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Recent Publications — February 2019

The Future of Tech Is Female: How to Achieve Gender Diversity. By Douglas M. Branson. New York, N.Y.: New York University Press. 2018. Pp. xiv, 299. $30.00. Never mind tech’s self-image as a cutting-edge, socially minded sector liberated from corporate formality (suits, hierarchy). Of any major industry, technology has the worst record of promoting and retaining female directors.  Professor Douglas Branson’s book wanders through this paradox and attempts to provide solutions for tech companies. Part of the problem, he suggests, is that women are hired to helm only troubled corporations (think Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!), and those CEOs’ difficulties give women in tech a bad name. He goes on to review solutions. Many — like expanding mentorship, instituting hiring quotas, and greasing on- and off-ramps for family-related leave — are familiar.  Others are more novel. Branson argues, for instance, that tech’s efforts to increase H1-B visas is a distracting substitute for solving the gender-pipeline problem at home. He also asserts that we overstate gender barriers in STEM education. Long before STEM becomes a curricular choice, video games establish who is interested in computers. Reforming that industry — a backwater of naked sexism — is Branson’s top priority

 

Hate, Politics, Law: Critical Perspectives on Combating Hate. Edited by Thomas Brudholm & Birgitte Schepelern Johansen. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 2018. Pp. vi, 284. $74.00. Hate is evil, the story goes, and liberal democracies must therefore fight it. In this collection of essays, Professors Thomas Brudholm and Birgitte Schepelern Johansen seek to probe common assumptions underlying the fight against hate. The first two essays examine hate’s place in Greco-Roman history and explain how the modern fight against hate stems from treating racism as the paradigmatic example of it. The next few chapters tackle the conceptualization of hate by asking whether the word “hate” as commonly used is misleading, investigating the psychological connection between hate and love, and situating hate within a legal framework. The volume then moves to responses to hatred; some authors detail the efficacy — and limitations — of the criminalization and punishment of hate, while others focus on tolerance and the power of art to address structural oppression. Two more essays explore democratic hatred and how liberal democracies, while ostensibly preaching an “anti-hate” message, sometimes themselves engage in hate. Concluding the collection, Professor Robert Post cautions against expanding hate legislation to combat prejudice without first considering all these subtle, complex perspectives on the history, theory, and politics of hate.

 

Democracy when the People Are Thinking: Revitalizing Our Politics Through Public Deliberation. By James S. Fishkin. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 2018. Pp. xi, 259. $24.95. Democracy is under attack. Many competition-based democracies focus so much on propaganda campaigns that it is doubtful their election results actually represent the will of the people. And some nondemocratic countries, focused on technocratic good governance, seem to reach better results than democratic peers. Unfortunately, democracy’s possible savior, a transition from competition-based to deliberative democracy that prioritizes the public will, has been critiqued as a utopian dream. Professor James Fishkin, the father of deliberative polling, argues that the outlook is not so bleak. Transcending the philosopher’s armchair, Fishkin subjects deliberative democracy to an empirical analysis. After surveying democracy’s modern-day challenges and reflecting on historical examples of popular deliberation, Fishkin delves into recent case studies, sometimes joined by chapter coauthors. Spanning various locales from Mongolia to Uganda, these case studies give insights into the search for “entry points for deliberation in the policy process” (p. 79). Finally, after discussing deliberation “within a microcosm” (p. 139), Fishkin asks, “Can the same experience be scaled?” (p. 139). Although Fishkin answers “yes,” he does not think it will be easy. Creating a society in which citizens deliberate “is the challenge for democratic renewal” (p. 210).

 

Enhanced Beings: Human Germline Modification and the Law. By Kerry Lynn Macintosh. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press. 2018. Pp. viii, 185. $34.99. If scientists could alter an embryo to remove a genetic predisposition to a particular disorder — or simply to enhance desirable traits like height or intelligence — should they be permitted to do so? Human germline modification (HGM) is a technique by which molecular editing tools are used to alter the genes in human gametes or embryos. Although scientists have not yet developed the ability to successfully alter the genomes of viable human embryos, the possibility may not be far off. The use of HGM technology in human reproduction is hotly debated, inspiring both scientific excitement and ethical queasiness. But the relevant legal frameworks are surprisingly underdeveloped. Professor Kerry Lynn Macintosh urges legislators to exercise caution before enacting bans or restrictions on HGM, emphasizing that “such prohibitions hold the potential to harm scientists and science, parents, children, foreigners, and society” (pp. 174–75). She argues that objections to the use of HGM in human reproduction are exaggerated, grounded in negative stereotypes, and potentially damaging to children produced through HGM. By weaving together technological, psychological, and legal analysis, Macintosh crafts a thorough response to HGM’s critics while setting out her own vision of the technology’s place in society.