brought about its tragic opposite. Jonathan Brown examines how the turmoil that rocked a small Caribbean nation became one of the century’s most transformative events.
The Cold World They Made: The Strategic Legacy of Roberta and Albert Wohlstetter. They were the original power couple of strategic studies who, during the most dangerous military standoff in history, gained access to the deepest corridors of power. Ron Robin shows how the Wohlstetters’ legacy was kept alive by disciples in George W. Bush’s administration, and how their signature brilliance and hubris continue to shape U.S. foreign policy today.
Far-Right Politics in Europe. This critical look at the far right throughout Europe reveals a prehistory and politics more complex than stereotypes suggest and warns of the challenges it poses to the EU’s liberal-democratic order. Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg make clear that these movements are determined to gain power through legitimate electoral means, and they are succeeding.
The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History. It is a misconception to think that 1.5 billion Muslims constitute a single religio-political entity. As Cemil Aydin asks in this provocative history, how did such a mistaken belief arise, why is it so widespread, and how can its grip be loosened so that a more fruitful discussion about politics in Muslim societies can begin?
The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization. From 1820 to 1990 the share of world income going to today’s wealthy nations soared from 20% to 70%. That share has recently plummeted. Richard Baldwin explains how the combination of high tech with low wages propelled industrialization in developing nations, de-industrialization in developed nations, and a commodity supercycle that is petering out.
The New Geopolitics of Natural Gas. As the United States aggressively expands its exports of liquefied natural gas, it stands poised to become an energy superpower. Agnia Grigas traces how this unanticipated reality is rewriting the rules of intercontinental gas trade and realigning strategic relations among the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, and beyond.
Deepwater Horizon: A Systems Analysis of the Macondo Disaster. In 2010 BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe spiraled into the worst human-made economic and ecological disaster in Gulf Coast history. In the most comprehensive account to date, senior systems engineers Earl Boebert and James Blossom analyze the corporate and engineering decisions, each one individually innocuous, that interacted to create the calamity.
When Police Kill. Compiling data from federal records, crowd-sourced research, and investigative journalism, Franklin Zimring provides a comprehensive, fact-based picture of when, where, and why police in the United States use deadly force. He offers prescriptions for how federal, state, and local governments could reduce killings at minimum cost without risking officers’ lives.
Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment. Refusing to eradicate the death penalty, the United States has attempted to reform and rationalize capital punishment through federal constitutional law. Carol Steiker and Jordan Steiker argue that the fate of the American death penalty is likely to be sealed by this failed judicial experiment.
Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America. Some of the most divisive contests shaping the quest for marriage equality occurred not on the culture-war front lines but within the ranks of LGBTQ advocates. Nathaniel Frank tells the dramatic story of how an idea that once seemed unfathomable became a legal and moral right in just half a century.
About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America. New medical technologies, tighter judicial reins on state legislatures, and—perhaps most important—women’s willingness to talk online and off are shaking up the practice of abortion. As talk becomes more transparent, Carol Sanger writes, women’s decisions about whether to become mothers will be treated more like those of other adults making significant personal choices.
When Free Exercise and Nonestablishment Conflict. “Congress shall make no law reflecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The First Amendment aims to separate church and state, but Kent Greenawalt examines many situations in which its two clauses—nonestablishment and free exercise—point in opposite directions. How should courts decide?
Butterfly Politics. The minuscule motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away, according to chaos theory. Catharine MacKinnon’s work on gender inequality argues that seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect that generates major social and cultural transformations.
The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State. A focus on personal responsibility is wrong and counterproductive, Yascha Mounk believes. It distracts us from the larger economic forces determining aggregate outcomes, ignores what we owe fellow citizens regardless of their choices, and blinds us to key values such as the desire to live in a society of equals. In this book he proposes a remedy.
Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy. Providing a basic income to everyone, rich or poor, active or inactive, was advocated by Paine, Mill, and Galbraith, but the idea was never taken seriously. Today, with the welfare state creaking, it is one of the world’s most widely debated proposals. Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght present a comprehensive defense of this radical idea.