More literate and convincing than most of its kind: a good candidate for business-minded readers seeking something for...

NAPOLEON’S GLANCE

THE GENIUS OF STRATEGY

Pop business meets military and intellectual history in this intriguing study of strategizing as a habit of being.

Look for red hats in a crowd, writes former Ford Foundation executive and Columbia Business School visiting professor Duggan, and you’ll almost certainly find them. That “confirmation bias” poses a danger for anyone reading the historical record to look for patterns—but, he gamely remarks, it also shows, at the very least, “that red hats exist.” The red hat here is Duggan’s overarching notion of Napoleon’s famed coup d’oeil—the telling glance, or, as the German strategist von Clausewitz defined it, “the rapid discovery of a truth which to the ordinary mind is not visible at all or only becomes so after long examination and reflection.” For Napoleon, the key to success was to study in close detail and replay battles of the past, looking for the critical moment at which the certainty of victory became apparent and seeking to re-create that moment in the present; his theorizing yielded the doctrine, studied by military officers ever since, that the successful leader will, in the words of former NATO commander Wesley Clark, “bring the enemy to battle at the time and place of your choosing, where you had the advantage and could finish him.” By Duggan’s account, not only generals benefit from that coup d’oeil: Pablo Picasso had the knack, and it enabled him to maneuver his talents onto ground carefully prepared by the likes of Henri Matisse, just as Martin Luther King Jr. was able to read the scent of change on the wind and, with the aid of many an unsung lieutenant, move the civil-rights struggle to more favorable ground. Duggan sometimes stretches the facts a bit to suit his thesis, but with no harm done, and he turns up plenty of fruitful case studies—including a few pleasant surprises, such as his inventive reading of a medieval African epic and his revisionist take on the publican Saul’s self-reinvention as the disciple Paul on the road to Damascus.

More literate and convincing than most of its kind: a good candidate for business-minded readers seeking something for airplane or nightstand.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-56025-457-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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