RESPECT

AN EXPLORATION

A simple, stunning study of the power of respect to forge salutary bonds between unlikely partners. Lawrence-Lightfoot, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (I—ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation,1994), offers penetrating portraits of six individuals in sundry professions who share the ability to traverse social and economic barriers in reaching others. Lawrence-Lightfoot focuses not only on the extraordinary work that these people do, but on their personal backgrounds and possible motivating factors, as well. Jennifer Dohrn, a nurse-midwife, directs a Childbearing Center that she founded in New York City’s South Bronx. Determined to empower poor women who have been neglected by traditional medicine, Dohrn oversees a staff of seven midwives, along with staffers who serve as liaisons to the community. The key to Dohrn’s success is her admiration and respect for the struggling families she meets daily. And the support that she offers others helps restore her after the painful death of her activist husband, who was killed in Cape Town, South Africa. Just as Dohrn encourages the women with whom she interacts to question authority, Kay Cottle similarly challenges her middle and high school students. Willing to take risks and share personal stories with young people, Cottle successfully forges a bond with them that allows them to share their experiences and insights in return. In her respect for her students, Cottle constantly tries new approaches that “urge students to confront ideas from a variety of perspectives and appeal to a number of senses.” While most of the professionals portrayed came from educated, nurturing backgrounds, there are exceptions. Bill Wallace, an Episcopal priest, pastoral psychotherapist, and AIDS activist, attributes his caring for the disenfranchised to his having grown up in chaos within a distressed family. Replete with a bibliography entitled “Some Roots of Respect” (with source materials as diverse as Shakespeare, Buber, Kant and contemporary therapists on self-esteem), Lawrence-Lightfoot’s elegantly written study enlightens and invigorates. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7382-0093-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Perseus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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