An intriguing, somewhat philosophically tinged attack aimed at showing a certain ideological view of economics as “religious...

THE GOLDEN CALF

ECONOMISM AND AMERICAN POLICY

Another book sets out to explain some of the mechanisms behind the current financial situation—but with an interesting twist all its own.

Going from the roots of the Evangelical movement through Puritanism in America and up to the current state of economic thought, Brody presents an engaging read about how much of what is being passed off as economics today, rather than being actual economics, is what he calls (following Des Gasper) “economism.” A subject distinct from economics, economism is about economics as a disguised religion. From the Irish Potato Famine through today's public policies, our current economic situation, the role economism played in the 2008 recession and even a detour through Intelligent Design (used primarily as an analogy for economism), Brody paints a picture of economism as a religious cult disguised as economics. Which is, after all, his goal for the book—to show economism as a “category mistake,” or a mistake of using one logical category where a different category should be used. Various themes are brought up and woven throughout: religion, poverty, layoffs and health care, to name a few. Notable among the recurring themes is Brody's issue with supply-side economics, particularly Milton Friedman and the “Chicago Boys.” And though he is not himself an economist, his writing reveals an understanding of the principles behind economics and public policies, using analogies throughout to give substance to his thoughts. Almost every chapter starts with some sort of anecdote that highlights a mistake that has been made by economists or politicians and ends with a plethora of notes and sources.  

An intriguing, somewhat philosophically tinged attack aimed at showing a certain ideological view of economics as “religious faith, dressed up as if it were science.”

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463762759

Page Count: 240

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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