Close on the heels of Richard John Neuhaus's Doing Well and Doing Good (p. 970) and George Weigel's The Final Revolution (p. 1247): yet another neoconservative study of Catholic teachings on economic freedom and social justice. Like Neuhaus, Novak (Freedom with Justice, 1984, etc.) concentrates on Pope John Paul II's seminal 1991 encyclical, Centessimus Annus. For Novak, the Pope's message is clear: political and economic liberty go hand-in-hand. Thus, capitalism has it over socialism—but this is a new form of capitalism, guided by religious imperatives to help the poor. Although Novak seconds Neuhaus on this analysis, many other observers don't, believing the Pope to be forwarding a third economic system, perhaps akin to Chesterton's distributism, as an moral alternative to both capitalism and socialism. In any case, for Novak, the ``Catholic ethic'' is sharply distinct from the famous ``Protestant ethic'' of Max Weber, in which making money is life's chief goal. The main difference, says Novak, is that Catholicism sees creativity rather than gross materialism as the soul of capitalism. He traces the evolution of this view through a hundred years of papal writings, culminating in John Paul's view of human beings as ``persons'' in the image of God, endowed with absolute rights to freedom and justice. From this airy perch, Novak descends into the nitty-gritty, offering suggestions for implementing the new capitalism. In Latin America, the poor must be given their share of power. In the US, he calls for welfare reform (letting welfare recipients gather nest eggs); parental responsibility; a campaign to shame the media, which promotes moral decay; universal home ownership; and, above all, an awareness that America's greatness lies in Jeffersonian values rather than in moral relativism. An attractive moral/economic vision, intelligently argued—but will it fly?

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-923235-X

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1992

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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