The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth
Patterson, Orlando, and Ethan Fosse, ed. 2015. The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Cultural Matrix seeks to unravel a uniquely American paradox: the socioeconomic crisis, segregation, and social isolation of disadvantaged black youth, on the one hand, and their extraordinary integration and prominence in popular culture on the other. Despite school dropout rates over 40 percent, a third spending time in prison, chronic unemployment, and endemic violence, black youth are among the most vibrant creators of popular culture in the world. They also espouse several deeply-held American values. To understand this conundrum, the authors bring culture back to the forefront of explanation, while avoiding the theoretical errors of earlier culture-of-poverty approaches and the causal timidity and special pleading of more recent ones.

There is no single black youth culture, but a complex matrix of cultures—adapted mainstream, African-American vernacular, street culture, and hip-hop—that support and undermine, enrich and impoverish young lives. Hip-hop, for example, has had an enormous influence, not always to the advantage of its creators. However, its muscular message of primal honor and sensual indulgence is not motivated by a desire for separatism but by an insistence on sharing in the mainstream culture of consumption, power, and wealth.

This interdisciplinary work draws on all the social sciences, as well as social philosophy and ethnomusicology, in a concerted effort to explain how culture, interacting with structural and environmental forces, influences the performance and control of violence, aesthetic productions, educational and work outcomes, familial, gender, and sexual relations, and the complex moral life of black youth.

Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics
Hochschild, Jennifer. 2015. Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics. Oklahoma City: Oklahoma University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A democracy falters when most of its citizens are uninformed or misinformed, when misinformation affects political decisions and actions, or when political actors foment misinformation—the state of affairs the United States faces today, as this timely book makes painfully clear. In Do Facts Matter? Jennifer L. Hochschild and Katherine Levine Einstein start with Thomas Jefferson’s ideal citizen, who knows and uses correct information to make policy or political choices. What, then, the authors ask, are the consequences if citizens are informed but do not act on their knowledge? More serious, what if they do act, but on incorrect information?

Analyzing the use, nonuse, and misuse of facts in various cases—such as the call to impeach Bill Clinton, the response to global warming, Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the case for invading Iraq, beliefs about Barack Obama’s birthplace and religion, and the Affordable Care Act—Hochschild and Einstein argue persuasively that errors of commission (that is, acting on falsehoods) are even more troublesome than errors of omission. While citizens’ inability or unwillingness to use the facts they know in their political decision making may be frustrating, their acquisition and use of incorrect “knowledge” pose a far greater threat to a democratic political system.

Do Facts Matter? looks beyond individual citizens to the role that political elites play in informing, misinforming, and encouraging or discouraging the use of accurate or mistaken information or beliefs. Hochschild and Einstein show that if a well-informed electorate remains a crucial component of a successful democracy, the deliberate concealment of political facts poses its greatest threat.

Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea's Democracy Movement, 1970-1979
Chang, Paul Y. 2015. Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea's Democracy Movement, 1970-1979. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

1970s South Korea is characterized by many as the "dark age for democracy." Most scholarship on South Korea's democracy movement and civil society has focused on the "student revolution" in 1960 and the large protest cycles in the 1980s which were followed by Korea's transition to democracy in 1987. But in his groundbreaking work of political and social history of 1970s South Korea, Paul Chang highlights the importance of understanding the emergence and evolution of the democracy movement in this oft-ignored decade.

Protest Dialectics journeys back to 1970s South Korea and provides readers with an in-depth understanding of the numerous events in the 1970s that laid the groundwork for the 1980s democracy movement and the formation of civil society today. Chang shows how the narrative of the 1970s as democracy's "dark age" obfuscates the important material and discursive developments that became the foundations for the movement in the 1980s which, in turn, paved the way for the institutionalization of civil society after transition in 1987. To correct for these oversights in the literature and to better understand the origins of South Korea's vibrant social movement sector this book presents a comprehensive analysis of the emergence and evolution of the democracy movement in the 1970s.

