A lively, informative look at the transformative potential of a mission-driven niche industry.

NATURAL PROPHETS

FROM HEALTH FOODS TO WHOLE FOODS—HOW THE PIONEERS OF THE INDUSTRY CHANGED THE WAY WE EAT AND RESHAPED AMERICAN BUSINESS

Marketer, management scholar and journalist Dobrow chronicles how natural and organic foods were transformed from the pursuit of a few idealists to a thriving, multibillion-dollar industry.

The author examines the whole food movement from the postwar period, when alarm bells began ringing about the proliferation of chemicals and nuclear waste. He traces its “philosophical but impractical development by idealistic children of the sixties” to the 1980s and ’90s, when an ambitious group of opportunists laid the foundation for “its current state as a bubbling crucible of mission-driven entrepreneurial activity.” Calling it “one of the great ironic twists in modern history,” Dobrow chronicles how the vision of the early counterculture, which embraced environmentalism but rejected the capitalist get-rich-quick ethos, was transformed into the successful business plan of “some of the most successful capitalists of our time.” In the process, the author introduces a fascinating cast of characters less well known than the heroes of Silicon Valley but arguably equally influential in transforming the way we live and work. Including the CEOs who put Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farm and Trader Joe’s on the map, they have made a “larger contribution to the health and sustainability of the planet and the humans who ride on it than just about anyone else in the modern era.” Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, one of the key players, typifies this group of mission-oriented business leaders. He has fostered a highly competitive leadership group with an eye to the bottom line while maintaining the quality of the produce on the shelves of an expanding empire of stores. Mergers, acquisitions, vertical organization with private labels and branding were all important. These days, conventional food manufacturers such as Quaker and Kraft are also marketing health foods, yet with “natural foods only represent[ing] 5 percent of total food sales,” there remains much to be done.

A lively, informative look at the transformative potential of a mission-driven niche industry.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62336-179-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Rodale

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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