Friday, March 26, 2021

Review of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Novel

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Told in a reminiscent manner, in the solitude of remembrance, sprinkled with magical realism.  A fictional reflection on historical events.  Portrays the cycles of war and love and the different ways and reasons that each person contributes to those events.  The different ways people react to technology and other aspects of life.  The way the community reacts to various situations.  Set primarily in a small town of Macondo which was very difficult to find until a government official placed in on a map.  Follows a family through the generations to see how each contributes to their society.  Change is risky as sometimes it can help, sometimes it can hurt.  Each handles change differently.

The book is sometimes really eloquent and other times a bit difficult to decipher.  Hard to follow the flow of events and too many characters going across various times prevents appropriate transitions.  Each era is a reflection of its own.  The diversity of responses highlights differences, but the way it is written, prevents an immersive experience.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Do people search for solitude? 
•How do the people of Macondo react to foreigners?
•What are the reasons for war?
•Why do people fall in love?
•How do the various people respond to foreign ideas? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780060883287
Pages to read:   417
Publication:     2006
1st Edition:      1967
Format:           Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          2
Overall           2

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Review of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Sociology


Short Description

Elaborate Description
This is a story of struggle and the communities which recreate it.  An application of personal experience on the statistical narrative of people in poor communities.  Poverty is not a racial issue as all peoples experience it.  What is needed is to know where to look.  The communities left behind by opportunities, vanishing jobs, all the while being racked by drug abuse and strife.  The people are not lazy by want, by forced to be seen as lazy by the way the various aspects of society create the circumstance that they are in.  Each individual can succeed, but that is difficult when society creates a perception of impossible odds.  Held down not for want of effort or skill, but for personal and social experiences.  In this way, those who are able to leave these communities tend to have a much higher rate of success than those who stay.  What is needed is a revaluation of not only the policies design to help people, but also how we treat each other.  

In early childhood, J.D. had lots of instability.  Most of the time Vance drifted between different homes.  His mother kept getting married, and then divorced.  His mother’s drug abuse and violent behavior caused family problems.  At times splitting time between living with his mother or grandmother because he was not safe with just his mother.  Although J.D.’s mother had a nursing license, she lost it due to drug abuse.  Depending on the time frame and who J.D.’s mother was with, they sometimes had more than enough money, other times there was real financial trouble.  But, when J.D. was sick, his mother knew how to navigate the healthcare system to ask appropriate questions.  The male relatives taught J.D. how to stand up for himself, in a violent manner.  To defend the honor of the family.  Although many had many vices of their own. 

There were two sources of stability in early childhood which were his sister Lindsay, and grandmother who he called mamaw.  Lindsay acted as the mother to J.D.  Mamaw was a reliable safety net.  Mamaw taught J.D. a code of honor, or a semblance of it, relating to working hard and not making life more difficult for those who are already having a difficult time.  Intolerant to any familial disloyalty.  No matter how bad things got, mamaw and papaw (J.D.’s grandfather), always had optimism for their children’s future.  The society expectations may not have been high, but J.D.’s grandparents provided a different set of expectations.  Papaw helped J.D. with school work.  J.D. felt his dependence on mamaw acutely and did not want to be a burden to her. 

It was not only mamaw’s stability that helped J.D. survive and find opportunities to prosper, it was also the military.  The military untaught J.D. many unhealthy habits, except how to shoot a gun in which he was previously taught good habits.  It was not just discipline, it was a lifestyle change which J.D. carried with him afterwards.  Many military members helped him along the way to become a mature adult.  Marine Corps taught J.D. not to underestimate himself.  The military was tough, but some in the military who knew J.D.’s grandmother thought that living with her was tougher.  The military, in this book, is portrayed in a positive perspective.  With various racial and income backgrounds, they were taught to respect other people’s culture without imposing their own. 

The culture of hillbillies is one that has trouble in abundance.  Turning to the law is of no importance because the people will correct their own deviances.  Mired in poverty which the educational system does not foster many opportunities to go further in education or get high income jobs.  Drug addiction is not the only unhealthy substance, as most people eat unhealthily, and are physically unhealthy.  The problem about this culture is that the people will not take accountability for their society, as they do not want to speak about it so as not to be judged.  They want to fix their own problems, but without assistance, they lack treatment for basic problems.  What little income they have tends to be spent on covering up their personal problems rather than getting themselves info financially stable position. 