Putnam, Robert D. 2015. “'Bowling Alone' Author Tackles the American Dream.” Publisher's Version
Putnam, Robert D. 2015. “Growing up Alone.” The Atlantic. Publisher's Version
Putnam, Robert D. 2015. “‘Our Kids,’ by Robert D. Putnam.” New York Times Sunday Review. Publisher's Version
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “Richer and Poorer: Accounting for Inequality.” The New Yorker. Publisher's VersionAbstract

For about a century, economic inequality has been measured on a scale, from zero to one, known as the Gini index and named after an Italian statistician, Corrado Gini, who devised it in 1912, when he was twenty-eight and the chair of statistics at the University of Cagliari. If all the income in the world were earned by one person and everyone else earned nothing, the world would have a Gini index of one. If everyone in the world earned exactly the same income, the world would have a Gini index of zero. The United States Census Bureau has been using Gini’s measurement to calculate income inequality in America since 1947. Between 1947 and 1968, the U.S. Gini index dropped to .386, the lowest ever recorded. Then it began to climb.

Robert Putnam’s new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” (Simon & Schuster), is an attempt to set the statistics aside and, instead, tell a story. “Our Kids” begins with the story of the town where Putnam grew up, Port Clinton, Ohio. Putnam is a political scientist, but his argument is historical—it’s about change over time—and fuelled, in part, by nostalgia.…

Please note: This listing mistakenly had Robert Putnam listed as an author for a short period of time. Robert Putnam's book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis is discussed in the article. (March 24, 2015)

The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform
Brownlee, Jason, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds. 2015. The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Several years after the Arab Spring began, democracy remains elusive in the Middle East. The Arab Spring that resides in the popular imagination is one in which a wave of mass mobilization swept the broader Middle East, toppled dictators, and cleared the way for democracy. The reality is that few Arab countries have experienced anything of the sort. While Tunisia made progress towards some type of constitutionally entrenched participatory rule, the other countries that overthrew their rulers Egypt, Yemen, and Libyaremain mired in authoritarianism and instability. Elsewhere in the Arab world uprisings were suppressed, subsided or never materialized.

The Arab Springs modest harvest cries out for explanation. Why did regime change take place in only four Arab countries and why has democratic change proved so elusive in the countries that made attempts? This book attempts to answer those questions. First, by accounting for the full range of variance: from the absence or failure of uprisings in such places as Algeria and Saudi Arabia at one end to Tunisias rocky but hopeful transition at the other. Second, by examining the deep historical and structure variables that determined the balance of power between incumbents and opposition.

Brownlee, Masoud, and Reynolds find that the success of domestic uprisings depended on the absence of a hereditary executive and a dearth of oil rents. Structural factors also cast a shadow over the transition process. Even when opposition forces toppled dictators, prior levels of socioeconomic development and state strength shaped whether nascent democracy, resurgent authoritarianism, or unbridled civil war would follow.

Contentious Elections: From Ballots to Barricades
Norris, Pippa, Richard W Frank, and Ferran Martinez i Coma. 2015. Contentious Elections: From Ballots to Barricades. New York: Routledge. Publisher's VersionAbstract

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe the world has witnessed a rising tide of contentious elections ending in heated partisan debates, court challenges, street protests, and legitimacy challenges. In some cases, disputes have been settled peacefully through legal appeals and electoral reforms. In the worst cases, however, disputes have triggered bloodshed or government downfalls and military coups. Contentious elections are characterized by major challenges, with different degrees of severity, to the legitimacy of electoral actors, procedures, or outcomes.

Despite growing concern, until recently little research has studied this phenomenon. The theory unfolded in this volume suggests that problems of electoral malpractice erode confidence in electoral authorities, spur peaceful protests demonstrating against the outcome, and, in the most severe cases, lead to outbreaks of conflict and violence. Understanding this process is of vital concern for domestic reformers and the international community, as well as attracting a growing new research agenda.

The editors, from the Electoral Integrity Project, bring together scholars considering a range of fresh evidence– analyzing public opinion surveys of confidence in elections and voter turnout within specific countries, as well as expert perceptions of the existence of peaceful electoral demonstrations, and survey and aggregate data monitoring outbreaks of electoral violence. The book provides insights invaluable for studies in democracy and democratization, comparative politics, comparative elections, peace and conflict studies, comparative sociology, international development, comparative public opinion, political behavior, political institutions, and public policy.

