PRINCE OF THE MAGIC KINGDOM

MICHAEL EISNER AND THE RE-MAKING OF DISNEY

Valiant Michael Eisner fights the mighty dragons of corporate takeovers, union demands, and executive complacency in this re- creation of the Disney rags-to-riches myth by a free-lance business journalist (Esquire, GQ, etc.)—this version livelier and more thoroughly researched than Ron Grover's The Disney Touch (p. 376). ``I like Michael Eisner,'' Flower admits in his introduction- -and this statement, in the face of Eisner's refusal to be interviewed (a refusal that many of his subordinates at Disney instantly echoed), offers a clue to the contradiction, which Flower finds fascinating, between personal charm and corporate ruthlessness in both the Disney Company and in Eisner himself. How can a business executive be charming, boyish, creative, and aggressive enough to spread the Disney presence around the globe (and up the prices of everything from its theme-park tickets to its stuffed Mickey Mouse dolls), yet manage to maintain Disney as one of the most popular and respected brand names on earth? Along his way of tracing Eisner's career from an assistant at ABC-TV to the rank of CEO at a desperately struggling Disney, Flower analyzes just what it is about the Disney perspective that makes its presence such a treasured part of American culture. He finds that luck has played a role in the nearly perfect match-up between a company identified with childlike optimism and the family-oriented, puppylike, yet ruthlessly ambitious Eisner. But will Disney weather the recession successfully? Certainly, says Flower, at least in the well-trodden areas of theme parks, films, and video—not necessarily, though, in the untried arenas of mainstream book publishing, restaurants, and retail merchandising. Would Disney do as well without Eisner at the helm? A tougher question to answer, Flower finds, given the vital nature of the Disney mythos and its brilliant expression in the person of its cheerful and determined CEO. A captivating tale with intimations—in this rendition—of a happy ending. (Fifteen photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 1991

ISBN: 0-471-52465-4

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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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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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