It is with some annoyance that I see cigarettes feature so prominently on the paperback covers of this book. Smoking is a wonderful example of the nihilistic, destructive, stupid side of contrarianism. It does this book no justice because it is one of the most positive, constructive books I have read in a long time.
Nature or nurture? It is obvious to most people with even a brief understanding of the science that we are a complex combination of the two. Pinker sets out the evidence here that nature is far more compelling than most of us realise and it is difficult not to agree with him.
What really stood out for me from the book was the political implications of the discussion.
When I sit on the train watching people reading crime and fantasy novels, I despair at how stupid most non-fiction is, and then I remember George Orwell's 1984.
This is a towering work of fiction, whilst I love the Lord of the Rings which won a number of polls of best fiction book of the 20th century, 1984 would be my choice. I remember talking to a female friend who saw it as a love story, whereas I hardly noticed that aspect of the book, this is part of Orwell's genius, to write on so many levels that different readers will take away different aspects.
Joseph Stiglitz went from academia on to some of the most powerful positions in the world possible for an economist, from advisor to the Clinton government to chief economist at the World Bank, he also picked up the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics along the way.
Stellar credentials indeed, yet I have heard reports that at meetings of the major world economic institutions, he is forced to stand behind the barriers along with the protestors, barriers which make sure the economic tyranny is not threatened by an outbreak of social democracy.
This book looked really interesting from the first time I heard about it, and with Noam Chomsky recommending it on the cover (Along with Rev Tim Costello and Natasha Stott Despoja) I kept trawling the library for it until it finally came in.
I must say the first few pages really rocked my world, particularly about the disjunct between the union and social justice facets of the left.
This book was released with enough hype that I had heard about it for a while before I had any idea what it was about, therefore I assumed it was a stupid novel or something. I'm not sure how I came about to know what it was really about and read it, but I was very glad I did.
This book talks about what is behind the facade of trends and brands in our modern world, how they are created and sustained both in the factories of impoverished countries, and the soulless designer offices of the PR world.
"..and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!".
The Awful Truth, which was a television show hosted by Mike Moore, is one of my favourite shows of all time. Therefore I was a sucker to buy this book, along with the gazillion other people who did.
It had its moments, sometimes it was even funny, it even told me a couple of things I didn't know, but it left me wanting something more, a more comprehensive look at power, glimmers of an alternative social vision.
After Stupid White Men, I didn't expect too much from this book, and perhaps as a result of that, I enjoyed it infinitely moore.
From 'Corporate Aid' where they solicit donations for our poor corporations who can't get the government off their backs, to 'Love Night for the Klu Klux Klan' where they send a Mariachi Band and all-black cheerleading group to send some love to ignorant racists, to trying to buy a nuclear missle off the disintegrated Soviet Union, this book never lets up.