J.D. learned from extreme experiences that he recognized would have made his family seem like lunatics.  They were not from J.D.’s perspective because the stories told were all and righting wrongs, and his relatives were the on the right side.  The experiences people have in their childhood are the tools used later in life, even when the experiences do not fit their circumstance.  

This book isn’t difficult to read, but some parts are confusing because the book is not a simple narrative.  Partly because the situation is not simple, and partly because the story comes from memory which the author recognizes is not consistent.  The author discusses experiences which put him in contact with different cultures, but rather than try to understand and respected either, he chooses to keep them separate.  Sometimes taking a complex view of a situation, but sometimes being a bit simplistic, as in decodes a harsh reality but the missing info seems to prevent a fuller understanding.  This is not a drawback of the book considering that this is a memoir and not an academic study, but the parts of the book which had the personal experience attached to the general academic studies provided more in-depth understanding. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•How would you describe the hillbilly culture? 
•Why is there so much poverty in hillbilly communities?
•Are hillbillies lazy?
•What perception does the world create for hillbillies?
•What perception do the hillbillies have for themselves? 
•How would you describe J.D.’s early childhood? 
•What influence did J.D’s mother have on him
•How did Lindsay, his sister, treat him?
•What role did the male relatives provide for J.D.?
•What role did mamaw, J.D.’s grandmother have in his life?
•What did the military teach J.D.?
•What did J.D. learn about class cultures at Yale?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780062872258
Pages to read:   216
Publication:     2018
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           3

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Review of Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital by Jason W. Moore

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics, Ecology


Short Description

Quotes
“Capitalism’s governing conceit is that it may do with Nature as it pleases, that Nature is external and may be coded, quantified, and rationalized to serve economic growth, social development, or some other higher good.” –Jason Moore, Introduction: The Double Internality: History as if Nature Matters, Page 2

“Capitalism has survived not by destroying nature (whatever this might mean), but through projects that compel nature-as-oikeios to work harder and harder – for free, or at a very low cost.” –Jason Moore, Introduction: The Double Internality: History as if Nature Matters, Page 13

“We are among the planet’s more effective “ecosystem engineers”; and even so, our civilizations are made and unmade by the environment-making activities of life.” –Jason Moore, Conclusion: The End of Cheap Nature?: The World-Ecological Limit of Capital Is Capital Itself, Page 296

Quotes with permission from publisher

Elaborate Description
The economy and the environment are usually treated as independent of one another.  This creates a problem of seeing nature as an external thing that can be used as pleased, which leads to dire consequences.  Rather, this book shows how capitalism organizes nature.  Moore uses the term oikeios to express the relationship between species and the environment.  Rather than seeing humans and nature, its humanity-in-nature.  A way to internalize what is normally thought of external.  Nature is not just an objects humans act upon, nor is it just what humans develop through.  It is a relationship in which each impress’s upon and shapes each other.  The interactions between capitalism and nature are important and needed to understanding the outcomes of capitalism-in-nature.

The way capitalism operates is to reuse low to no cost products.  Or rather, to force nature to provide for humanity by working harder and at low cost.  Rather than capitalism working on nature, capitalism works through nature.  Trying to expand the production of surplus value.  Identifying value as what the capitalist civilization deems valuable rather than what actually is valuable.  A constant tangle emerges as nature reacts to the actions of humans, and humans try to obtain what they need from nature.  

This book proposes an important concept and a way of thinking, but because of the way its arguments are constructed, makes the concepts feel underwhelming.  Written in a convoluted manner using Marxist terminology, which the author recognizes do not have the same meaning now as they once did.  Applying the same arguments to very different ways of reproducing the economy creates many misunderstandings.  Although the author tries to show case the praxis, the arguments appear abstract rather than practical.  There is much history of the interaction between humans and the environment, but few examples of modern-day activities.  What is needed to make this book an effective transmitter of an important idea, is to make it understood to an audience of more than those who understand Marxist concepts.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Is nature external to humans?
•What is the double-internality? 
•Why does the relationship between capitalisms and nature matter?
•What is the modus operandi of capitalism?
•What does capitalism find valuable?
•What is there a need for cheap work?
•Why force nature to work harder?
•What is the limit to capitalism?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781781689028
Pages to read:   305
Publication:     2015
1st Edition:      2015
Format:           Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall           2


