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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Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.

THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

THE RUTHLESS VERSUS THE REST OF US

From the author of The Myth of Sanity (2001), a remarkable philosophical examination of the phenomenon of sociopathy and its everyday manifestations.

Readers eager for a tabloid-ready survey of serial killers, however, will be disappointed. Instead, Stout (Psychiatry/Harvard Medical School) busies herself with exploring the workaday lives and motivations of those garden-variety sociopaths who are content with inflicting petty tyrannies and small miseries. As a practicing therapist, she writes, she has spent the past 25 years aiding the survivors of psychological trauma, most of them “controlled and psychologically shattered by individual human perpetrators, often sociopaths.” Antisocial personality disorder, it turns out, occurs in around four percent of the population, so it’s not too surprising that treating their victims has kept Stout quite busy for the past quarter-century. Employing vivid composite character sketches, the author introduces us to such unsavory characters as a psychiatric administrator who specializes in ingratiating herself with her office staff while making her patients feel crazier; a captain of industry who killed frogs as a child and is now convinced he can outsmart the SEC; and a lazy ladies’ man who marries purely to gain access to his new wife’s house and pool. These portraits make a striking impact, and readers with unpleasant neighbors or colleagues may find themselves paying close attention to Stout’s sociopathic-behavior checklist and suggested coping strategies. In addition to introducing these everyday psychopaths, the author examines why the rest of us let them get away with murder. She extensively considers the presence or absence of conscience, as well as our discomfort with questioning those seen as being in power. Stout also ponders our willingness to quash our inner voice when voting for leaders who espouse violence and war as a solution to global problems—pointed stuff in a post-9/11 political climate.

Deeply thought-provoking and unexpectedly lyrical.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-7679-1581-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2004

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Hiccups aside, a mostly valuable compendium of irrational thinking, with a handful of blanket corrective maneuvers.

THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY

A waggish, cautionary compilation of pitfalls associated with systematic cognitive errors, from novelist Dobelli.

To be human is to err, routinely and with bias. We exercise deviation from logic, writes the author, as much as, and possibly more than, we display optimal reasoning. In an effort to bring awareness to this sorry state of affairs, he has gathered here—in three-page, anecdotally saturated squibs—nearly 100 examples of muddied thinking. Many will ring familiar to readers (Dobelli’s illustrations are not startlingly original, but observant)—e.g., herd instinct and groupthink, hindsight, overconfidence, the lack of an intuitive grasp of probability or statistical reality. Others, if not new, are smartly encapsulated: social loafing, the hourly rate trap, decision fatigue, carrying on with a lost cause (the sunk-cost fallacy). Most of his points stick home: the deformation of professional thinking, of which Mark Twain said, “If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems will be nails”; multitasking is the illusion of attention with potentially dire results if you are eating a sloppy sandwich while driving on a busy street. In his quest for clarity, Dobelli mostly brings shrewdness, skepticism and wariness to bear, but he can also be opaque—e.g., shaping the details of history “into a consistent story...we speak about ‘understanding,’ but these things cannot be understood in the traditional sense. We simply build the meaning into them afterward.” Well, yes. And if we are to be wary of stories, what are we to make of his many telling anecdotes when he counsels, “Anecdotes are a particularly tricky sort of cherry picking....To rebuff an anecdote is difficult because it is a mini-story, and we know how vulnerable our brains are to those”?

Hiccups aside, a mostly valuable compendium of irrational thinking, with a handful of blanket corrective maneuvers.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-221968-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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