Bookshelf Archive 2014

Faculty books and productions from 2014.

Joshua Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke
Mastering ’Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect
Princeton University Press, 2014

“People are constantly looking at the world around them and trying to learn from it, and that’s natural,” MIT economist Joshua Angrist says. “But it turns out to be very difficult to sort out cause and effect, because the world is complicated, with many things happening at once.” In their new book, Angrist and co-author Jörn-Steffen Pischke detail five methods of identifying causality in society, emphasizing that the best work of this type combines methodological sophistication and hard-earned knowledge of particular subjects.


Eugenie Brinkema
The Forms of the Affects
Duke University Press, 2014

Brinkema develops a novel mode of criticism that locates the forms of particular affects within the specific details of cinematic and textual construction. Through close readings of works by Roland Barthes, Hollis Frampton, Sigmund Freud, Peter Greenaway, Michael Haneke, Alfred Hitchcock, Søren Kierkegaard, and David Lynch, Brinkema shows that deep attention to form, structure, and aesthetics enables a fundamental rethinking of the study of sensation.  

Eugenie Brinkema is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media.

Ellen T. Harris
George Frideric Handel: A Life with Friends
W W Norton & Co., 2014

During his lifetime, the sounds of Handel’s music reached from court to theater, echoed in cathedrals, and filled crowded taverns. But the man himself—known to most as the composer of Messiah—is a bit of a mystery. Though he took meticulous care of his musical manuscripts and provided for their preservation in his will, very little of an intimate nature survives.

In search of the private man behind the public persona, Ellen T. Harris has tracked down the letters, diaries, financial accounts, court cases, and other documents connected with the composer’s closest friends. The result is a tightly woven tapestry of London life in the first half of the eighteenth century, one that weaves together vibrant descriptions of Handel’s music with stories of loyalty, cunning, and betrayal. With this wholly new approach, Harris introduces us to an ambitious, generous, flawed, and brilliant man.

Ellen Harris is Class of 1949 Professor Emeritus in MIT Music and Theater Arts.


Mark Sumner Harvey
with his Aardvark Jazz Orchestra
Leo Records, 2014

Impressions is the seventh CD by the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, a compliation of live performances consisting of sonic images of events and the postmodern zeitgeist raging from the frenetic to the lyrical, the Dada-esque to the elegiac, and the monumental to the meditative. The orchestra blends individual, collective and conducted improvisation within complex notated structures.

Mark Sumner Harvey is a lecturer in the Music section.

Nick Montfort
Counterpath, 2014

#! (pronounced “shebang”) consists of poetic texts that are presented alongside the short computer programs that generated them. The poems, in new and existing forms, are inquiries into the features that make poetry recognizable as such, into code and computation, into ellipsis, and into the alphabet. Computer-generated poems have been composed by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville, Alison Knowles and James Tenney, Hugh Kenner and Joseph P. O’Rourke, Charles O. Hartman, and others. The works in #! engage with this tradition of more than 50 years and with constrained and conceptual writing. The book’s source code is also offered as free software. All of the text-generating code is presented so that it, too, can be read; it is all also made freely available for use in anyone’s future poetic projects.

Nick Montfort is Associate Professor of Digital Media.

Vipin Narang
Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict
Princeton University Press, 2014

The world is in a second nuclear age in which regional powers play an increasingly prominent role. These states have small nuclear arsenals, often face multiple active conflicts, and sometimes have weak institutions. How do these nuclear states — and potential future ones — manage their nuclear forces and influence international conflict? Examining the reasoning and deterrence consequences of regional power nuclear strategies, this book demonstrates that these strategies matter greatly to international stability and it provides new insights into conflict dynamics across important areas of the world such as the Middle East, East Asia, and South Asia.

Vipin Narang is an Associate Professor of Political Science, and member of MIT's Security Studies Program

Bruno Perreau
The Politics of Adoption
Gender and the Making of French Citizenship

MIT Press, 2014

Obstacles to adoption and parenting equality are present in France—many of them in the form of cultural and political norms reflected and expressed in French adoption policies. In The Politics of Adoption, Bruno Perreau describes the evolution of these policies. In the past thirty years, Perreau explains, political and intellectual life in France have been dominated by debates over how to preserve “Frenchness," and these debates have driven policy making. Adoption policies, he argues, link adoption to citizenship, reflecting and enforcing the postcolonial state’s notions of parenthood, gender, and Frenchness.

