MASTERS OF ILLUSION

THE WORLD BANK AND THE POVERTY OF NATIONS

A damning audit of the World Bank, which the author charges has failed to live up to either the limited purposes envisioned by its founders or the broader ambitions of latter-day administrators. Drawing on a wealth of sources, journalist Caufield (Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age, 1989, etc.) offers a harsh critique of the multilateral institution created in 1944 to fund the economic recovery of nations ravaged by WW II and to make loans to less developed countries unable to secure credit from commercial banks. Providing an ad hoc history of the World Bank via unsparing evaluation of the men who have headed it (Eugene Black, Robert McNamara, A.W. Clausen, et al.), she documents the evolution of an arrogant, secretive, and incompetent bureaucracy that in all too many instances has done more harm than good. Cases in point include bank-backed infrastructure enterprises in Africa, rural India, and the Amazon rainforest, which have wreaked environmental havoc and displaced multitudes of indigenous peoples. The author goes on to argue that the WB's predilection for megabuck lending has further impoverished already poor nations, in large measure because it has confused growth with economic development. Addressed as well are the reasons why the largely unaccountable institution (which seldom reviews the work it has financed) seems to prefer dealing with authoritarian regimes whose records on human rights leave much to be desired. While the bank's brief has expanded in recent years to encompass education and health care, the author shows that it has done precious little to advance social welfare in client countries. Nor, she concludes, has the WB made any discernible progress toward its stated objective of alleviating, if not eliminating, poverty throughout the Global Village. A tellingly detailed tract that could spark a new debate as to whether the World Bank is of any earthly use as presently organized.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-2875-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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 timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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