Essential reading for anyone concerned about how dangerous pet food and children’s clothing manufactured in China make it...

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THE CHINA PRICE

THE TRUE COST OF CHINESE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Financial Times reporter Harney paints a vivid portrait of factory life in the country that sells consumer goods for the lowest price possible.

With a manufacturing workforce of 104 million people, China dominates global production of consumer goods, selling everything from clothing to computer parts at half or even one-fifth the amount that it would cost to make them in the United States. The author, who lives in Hong Kong, focuses on the consequences of China’s ceaseless pursuit of economic growth, from unethical business practices to pollution to an epidemic of occupational diseases. Drawing on interviews, she takes us into factories and their dormitories to show youths who have flocked from the countryside to take dangerous manufacturing jobs. We meet 17-year-old Li Gang, who worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week to earn $39 monthly as a zagong (“dogsbody”), the lowest-ranking employee in a plastic-bag factory; and Li Luyuan, 20, who sleeps in cramped quarters with a dozen other girls, trying to save enough money from her job producing DVDs and sweaters to buy a new home for her parents. These migrants are taking legal action to win better working conditions, posing a challenge to efforts to maintain the China price. Harney brings us into model factories, where rules on working hours and product safety are followed, and into the “shadow” factories (often operated under contract to the same owners) where anything goes in the drive to produce cheaper products. Despite efforts by companies buying consumer goods from China to enforce a code of conduct, most suppliers falsify time cards, hide the use of unapproved materials and otherwise engage in dishonest practices. Western importers know it and often look the other way. In the face of growing labor unrest and pollution, Chinese officials hope to move the economy away from reliance on exports by fostering domestic consumption.

Essential reading for anyone concerned about how dangerous pet food and children’s clothing manufactured in China make it into American stores.

Pub Date: March 31, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-157-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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