Useful, business-minded reporting on an unconventional corporate magnate, containing both corporate and human-interest...

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ALIBABA

THE HOUSE THAT JACK MA BUILT

A study of the multibillion-dollar Chinese e-commerce conglomerate and its charismatic founder.

Technology and financial expert Clark astutely profiles Jack Ma, the 51-year-old entrepreneur behind Alibaba, “the Amazon of China” that has become the world’s largest online shopping mall. Having met Ma in 1999, the author recalls the former English lecturer’s remarkably ambitious spirit and his intentions to overthrow the giants of Silicon Valley with the development of an unrivaled Internet-based business. Ma was backed by only a small handful of co-founders (his wife included), but the author pitched in and became an adviser to Alibaba in its infancy as it developed and gained a competitive edge through what Ma calls the “iron triangle” business plan: e-commerce, logistics, and finance, all of which Clark outlines in lucid detail. Further embellishing his portrait, the author also draws on his 20-year tenure living and working in China, and he shows the great impact of the multifaceted online experience on the country’s financial and cultural climates. Clark cites the 2008 global financial crisis as the tipping point when China’s economic focus turned inward to boost its own economy instead of primarily exporting goods overseas. Alibaba took the lead, launching itself with an online payment system and a host of subsidiary sites, which attracted small businesses to sell merchandise through their Web portals with no fees. Noting that the company remains governed by a “customer first, employees second, and shareholders third” philosophy, Clark contrasts Alibaba’s camaraderie-centered campus culture, including employee incentives and commitment awards, with its initial struggle to find startup investors and earn commercial credibility. The author frequently highlights Ma’s quirky, often contrarian personality and risk-taking management style. A particularly vigorous chapter on the struggle between Alibaba and e-commerce titans eBay and Yahoo for profitability and marketplace saturation in China dramatically demonstrates the volatility and competitiveness between businesses seeking to harness Internet consumerism.

Useful, business-minded reporting on an unconventional corporate magnate, containing both corporate and human-interest perspectives.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-241340-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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