Book Reviews

Economic Policy & Sociology

ehrenreich.jpgEhrenreich examines the view from the American workforce’s bottom rung. She left behind her middle class life as a journalist except for $1000 in start-up funds, a car and her laptop computer to try to sustain herself on $7.00/hr. as a low-skilled worker for a month at a time. She worked as a waitress in Key West, Fla., a cleaning woman and a nursing home aide in Portland, Maine, and at Wal-Mart in Minneapolis, Minn. Once on the job, she endured constant surveillance and numbing harangues over infractions like serving a second roll and butter. Hampered by transportation costs and excessively high rents, she learned the tricks of the trade from her co-workers, some of whom sleep in their cars, yet still manage small gestures of kindness. Despite the advantages of her race, education, good health and lack of children, Ehrenreich’s income barely covered her month’s expenses in only one instance, when she worked seven days a week at two jobs and at one point, she actually feared for her life. This is a both sobering and sassy book as she gives readers pause about those caught in the economy’s undertow, even in good times. This book is a must read in order to understand the devastating effects of the working poor.

Review by Matthew J. Podoba

tonelson.jpgTonelson has done an excellent job of critically analysizing the irreparable harm being done to the American industrial manufacturing sector as a result of faulty international trade policy. He argues that the entire globalization argument rests on the irresistible temptation for American firms to relocate their factories and production facilities where labor costs are the lowest no matter what the damage done to the domestic economy. His premise that free trade is based on comparative advantage,not absolute advantage is masterfully demonstrated in the book. Included are several alarming trends including the practice of American firms handing over technological breakthroughs,inventions,patents,or innovations to third world nations and how that practice violates the theory of trade between counties based on the existing comparative advantages that exist in both countries industries.Although there are sections of the book that are not clearly explained, overall, it is a must read if one is to understand the globalization argument and why that argument is flawed.

Review by Matthew J. Podoba

frank.jpgFrank offers his brutally direct opinion of modern culture, politics and economics. His claim that the New Economy is a fraud is based on his argument that the corporate management mantra is nothing but self-serving forms of public relations, and that despite its self-congratulatory commercials, business is anything but cool. He also puts forth the idea that our nation’s tradition of political populism has de-evolved into capitalistic greed driven populism, devoid of any common sense or morals, and that this transition is destroying our culture. He methodically backs up his premises regarding the New Economy, globalization and free markets with hard facts, and skillfully demonstrates the resemblance between the banking crisis of the 1930s and present banking practices, pointing out that income inequality is on the rise with the richest 10% controlling over 70% of the nation’s wealth. He is relentless in his scathing contempt for those he views as old-time hucksters turned out in hip clothing. A capable and informed advocate for core American political values, Frank offers a critique of the way business has taken over American society and how those businesses are slowly un-doing something that has taken 200 years to build.

Review by Matthew J. Podoba

reich.jpgAccording to Harvard economist Reich, author of The Resurgent Liberal ( LJ 8/89), we are going through a historic transformation that is rearranging the politics and economics of the 1990s and the 21st century. Economies are no longer simply national in scope but global, rewarding the most skilled around the world with ever greater wealth while consigning the less skilled to declining standards of living. He sees the global work forces as already divided into three groups: routine producers (e.g., data processors), in-person servers (e.g., librarians), and symbolic analysts who manipulate symbols for large profits (e.g., financial wizards). In 1989, these analysts comprised about one-fifth of the population of the United States, but they earned more than half the income. As the rich get richer and the rest get poorer, Reich urges a national recommitment to the productivity and competitiveness of all citizens. This is highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.

– Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.
Reproduced from Library Journal

simon_head.jpgThis is a provocative call for the rehumanization of business and society, revolting against the impact of reengineering and massive information technology systems. Journalist Head rationally gathers the evidence and presents the case against mass production: from 1990 to 2003, inflation-adjusted wages and benefits of American workers stagnated, rising less than 1 percent yearly on average. It all started, Head claims, with Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management (1911), which advocated use of engineering methods to improve productivity. Change continued with Michael Hammer’s promotion of streamlining the way service industries (e.g., call centers and modern medicine) do business, accompanied by the installation of huge enterprise resource planning systems. The results? Poor to nonexistent, as the doctor-patient consultation relationship fades, as supervisors micromanage every minute of employees’ work, and as once-valued workplace skills and specialties are lost. A dramatic presentation that, unfortunately, includes few specific recommendations for change.

Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Psychology

seligman.jpgPsychologist Seligman ( Learned Optimism ) here examines common psychological disorders according to their biological and societal, or learned, components. Most enlightening are his analysis of the effectiveness of relaxation, meditation, psychoanalysis and cognitive therapies in the treatment of anxiety, which, along with depression and anger, he claims, can largely be controlled by disciplined effort. Tables demonstrating the success rates of various approaches to given problems, evaluative questionnaires and mostly jargon-free prose complement Seligman’s comprehensive, formulaic discussion. Maintaining that dieting will not help people who are overweight (“Weight is in large part genetic”), the author urges a focus on fitness and health; asserting that a child’s psyche heals faster than an adult’s, he observes that childhood trauma does not necessarily shape one’s adult life: “the rest of the tapestry is not determined by what has been woven before.” Direct, instructive and nonreductive, Seligman’s observations and theories are positive, realistic and sound. 75,000 first printing; BOMC alternate.

Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Reproduced from Publishers Weekly

Labor

green.jpgIt is hard to imagine a time when the union was as American an institution as apple pie. But between the 1930s and 1960s, Big Labor formed a status-quo triumvirate with Big Business and Big Government. Although the three sometimes clashed, they were seen as largely working together to advance the interests of ordinary Americans. But union membership has dwindled severely. Max Green shows how this drift has coincided with labor abandoning the political center for the political left, and how its traditional approval of capitalism has turned into an unhealthy skepticism of market forces that is increasingly out-of-touch with the modern world.

Reproduced from Amazon.com Editorials

schor.jpgThis is a book with an important message that unfortunately will probably not be taken seriously. Schor, a Harvard economist, argues from statistics what the rest of us know from experience, that “in the last twenty years the amount of time Americans have spent at their jobs has risen steadily.” And the statistics, if accurate, are stunning. Each year our work year increases by one day. We average only 16 hours of leisure a week after jobs and household chores. Working hours are longer than they were 40 years ago. And if present trends continue by the year 2000, we will be spending as much time at our jobs as we did in the 1920s. However, as Schor notes, we are also willing victims of this erosion of leisure as we pursue promotions, bigger salaries, and conspicuous consumption. Her solution? Hold jobs to a set number of hours per week, offer comp time for any overtime, and lower our living standards. Recommended for academic and public libraries.

– Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Reproduced from Library Journal

Politics

kennedy.jpgIn 1955 freshman U.S. Senator and future president John Fitzgerald Kennedy from Massachusetts, wrote a book profiling eight of historical Senators including John Quincy Adams, Sam Houston, and Robert A. Taft. Instead of focusing on their storied careers, John F. Kennedy chose to illustrate their acts of integrity, when they stood alone against tremendous political and social pressure for what they felt was right. Often their positions caused them their careers. In an age where politicians often chose advantage over integrity, Kennedy argues that history will vindicate those who choose the path of political morality. The explanations are crisp and concise, and this book is required material for anyone wishing to ground themselves in American political history.

Review by Matthew Podoba

Springfield Republican
“A book that deserves reading by every American.”

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