A deeply thoughtful book about business management today and the nature of thought itself.

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UNDERSTANDING BUSINESS: THE LOGIC OF BALANCE

PART OF THE UNDERSTANDING SERIES OF BOOKS

A discussion of the Western obsession with rational deduction and its stranglehold on the business world. 

While working in China and trying to understand the country’s culture, Moreau (A Contemporary Tale of Human Connection, 2016, etc.) discovered a remarkable difference between Western and Eastern approaches to comprehending reality. Westerners cling to logical deduction, causal linearity, and binary choices. Eastern thought emphasizes inductive inference, circularity, and a harmony of opposites. Western rationality has, of course, borne considerable fruit, but it’s also often gratuitously limiting and even counterproductive. For example, an overemphasis on scientific deduction leads to false dilemmas, or the misperception that there are only two mutually exclusive choices available, while induction promotes a more holistic interpretation that prioritizes an equilibrium of competing alternatives. “This is the point of equilibrium, the center of balance between yin and yang, productivity and waste, return and loss,” writes Moreau. “It is here that all business should seek to reside, in a position of balance between data and instinct, between expectation and experience, between great innovation and folly.” The author uses this paradigm to diagnose a number of weaknesses with contemporary business management, including its narrow obsession with quantitative assessments of human behavior, a dogmatic attachment to processes that don’t work and tendentious rationalizations of them, and a deficit of intellectual diversity. Also, the insistence on deductive logic ultimately leads to a culture of intolerance and alienation. Moreau recommends his own fusion of induction and deduction—he calls it “indeduction”—which permits the two to operate independently of each other, providing a more synoptic picture than either could on its own. It’s no surprise that the author has more than 40 years of business experience. His observations are consistently nuanced and searching. Moreau adroitly braids a philosophical perspective with a managerial one, discussing Newtonian science and Taoism with as much confidence as employee reviews. The writing is unfailingly clear and avoids precisely the kind of turgid jargon he too often finds in the world of commerce. More than a guidebook for managers, this is a manifesto for an intellectually deeper—and happier—world of business. 

A deeply thoughtful book about business management today and the nature of thought itself. 

Pub Date: June 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5470-7473-0

Page Count: 188

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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

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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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