What We Are Reading Today: Dante by John Took

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Updated 11 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Dante by John Took

For all that has been written about the author of the Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) remains the best guide to his own life and work. 

Dante’s writings are therefore never far away in this authoritative and comprehensive intellectual biography, which offers a fresh account of the medieval Florentine poet’s life and thought before and after his exile in 1302.

Beginning with the often violent circumstances of Dante’s life, the book examines his successive works as testimony to the course of his passionate humanity — his lyric poetry through to the Vita Nova as the great work of his first period; the Convivio, De vulgari eloquentia and the poems of his early years in exile; and the Monarchia and the Commedia as the product of his maturity. 

Describing as it does a journey of the mind, the book confirms the nature of Dante’s undertaking as an exploration of what he himself speaks of as “maturity in the flame of love,” says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

The result is an original synthesis of Dante’s life and work.


What We Are Reading Today: Democratic Federalism

Updated 04 June 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Democratic Federalism

Authors: Robert Inman and Daniel L. Rubinfeld

Around the world, federalism has emerged as the system of choice for nascent republics and established nations alike. In this book, leading scholars and governmental advisers Robert Inman and Daniel Rubinfeld consider the most promising forms of federal governance and the most effective path to enacting federal policies. 

The result is an essential guide to federalism, its principles, its applications, and its potential to enhance democratic governance.

Drawing on the latest work from economics, political science, and law, Inman and Rubinfeld assess different models of federalism and their relative abilities to promote economic efficiency, encourage the participation of citizens, and protect individual liberties. Under the right conditions, the authors argue, a federal democracy—including a national legislature with locally elected representatives—can best achieve these goals. Because a stable union between the national and local governments is key, Inman and Rubinfeld also propose an innovative method for evaluating new federal laws and their possible impact on state and local governments. Finally, to show what the adoption of federalism can mean for citizens, the authors discuss the evolution of governance in the European Union and South Africa’s transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy.

Interdisciplinary in approach, Democratic Federalism brims with applicable policy ideas and comparative case studies of global significance. This book is indispensable for understanding the importance of federal forms of government—both in recent history and, crucially, for future democracies.