A passionate indictment of brutal workplace culture.

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LAB RATS

HOW SILICON VALLEY MADE WORK MISERABLE FOR THE REST OF US

How the tech industry, fueled by greed, is shaping workers’ experiences across the business world.

Lyons (Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble, 2016, etc.), a former staff writer for HBO’s Silicon Valley and technology editor at Newsweek, mounts a caustic critique of mercenary tech culture, which, he argues persuasively, is infiltrating many other businesses. “We have a new work culture,” he writes, “that celebrates overwork, exhaustion, and stress,” led by people who care about nothing but making money. “Instead of geeky engineers,” he writes, “the industry draws hustlers, young guys who hope to get rich quick,” financed by voracious venture capitalists. Most new startups “are terribly managed, half-assed outfits run by buffoons and bozos and frat boys, and funded by amoral investors who are only hoping to flip the company into the public markets and make a quick buck.” After the VC’s have taken their bounty, most startups never make a profit. But the author’s focus is less on the viability of startups than the fates of workers, who are mercilessly exploited and so desperate that some kill themselves. Among the many tech oligarchs he condemns is Jeff Bezos, “a modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge,” running sweatshops where workers do physically demanding jobs in unsafe environments, earn low wages, and are forced to be “permatemps” not entitled to benefits. Lyons cites four factors contributing to worker unhappiness: money (besides low wages, many big companies have raided their employees’ pension funds); job insecurity (rapid turnover is encouraged, and workers are fired for capricious reasons); constant, random changes, including instituting cultlike philosophies and demeaning workshops, classes, and role-playing games; and dehumanization, such as open office plans where employees have no privacy and endure constant surveillance of their emails, chats, website visits, and even bathroom breaks. The author ends with a note of optimism: his discovery of a “quiet movement” of responsible business leaders building worker-friendly, inclusive, and diverse companies; business courses that emphasize social responsibility; and socially conscious funding by “well-intentioned rich people.”

A passionate indictment of brutal workplace culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-56186-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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