A radical diagnosis and a bold prognostication bound to energize progressives.

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POSTCAPITALISM

A GUIDE TO OUR FUTURE

Capitalism, writes a British journalist/broadcaster, verges now on self-destruction, and he forecasts an economic future quite unlike any we’ve known.

Predicting the end of capitalism is a game at least as old as Karl Marx, but Mason (Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, 2012, etc.) reminds us that this socio-economic system has not always been with us and, despite its remarkable adaptability, carries with it no guarantee of perpetuity. Old arrangements that ordered the feudal era, after all, collapsed, and something similar may be happening today, requiring us to abandon accepted notions about markets, supply and demand, property ownership and exchange, and “the old relationship between wages, work, and profit.” From a forthrightly leftist perspective, Mason analyzes the external forces—principally income inequality and climate change—and the internal contradictions eroding capitalism as we know it. These he traces to information technology, an unprecedented development that reduces the need for work, corrodes market mechanisms accustomed to scarcity rather than abundance, and features collaborative production of goods and services. The transformation to post-capitalism, he writes, will not be led by the old-model, industrial-laboring class but rather midwifed by the “values, voices, and morals” of a networked generation, connected people who today operate in the interstices of the current system and who tomorrow will replace it. Even readers not quite persuaded will appreciate Mason’s readable, reportorial style, his use of a wide range of economists, business gurus, and economic thinkers to help support his thesis, and his deft treatment of sometimes-difficult economic theories. He’s especially good on the Stalin-era “wave-theory” economist Nikolai Kondratieff, and he shines an eye-opening light on Marx’s 1858 Fragment on Machines (unpublished in English till 1973), which hints at a “route out of capitalism” similar to Mason’s own.

A radical diagnosis and a bold prognostication bound to energize progressives.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-23554-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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 deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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