What We Are Reading Today: Viruses as Complex Adaptive Systems

Updated 16 December 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Viruses as Complex Adaptive Systems

Authors: Ricard Solé and Santiago F. Elena

Viruses are everywhere, infecting all sorts of living organisms, from the tiniest bacteria to the largest mammals. Many are harmful parasites, but viruses also play a major role as drivers of our evolution as a species and are essential regulators of the composition and complexity of ecosystems on a global scale. This concise book draws on complex systems theory to provide a fresh look at viral origins, populations, and evolution, and the co-evolutionary dynamics of viruses and their hosts, according to a review on the Princeton University Press website. New viruses continue to emerge that threaten people, crops, and farm animals. Viruses constantly evade our immune systems, and antiviral therapies and vaccination campaigns can be powerless against them. These unique characteristics of virus biology are a consequence of their tremendous evolutionary potential, which enables viruses to quickly adapt to any environmental challenge. Ricard Solé and Santiago Elena present a unified framework for understanding viruses as complex adaptive systems.


What We Are Reading Today: Governing the Urban in China and India by Xuefei Ren

Updated 10 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Governing the Urban in China and India by Xuefei Ren

Urbanization is rapidly overtaking China and India, the two most populous countries in the world. One-sixth of humanity now lives in either a Chinese or Indian city. 

This transformation has unleashed enormous pressures on land use, housing, and the environment. Despite the stakes, the workings of urban governance in China and India remain obscure and poorly understood.

In this book, Xuefei Ren explores how China and India govern their cities and how their different styles of governance produce inequality and exclusion. Drawing upon historical-comparative analyses and extensive fieldwork (in Beijing, Guangzhou, Wukan, Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata), Ren investigates the ways that Chinese and Indian cities manage land acquisition, slum clearance, and air pollution. 

She discovers that the two countries address these issues through radically different approaches. In China, urban governance centers on territorial institutions, such as hukou and the cadre evaluation system. 

In India, urban governance centers on associational politics, encompassing contingent alliances formed among state actors, the private sector, and civil society groups. Ren traces the origins of territorial and associational forms of governance to late imperial China and precolonial India. She then shows how these forms have evolved to shape urban growth and residents’ struggles today.

As the number of urban residents in China and India reaches beyond a billion, Governing the Urban in China and India makes clear that the development of cities in these two nations will have profound consequences well beyond their borders.