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
Putnam, Robert D. 2015. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A groundbreaking examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility.

It’s the American dream: get a good education, work hard, buy a house, and achieve prosperity and success. This is the America we believe in—a nation of opportunity, constrained only by ability and effort. But during the last twenty-five years we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now, this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.

Robert Putnam—about whom The Economist said, “his scholarship is wide-ranging, his intelligence luminous, his tone modest, his prose unpretentious and frequently funny”—offers a personal but also authoritative look at this new American crisis. Putnam begins with his high school class of 1959 in Port Clinton, Ohio. By and large the vast majority of those students—“our kids”—went on to lives better than those of their parents. But their children and grandchildren have had harder lives amid diminishing prospects. Putnam tells the tale of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich and poor kids from cities and suburbs across the country, drawing on a formidable body of research done especially for this book.

Our Kids is a rare combination of individual testimony and rigorous evidence. Putnam provides a disturbing account of the American dream that should initiate a deep examination of the future of our country.

von Soest, Christian, and Michael Wahman. 2015. “Not All Dictators Are Equal: Coups, Fraudulent Elections, and the Selective Targeting of Democratic Sanctions.” Journal of Peace Research Vol. 52 (1): 17–31. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Since the end of the Cold War, Western powers have frequently used sanctions to fight declining levels of democracy and human rights violations abroad. However, some of the world’s most repressive autocracies have never been subjected to sanctions, while other more competitive authoritarian regimes have been exposed to repeated sanction episodes. In this article, we concentrate on the cost–benefit analysis of Western senders that issue democratic sanctions, those which aim to instigate democratization, against authoritarian states. We argue that Western leaders weight domestic and international pressure to impose sanctions against the probability of sanction success and the sender’s own political and economic costs. Their cost–benefit calculus is fundamentally influenced by the strength of trigger events indicating infringements of democratic and human rights. Western sanction senders are most likely to respond to coups d’e´tat, the most drastic trigger events, and tend to sanction vulnerable targets to a higher extent than stable authoritarian regimes. Senders are also more likely to sanction poor targets less integrated in the global economy and countries that do not align with the Western international political agenda, especially in responding to ‘weaker’ trigger events such as controversial elections. The analysis is carried out using a new dataset of US and EU sanctions against authoritarian states in the period 1990–2010.

Almaliky, Muhamed H. 2015. “Mending Iraq.” Foreign Affairs. Publisher's Version
Baum, Matthew, and Yuri M Zhukov. 2015. “Filtering Revolution: Reporting Bias in International Newspaper Coverage of the Libyan Civil War.” Journal of Peace Research.Abstract

Reporting bias–the media’s tendency to systematically underreport or overreport certain types of events–is a persistent problem for participants and observers of armed conflict. We argue that the nature of reporting bias depends on how news organizations navigate the political context in which they are based. Where government pressure on the media is limited–in democratic regimes–the scope of reporting should reflect conventional media preferences toward novel, large-scale, dramatic developments that challenge the conventional wisdom and highlight the unsustainability of the status quo. Where political constraints on reporting are more onerous–in non-democratic regimes–the more conservative preferences of the state will drive the scope of coverage, emphasizing the legitimacy and inevitability of the prevailing order. We test these propositions using new data on protest and political violence during the 2011 Libyan uprising and daily newspaper coverage of the Arab Spring from 113 countries. We uncover evidence of a status-quo media bias in non-democratic states, and a revisionist bias in democratic states. Media coverage in non-democracies underreported protests and nonviolent collective action by regime opponents, largely ignored government atrocities, and overreported those caused by rebels. We find the opposite patterns in democratic states.

Beckert, Sven. 2015. “Book Review: ‘Empire of Cotton: A Global History,’ by Sven Beckert.” Washington Post. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Global history is very much the fashion in leading university history departments today. Some of them seek to replace courses in Western civilization with classes in global history—but usually such courses have to be team-taught by a variety of specialists, since so few individual academics have such a broad reach. “Empire of Cotton” proves Sven Beckert one of the new elite of genuinely global historians.

