A quietly hopeful spin on an economic process that has proved tremendously dislocating for a generation and more of workers.

TEMP

HOW AMERICAN WORK, AMERICAN BUSINESS, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM BECAME TEMPORARY

A revealing study of the “gig economy,” which, though it seems new, has long antecedents.

Speaking in the middle of a major recession, an entrepreneur named Elmer Winter told an audience of business executives that the complacent world of lifetime employment and job security would soon come to a screeching halt, the victim of rising labor costs and the need to compete globally. Winter’s speech, Hyman (Economic History/Cornell Univ.; Borrow: The American Way of Debt, 2012, etc.) slyly notes, came not in 2018 but in 1958, at the beginning of an era in which corporations began to transform into cash conduits meant to funnel quarterly dividends into the hands of shareholders rather than building carefully with an eye to the long term. In that scenario, the old values of workforce stability and risk minimization gave way to a different way of doing business, one in which layers of temporary workers were as important in commerce as adjunct faculty would become in academia. A principal driver in the transformation was the electronics business, which, as it morphed into the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, needed to be able to hire on the spot, let people go when demand slacked, and otherwise be nimble enough to change product lines quickly. Hyman, who writes engagingly, observes that this is not necessarily good nor bad; it’s just as it is. However, he does foresee trends that may improve conditions for consultants, freelancers, and temporary workers: Disintermediating technology will allow workers to position themselves in the marketplace. “Right now we are too fixated on upskilling coal miners into data miners,” writes the author. “We should instead be showing people how to get work via platforms like Upwork and Etsy with their existing skills.” Provided, one assumes, that Etsy is recruiting coal miners….

A quietly hopeful spin on an economic process that has proved tremendously dislocating for a generation and more of workers.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2407-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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