Rights and Their Limits: In Theory, Cases, and Pandemics

Frances M. Kamm, Littauer Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy, Emerita

Cover of the book Rights and Their Limits: In Theory, Cases, and Pandemics

IN HER TENTH BOOK ON MORALITY, Kamm uses hypothetical and practical cases to understand the limits of rights. Written during the COVID-19 years (the last two chapters are extensions of her 2020 article “Moral Reasoning in a Pandemic” and 2021 article “Harms, Wrongs and Meaning in a Pandemic”), the discussion explores three areas. The first, what she calls “rightsousness”—her coinage for rights-respecting attitudes and behaviors—explores the idea of rights and their correlative duties in light of some theories and judgments about real and hypothetical cases. The second area involves the limits of rights to constrain our conduct and considers the moral significance of the various ways we harm and not aid others, as in the trolley problem, for example. And the third focuses on why someone’s rights can fail to constrain us in extreme cases.


Democratize Work: The Case for Reorganizing the Economy

Julie Battilana, Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation; Isabelle Ferreras, University of Louvain; Dominique Méda, Paris Dauphine University

Cover of the book Democratize Work: The Case for Reorganizing the Economy

AT THE CORE OF THIS BOOK is a manifesto about the urgent need to democratize firms, decommodify work, and decarbonize our environment. Written by Julie Battilana, Isabelle Ferreras, and Dominique Méda in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the manifesto was signed by more than 3,000 academics across the world and published in May 2020. Democratize Work includes essays by Battilana, Ferreras, Méda, and 10 other social scientists, who use phrases and ideas from the manifesto to spur further discussion.

In her introduction, Battilana writes that the pandemic provided a unique opportunity to change the way we work and threw into sharp relief how those we considered essential workers were the most vulnerable, prompting the authors’ call to action. “Our manifesto is built on three pillars: democratize firms—give power and voice to employees so that they can participate in organizational decisions; decommodify work—ensure that work is not governed by market forces alone and that every person has the right to work; and, finally, decarbonize our environment—commit to preserving and protecting our natural ecosystems,” Battilana writes. “These are the three levers we have at our disposal to make our societies of tomorrow fairer, more democratic, and greener.”


Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama

Editors: Meghan O’Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs; Stephen Hadley; Peter Feaver, Duke University; William Inboden, University of Texas, Austin

Cover of the book Hand-Off: The Foreign Policy George W. Bush Passed to Barack Obama

THIS SUBSTANTIAL VOLUME provides a record of the national security and foreign policy concerns the George W. Bush administration faced as it prepared for the incoming Obama administration in 2008. Hand-Off includes 30 declassified transition memoranda, accompanied by new postscripts that provide context for these contemporaneous accounts on issues such as U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, the United States’ stance toward China, HIV/AIDS, and nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. The memoranda are supplemented by essays on biodefense and pandemic planning, cyber preparedness, and climate change and clean development, written with the benefit of hindsight by Bush administration officials.

Meghan O’Sullivan—an HKS faculty member who served as special assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy national security advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan—joins Stephen Hadley, a former national security advisor, in introducing the volume. “These memoranda were not partisan talking points designed to shape the public assessment of the departing president,” they write. “They were written to help the next president and his team get up to speed as quickly as possible under daunting circumstances. The memoranda were to be shared only with the new president and the new president’s national security team. Collectively the memoranda represent the most well-informed, comprehensive, and contemporaneous judgment about how the Bush NSC staff saw the Bush administration’s legacy at the time—and the challenges it believed the new Obama administration would face.”


Because Data Can’t Speak for Itself: A Practical Guide to Telling Persuasive Policy Stories

Lauren Brodsky, Lecturer in Public Policy; David Chrisinger, University of Chicago

Cover of the book Because Data Can’t Speak for Itself: A Practical Guide to Telling Persuasive Policy StoriesBECAUSE DATA CAN’T SPEAK FOR ITSELF is a practical, concise book that pairs its lessons with concrete examples of challenges in telling stories with data—from understanding COVID-19 statistics in the early days of the pandemic to using data to track down a Canadian serial killer. Lauren Brodsky and David Chrisinger lay out 32 tips for understanding the stories data tells, contextualizing it, and writing more effectively about it in ways that are meaningful for readers. They emphasize that researchers and writers need to understand the narrative their data is telling and get it across to their audiences clearly and accurately.

“Our interest in communicating effectively with data stems from our combined decades of teaching public policy students and practitioners to use their data in support of a story that helps readers make sense of something,” the authors write. “Sometimes the people we teach must learn how to use more data, other times less. Some need to learn how to explain and contextualize the evidence they have, while others need to figure out how to collect data that would help them say something valuable. Above all else, nearly every writer we’ve ever taught or consulted with has needed help figuring out how to tell stories about data that meet the needs specific to their readers.”


Political Theory of the Digital Age: Where Artificial Intelligence Might Take Us

Mathias Risse, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs and Philosophy

Cover of the book Political Theory of the Digital Age: Where Artificial Intelligence Might Take Us

IN THIS TIMELY, EXPLORATORY BOOK, Mathias Risse draws on frameworks and concepts from a wide range of political theorists and philosophers to explore themes of the current and future digital age. He considers how we might live alongside intelligent machines and navigate questions of rights and knowledge when data and disinformation are omnipresent. As Risse explains, “This book aims to create a better footing for the philosophy of technology and for discussions around epistemic rights and justice in the liberal-egalitarian outlook, as a way of helping to bring into the digital era—the era of AI and Big Data, and possibly the age of the singularity—the debates that have traditionally preoccupied political thinkers.” Starting with John Rawls’s theory of justice as fairness as a foundation, along with elements from the Marxist tradition, Risse incorporates ideas from a spectrum of schools of thought to examine questions pertaining to the digital realm—from deepfakes to data ownership to how we might structure political life alongside machine intelligence. Along the way, he introduces concepts not only from political thinkers narrowly defined, but also from novelists, technologists, and others. “One point I have made throughout is that the advent of AI requires that the relationship among various traditions of political thought be reassessed,” Risse writes. “All such traditions must fully integrate the philosophy of technology.”