New Books on the Bookshelf
Five more books with some blurbs on each.
1. “Friendship” by Daniel Hruschka
Friends – they are generous and cooperative with each other in ways that appear to defy standard evolutionary expectations, frequently sacrificing for one another without concern for past behaviors or future consequences. In this fascinating multidisciplinary study, Daniel J. Hruschka synthesizes an array of cross-cultural, experimental, and ethnographic data to understand the broad meaning of friendship, how it develops, how it interfaces with kinship and romantic relationships, and how it differs from place to place.
2. “Fragile by Design” by Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber
Why are banking systems unstable in so many countries – but not in others? The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840, while Canada has had none. The banking systems of Mexico and Brazil have not only been crisis prone but have provided miniscule amounts of credit to business enterprises and households.
Analyzing the political and banking history of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil through several centuries, Fragile by Design demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.
3. “A Companion to Rock Art” edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth
This unique guide provides an artistic and archaeological journey deep into human history, exploring the petroglyphic and pictographic forms of rock art produced by the earliest humans to contemporary peoples around the world.
Includes new discoveries and research, illustrated with over 160 images…identifying rock art from North and South America, Australia, the Pacific, Africa, India, Siberia and Europe.
4. “Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – Lessons from a New Science” by Alex Pentland
Thanks to the millions of digital bread crumbs people leave behind via smartphones, GPS devices, and the Internet, the amount of new information we have about human activity is truly profound. Until now, sociologists have depended on
limited data sets and surveys that tell us how people say they think and behave, rather than what they actually do.
As a result, we’ve been stuck with the same stale social structures—classes, markets—and a focus on individual actors, data snapshots, and steady states. Pentland shows that, in fact, humans respond much more powerfully to social incentives that involve rewarding others and strengthening the ties that bind than incentives that involve only their own economic self-interest.
Pentland and his teams have found that they can study patterns of information exchange in a social network without any knowledge of the actual content of the information and predict with stunning accuracy how productive and effective that network is, whether it’s a business or an entire city.
5. “The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution” by Charles Morris
In the thirty years after the Civil War, the United States blew by Great Britain to become the greatest economic power in world history. That is a well-known period in history, when titans like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan walked the earth.
But as Charles R. Morris shows us, the platform for that spectacular growth spurt was built in the first half of the century. By the 1820s, America was already the world’s most productive manufacturer, and the most intensely commercialized society in history. The War of 1812 jumpstarted the great New England cotton mills, the iron centers in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and the forges around the Great Lakes. In the decade after the War, the Midwest was opened by entrepreneurs. In this beautifully illustrated book, Morris paints a vivid panorama of a new nation buzzing with the work of creation. He also points out the parallels and differences in the nineteenth century American/British standoff and that between China and America today.
Featured Image: Rock art at the Cuevas de las Manos near Perito Moreno, Argentina. Credit: Mariano.