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NYU Research Digest: Bookshelf

January 3, 2013

The Cost Disease: Why Computers Get Cheaper and Health Care Doesn’t

By William J. Baumol

Yale University Press, 2012

The exploding cost of health care in the United States is a source of widespread alarm. Similarly, the upward spiral of college tuition is cause for serious concern. In his new book, economist William J. Baumol, Harold Price Professor of Entrepreneurship and academic director of the Stern School of Business’ Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, explores the causes of these seemingly intractable problems and offers a surprisingly simple explanation. Baumol identifies the “cost disease” as a major source of rapidly rising costs in service sectors of the economy. Once we understand that disease, he explains, effective responses become apparent.

Baumol presents his analysis, tracing the fast-rising prices of health care and education in the United States and other major industrial nations, then examines the underlying causes, which have to do with the nature of providing labor-intensive services. The news is good, he assures, because the nature of the disease is such that society will be able to afford the rising costs.

 

My Poets

By Maureen McLane

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012

My Poets, by NYU English professor Maureen McLane, is neither memoir nor biography, but, rather, a work of “experimental criticism” that channels the voices that moved her. “I am marking here what most marked me,” she writes.

The work—named by The New York Times as one of its “100 Notable Books of 2012”—considers verses ranging from Geoffrey Chaucer and Percy Shelley to Emily Dickinson and William Carlos Williams.

“It’s part of this book’s strength, and its broad appeal, that McLane is willing to get personal while also tossing off niftily worded assessments of poems,” The New York Times writes.

McLane’s other works include Same Life and World Enough, both collections of poetry, and Balladeering, Minstrelsy, and the Making of British Romantic Poetry: The Cambridge Companion to British Romantic Poetry.

 

Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger

By Harvey Molotch

Princeton University Press, 2012

In Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger, NYU sociologist Harvey Molotch surveys different places in our post-9/11 world and asks if we feel safer.

Against Security posits that our anxieties about public safety have translated into command-and-control procedures that both annoy and intimidate, and are often counterproductive. Molotch considers everything from public toilets to subways and airports, as well as the reconstruction of Ground Zero. He also explores the New Orleans water projects that precipitated the Hurricane Katrina flood and the disaster response.

In his critique, Molotch also offers ways of maintaining security that may also improve our quality of life. He notes that doing so would require changing both policies and attitudes as well as redesigning equipment.

Molotch’s previous works include: Where Stuff Comes From: How Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers, and Many Other Things Come to Be as They Are; Toilet: The Public Restroom and the Politics of Sharing, co-edited with Laura Noren; and, with John Logan, Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place.

 

Conceptual Challenges for Environmental Education: Advocacy, Autonomy, Implicit Education & Values

By Christopher Schlottmann

Peter Lang, Inc., 2012

Christopher Schlottmann, clinical assistant professor in NYU’s Environmental Studies Program, considers environmental education from the perspective of educational ethics. The author’s aim is to broaden the types of environmental education practiced, arguing that both ethical and environmental problems require a multi-faceted understanding.

“Environmental issues are not merely technical or scientific, but matters of value considerations as well,” he writes. “If we aim to make better environmental decisions, we must understand and capably negotiate the ethical dimensions of those decisions. In order to do this, ethics in environmental issues must be made more explicit, and critically assessed.”

 

The Taymouth Hours: Stories and the Construction of Self in Late Medieval England

By Kathryn Smith

The British Library/University of Toronto Press, 2012

The Taymouth Hours, by Kathryn Smith, chair of NYU’s Department of Art History, explores the origins and significance of a manuscript of the same name that was written and illustrated in late medieval England.

While the work is well-known to medievalists and art historians, the circumstances of its genesis have been a mystery. Smith’s work, the first comprehensive study of “The Taymouth Hours,” traces the manuscript back to Philippa of Hainault, queen of Edward III, and Edward’s sister, the 13-year-old Eleanor of Woodstock.

In her volume, Smith focuses on the relationships between the manuscript’s copious marginal imagery, which includes a wealth of religious and secular stories, and the devotional texts these images border while placing the work within the historical, political, religious, and artistic contexts of early 14th-century England and northern Europe.

Smith’s other works include Art, Identity, and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England: Three Women and their Books of Hours (2003), Tributes to Lucy Freeman Sandler: Studies in Illuminated Manuscripts (2007), co-edited with Carol Krinsky, a professor in NYU’s Department of Art History, and numerous articles, essays, and reviews on medieval illuminated manuscripts and early Christian and medieval art.

 

Media Capital: Architecture and Communications in New York City

By Aurora Wallace

University of Illinois Press, 2012

In a declaration of the ascendance of the American media industry, the 19th-century press barons in New York City helped to invent the skyscraper, a quintessentially American icon of progress. Early newspaper buildings in the country’s media capital were also designed to communicate both commercial and civic ideals, provide public space and prescribe discourse, and speak to class and mass in equal measure. This book illustrates how the media have continued to use the city as a space in which to assert their power.

With a unique focus on corporate headquarters as embodiments of the values of the press and as signposts for understanding media culture, Media Capital demonstrates the relationship between the media and urban space.
Aurora Wallace, assistant professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, considers how architecture contributed to the power of the press, the nature of the reading public, the commercialization of media, and corporate branding in the media industry.

 

Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence

By William L. Silber

Bloomsbury Press, 2012

Over the course of nearly half a century, five American presidents (three Democrats and two Republicans) have relied on the financial acumen of Paul A. Volcker. During his tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, when he battled the inflation of the 1970s, Volcker restored the reputation of an American financial system on the verge of collapse. After the 2008 financial meltdown, the nation turned again to Volcker to restore trust. President Obama would name his centerpiece Wall Street regulation the “Volcker Rule.”

Volcker has demonstrated that a determined central banker can prevail over economic turmoil—so long as he can resist relentless political pressure. William L. Silber, who holds the Marcus Nadler Professorship in Finance and Economics at the Stern School of Business, draws on hours of candid personal interviews and access to Volcker’s personal papers to render dramatic, behind-the-scenes accounts from Volcker’s career at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, including secret negotiations with European ministers, confrontations with the White House, crisis conferences with Wall Street titans, and tense boardroom rebellions within the Fed itself. Filled with frank commentary from Volcker—including why he was personally irked with the “Volcker Rule” label—this will be the definitive account of Volcker’s indispensable role in American economic history.

 

Type: Article

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