Review of The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Decision Making


Short Description

Elaborate Description
Before the rise of attention merchants, there were places in our lives that were sanctuaries from advertising and commerce.  As advertising has become ubiquitous to lives, our lives have become, as much as possible, commercially exploited.  Advertising can be value adding through market discovery and useful services, or it can be value subtracting by taking away attention from what really matters.  Either for appropriate or inappropriate reasons, those who influence others are considered attention merchants.  As what they do is drive attention to them and their message.  The attention merchants now mediate our lives more than ever, as they direct where our attention goes.  When attention merchants misused people’s attention, there was backlash and people took more control of where their attention goes, but the attention merchants find different ways to access attention and with it, their ability to direct it.  This book showcases the evolutionary history of attention merchants and how they changed the way we live our lives.  

Wu makes it easy to understand what attention merchants do.  Their modus operandi is to attract attention by providing supposedly free products, and then sell that attention to others.  The operation depends on gaining and holding attention. With competition for attention which seek to attract attention, to keep attention the attention merchants provide content that is more stimulating.  The problem is that the more stimulating content is very provocative and is directed at what can be called baser instinct.  This usually leads to a race to the bottom, all in the effort to harvest attention.  

Advertising can either make markets more efficient or be detrimental to markets.  Advertising can be a form of market discovery which is vital in a market and competitive process.  Allowing potential customers to find out about the products, which otherwise they would never have heard about so could not consider purchasing.  The trouble begins with the advertising manufacturing demand by instilling a want in the customers by presenting false information.  Failure to disclose product information or deceiving and misleading the customer defeats the market process.  

Paying attention has its capacity.  It can be directed at something, or disregard things.  The need to have people pay near constant attention to something has resulted in information overload.   Wu sees attention as a kind of resource which is gradually being spent.  By being ubiquitously placed, advertisers catch viewers in between purposeful mental engagement.  Gazing at the world is now exploited for commercial purposes.  Hard to ignore a constant appeal to solve problems and satiate desire.  

The commercialization of attention has its drawbacks as it drives people crazy.  This leads to backlash, a public revolt.  Revolting against the attention merchants is a recurrent dynamic which shaped how the industry operates.  A minor version of backlash is the disenchantment effect which occurs when the means of attention gathering has lost its charm and people see through its exposure as if its not there.  The major version of backlash is when the attention is perceived to be ill-used which has serious commercial consequences that leads to either a reinvention of the way attention gathering is approached, reconfigure the industry, or inspire regulatory action.  What every attention merchant needs to know is how to have enough advertising to earn an income, while not enough advertising to make the listener resentful.  

What started this industry is a newspaper selling its paper at a loss, below the cost of production.  The business model was not the paper, but selling the attention of the audience to advertisers.  There were earlier advertisers in papers, but they were informational and of limited scope.  What the New York Sun did was sell readers attention to substantial advertisers.  To make this effective, readership needed to be large, and to get lots of readers, the paper would do anything, such as not be bound by facts.  Due to its cheapness, readership became so high that it gave rise to public opinion.  Competitors initially did not understand how the Sun was able to sell at a loss, but over time took up the same business model.  

The next step in advertising were the illustrations.  Posters used to be primarily text with some illustration, but Cheret pioneered giant mass-produced posters.  By making them attractive and locating them everywhere, the posters garnered attention.  

An industry which generated lots of advertisements, resulting in a rise in their income was healthcare.  The lesson learned was that attention could be transformed into an income.  The problem was the advertisement were selling a product that did not claim what the advertisement did.  Even worse, the product was hurtful.  The revolt against this industry caused regulations to make misbranding illegal and required a list of dangerous materials used.  

WWI launched the government into the attention industry, which is known as propaganda.  Initially an appeal for the British people to join the war effort.  No invention was involved, except the scale and organization.  All media outlets and technical means were used to spread the message.  The message could not be missed.  The result was that many joined the war not because they were coerced, but because they were persuaded.  This tool of galvanizing a people would later be used by governments and commercial actors alike, but the message would not always be ethical, and sometimes were insidious.  Taking this lesson next was the US, which to create a war-will, persecuted antiwar dissenters.  A manufactured public consent.  Nazi were later to use those strategies to create their worldview.  It was the Nazi regime’s coercive demands which raised questions about what controlling attention does to freedom.  

