A brief but wide-ranging primer on an increasingly hot topic.



An expertly detailed synopsis of a major shift in the global corporate environment toward pairing profitability with a moral mission.

According to Rodin and debut author Madsbjerg, the world of commerce has recently undergone a seismic shift, the kind that promises to refashion the very nature of capitalism. While social responsibility was once understood as exhausted in the maximization of shareholder value, an idea forcefully articulated by Milton Friedman, now the trend is to interpret making money and doing good as necessary partners or, as the authors put it, to “make money moral.” Linking purpose and profit is burgeoning in the world of investment: “In sustainable and impact investing, the financial resources and expertise of the money managers are what enable large-scale capital flows to be directed toward solving global challenges—social and environmental issues that the problem solvers are working to fix.” A confluence of events—including the rise of aggressive activism, increasing awareness of systemic problems like income inequality, and the devastation wrought by Covid-19—engendered a more enlightened “conscious consumerism” and a corporate world ready to respond to their demands. Regarding investing, this entails a collaboration between money managers (the whole cosmos of asset managers) and problem-solvers (governmental and nonprofit)—a sometimes fraught partnership thoughtfully addressed by the authors. Rodin and Madsbjerg write from extensive experience, and it shows—the former was the president of The Rockefeller Foundation, the latter, its managing director. They cover the subject with impressive thoroughness and pragmatism, conceding that the line between the hunt for justice and the one for financial growth can be difficult to discern and that the moral advocacy of some organizations should be construed “with a degree of skepticism.” One still wishes this central issue was considered at greater length and with less hyperbolic optimism. Nevertheless, this is an edifying study—and an engaging introduction to the subject.

A brief but wide-ranging primer on an increasingly hot topic.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61363-110-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Wharton School Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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. 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.


“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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