A sharp contribution to a significant topic that continues to generate heated discussion and debate.



A tour d’horizon of the historical relationship among race, racism, and mental illness.

Although Gilman (Liberal Arts and Sciences and Psychiatry/Emory Univ.; Seeing the Insane, 2013, etc.) and Thomas (Sociology/Univ. of Mississippi; Working to Laugh: Assembling Difference in American Stand-Up Comedy Venues, 2015, etc.) journey as far back as the Enlightenment, the meat of their investigation covers the period from the 19th century to the present—and the meat is occasionally chewy, with demands placed on readers to be conversant with, say, “the crowd as a forensic concept has its origins in the Lombrosian criminal psychiatry.” Nonetheless, in the authors’ tracking of the great shift from pathologizing race to pathologizing racism, they cut through a broad swath of theorists, many of whom will be known to general readers. Furthermore, the clear, spot-on summations of the familiar theorists allow readers a measure of comfort in the treatment of less-known theorists (until the necessary supplementary reading can be done). Throughout, it’s clear that what galls Gilman and Thomas is the expropriation of the subject by one branch of learning or another, juggling among medicine, sociology, biology, and psychiatry. Jews and blacks, understandably, are the subjects of much study, with the notion of race defined first in physiology, then the susceptibility of disease, and then the inability to find social adaptation. Ultimately, scientific racism moves “from overwhelmingly a biological condition to a socially constructed category.” Although the historical transit over the subject alone makes the book valuable, equally useful are the authors’ explorations of interiority, hatred, and crowd thinking. They examine Gabriel Tarde’s laws of imitation; how Wilhelm Reich bridged the gap between Karl Marx and Freud; and, most illuminatingly, “conjunction,” a “crisis between politics, science, and ideology...a period during which the different social, political, economic, and ideological contradictions that are at work in a society come together to give [racism] a specific shape.”

A sharp contribution to a significant topic that continues to generate heated discussion and debate.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4798-5612-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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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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