A smartphone full monty that will appeal mostly to the device’s users—all 1.75 billion of them.

READ REVIEW

THE SMARTPHONE

ANATOMY OF AN INDUSTRY

An intricate dissection of the smartphone from technology reporter Woyke.

Even if you are not a smartphone user, the author’s comprehensive examination of the beguiling device is worth the effort. The author, a former Businessweek and Forbes staff writer, begins with the Motorola DynaTAC, which figures prominently in movies circa 1973 and looks as though someone is talking into a boot. Woyke then makes a quick jump from the cellphone to the smartphone, which runs on an open operating system and can host applications, with displays, browsers, email, cameras, and music and video players. All things considered, they are modern-day marvels, but Woyke maintains a serious, information-driven and no-nonsense tone in her writing. After a walk down Memory Lane—Simon, Palm Pilot, Handspring’s Treo 600 as the height of fashion—Woyke gets to the meat of the matter: “The smartphone wars are intense because the market is large and lucrative. Estimates of its size range between $250 billion and $350 billion, which is larger than the PC market and more than twice as large as the Internet advertising market, although both of those markets existed years before smartphones.” The author does a good job explaining the relationships among the makers, carriers and developers, and she delivers an engrossing chapter on design trends. Woyke also scrutinizes the working conditions of those employed to assemble smartphones, as well as the studies of health issues related to radiofrequency energy and the ever present problem surrounding privacy. The author presents an informed and intelligent “Smartphone Bill of Rights,” which includes such tenets as transparency, choice regarding software, keeping data collection to a minimum, squelching planned obsolescence and being fully apprised of the “makers’ policies toward laborers and the environment.”

A smartphone full monty that will appeal mostly to the device’s users—all 1.75 billion of them.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59558-963-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more