British journalist Downer has bitten off appreciably more than she can chew in this interpretive history of the house of Tsutsumi, one of the wealthiest and least conventional families in conformist Japan. Drawing on interviews (though not with the principals) and on the public record, the author offers a generation-spanning narrative more notable for its gushy, graceless style than for any insights into an upstart dynasty or the closed society in which, against the odds, it has prospered. In 1907, 18-year-old Yasujiro Tsutsumi quit his rural village for Tokyo. Despite a tangled personal life complicated by womanizing, the enterprising young man amassed a great fortune, with business interests (conducted under the Seibu corporate banner) ranging from railways through golf courses, hotels, and retail outlets. Japan's defeat in WW II proved a blessing in disguise for the go-getting Yasujiro, who snapped up property at distress prices. When he died in 1964, he left a vast empire and considerable political clout to two favored sons. The elder, Seiji, assumed nominal control but focused on making a name for himself in the department-store trade. By the mid-1970s, Yoshiaki (a chip off the old block) was ready to take his place at the head of the Seibu table, and the two brothers went their separate ways. Both are reportedly multibillionaires, and Yoshiaki ranks among the world's wealthiest individuals. Nearing 70, the less active Seiji appears to have reconciled with his sibling rival. The guessing game as to who might inherit what they have built has been under way for some time. At best, Downer has a shaky grasp of commerce, and she's given to tedious stretches of speculative chat on the relationships among members of the extended Tsutsumi clan. The Tsutsumis await a savvier Boswell to bring them to life.

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-42554-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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