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Book Marks

Working Together

Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice. Advances in social sciences research methods have led to debates over which specific method is best suited for particular projects, and have also caused researchers to become isolated. Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice (Princeton University Press) examines the advantages that can be gained from drawing on several different research methods and the challenges of a multi-methods approach. Co-author and Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, Distinguished Professor and Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science at Indiana University Bloomington, explains that in the social sciences there is a "'my method is better than yours, my discipline is better than yours' mentality, which is destructive." Ostrom, along with co-authors Marco Janssen of Arizona State University and Amy Poteete of Concordia University, Montreal, look at how different methods have promoted various theoretical developments and demonstrate the importance of cross-fertilization involving multi-methods research. The book provides numerous examples of collaborative research related to collective action and the commons. It examines the pros and cons of case studies, meta-analyses, experiments and modeling and agent-based models, and it looks at how these methods contribute to research on collective action for the management of natural resources. In addition, Working Together outlines a revised theory of collective action that includes individual decision making, microsituational conditions and features of the broader social-ecological context.

Bush on the Home Front

Bush on the Home Front. Former President George W. Bush achieved domestic policy successes that were remarkable in light of his tenuous standing with the public and the sharp partisan divisions that he faced in Congress, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs Dean John D. Graham writes in Bush on the Home Front (Indiana University Press). Graham, who served as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (2001-2006), examines the factors and strategies behind Bush's effectiveness on policy issues such as taxes, education, health care, energy, environment and regulatory reform. He employs three criteria in his evaluation: whether the reform is promising, whether it is primarily attributable to efforts of the Bush administration, and whether the reform is likely to reshape public debate on the issue in the future. Graham finds that a classic bipartisan strategy doesn't work for presidents trying to pass legislation in today's polarized Congress. But Bush employed a "cross-partisan" approach, working closely with moderate, key Democrats to design legislative packages they found appealing while maintaining the support of his base. The book also analyzes Bush's failures in domestic policy such as Social Security reform, immigration reform, and tort reform. Graham reveals why these initiatives failed to attract even limited Democratic support and why they offended Bush's Republican base. Graham is the author of seven books and 200 articles on health, safety and environmental issues.

Law & Truth

Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature. How can humans ever attain the knowledge required to administer and implement divine law and render perfect justice in this world? Contrary to the belief that religious law is infallible, Chaya T. Halberstam, assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, shows that early rabbinic jurisprudence is characterized by fundamental uncertainty. She argues that while the Hebrew Bible created a sense of confidence and transparency before the law, the rabbis complicated the paths to knowledge and undermined the stability of personal status and ownership, and notions of guilt or innocence. In Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature (Indiana University Press), Halberstam writes that rabbinic understandings of the law were riddled with doubt and challenged the possibility of true justice. "In this book," she writes, "I explore two different modes of juridical rhetoric: the Hebrew Bible, which deploys an authoritative discourse of knowledge, certainty, and divine truth; and tannaitic literature, which assumes a stance of perpetual uncertainty despite the biblical tradition, and demands the authoritative construction of legal truth. I hope to demonstrate how the rabbinic posture of uncertainty in shaping Jewish law promoted energetic legal creativity alongside a residue of anxiety over the consistent possibility of factually wrong and morally wrongful judgment." Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert of Stanford University writes that the book "adds an important aspect to our understanding of rabbinic legal thinking specifically, as well as to our understanding of rabbinic sensibilities and rabbinic piety in general."

Whose Lives Are They Anyway?

Courtesy of Rutgers University Press

Whose Lives Are They Anyway? Biopics, films that dramatize and explore the lives of the famous, infamous or the previously unknown, have been nominated for and won more Academy Awards than any other type of film. Yet according to Dennis Bingham of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, this genre is unfairly maligned as static, formulaic, unchanging and perhaps dying. Bingham, associate professor of English and director of film studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, is the author of Whose Lives Are They Anyway? (Rutgers University Press) which traces and analyzes the evolution of male and female film biography. We watch and will continue to watch biopics "so as to plumb that mystery of humanness, the inability completely to know another person, and the absolute importance of knowing them and ourselves," he writes. Biopics blossomed after the introduction of sound in the 1920s because stage actors could play great roles such as Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Louis Pasteur. The genre evolved and changed throughout the Hollywood studio era. While the strong narratives engendered popularity with American audiences, with the exception of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane -- not truly a biopic -- they were typically not made by big name directors or considered a respected genre. That changed, according to Bingham, with Lawrence of Arabia, the winner of the Academy Award for best picture in 1962. And what about the dramatization of female lives? Female biopics -- from the early Queen Christina to the wildly popular Erin Brockovich to the recent Marie Antoinette -- typically find conflict and tragedy in a women's success. Recent films cited by Bingham as exceptional examples of the genre include Malcolm X and Lumumba, which focused on unconventional subjects; Ed Wood and Man on the Moon, which parodied the genre, and Raging Bull and Coal Miner's Daughter, two biopics which he says are "just plain good movies."