THE ROARING NINETIES

A NEW HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S MOST PROSPEROUS DECADE

Likely to cause indigestion among some Wall Streeters, but a thoughtful, accessible survey of a history that’s still...

A best-of-times, worst-of-times overview of the previous decade by whip-smart economist and presidential advisor Stiglitz (Economics/Columbia Univ.; Globalization and Its Discontents, 2002).

Adam Smith’s playing field–leveling invisible hand, observes Stiglitz, sometimes can’t be seen because it is in fact not there. So it seemed through much of the 1990s, which saw American capitalism claw its way up staggering new heights of inequity and avarice. Take the stock market’s ever more pronounced dislike, throughout the decade, of giving the small investor an even break with equal access to intelligence, about which Stiglitz remarks, “Unfettered markets, rampant with conflicts of interest, can lead to inefficiency. We can never eliminate the problems; we can, however, mitigate them. In the nineties, we made them worse.” Some of the ways in which the economy was made worse, Stiglitz writes, were political in nature; the Clinton administration, which he served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisors, failed to get a handle on such things as funny corporate accounting practices and the endless corporate appropriation of the public domain. Fault Clinton Stiglitz does, and at many points as he turns from NAFTA to the WTO to the Enron scandal and on. Yet, he warns, it is a mistake to attribute to that administration the collapse of the great bubble and the dive into recession that closed the decade: though Clinton may earn middling marks, Stiglitz slyly notes, as a teacher he grades on a curve, and Clinton positively shines by comparison with what came before and after. That collapse brought with it the evaporation of trillions and a subsequent performance well below the economy’s potential—but no real curbing of such matters as executive compensation, merger mania, and unemployment. Contra many of his colleagues, Stiglitz calls for more rather than less regulation, noting that the bursting bubble did bring at least some useful reforms in accounting practices and the public disclosure of information.

Likely to cause indigestion among some Wall Streeters, but a thoughtful, accessible survey of a history that’s still unfolding.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-05852-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

Categories:
Close Quickview