The next feature of the attention merchant tool kit was to direct the advertisement to a particular group, what is called targeted advertisement.  The initial targeted advertisement was to women.  During the 1920s, women made most of the purchases and so being the key to commerce.  This eventually leads to branding.  Branding enables a more stable customer base which is not easily influences by alternative information.  

Advertising via broadcasting breached the barrier between public and private space.  Initially, broadcasting was thought to facilitate the betterment of human society and that advertising would not be allowed there.  Then Templin noticed that during a popular radio show, people stopped what they were doing and listened intently for the duration of the show.  A time when people ignored one another to listen to the radio, created what is now known as prime time.  With the later and quick adoption of television, people would voluntarily be immersing in the bait for commercials, the shows themselves.  The revolt from too many television commercials inspired the first adblocker, the remote.  

What the internet did was commercialize fame.  Being famous meant using influence and directing it to the attention of advertisers.  Fame did not require an induvial do have an instantly recognizable name, but could be micro famous which means being known to a group.  To earn money, bloggers and other micro famous people, presented an image to the public that was different than who they were.  This created a psychological problem that made many suffer.  Part of what the internet did was also allow advertisers to be more specific at whom the advertisement is directed to.  Some advertisements follow the individual to every site they visit.  A revolt against too many advertisements saw the rise of companies which depend on paid subscription rather than advertising revenue.  

Attention merchants changed the normal business model which impacted the way everyone consumes products and services.  Changing the way in which humans behave.  Problems within the attention driven system drew attention to solutions, adapting to different circumstance.  Attention can be used for valuable purposes, or it can be misused for insidious purposes.  What matters in this book is to inform the reader of how attention is directed, to provide context to the choices being made.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Who are the attention merchants?
•How do attention merchants generate income?
•Why are there many free products and services?
•Do attention merchants make economy more efficient or are detrimental to it?
•How do attention merchants attract attention?
•How much do individuals control their own attention?
•Why is there backlash against the attention merchants? 
•What kind of backlash can attention merchants expect? Is it possible not to have backlash?
•How did the attention industry change over time?
•Where did the attention merchant business model start?
•What is propaganda and what influence did it have? 
•What is targeted advertisement?
•Why did advertisements start to appear in broadcasting? 
•How did the television change the attention industry?
•How did the internet become so dominant?
•What does it mean to be famous?
•What is the connection between attention and freedom?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780385352024
Pages to read:   402
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Review of The Crusades: A History from Beginning to End by Henry Freeman

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History


Short Description

Elaborate Description

As Islamic armies were threat to the Western world, Pope Urban II initiated the first Crusade.  A Crusade that was meant to defend besieged Christian peoples in the East.  The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a collection of captured cities, creating a Crusader Kingdom.  Later Crusades were launched to retake lost lands in previous Crusades.  This book showcases a few events from a majority of the Crusades, which include the rivalry and respect between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.  In another Crusade, in a twist of events, the Crusaders ended up sacking the Byzantines which they were meant to protect.  A key lesson in this book is that negotiating diplomatically had better results than warfare.  

There is a huge problem with this book which is what the book leaves out.  Not because it is a short book which lacks events and proofs, but the perception that Freeman continues to instill in the reader.  A perception that the Islamic Empires were ruthless, cruel, and dishonorable, without any redeeming qualities.  Without mentioning anything about cruelties and dishonorable behaviors of the Christian world.  In an effort to provide a more nuanced view, unlike the Christian world of persecution, the Islamic world facilitated tolerance between different religions and made many intellectual breakthroughs which help precipitate the enlightenment in the West.  What is worse is that the antagonistic view held by the author throughout the book, involves relations in the early 21st century.  There were a few times that the author claimed that historians could not deny a fact, but historians would disagree and provide a way more nuanced claim.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What was the reasoning behind the original Crusade? Following Crusades?
•Who were the Crusaders?
•What is the Kingdom of Jerusalem?
•What was the relationship between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin?
•Why did the Crusaders sack Byzantine? 
•Did negotiations work?
•What were the Islamic leaders and government like?
•What were the Christian leaders and government like?
•What do you think of the author’s view on the Islamic communities?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940152854244
Pages to read:   32
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall           2

