An enormously erudite and provocative history of how wealth and power became so unevenly distributed between the West and the rest of the world. How did China, years ahead of Europe in technology and exploration, lose its advantage in the 17th century? What led Great Britain to set the pace for the Industrial Revolution? Why have Latin America, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa lagged behind more developed nations? Such questions, while of momentous import, hold potential for both political correctness and Western chauvinism. In truth, Landes (emeritus professor of history at Harvard; Revolution in Time, 1983) verges close to the latter. Yet one cannot help admiring his breadth of scholarship as he glides smoothly through geography, religion, economics, technology, politics, and war. Western Europe (and later America), he contends, led the way in economic progress because of its curiosity, toleration, and loose restraints on commerce, while other areas fell behind because of xenophobia, religious intolerance, bureaucratic corruption, and state edicts that stifled enterprise. He details, for instance, how Moghul misrule enabled Robert Clive to find a Hindu ally who helped him seize India, and how Argentina, despite abundant natural resources, fostered a low rate of savings and fell into a pattern of dependency on Europe and America. Landes's examples are dense in detail, yet he also leavens his arguments with elegant ironies (e.g., on Ottoman encouragement of enterprise by minority communities: ``In despotisms, it is dangerous to be rich without power''). However, while Landes labels as ``groupthink'' some historians' objections to capitalism, imperialism, and the ``Black Legend'' of conquistador misrule, he also ignores questions that call into doubt his contention that toleration spawns innovation (e.g., British hostility to Catholics did not impede progress in the U.K., nor did the kaiser's authoritarianism retard Germany's industrialization before WW I). Sometimes too airily dismissive of legitimate challenges, for all that, never less than scintillating, witty, and brilliant.

Pub Date: March 16, 1998

ISBN: 0-393-04017-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


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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