Featured New Books - January 2014

Confronting Ecological and Economic Collapse

The climate casino : risk, uncertainty, and economics for a warming world

Climate change is profoundly altering our world in ways that pose major risks to human societies and natural systems. We have entered the Climate Casino and are rolling the global-warming dice, warns economist William Nordhaus. But there is still time to turn around and walk back out of the casino, and in this essential book the author explains how. Bringing together all the important issues surrounding the climate debate, Nordhaus describes the science, economics, and politics involved—and the steps necessary to reduce the perils of global warming. Using language accessible to any concerned citizen and taking care to present different points of view fairly, he discusses the problem from start to finish: from the beginning, where warming originates in our personal energy use, to the end, where societies employ regulations or taxes or subsidies to slow the emissions of gases responsible for climate change. Nordhaus offers a new analysis of why earlier policies, such as the Kyoto Protocol, failed to slow carbon dioxide emissions, how new approaches can succeed, and which policy tools will most effectively reduce emissions. In short, he clarifies a defining problem of our times and lays out the next critical steps for slowing the trajectory of global warming.

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Dante and the limits of the law

In Dante and the Limits of the Law, Justin Steinberg offers the first comprehensive study of the legal structure crucial to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Steinberg reveals how Dante imagines an afterlife dominated by elaborate laws, hierarchical jurisdictions, and rationalized punishments and rewards. Steinberg makes the compelling case that Dante deliberately exploits this highly-structured legal system to explore the phenomenon of exceptions to it, introducing Dante to crucial current debates about literature’s relation to law, exceptionality, and sovereignty.

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Intimate associations : the law and culture of American families

The rise in divorce, cohabitation, single parenthood, and same-sex partnerships, along with an increase in surrogacy, adoption, and assisted reproductive technologies, has led to many diverse configurations of families, or intimate associations. J. Herbie DiFonzo and Ruth C. Stern chart these trends over the past several decades and investigate their social, legal, and economic implications.

Drawing upon a wealth of social science data, they show that, by a number of measures, children of married parents fare better than children in a household formed by cohabiting adults. This is not to condemn nontraditional families, but to point out that society and the law do not yet adequately provide for their needs. The authors applaud the ways in which courts and legislatures are beginning to replace rigid concepts of marriage and parenthood with the more flexible concept of “functional” family roles. In the conclusion, they call for a legal system that can adapt to the continually changing reality of family life.

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Legal emblems and the art of law obiter depicta as the vision of governance

The history of the legal emblem has not been written. A seemingly fortuitous invention of the humanist lawyer Andrea Alciato in 1531, the emblem book is an extraordinary pictorial turn in the early history of publishing and in the emergence of modern law. The preponderance of juridical and normative themes, of images of rule and infraction, of obedience and error in the emblem books is critical to their purpose and interest. It is no accident that the history of this highly successful scholarly genre is dominated in authorship and content by lawyers. This book is the history of the emblem tradition as a juridical genre, along with the concept of, and training in obiter depicta, in things seen along the way to judgment. It argues that these picture books of law depict norms and abuses in classically derived forms that become the visual standards of governance. Despite the plethora of vivid figures and virtual symbols that define and transmit law, contemporary lawyers are not trained in the critical apprehension of the visible. This book is the first to reconstruct the history of the emblem tradition so as to evidence the extent to which a gallery of images of law already exists and structures how the public realm is displayed, made present, and viewed.

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Minds, brains, and law : the conceptual foundations of law and neuroscience

As neuroscientific technologies continue to develop and inform our understanding of the mind, the opportunities for applying neuroscience in legal proceedings have also increased. Cognitive neuroscientists have deepened our understanding of the complex relationship between the mind and the brain by using new techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). The inferences drawn from these findings and increasingly sophisticated technologies are being applied to debates and processes in the legal field, from lie detection in criminal trials to critical legal doctrines surrounding the insanity defense or guilt adjudication.

