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Laban's books


Robert Skidelsky, Edward Skidelsky: How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life (2012) 3 stars

Review of 'How Much is Enough?: Money and the good life' by Robert and Edward Skidelsky

3 stars

Interesting book with strong and weak arguments. The chapter on happiness economics confirmed a lot of skepticism I had about being able to measure an emotional state as unclear and culturally-dependent as happiness. I'd add that these measurements are often designed around a Western frame where happiness tends to be defined as the ultimate good (which the authors also are critical of) and would therefore influence the responses people might give in non-trivial ways.

I also liked the authors' definition of their prescriptions as non-coercive paternalism. It puts into words the type of policy that would seem to bring about the most benefit without infringing on individual liberties.

This book also sharpened my frustration with neoliberalism in learning that for all the growth in GDP it brought, it still failed to translate that growth in any way towards access to basic goods. In retrospect, this is a pretty obvious point …

reviewed Conflict is not abuse by Sarah Schulman

Sarah Schulman: Conflict is not abuse (2016) 3 stars

Review of 'Conflict is not Abuse'

3 stars

I read this book since I was interested in learning more about the social dynamics around a lot of internet phenomena involving shunning after seeing it referenced in ContraPoints's video on cancelling.

There were some good insights in this book about the difference between conflict and abuse - one key distinction being that Abuse involves power over another. Another good one was that, when we are experiencing or witnessing Conflict, we need to move out of the tempting frame of determining who The Bad Guy is, and instead 1) look towards the situation in a more objective light, and 2) work towards mutual agreement of the Conflicted parties. Shunning while in conflict shuts the other party out as well as any potential for a fulfilling resolution.

Another key point was that, when attempting to resolve Conflict, it is a poor idea to use closed modes of communication like text messages …

Jenny Odell: How to Do Nothing (Hardcover, 2019, Melville House Publishing) 4 stars

In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and …

[A]t its most successful, an algorithmic "honing in" would seem to incrementally entomb me as an ever-more stable image of what I like and why. It certainly makes sense from a business point of view. When the language of advertising and personal branding enjoins you to "be yourself," what it really means is "be more yourself," where "yourself" is a consistent and recognizable pattern of habits, desires, and drives that can be more easily advertised to and appropriated, like units of capital.

How to Do Nothing by  (Page 236)

Jenny Odell: How to Do Nothing (Hardcover, 2019, Melville House Publishing) 4 stars

In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and …

Great book, will re-read

5 stars

Very interesting book. It's not a self-help-grifty "run away from social media and generate more value for your boss" book as you might assume from the title--in fact, it challenges our deeply mistaken definitions of productivity and progress and shows how those ideas ultimately hurt us.

There were a lot of striking observations in this book: about productivity, algorithms, and particularly the natural world. My only complaint is that the section talking about art history felt a bit long and ramble-y and I don't get how it connects to the book's argument. Regardless, I plan to borrow and re-read this soon.