FRUIT FIELDS IN MY BLOOD

OKIE MIGRANTS IN THE WEST

Absorbing memoir/history of migrant work and workers by anthropologist Sonneman, herself a former migrant worker. Though a drop-out from mainstream society who worked in orchards and citrus groves for 15 years, Sonneman puts her social- science education to good use in this humane, unsentimental, and thorough study of near-poverty in America's agricultural community. Weaving together personal experience, anecdotes, and research gathered since 1973, Sonneman and her husband, Rick Steigmeyer (who took many of the book's 173 b&w photographs), create a tapestry of words, pictures, feelings, and historical facts, evoking with an almost tribal grasp of its values the way of life of migrant pickers. Presented here, along with the beauty of early mornings and a real sense of freedom, are suspicious townspeople, rural police, and filthy toilets. And good history: the text offers a bridge to the Great Depression and abounds with Okie observations, wit, and values—a submerged tradition in danger of disappearing with the advent of illegal immigrants who will work for even less. Through it all run the themes of exploitation, industrialization, labor-union failure, and the driving away from the earth of people close to it. Speaking of the old-timers, migrant-worker Walter Williams observes that ``pride was the thing that kept them going in the face of the shame they may have felt.'' That shame is the shame of the poor in a commercial culture; Sonneman's migrants are people for whom money, retirement plans, and insurance have less magic than work, community, and the land. For an anthropologist to identify so with a group under study raises ethical considerations, but Sonneman's very committed text passes the test. Where it differs from 30's writing is in its lack of drive, fire, and eloquence: The social scientist in Sonneman makes her an accurate, detached observer—good enough to win a citation of merit from the Western States Book Awards—but doesn't produce memorable writing.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-89301-151-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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