by Venkata Mohan ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 5, 2007
A secondary source primer that simply, but fairly, reworks previous analyses and critiques.
An Eastern writer describes, analyzes and critiques Western sociologists, thinkers and philosophers from the past and present.
Mohan’s book provides an overview of ideas, beliefs, concepts and theories from some of the most prominent sociological thinkers of the Western world. The summaries of each thinker’s ideas are presented clearly enough, but sometimes the coverage is uneven. The author is unabashed when stating Marx’s prominent place in such texts and offers Marx much more coverage than Durkheim, Comte, Weber and Parsons. Relative contemporaries, such as Mills and Goffman, are given even less attention. It is apparent that theorists such as Freud and Jung are covered less since their realm is more psychological, but the disproportionate coverage of the sociologists seems arbitrary. But considering the number of thinkers covered, this variation of coverage becomes acceptable. The descriptions of thought are often followed by Mohan’s evaluation of that thought, but the evaluations are not significantly distinguished from the descriptions, which makes it occasionally hard to differentiate between strict interpretation of a specific sociologist and Mohan’s impressions of that sociologist. The reader might also be at a loss to determine the context and validity of any such evaluation since the author doesn’t seem to be formally trained in sociology (cited references and notes are from secondary sources and not the sociologists’ original works). The text is occasionally punctuated by some quirky, if not odd, comments, such as Parsons not being able to make it to heaven. This quirkiness, however, is not necessarily a drawback. The many cartoons and caricatures throughout the book underscore the author’s intellectual but wry approach. The suggested audience of reviewers of sociological thought or philosophy is fair enough, especially for those more interested in abstract writing. Mohan often offers concrete examples for such abstractions, but the text’s intention is not modern-day empiricism. Discussion of recent research is not included, so readers interested in this aspect might be better served with various academic texts.A secondary source primer that simply, but fairly, reworks previous analyses and critiques.
Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2007
Page Count: 284
Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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