A useful introduction to a vast, complex topic.

THE RELENTLESS REVOLUTION

A HISTORY OF CAPITALISM

For the general reader, a survey of the origins and growth of capitalism.

As the most tumultuous economic year in decades winds down, those predicting—or hoping for—capitalism’s demise would do well to consult eminent historian Appleby (A Restless Past: History and the American Public, 2005, etc.). As her readable, almost conversational history demonstrates, capitalism, throughout nearly 400 years, has shown a remarkable resilience and capacity for constant adaptation and reinvention. However, writes the author, there was nothing destined or inevitable about its emergence. Adam Smith notwithstanding, there exists no natural human disposition to produce, sell or buy. Rather, capitalism was a historical development arising because of unprecedented convergence in 17th-century England of agricultural improvements, global exploration and scientific discoveries. These advances enabled entrepreneurs to throw off centuries of custom and to transform society in ways that favored the imperatives and strategies of private investment and later empowered them to shape political and social institutions to their demands. Appleby sustains this emphasis on capitalism as a cultural, not merely economic system, charting the imitations of “the English miracle,” first in the Netherlands and then in Germany and America. By the end of the 19th century, she writes, capitalism had demonstrated its capacity to assure unparalleled abundance, but also revealed its wastefulness, rapaciousness and heedlessness about long-term consequences for people and the environment. As the narrative turns to the 20th century, Appleby rushes to cover the effects and implications of two world wars, the Great Depression, the labor movement, scientific management, the technological revolution and the expansion of capitalism in a variety of diverse social contexts, including most recently in India and China. Whether masterfully discussing the significance of agricultural progress that made capitalism possible, or touching lightly on the impact of Amazon and e-mail, Appleby offers consistently illuminating commentary.

A useful introduction to a vast, complex topic.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-06894-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2009

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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