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Tip this book. Pour some of its bracing tonic into your hands. Slap it on your face. Ah, you needed that.

Editor’s note:  The long-serving, indefatigable Peter Lewis prefaced his review of One Market Under God, by Thomas Frank, with this rare but powerfully persuasive note:  “Important book below.  Send it to the inside front cover piece, by jiminy.”  And so, by jiminy, here it is:

            From social critic Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler, the legendary magazine of high-culture criticism:  a refreshing, salubrious argument that says nay to all the snake-oil about free-market super-democracy.             The New Economy, Frank makes abundantly and maddeningly clear, is in actuality a “tableaux of greed, legislative turpitude, and transparently self-serving sophistry.”  Yet this new market is packaged and sold as a medium of consent as much as exchange, as a far more democratic venue than government, a force battling elitism and cynicism, leveling the playing field, bestowing and protecting.  The market is where we are fully human, we hear, where we reveal our souls.  Beware nationalization, regulation, and union troublemaking, for all snakes in this garden of economic delight where the sons of toil are welcome and the entrepreneur is god.  Well, don’t buy this bill of goods, Frank advises.  He proceeds, simply, elegantly, in writing that’s fervent and aware – in the hip world but not of it – to debunk all this nonsense.  The market is not inherently democratic, he says, agog at the very notion (and he’s no political radical):  “the logic of business is coercion, monopoly, and the destruction of the weak, not ‘choice’ or ‘service’ or universal affluence.”  Democratic prosperity has never coexisted amid unbridled free markets, but only amid markets with countervailing forces built in to resist the imperatives of profit, and with progressive unions and elected officials to keep a protective eye out for the poor, the strange, the marginalized.  And yet now, remarkably and grotesquely, a combination of forces has acted to drape the free market in a cloak of kindness and respectability.   Frank charts the constellation of populist symbols and words that equate it with the will of the people and that are spouted by academic flacks, by journalists from Rush Limbaugh to Wired magazine, politicians from Clinton to Gingrich, and management theorists from Walter Wriston to Tom Peters, whose pronouncements grow ever more bombastic in direct proportion to the enfeeblement of checks on the market.  Far from a bastion of democracy, Frank points out, the free market of the 1990s brought about a decline in real wages, job security, and benefits, not to mention a disparity in income distribution that should be experienced as shame rather than awe.  So much for the social contract, human rights, the future.

            Tip this book.  Pour some of its bracing tonic into your hands.  Slap it on your face.  Ah, you needed that.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-49503-X

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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