Gripping material, dramatically told.

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THE REAL THING

TRUTH AND POWER AT THE COCA-COLA COMPANY

How Coca-Cola won the world with a century of hard work, then almost lost everything in a few years.

New York Times reporter Hays, who covered the company for five years, ably makes the point that there’s no comparison for the emotional connection that people in America and around the world have with a Coke. Aiming in her booklength debut for a social history of the beverage and those who built a corporation around it, Hays initially seems to be taking a rather haphazard approach, jumping from the 1990s, when the Coca-Cola Company was at the pinnacle of its power, back to the late-19th century, when Coke was just another of the syrups that could be mixed at a soda fountain counter. Early on, the author hits home two key points: (1) there was always conflict between the Coca-Cola Company, which simply sold the concentrate, and the bottlers, who actually made and sold the drink, and (2) company executives were by and large an obsessed bunch. The earlier point is less ably handled; Hays seems to be setting up a moment of confrontation between the bottlers and Coke headquarters, but it never quite materializes. She does better at establishing the personalities of the main corporate players from the 1970s through the ’90s, especially Dan Keough, a fierce but paternalistic figure nicknamed “The Irish Wind” for his temper, and Roberto Goizueta, an aristocratic Cuban émigré so beloved by employees that tears were copiously shed upon his unexpected death in 1997. She also recounts with a proper sense of tragedy the sad blunders of the last few years that have practically unmade the company—the discrimination lawsuit, the bottling plant scares in Europe, and the layoffs that hit Atlanta like a hurricane—showing a once-unbeatable monolith knocked down to size. Can it be that Coke is now just another soft-drink manufacturer?

Gripping material, dramatically told.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2004

ISBN: 0-375-50562-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2003

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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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