LEAN AND MEAN

THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF CORPORATE POWER IN THE AGE OF FLEXIBILITY

An arresting albeit donnish, reappraisal of the forces driving the global economy, from a man of the left who minces few words about his progressive agenda. Citing credible data—compiled by Dun & Bradstreet and others- -Harrison (Political Economy/Carnegie Mellon Univ.) puts paid to the widely held notion that small firms are the primary source of new jobs. Nor, he goes on to show, are bantamweights notably adept at creating, much less applying, advanced technologies. By almost any standard, according to Harrison (co-author of The Deindustrialization of America, not reviewed), large multinational corporations still dominate the marketplace. In response to a worldwide profit squeeze during the early 1970s, they shed staff, experimented with so-called outsource contracting, decentralized production as well as management-information facilities, concluded strategic alliances, and otherwise equipped themselves to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. Harrison's greatest fear is that lean may portend genuinely and persistently mean. His stated desire is ``to promote local economic development with equity,'' an objective he concedes could prove elusive in a world where regional output as often as not is remotely controlled. Focusing on the demand side of the equation, the author decries low-road economic rivalry in which wages and taxes are forced down to the detriment of the infrastructure and labor's purchasing power. To aid effective monitoring and regulation of the socioeconomic behavior of multinationals, he advocates that member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development adopt the moral equivalent of common industrial policies, a position certain to draw fire from the right. While Harrison's graceless writing style and penchant for references of interest mainly to fellow academics could deny him a general readership, his persuasively documented and principled text represents a substantive contribution to the public debate on economic development at the community as well as the global level.

Pub Date: May 18, 1994

ISBN: 0-465-06942-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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 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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