Bruno Perreau is Associate Professor of French Studies.

Barry R. Posen
Restraint, A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy
Cornell University Press, 2014

The United States, Barry R. Posen argues in Restraint, has grown incapable of moderating its ambitions in international politics. Since the collapse of Soviet power, it has pursued a grand strategy that he calls “liberal hegemony,” one that Posen sees as unnecessary, counterproductive, costly, and wasteful. Written for policymakers and observers alike, Restraint explains precisely why this grand strategy works poorly and then provides a carefully designed alternative grand strategy and an associated military strategy and force structure. In contrast to the failures and unexpected problems that have stemmed from America’s consistent overreaching, Posen makes an urgent argument for restraint in the future use of U.S. military strength.

Barry R. Posen is Ford International Professor of Political Science 


Paul Raeborn
Do Fathers Matter?
What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked

Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014

Many of the findings of this new science of fatherhood have appeared in scholarly journals unfamiliar to the public. Do Fathers Matter pulls together research to show what fathers do, and to help fathers—and their families—understand how fathers can be better at what they do. 

Paul Raeborn is the Chief media critic of the Knight Science Journalism Tracker.

Charles Stewart III
The Measure of American Elections
Cambridge University Press, 2014

Policymaking in the realm of elections is too often grounded in anecdotes and opinions, rather than in good data and scientific research. To remedy this, The Measure of American Elections brings together a dozen leading scholars to examine the performance of elections across the United States, using a data-driven perspective. This book represents a transformation in debates about election reform, away from partisan and ideological posturing, toward using scientific analysis to evaluate the conduct of contemporary elections.

Washington Post Interview with Charles Stewart

Charles Stewart III is Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science.



Peter Temin
with David Vines
Keynes: Useful Economics for the World Economy
MIT Press, 2014 

As the global economic crisis continues to cause damage, some policy makers have called for a more Keynesian approach to current economic problems. In this book, the economists Peter Temin and David Vines provide an accessible introduction to Keynesian ideas that connects Keynes’s insights to today’s global economy and offers readers a way to understand current policy debates.

Peter Temin website

MIT-SHASS Economics

Feature article on the book at MIT News

Kathleen Thelen
Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity
Cambridge University Press, 2014

This book examines contemporary changes in labor market institutions in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, focusing on developments in three arenas - industrial relations, vocational education and training, and labor market policy. While confirming a broad, shared liberalizing trend, it finds that there are in fact distinct varieties of liberalization associated with very different distributive outcomes. Most scholarship equates liberal capitalism with inequality and coordinated capitalism with higher levels of social solidarity. However, this study explains why the institutions of coordinated capitalism and egalitarian capitalism coincided and complemented one another in the "Golden Era" of postwar development in the 1950s and 1960s, and why they no longer do so. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, this study reveals that the successful defense of the institutions traditionally associated with coordinated capitalism has often been a recipe for increased inequality due to declining coverage and dualization. Conversely, it argues that some forms of labor market liberalization are perfectly compatible with continued high levels of social solidarity and indeed may be necessary to sustain it.  

Thelen on Liberalization

Kathleen Thelen is a Professor of Political Science.


Stephen Yablo
Princeton University Press, 2014

Aboutness has been studied from any number of angles. Brentano made it the defining feature of the mental. Phenomenologists try to pin down the aboutness-features of particular mental states. Materialists sometimes claim to have grounded aboutness in natural regularities. Attempts have even been made, in library science and information theory, to operationalize the notion.

But it has played no real role in philosophical semantics. This is surprising; sentences have aboutness-properties if anything does. Aboutness is the first book to examine through a philosophical lens the role of subject matter in meaning.

Yablo elected to AAAS

Stephen Yablo is David W Skinner Professor of Philosophy.