An intelligent, rigorous manifesto that could use more direction for action.

CREATING FREEDOM

THE LOTTERY OF BIRTH, THE ILLUSION OF CONSENT, AND THE FIGHT FOR OUR FUTURE

An impassioned social and political critique with glimmers of hope for change.

British artist and documentarian Martinez makes his literary debut writing on a theme taken up recently by writers such as economists Thomas Piketty and Joseph Stiglitz, journalist Bob Herbert, and activist Ralph Nader: inequality, injustice, greed, and entrenched power have undermined democracy and threaten the common good and the future of our planet. Because the forces that shape identity act so insidiously, individuals may feel they have freedom of choice; however, as the author insists, freedom is a delusion. In reality, we are manipulated by capitalism, which indoctrinates us to be consumers; the media, controlled by wealthy owners who make sure their own self-serving views are promoted; an electoral system hijacked by big donors and lobbyists; and an economy that benefits the wealthy with access to better education and resources. Our idea of freedom, Martinez argues, has been “expertly moulded to suit the interests of those with the power to shape it.” He devotes a third of the book to examining limits on “innate freedom,” which include the economic and social conditions into which a child is born, early nurturing and education, and “variations in genes and experience.” In Part 2, “The Illusion of Consent,” Martinez examines limits on political freedom from government institutions and policies, economic theories that endorse capitalism, and media that have spun “webs of deceit and secrecy” throughout society. To the author, “free market” is an oxymoron. His final section proposes ways “to change the game.” The arts, he says, can help us imagine a better future; equally important are individual “acts of courage, generosity and compassion.” Drawing on a wide range of sources, including political theory, philosophy, and the social sciences, Martinez argues earnestly and densely for an alternative to our “impoverished vision of humanity.” The choir to which he preaches, though, is likely to want more than a well-intentioned manifesto of familiar ideas; it will also want concrete suggestions for change.

An intelligent, rigorous manifesto that could use more direction for action.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-91164-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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 timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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