This volume is a comprehensive examination of the benefits and potential pitfalls of employing prospect theory---a leading alternative to expected utility as a theory of decision under risk---to understand and explain political behavior. The collection brings together both theoretical and empirical studies, thus grounding the conclusions about prospect theory's potential for enriching political analyses in an assessment of its performance in explaining actual cases.
The theoretical chapters provide an overview of the main hypotheses of prospect theory: people frame risk-taking decisions around a reference point, they tend to accept greater risk to prevent losses than to make gains, and they often perceive the devastation of a loss as greater than the benefit of a gain. The three case studies---Roosevelt's decision-making during the Munich crisis of 1938, Carter's April 1980 decision to rescue the American hostages in Iran, and Soviet behavior toward Syria in 1966-67---generally support these hypotheses. Nevertheless, the authors are frank about potentially difficult conceptual and methodological problems, making explicit reference to alternative explanations, such as the rational actor model, which posits the maximization of expected value.
Contributors to the volume include Jack Levy, Robert Jervis, Barbara Farnham, Rose McDermott, Audrey McInerney, and Eldar Shafir.
Until the early nineteenth century, "risk" was a specialized term: it was the commodity exchanged in a marine insurance contract. Freaks of Fortune tells the story of how the modern concept of risk emerged in the United States. Born on the high seas, risk migrated inland and became essential to the financial management of an inherently uncertain capitalist future.
Focusing on the hopes and anxieties of ordinary people, Jonathan Levy shows how risk developed through the extraordinary growth of new financial institutions-insurance corporations, savings banks, mortgage-backed securities markets, commodities futures markets, and securities markets-while posing inescapable moral questions. For at the heart of risk's rise was a new vision of freedom. To be a free individual, whether an emancipated slave, a plains farmer, or a Wall Street financier, was to take, assume, and manage one's own personal risk. Yet this often meant offloading that same risk onto a series of new financial institutions, which together have only recently acquired the name "financial services industry." Levy traces the fate of a new vision of personal freedom, as it unfolded in the new economic reality created by the American financial system.
Amid the nineteenth-century's waning faith in God's providence, Americans increasingly confronted unanticipated challenges to their independence and security in the boom and bust chance-world of capitalism. Freaks of Fortuneis one of the first books to excavate the historical origins of our own financialized times and risk-defined lives.
In this rugged account of a rugged profession, Matthew Desmond explores the heart and soul of the wildland firefighter. Having joined a firecrew in Northern Arizona as a young man, Desmond relates his experiences with intimate knowledge and native ease, adroitly balancing emotion with analysis and action with insight. On the Fireline shows that these firefighters aren’t the adrenaline junkies or romantic heroes as they’re so often portrayed.
An immersion into a dangerous world, On the Fireline is also a sophisticated analysis of a high-risk profession—and a captivating read.
“Gripping . . . a masterful account of how young men are able to face down wildfire, and why they volunteer for such an enterprise in the first place.”—David Grazian, Sociological Forum
“Along with the risks and sorrow, Desmond also presents the humor and comaraderie of ordinary men performing extraordinary tasks. . . . A good complement to Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Recommended.”—Library Journal
How much and in which direction have the welfare states among the Western democracies changed over the past decades? Moreover, under what conditions have governments enacted these changes? Based on insights from prospect theory, Barbara Vis demonstrates how socioeconomic or political setbacks affect a government’s view of risk—and thereby the degree and type of reform they pursue. This study’s new theoretical stance and innovative methodological approach make it a must read for those policymakers, scholars, and students interested in the politics of welfare state reform.
Barebacking—when gay men deliberately abandon condoms and embrace unprotected sex—has incited a great deal of shock, outrage, anger, and even disgust, but very little contemplation. Purposely flying in the face of decades of safe-sex campaigning and HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives, barebacking is unquestionably radical behavior, behavior that most people would rather condemn than understand. Thus the time is ripe for Unlimited Intimacy, Tim Dean’s riveting investigation into barebacking and the distinctive subculture that has grown around it.
Audacious and undeniably provocative, Dean’s profoundly reflective account is neither a manifesto nor an apology; instead, it is a searching analysis that tests the very limits of the study of sex in the twenty-first century. Dean’s extensive research into the subculture provides a tour of the scene’s bars, sex clubs, and Web sites; offers an explicit but sophisticated analysis of its pornography; and documents his own personal experiences in the culture. But ultimately, it is HIV that animates the controversy around barebacking, and Unlimited Intimacy explores how barebackers think about transmitting the virus—especially the idea that deliberately sharing it establishes a new network of kinship among the infected. According to Dean, intimacy makes us vulnerable, exposes us to emotional risk, and forces us to drop our psychological barriers. As a committed experiment in intimacy without limits—one that makes those metaphors of intimacy quite literal—barebacking thus says a great deal about how intimacy works.
Written with a fierce intelligence and uncompromising nerve, Unlimited Intimacy will prove to be a milestone in our understanding of sexual behavior.
A Washington Post Book of the Year
“Makes a powerful argument for building, as early as possible, the ability to stand up for what's right in the face of peer pressure, corrupt authority, and even family apathy.”
Why do so few of us intervene when we’re needed—and what would it take to make us step up? We are bombarded every day by reports of bad behavior, from the school yard to the boardroom to the halls of Congress. It’s tempting to blame bad acts on bad people, but sometimes good people do bad things. A social psychologist who has done pioneering research on student behavior on college campuses, Catherine Sanderson points to many ways in which our faulty assumptions about what other people think can paralyze us. Moral courage, it turns out, is not innate. But you can train yourself to stand up for what you believe in, and even small acts can make a big difference. Inspiring and potentially life transforming, Why We Act reveals that while the urge to do nothing is deeply ingrained, even the most hesitant would-be bystander can learn to be a moral rebel.
“From bullying on the playground to sexual harassment in the workplace, perfectly nice people often do perfectly awful things. But why? In this thoughtful and beautifully written book, Sanderson shows how basic principles of social psychology explain such behavior—and how they can be used to change it. A smart and practical guide to becoming a better and braver version of ourselves.”
—Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
“Encouraged me to persevere through many moments when it felt far easier to stop trying.”
“Points to steps all of us can take to become ‘moral rebels’ whose voices can change society for the better.”
—Walter V. Robinson, former editor of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team
“Sanderson offers sound advice on how we can become better at doing what we know is right.”
—George Conway, cofounder of The Lincoln Project
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