Readable and near-comprehensive. Those inclined to anticapitalist views may take issue with Muller’s assurances that things...

THE MIND AND THE MARKET

CAPITALISM IN MODERN EUROPEAN THOUGHT

A thoughtful study of European responses, pro and con, to the steady ascent of capital, and of an intellectual preoccupation with the capitalist economy that has endured for centuries.

For many European intellectuals, whether of the right or left or somewhere in between, the rise of capitalism meant the death of traditional values, the disappearance of civic virtue, and the extinction of the willingness to defer gratification. “The question of the market—of its moral significance, of its social, political, cultural, and economic ramifications” has been at the center of European thought for generations, outweighing older concerns over the great chain of being and the proper relation of men and the gods; so, too, has the complex of issues that now fall under the general rubric of “globalization,” which has troubled European philosophers and reformers since at least the time of Hegel, never mind Marx and his followers. So Muller (History/Catholic Univ.) shows in this sturdy work of intellectual history, which nicely balances the thought of anti-capitalist writers (Marx, Lukács, Marcuse, Proudhon, Bourdieu) with that of those who found good things to say about “an economy in which production for trade became more significant than production for subsistence” (Voltaire, Smith, Burke, Hayek, Schumpeter). Their interest, for or against, was well placed, Muller writes, for the quest for wealth and creature comforts has undoubtedly grown to fill every niche of modern life, illustrating “the ability of the capitalist market to co-opt and incorporate a remarkable range of preferences, trends, tastes, and identities”—so that, for instance, a product such as Coca-Cola can be sold to Hitler youth or the children of May ’68 with only a little tweaking of slogans, and so that the very process of capitalism can increasingly lure the “able and energetic toward business” and keep just about everyone’s mind, Sorbonne-trained or not, focused on economic activity.

Readable and near-comprehensive. Those inclined to anticapitalist views may take issue with Muller’s assurances that things seem to go better with free markets, but his far-reaching survey provides grist for many mills.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41411-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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