Belknap Press

Living OriginalismBy Jack M. Balkin(Belknap Press, 474 pp., $35) On the morning of July 14, 1967, Thurgood Marshall began his second day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings by preparing to confront questions posed by Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr. of North Carolina. This prospect seems unlikely to have been a pleasant one. After thirteen years in Washington, Ervin’s foremost achievement remained his role in drafting the document that had formally been styled a Declaration of Constitutional Principles, but that almost instantly became known as the Southern Manifesto.

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The Partial Reformer

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of ChinaBy Ezra F. Vogel (Belknap Press, 876 pp., $39.95)  Revolutionaries get all the attention, but reform is much harder. A reformer has to reshape a rigid structure without breaking it. Before Deng Xiaoping, only Kemal Atatürk in the twentieth century managed to do this. Others, like Nasser and the Shah of Iran, left key parts of the old system intact, or, like Gorbachev, destroyed the regime in trying to save it. The China that Deng inherited from Mao Zedong was just such a brittle system.

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The Invention of Space

Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science By Hans Belting Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider (Belknap Press, 303 pp., $39.95) In many respects this is a bold book, first of all because of its premise: a veteran art historian dares, after half a century as an active scholar, to take another look at a classic art-historical problem—the formulation of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Florence.

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The Love of Monopoly

Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications By Richard R. John (Belknap Press, 520 pp., $39.95) Once upon a time, some thought it obvious that competition was a bad thing, particularly in communications. As Theodore Vail, the president of AT&T, put it in 1913, “The public as a whole has never benefited” from competition. Monopoly, he said, was the better choice. The reason, he argued, is that “all costs of aggressive, uncontrolled competition are eventually borne, directly or indirectly, by the public.” Nowadays corporate executives carefully avoid expressing such sentiments.

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The Unlikely Key

“I have always loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship By Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg (Belknap Press, 380 pp., $35) In March 1629, the lawyer and parliamentarian John Selden found himself in the Tower of London without any books to keep him company. England’s greatest man of letters, Selden had been arrested on orders from Charles I for denying the king’s authority to adjourn the House of Commons.

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POTUS-phobia

The Decline and Fall of the American Republic By Bruce Ackerman (Belknap Press, 270 pp., $25.95) Bruce Ackerman, a professor at Yale University Law School, does not mean that the United States has collapsed like the Roman Empire, or that it will. His title refers to the American constitutional traditions of limited government—what the Founders and some modern legal scholars call the “republican” form of government. Ackerman thinks that the presidency has burst these limits: it has become too powerful, and eventually it will be seized by an ideological zealot who will abuse executive powers.

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The Old New Thing

The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History By Samuel Moyn (Belknap Press, 337 pp., $27.95) In 1807, in Yorkshire, activists hit the campaign trail for William Wilberforce, whose eloquent parliamentary fight against Britain’s slave trade had won surprising success. “O we’ve heard of his Cants in Humanity’s Cause/While the Senate was hush’d, and the land wept applause,” they sang.

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Infinite Life

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

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Infinite Life

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism And Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (Belknap Press, 239 pp., $25.95) A starry firmament, or sand cascading through one’s open fingers, or weeds springing up time after time: the first conception of infinity, of the uncountable and the unending, is not recorded, but it must have been stimulated by experiences such as these. It may have merged in the mind of an ancient progenitor with thoughts of a God, a possessor of unlimited might, an infinite being itself.

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