Though plagued by repetition, the book offers persuasive reasoning to support the author’s thesis.

THE LAND OF ENTERPRISE

A BUSINESS HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A historian makes his case that the story of private enterprise has been undervalued as a window into the history of the United States.

In a summary of American history that is simultaneously chronological and thematic, Waterhouse (History/Univ. of North Carolina; Lobbying America: The Politics of Business from Nixon to NAFTA, 2014) discusses the commercial aspects of slavery, the rise of factories in the U.S., the development of an impersonal corporate structure for business, battles between government regulators and business executives, and the rise and decline of labor unions, among other threads. He expands on the oft-repeated 1925 quotation of President Calvin Coolidge: “The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.” Pointedly referring to the 2008 financial crash in the U.S. and around the world, the author argues that the business history of this country has provided cautionary lessons either ignored by or unknown to the general public. Even during the late 1700s, as the Founding Fathers were forging the Constitution, warring factions debated the role of government in the business realm: should it protect domestic producers or allow foreign producers to undersell American businesses? In each of his 12 chapters, Waterhouse offers a variation of his message that business history constitutes the overarching influence of the nation’s history, but the narrative suffers from cramming too much information into a relatively compact overview. The author notes that not all Americans favored a smooth path to the capitalism that ultimately prevailed, with dissenters concerned about exploitation and oppression of both laborers and consumers. The chapter on the American brand of slavery as instrumental in the building of capitalism offers emotional heft in an otherwise mostly bloodless book.

Though plagued by repetition, the book offers persuasive reasoning to support the author’s thesis.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6664-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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