BREAKING UP AMERICA

ADVERTISERS AND THE NEW MEDIA WORLD

Here's the argument from media expert Turow (Annenberg School of Communications/Univ. of Penn.): The current price of targeting advertising to highly defined market segments is dividing the country into increasingly insular groups of people who care only about others like themselves. Turow (Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling, and Medical Power, 1989) shows how advertising has evolved from a force ``making a homogenous people out of a nation of immigrants,'' as one ad-agency president claimed in the 1920s, to an industry concerned only with making the most money in the most cost- effective manner—by targeting those most likely to purchase the product or service in question. Advertising in the 1950s and early '60s could be generalized as a broad-based pitch to the American people via dominant network television, major radio stations, and mainstream magazines. Since then, cable television has separated the TV audience into specialized viewing segments. Magazines preceded cable television in this regard. Mass-market media are now most useful in promoting products with wide appeal, such as fast food, soft drinks, and sneakers. Another, rather perverse use of mass marketing was employed recently by the Lamborghini automobile company. They advertised in large-circulation US magazines to let the majority of Americans know that their car was prohibitively expensive. This exclusivity would make the car more desirable to the 100 US buyers the company hoped ultimately to reach. Stories such as these keep one entertained throughout this brief, informative book. But Turow, after carefully setting up the facts in his case against the ad industry, never delivers the final blow. He suggests that in many instances advertisers were reacting to societal changes, not necessarily creating them. And he isn't convincing on the gravity of the implied loss of national community resulting from the lack of a shared ad culture. Will society really be worse off if we can't all sing the Oscar Mayer wiener song together? An intriguing book if you ignore its dramatic, somewhat unsubstantiated premise.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-226-81749-0

Page Count: 257

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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 deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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