In Minds, Brains, and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience, Michael S. Pardo and Dennis Patterson assess the philosophical questions that arise when neuroscientific research and technology are applied in the legal system. They examine the arguments favoring the increased use of neuroscience in law, the means for assessing its reliability in legal proceedings, and the integration of neuroscientific research into substantive legal doctrines.

The authors use their explorations to inform a corrective inquiry into the mistaken inferences and conceptual errors that arise from mismatched concepts, such as the mental disconnect of what constitutes "lying" on a lie detection test. The empirical, practical, ethical, and conceptual issues that Pardo and Patterson seek to redress will deeply influence how we negotiate and implement the fruits of neuroscience in law and policy in the future.

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Prometheus reimagined : technology, environment, and law in the twenty-first century

Technologies such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and geoengineering will be among the most life-changing and controversial in the coming decades. While such technologies promise to address many of our most serious problems, they also bring environmental and health-related risks and uncertainties. Moreover, they can come to dominate global production systems and markets with very little public input or awareness. Existing governance institutions and processes do not adequately address the risks of new technologies, nor do they give much consideration to the concerns of persons affected by them. Instead of treating technology, health, and the environment as discrete issues, Albert C. Lin argues, laws must acknowledge their fundamental relationship, anticipating both future technological developments and their potential adverse effects. Further, laws must encourage international cooperation and the development of common global standards, while allowing for flexibility and reassessment.

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Saviour siblings : a relational approach to the welfare of the child in selective reproduction

Genetic screening technologies involving pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) raise particular issues about selective reproduction and the welfare of the child to be born. How does selection impact on the identity of the child who is born? Are children who are selected for a particular purpose harmed or treated as commodities? How far should the state interfere with parents’ reproductive choices?

Currently, concerns about the welfare of the child in selective reproduction have focused on the individual interests of the child to be born. This book re-evaluates the welfare of the child through the controversial topic of saviour sibling selection. Drawing on relational feminist and communitarian ethics, Michelle Taylor-Sands argues that the welfare of the child to be born is inextricably linked with the welfare of his/her family. The author proposes a relational model for selective reproduction based on a broad conception of the welfare of the child that includes both individual and collective family interests. By comparing regulation in the UK and Australia, the book maps out how law and policy might support a relational model for saviour sibling selection.

With an interdisciplinary focus, Saviour Siblings: A Relational Approach to the Welfare of the Child in Selective Reproduction will be of particular interest to academics and students of bioethics and law as well as practitioners and policymakers concerned with the ethics of selective reproduction.


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Wrongful conviction and criminal justice reform : making justice

Wrongful Conviction and Criminal Justice Reform is an important addition to the literature and teaching on innocence reform. This book delves into wrongful convictions studies but expands upon them by offering potential reforms that would alleviate the problem of wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system. Written to be accessible to students, Wrongful Conviction and Criminal Justice Reform is a main text for wrongful convictions courses or a secondary text for more general courses in criminal justice, political science, and law school innocence clinics.

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Why the law matters to you : citizenship, agency, and public identity

This book presents an answer to the question of why modern legal institutions and the idea of citizenship are important for leading a free life. The majority of views in political and legal philosophy regard the law merely as a useful instrument, employed to render our lives more secure and to enable us to engage in cooperate activities more efficiently. The view developed here defends a non-instrumentalist alternative of why the law matters. It identifies the law as a constitutive feature of our identities as citizens of modern states. The constitutivist argument rests on the (Kantian) assumption that a person’s practical identity (its normative self-conception as an agent) is the result of its actions. The law co-constitutes these identities because it maintains the external conditions that are necessary for the actions performed under its authority. Modern legal institutions provide these external prerequisites for achieving a high degree of individual self-constitution and freedom. Only public principles can establish our status as individuals who pursue their life plans and actions as a matter of right and not because others contingently happen to let us do so. The book thereby provides resources for a reply to anarchist challenges to the necessity of legal ordering.

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