Review of The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy by Anthony Gottlieb

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy
Intriguing Connections = The Persecuted and The Persecutors


Short Description


Elaborate Description

There are seven philosophers under this book’s purview, who are: Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, Locke, Bayle, Leibniz, and Hume.  Their curiosity in challenging assumptions facilitated reduction in persecution for intellectual thought.  Conquered prejudice and blind admiration in favor of cautious collection of facts.  Gottlieb looks at their philosophies from the perspective of their time rather than attributing today’s values unto them.  The enlightenment precipitated in tolerance of religious dissent, and increased the power that people held to shape their government.  Because of the philosophers, impediments to knowledge and well-being were questioned, which fostered an ask for better alternatives.  

Descartes philosophy stems from doubt.  Doubted as much as possible before claiming any knowledge.  Even by being cautious and doubtful, he nevertheless accepted many suspect assumptions with his philosophies and knowledge which depended on the existence and nature of God.  With previous poor treatments of philosophers whose work was unacceptable to Church and educational establishment, Descartes knew that his ideas could be dangerous.  As such, in order to be accepted, he tried to pacify the pious.   Although Descartes wanted to appease potential threats, he was abusive to his contemporary rivals and accused former collaborators of stealing his ideas.  Through his search for certainty, many found his ideas to be misconceptions, which is common in ideas which need to be claimed before potential alternative can be found. 

Hobbes made many enemies by provocatively attacking academics and theologians alike.  Known for his political philosophy in which the state has immense power.  Under this philosophy, the people willingly accept to follow a sovereign authority to prevent dire consequences.  The sovereign would need a monopoly on political authority as anything less would not be effective at staving of chaos.  The benefits of having such a sovereign would be to live without threat to life by violence or other cruelties.  In irony, although Hobbes saw the potential for abusing the subjects, he did not consider this to be an option because the sovereign would wrong God and risk the sovereign’s soul to eternal death.  This is ironic because Hobbes was well-versed in history which contained many leaders that prove him wrong. 

Spinoza did not want people to confuse human values with the point of view of the divine.  Thought that it was possible to know what was good or bad for humanity but that the credibility of the viewpoints were not equal.  Questioned miracles and divine interventions.  Saw it as an error to see divine intervention as mutable, as that presumed that laws of nature are like human laws which were at the discretion of the lawmaker.  To Spinoza, amazing events were not evidence of infinite power, while amazing power can lead people astray.  Did not want to rule out alternative explanations to events before considering them.  Spinoza recognized that persecuting independent though would have unintended consequences.   

Locke wanted people to avoid completely relying on the opinions of others.  His philosophy, as Gottlieb puts it, was an ‘assault on the lazy acceptance of received opinions’.  Even in morals, morals required people to think about them, which required a lack of blind acceptance to others practices and standards. Legitimacy of the government should also be made independently.  Many of his views on government were used as pretext to rebel, which Locke would not have quickly approved of.  The power of the government came from people joining to form a community, creating a social contract which held political power.  

Bayle noticed that a particular event, such as a comet, could not be signal from God because the signal could easily backfire.  The signal could encourage alterative forms of worship.  An event does not carry a particular deity’s signature, making the signal ambiguous.  Although there were not many atheists during the time, Bayle, unlike his contemporaries, did not think that atheism would lead to as much wickedness as was considered.  His philosophy indicates that it is not appropriate to coerce people to think or do a particular thing because God wanted those thoughts and action from convictions resulting from a search for truth.  Honest mistakes should not be considered as sin, and therefor should not be punished as such. 

It is Leibniz’s notations which are used in infinitesimal calculus.  Leibniz speculated that there should be a building block of matter which cannot be divided further.  He called them atoms, but not the atoms of what physics claims to be atoms.  These were monads, of which everything else is built from.  

Hume is known for what is now known as the problem of induction.  Asking for intellectual modesty as knowledge is based on limited experience.  Distinguished between relations of ideas and matters of fact.  Reasoning about ideas produces mathematics and definitional claims.  Reasoning about facts produces more information but are depended on experiences and are incapable of being demonstrated.  

