INVASION OF THE SALARYMEN

THE JAPANESE BUSINESS PRESENCE IN AMERICA

From Sullivan (Univ. of Washington Business School): a study that's part exploration of the role of Japanese corporations in American life, part critique of the current US-Japan dialogue, part how-to for Americans working for Japanese managers—and far too meandering and diffuse to offer a proper treatment of its many subjects. America's view of Japan, according to Sullivan, is polarized between the ``bashers'' and the ``apologists.'' The author attempts to critique both schools, along with their popular incarnations, and to formulate a middle ground. From a macro-perspective, he argues that the US has no reason to fear Japan or Japanese investment. Sullivan amasses a broad battery of figures and assertions, ranging from the fact that the US is generally a more productive nation than Japan to a full-scale assault on Japanese institutions as ``second-rate'' and responsive only to ``narrow constituencies,'' and on the Japanese business community (its ``oligopolization'' places Japanese companies at a competitive disadvantage in the fiercely contested US market, Sullivan contends). On a micro-level, the author similarly attempts to demystify and detoxify the negative image of Japanese ``salarymen'': He declares that Japan's universities churn out ``amazingly ignorant'' and ``lazy'' entry-level workers who are unprepared for their stints in the US. Sullivan concludes that because most salarymen like the lifestyles they lead in the US, many will become Americanized, helping Japan achieve internationalization. While the notion of translating the salaryman's motivations and behaviors for an American audience is intriguing, Sullivan's analysis is too often fraught with broad generalizations and sweeping leaps of logic, many of which don't ring true (e.g., that the American business press gets much of its information about Japan from ``Japanese propaganda mills''). While Sullivan is right to decry the gap in the current literature on Japan, he fails to stake out new territory here.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-275-94404-2

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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