Beckert, Sven. 2015. “Insights from the Academy: Review of Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton: A Global History.” MSNBC. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Book review of Sven Beckert's Empire of Cotton: A Global History.

Beckert, Sven. 2015. “The Turbulent Reign of King Cotton: The Dark History of One of the World’S Most Important Commodities.” The Spectator. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A review of Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert reveals that while Britain abolished the slave trade in the early 19th century, 50 years later its cotton industry still depended on American slave-labour.

Beckert, Sven. 2015. “Cotton, a Global History: Spinning Tales.” The Economist. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Good economic history tells dramatic stories of ingenuity and aspiration, greed and national self-interest. Sven Beckert writes good economic history. But why cotton? Mr Beckert’s answer is that for 900 years, until 1900, it was the world’s most important manufacturing industry. Cotton is relevant now because the story explains how and why an industry goes global. It is a story of wildly fluctuating fortunes, from stunning wealth to dire social disasters.

Pande, Rohini. 2015. “Keeping Women Safe: Addressing the Root Causes of Violence Against Women in South Asia.” Harvard Magazine. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In December 2012, thousands of protesters flooded the streets of cities across India, demanding a safer environment for women. A 23-year-old female student had died from injuries sustained 13 days earlier, when six men raped and savagely beat her on a Delhi bus. The case gained international attention, and since then South Asian media have reported dozens more horrifying instances of violence against women, several involving tourists: a Danish woman was gang-raped in Delhi after asking for directions back to her hotel, and an American was raped while hitchhiking in the Himalayas.

Harley, Alicia, Sharmila Murthy, Laura Diaz Anadon, Gabriel Chan, Kira Matus, Suerie Moon, Vanessa Timmer, and William C Clark. 2014. “Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development: A Global Systems Perspective.” Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development: A Global Perspective. Cambridge, MA. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This workshop report is a summary of themes discussed by five panels during a daylong workshop on “Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development: A global Perspective” at Harvard University on April 24, 2014. The workshop brought together a diverse group of scholars to explore how the technological innovation needed for sustainable development can be promoted in ways that assure equitable access in current and future generations.

Three key themes that emerged from the workshop include: (1) The central role of power, politics and agency in analyzing technological innovation and sustainable development—an important aspect of this includes the articulation of the roles of actors and organizations within frameworks and models of innovation systems. (2) The importance of focusing both on supply-push and demand-pull mechanisms in innovation scholarship and innovation policy. (3) The need to focus more innovation scholarship around the goals of sustainable development.

Frieden, Jeffry. 2014. “The Crisis and Beyond: Prospects for International Economic Cooperation.” Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze and Centre for Economic Policy Research Joint Conference. Harvard DASH repositoryAbstract

An integrated world economy requires cooperation among major economic powers. Without determined cooperation among the principal powers, globalization is unlikely to survive the inevitable shocks to which it is subjected.

The world faces a difficult adjustment to reduce the macroeconomic imbalances that were a major cause of the current crisis. This means reducing the surpluses of the major surplus countries in East Asia and Europe, and reducing the deficits of the major deficit countries in North America and Europe. Both processes require substantial domestic economic changes; economies and people will be tempted to turn inward, and governments will be tempted to reduce the priority they give to their external ties. This increases the risks of a breakdown in international cooperation.

Historical precedent is instructive. During the interwar period, a global macroeconomic imbalance was a major cause of the eventual economic catastrophe. During the 1920s, Germany borrowed heavily from the United States. But when a crisis hit, it turned out that neither country was politically prepared to maintain cooperative policies. Americans, focused on domestic concerns, were unwilling to help work out a cooperative resolution of the crisis. Germany exploded into social and political unrest and ended up in the hands of rabid nationalists and protectionists. The problem was political: a lack of domestic support for the sacrifices necessary to maintain international cooperation.

As the crisis winds down and post-crisis adjustment begins, major governments will be challenged to work together to support a well-functioning international economy. They will need to address the concerns of constituents who will chafe at the economic changes forced upon them. Governments that can build domestic political support for international economic engagement will be in a stronger position to work to sustain an integrated global economy.