This book is a bit limited in the number and diversity of the philosophers showcased.  They are mostly all popular.  Although the philosophies are different, they do have a trend in response to religion.  Although these philosophers were in the minority and were primarily persecuted for their heterodox ideas, it seems that what is missing are philosophers who disagreed with enlightenment philosophers or showcased the mentality which the enlightenment philosophers were responding too.  This is unlike the book’s predecessor, Dream of Reason, which showcased very diverse philosophies and various philosophers which are not well known.  A bit difficult to read and understand sometimes as the information presented was somewhat disorganized.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What did the enlightenment do?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Descartes?
     Why did Descartes doubt everything?
     How did Descartes treat potential opposition?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Hobbes?
     What powers should a sovereign have?
     What are the benefits of having a powerful sovereign?
     Why do people accept a sovereign?
     Why would a sovereign not abuse the subjects?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Spinoza?
     What are Spinoza’s view on miracles and divine intervention?
     How should morality be seen as?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Locke?
     What did Locke think of the opinions of others?
     Why are governments formed?
     What is Locke’s view on what shapes knowledge and action?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Bayle?
     Should mistakes be taken as sin?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Leibniz?
     What are monads?
•What do you think of the philosophy of Hume?
     What is the problem of induction?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781631492082
Pages to read:   239
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          5
Overall           5

Friday, March 5, 2021

Review of The Age of Paradox by Charles Handy

Book can be found in:
Genre = Decision Making

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Social paradoxes make life confusing because they are hard to control and make people feel impotent.  What makes them confusing is that a paradox provides different outcomes for the same action, so that what worked before is not guaranteed to work again.  This book tries to provide a guideline for how to think and respond to the paradoxes.  The best advice is also really difficult to take which is to try out different things during a succeeding stage.  Creating options before there is a need to change allows people and businesses from taking a risk of working with the same actions when they no longer work anymore.  Handy provides a general request to take people as human beings rather than tools in the economy.  

The sigmoid curve is a big proponent of this book.  An S-shaped curve that can explain a multitude of historical and life events.  During the rise on the curve, business and people need to look out for opportunities to change.  This is hard to do because on the rise, what seems to be the best thing to do is to do what is working.  Those who do not seek out opportunities to change, usually lose their success and have a hard time changing when they need to change to survive.  Challenging assumptions which have worked before facilitates producing alternatives which can be used to cope with contradiction when they are arise.  The initial actions cannot be abandoned early as it is the success of those actions which will provide the needed resources for the search in potential alternatives.  

Another major lesson that Handy has to offer is about leadership, such as knowing when to compromise.  Sticking to principles may result in reducing the efficacy of the very same principles.  Knowing what to measure, or even better, knowing that what is measured is not the sole priority.  A federalist organizational structure is promoted in this book as it enables local decisions to impact the whole institution.  Trust in each member is needed as power resides with those who take actions.  

There are a few problems with the book which are: 1) Paradox is not necessarily what the many examples are.  Some are genuine contradictions which contain interesting philosophical conundrums, but generally they are all based on context and social structure rather than being dissonant.  The examples are nonetheless extremely important distribution problems.  2) The book is trying to provide general life lessons but most of the examples are business examples.  Having business behave in favor of society and their consumers rather than short term profit objectives is a marvelous goal, but the book needs to expand its concepts.  There are non-business examples, but they are a minority.  3) The examples are themselves an example of survivorship bias.  Taking different options is generally costly, which requires an already succeeding business.  Only business that have money can take a risk, while a risk to those who are struggling may not be prudent.  4) Although the author claimed to have been vindictive in certainties and in this book was trying not to be, he did not go far enough.  Different culture, which ironically he references and is supportive of, have different ways of resolving paradoxes.  Handy’s guide to managing paradox may work in some cultures, but not others.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are paradoxes and what do they do to decision making?
•What are some paradoxes?
•What is the sigmoid curve?
•When should people and business seek to change?
•What is to be measured?
•Is there such a thing as justice?
•What is federalism and why does the author promote it?
•What is subsidiarity?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780875844251
Pages to read:   291
Publication:     1994
1st Edition:      1994
Format:           Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           4