From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life

Arthur Brooks, William Henry Bloomberg Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School; Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School

Cover of the book From Strength to Strength

IN HIS MID-40S, happily married with children, more successful in his career than he had dared hope, Arthur Brooks began pondering his inevitable decline. The prompt, as he explains in his latest book, From Strength to Strength, was an overheard conversation on an airplane—a famous elderly man full of melancholy and regret, complaining to his wife that his life seemed to have lost meaning. Shaken, Brooks dove into a years-long exploration of the meaning of decline—how we change (for the worse and for the better) as we age, and how that seemingly downward curve can be turned into a ramp toward another, different ascendancy. He explains that intelligence evolves, even in the greatest minds, from fluid and creative when young to synthesizing and crystallizing as we age. He describes how, unheeded, this change can cause even (perhaps especially) the most accomplished to confront the second half of life as an inexorable disappointment. But accepting the change, and recalibrating what success means, can set us up for true happiness. Brooks, whose research led him to make major changes in his own life (he left his role as the head of a large, influential think tank in Washington to teach at Harvard), sums up his teaching in seven words: “Use things. Love people. Worship the divine.” His book provides a road map for the journey.

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From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party

Tony Saich, Daewoo Professor of International Affairs; Director, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

Cover of the book From Rebel to RulerIT’S BEEN A WINDING 100-YEAR JOURNEY for the Chinese Communist Party, and Tony Saich has made a career of studying its history and inner workings. In his new book, From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party, Saich tells an authoritative story of the party, from its humble, Soviet-supported beginnings and existential struggles with the Chinese Nationalists, to the excesses of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, to the party’s emergence as a global economic superpower with a growing middle class. Communist systems are commonly thought of as rigid, but Saich explores how the Chinese Communist Party hasn’t adhered closely to Marxism or Leninism and how its remarkable adaptability helped it survive and even thrive while other communist regimes around the globe collapsed. That flexibility has involved a complex relationship with private enterprise, along with the adaptation of party structures to local customs and tribal power dynamics. Saich argues that organization has been another key to the party’s success: With 90 million members and branches in 4.5 million grassroots organizations, the party pervades every segment of Chinese society. And by structuring itself as a collection of vertical silos while repressing any horizontal coordination at the grassroots level between groups such as students or industrial workers, it has been highly effective at heading off challenges to its power. Saich also considers the future of the party as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power and seeks an unprecedented third term.

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International Norms, Moral Psychology, and Neuroscience 

Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy; Richard Price, University of British Columbia

Cover of the book International Norms, Moral Psychology, and Neuroscience PART OF THE CAMBRIDGE ELEMENTS SERIES in International Relations, this succinct scholarly volume by Kathryn Sikkink and Richard Price explores how moral psychology and neuroscience provide insight into the development of international norms. “We can no longer advance our understanding of emotions or morality or norms without some discussion of neuroscience and psychology,” the authors argue. They also explain how knowledge about the brain science and psychology behind moral feelings may help advocacy groups in framing norms.

Sikkink and Price discuss the way psychological frameworks such as the moral foundations theory—which identifies the common underpinnings of moral decision-making—feed into the development of transnational norms, with universal moral qualities (which can cross national contexts) winning out over more parochial ones (such as loyalty to an individual country). 

Our cognitive processes are also at play, and Sikkink and Price argue that an understanding of the brain’s fast, automatic, intuitive system, along with its slower, more deliberate thinking system, can provide insight. “We claim that transnational norms begin as moral intuitions,” they write, “but through a process of reasoning (alongside power and bargaining), in which emotion plays a role but does not predominate, these norms are later institutionalized in international law and institutions.” 

International Norms, Moral Psychology, and Neuroscience illuminates thought-provoking new avenues for international relations research.

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Maxims for Thinking Analytically: The Wisdom of Legendary Harvard Professor Richard Zeckhauser

Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

Cover of the book Maxims for Thinking AnalyticallyTHIS BOOK BY DAN LEVY, with a foreword by Larry Summers, is a toolkit for making better decisions, drawing on the lessons of Richard Zeckhauser, a legendary Kennedy School economist who has taught at Harvard for more than half a century. Levy explains, “I wrote this book because I am convinced that Richard’s wisdom can be helpful to vast numbers of people in the world, many far removed from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the academic world. I also wrote it as a tribute to him from me and the many others whose lives he has so positively influenced.”

The maxims come from Zeckhauser’s course “Analytic Frameworks for Policy” and are illustrated with examples from students and colleagues—including the Kennedy School faculty members Robert Stavins, Iris Bohnet, Jennifer Lerner, Gary Orren, Kessely Hong, Jeffrey Frankel, Jason Furman, and others. Levy organizes them into five themes: thinking straight, tackling uncertainty, making decisions, understanding policy, and living fully. Within each category, he presents advice that is memorable in its clarity—for instance, “Good decisions sometimes have poor outcomes.” And behind each maxim is an analytical tool or two to help readers avoid systematic errors in thinking.

Maxims for Thinking Analytically is helpful for anyone wishing to understand the world better and make smarter decisions. It is also a treat for the many students whom Zeckhauser has taught over the years, his coauthors, and his colleagues. 

More Books

 

Cover of the book Engaged Fatherhood for Men, Families and Gender Equality

Engaged Fatherhood for Men, Families and Gender Equality: Healthcare, Social Policy, and Work Perspectives

Editors: Hannah Riley Bowles, Roy E. Larsen Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management; Marc Grau-Grau; Mireia las Heras Maestro

THIS CROSS-DISCIPLINARY book examines the benefits of fatherhood and how more-engaged fathers can contribute to greater gender equality. It offers new takes on parental roles as the age of the breadwinner-or-homemaker recedes, with chapters on health and well-being, social policy, and work and organizations.

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Cover of the book Combating Inequality: Rethinking Government’s Role

Combating Inequality: Rethinking Government’s Role

Editors: Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy; Olivier Blanchard

THE ESCALATION in economic inequality has played a key role in recent elections and in the societal divide we see in the United States. Leading economists, including the HKS professors David Ellwood, Jason Furman, and Larry Summers, share their ideas on the role government plays in bridging the wealth gap.   

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Cover of the book Foundations for a Low-Carbon Energy System in China

Foundations for a Low-Carbon Energy System in China

Authors: Henry Lee, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy; Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology and Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering; Matthew Bunn, James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy; Michael Davidson, University of California; Wei Peng, Penn State University; Wang Pu, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Mao Zhimin, Harvard University

CHINA’S COMMITMENT to reducing fossil fuel dependency by 2030 is only the first step in stabilizing its greenhouse gas emissions. To reach a goal of zero emissions, the authors argue, China needs an aggressive strategy combining electric pricing, vehicle policies, and renewable energy. They examine how near-term policies affect long-term success. 

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