Sometimes breathlessly narrated but always interesting, this is a solid work of popular business reporting.

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TAKEN FOR A RIDE

HOW DAIMLER-BENZ DROVE OFF WITH CHRYSLER AND THE RISKS OF GOING GLOBAL

A carefully documented yet spirited account of a corporate marriage seemingly made in hell.

Nothing in the corporate cultures of Germany's Daimler-Benz and America's Chrysler suggested that the two would make a good match, according to Detroit News journalists Vlasic and Bradley: "Daimler and Chrysler didn't develop, manufacture, market, or sell cars the same way. Daimler executives had larger staffs and fatter expense accounts. Chrysler officers had broader responsibilities and bigger salaries and bonuses." Vlasic and Stertz also note that Daimler was worth much more than Chrysler, by nearly every measure, and that Daimler's staff spoke fluent English and was perfectly at home in the global market, whereas the Detroit-based firm was resolutely insular and proud of its blue-collar, made-in-America ethos. Even so, in the mid-1990s, when billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian began to maneuver against self-promoting Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca for control of the company—initiating, for instance, steps to buy up stock and return Chrysler to its former privately held status—he found curious allies in the German and Swiss executives who controlled Daimler-Benz (and who sought to broaden their American—and then the Asian—market). In 1998, after long, cloak-and-dagger negotiations that the authors recount in vivid detail, the parties engineered what has been called "the biggest industrial merger of all time," involving a swap of stock valued at $38 billion and a restructuring of the corporate giants on both sides of the Atlantic. The merger had unforeseen consequences large and small; the authors note, for instance, that Kerkorian, who had ordered a new Boeing jet for his own use, had to switch to an Airbus, for with the union of Chrysler and Daimler he had become the largest single private investor in the Airbus consortium. More to the point, after the Germans "took control over an American icon," they found themselves heading an unwieldy entity that may in the end do damage both to the Mercedes and the Chrysler brands (and one that, in any event, "did not make any money for shareholders on either side of the Atlantic Ocean").

Sometimes breathlessly narrated but always interesting, this is a solid work of popular business reporting.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-17305-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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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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