I won't try to review this book; others have done so better than I will be able to. However, I will note that I would have liked it if the author hadI won't try to review this book; others have done so better than I will be able to. However, I will note that I would have liked it if the author had said more about the Soviet side, and about their reasons for doing what they did. It may be that Hitler's (and the Nazi Party leadership's) thoughts are more accessible than Stalin's and the Soviet high command's were, but as it is Snyder says fairly little about why he has more to say about Nazi motivations than about those of the Soviets, which seems a shame.
Edit: this jacobin review points out that there is something very fishy going on in the book, which I hadn't really picked up on while reading the book, namely that Snyder seems rather intent on blaming the soviets for Hitler's choices, as well as for blaming partisans for the German army's reprisals....more
If you're interested in getting a decent high-level understanding of the financial instruments created by the financial sector in the past decade or tIf you're interested in getting a decent high-level understanding of the financial instruments created by the financial sector in the past decade or two, and in the changes in the incentive structures at banks and other financial sector players, this book is highly recommended. It will provide you with accessible explanations of the various instruments they thought up, as well as how those relate to each other (though slightly less detailed when it comes to the exact reasons why the instruments created worked the way they did). Reading it should give you a good feel for how much all of this activity still had to do with things going on society (hint: both fairly little, and very much). Let me briefly mention two points I think worth noting.
An important sub-theme of the book is the question what role current macroeconomic theory played in the crisis. As such, the second and third chapters are devoted to discussing what role the currently dominant economics paradigm -- neoclassical economics -- played in all of this. One thing that's important to realize is that neoclassical economists tend to make all kinds of extremely unrealistic assumptions in order to make it easier for them to "model" economic activity; without these assumptions, they cannot model anything -- and this bothers them even though their models do not really refer to anything in reality. Yet even though basically none of the assumptions made is in any way applicable to real life, so-called DSGE models are widely used by regulators and governments to determine how their economies are doing, and whether they are still stable. (Peculiarly, DSGE models ignore the financial sector's existence entirely, making them blind to the mere suggestion that the financial sector could create macroeconomic instability.) This leads those regulators, as well as economists more broadly, to uncritically accept even those ideas that are blatantly false, such as the idea that all market participants have access to all information, and that, therefore, large-scale frauds are impossible to perpetrate -- because this implies that it is impossible for wannabe-frauds to lie to a large number of people without being called out or found out immediately.
Another section I found particularly interesting was the account of the historical changes that occurred from the 1970s onward, and how this changed the way banks behaved, and how they treated their clients. For instance, one major change was that banks stopped investing in relationships with their corporate clients, and instead started focusing ever more on maximizing the gain from individual transactions. These changes were caused in part by certain regulatory changes that made it easier for corporate clients to ask for quotes from multiple dealers. Paradoxically, because every bank had so much competition, they felt less of a need not to screw their clients, as they figured there was a large chance they would be going to a competitor next time anyway. (Not exactly what efficient market theory teaches you, though it should probably be noted that most of these deals are fairly opaque to non-specialists -- meaning most people in the world -- so that it would be difficult to tell how badly you are being screwed.)...more
Note on the translation: I do not particularly care for Wyllie's translation. I've read the first 50 or so pages in German as well, and most of the stNote on the translation: I do not particularly care for Wyllie's translation. I've read the first 50 or so pages in German as well, and most of the stylistic jokes just seem to get lost in his translation, specifically because Wyllie translates away most of the dryness of the German sentences, often introducing connectives where in the original there are none (so as to make the translation smooth where the original intentionally isn't). I would suggest reading the translation by Breon Mitchell, as it seems to capture Kafka's tone rather better....more
reasonable overview for an introductory work, though it does very little for anyone who is already more than passingly acquainted with the virtue-ethireasonable overview for an introductory work, though it does very little for anyone who is already more than passingly acquainted with the virtue-ethical tradition in moral philosophy. It's meant as a work that is supposed to enthuse people for "experimental ethics", and an empirical turn, etc., and it will more or less do that, but it does little besides that, which makes it a period piece....more
A wonderful book that tries to show the reader how systematic Hume really was as a thinker, and how intricate his system was. Hume offers us a completA wonderful book that tries to show the reader how systematic Hume really was as a thinker, and how intricate his system was. Hume offers us a complete motivational psychology which is strongly intertwined with his epistemological account of human perception, but the relevance of the one to the other are often missed since these parts are often read separately, or not read at all (because people tend to quote from just the most well-known snippets or from the book). (This is partly due to the fact that epistemology and ethics are generally regarded as separate and unrelated fields.) As such, the possibility of reading of his text this way is nearly always missed by Hume interpreters.
Definitely a book you will need to re-read once or twice before you've integrated the information, but it's definitely worth it....more
I found it very hard to take the book seriously. I suppose that the best way of coming to grips with the book would be to imagine the main character'sI found it very hard to take the book seriously. I suppose that the best way of coming to grips with the book would be to imagine the main character's vacuously conniving attitude as following from his being intelligent, obsessed with social climbing, and a young adult/adolescent in terms of not having any interests besides attaining a higher social status, and 'wanting' - though mostly because you think you should want them - women. However, I found it quite difficult to do so, because I found it so difficult to believe that someone would want to care so monomaniacally about raising one's social status. Perhaps on re-reading the book I will be able to enjoy it more... I can see how this reading would make sense (in a Werther kind of way), but I still find it hard to see the story as sufficiently true to life....more