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What were you reading in 2017 on LSE Review of Books? Following Part One, which counted down from 12-7, in Part Two we reveal the 6 most popular reviews on the LSE RB blog, including the most read post of the year.
6. The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. Tyler Cowen. St. Martin’s Press. 2017.
Tyler Cowen extends his previous work on economic stagnation into an examination of a broader sense of stasis that has enveloped US society and culture. While recent political events have made the book’s anticipation of an impending and dramatic shift less prescient than may otherwise have been the case, Dalibor Rohac welcomed the book for its important observations about the end – whether here or to come – of US domestic complacency.
5. Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels. Princeton University Press. 2016.
Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels challenge the ‘folk’ version of democracy that presumes that voting is undertaken by the ‘omnipotent, sovereign citizen’. Instead, they argue that voters tend to base their decision-making on partisan loyalties, leaving the current democratic system open to exploitation by powerful, unscrupulous actors. Peter Carrol recommended this as a vital and potentially enlightening companion for those struggling to make sense of the 2016 US presidential election result and its unfolding consequences.
J.D. Vance offers a personal account of growing up in – and eventually leaving – an impoverished white working-class ‘hillbilly’ community experiencing social and economic crisis. With the book praised for offering insights into why Donald Trump proved so attractive to the US white working class in the 2016 presidential election, Peter Carrol was left unconvinced by Vance’s sociological analysis of his community but found the vividness of his unflinching recollections compelling.
Nick Srnicek examines the rise of platform-based businesses from the 1970s to the present and how these are transforming the workings of contemporary capitalism. Sin Yee Koh applauded this book for its rational and accessible portrayal of the evolution of platform capitalism.
2. Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write. Helen Sword. Harvard University Press. 2017.
Helen Sword explores how academics find the ‘air and light and time and space’ to write, drawing on interviews with 100 scholars seen as exemplary writers in their fields. As Sword underscores that there is no ideal way to write, Fawzia Haeri Mazanderani recommended this elegantly crafted book for those who like to experiment with and think deeply about their writing practices.
What role do academic conferences play in the construction of an academic career? Donald J. Nicolson examines the link between the value attributed to participation in academic conferences and the broader neoliberalisation of the academy. In the most read LSE RB review of 2017, Fawzia Haeri Mazanderani welcomed this short book for beginning a meaningful conversation about the significance of this aspect of academic life.