An appealingly different view of employment based on what people actually do and not just statistics.

SHADOW WORK

THE UNPAID, UNSEEN JOBS THAT FILL YOUR DAY

Former Harvard Magazine deputy editor Lambert (Mind Over Water: Lessons on Life from the Art of Rowing, 1999) reviews the effects on the labor force of practices such as self-checkouts at grocery stores and how they are reducing the availability of entry-level jobs.

The author profiles how such changes tend to eliminate these jobs and consumers' own labor is used as a substitute for the lost employment. Lambert attributes the readiness to accept such increased burdens to a submissive “middle-class serfdom” produced from a work ethic of self-reliance. These days, shadow work “represents a major—and hidden—force shrinking the job market.” The shift, writes the author, is often based on consumers' lack of awareness, since “to get millions of people doing shadow work, it’s imperative to avoid consumer choice in the matter.” Do-it-yourself types of labor, undertaken voluntarily—at the gas station, a food-dispensing kiosk, or online at home—eliminate services that have been taken for granted, and the DIY movement is attractive to consumers seeking to reinvigorate their lifestyles. Downsizing, technological attrition through automation, and the outsourcing of the menial tasks of a business’s operations are some of the causes behind this global transformation for prospective employees and the unemployed—the author cites a World Economic Forum statistic that "young people aged 15 to 24 make up 17 percent of the global population but 40 percent of the unemployed." Lambert examines a variety of industries, including retail trade, food service and restaurants, airlines and travel, highlighting ongoing changes and their effects. Many of the jobs that are being replaced by shadow work are entry level. Without the entry-level jobs—e.g., bank teller, office secretary—the author wonders whether anyone will be able to build the skills necessary to work his or her way up the pyramid of opportunity.

An appealingly different view of employment based on what people actually do and not just statistics.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61902-525-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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