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Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics Paperback – January 13, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
A sometimes provocative but simplistic discussion of morality in the form of a Platonic dialogue between a Manhattan publisher and his party guests.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In her latest contribution to liberal theory, Jacobs ( Cities and the Wealth of Nations , LJ 6/15/84) argues that modern societies utilize two distinctive moral systems--one being suited to the world of commerce, the other to the world of politics. Commercial morality is unsentimental, nonpartisan, and efficacious; political morality is personalistic, expansive, and vaguely altruistic. The problem is that we don't always know which system of morality to employ in concrete situations. Furthermore, the wrong choice can have disastrous consequences. Unfortunately, Jacobs invents a rather wooden cast of characters who engage in a Socratic dialog that reproduces the author's perspective on the two fundamental types of morality. As a result, the book's credible philosophical message becomes obscured by the superficiality and hamfistedness of the characters' conversations. A few readers may find Jacobs's literary device helpful; most will find it distracting. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/92.
- Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main theme is that humanity has implemented two systems for survival. One, guardianship, that seems to spring from our DNA and is practiced by many social animals on our planet. The other, trade or commerce, that appears to be uniquely human. These are not competing systems, they are complementary. They each have their place and they each have their rules. These rules are often, when not directly opposed, not aligned.
For me, the insight that there are two systems at work in our society and that they have different goals and require different rules has made it much easier for me to analyze and understand the forces at work in my environment. It has also made it easier to understand why some things feel "right" while other similar things don't. For example, it seems desirable to have a company creating a competing bank, but not desirable to have the state or federal government creating a competing bank.
One of the criticisms of this book is the choice to write this as a Socratic dialog. I regard this approach as superior to the typical academic approach. Stories are easier to remember and often easier to understand, but I respect the views of those that don't. If you don't like something, then it is a fact that you don't like it. It is irrelevant that I think you should. Further, other readers of these comments may feel as you do--so it is a valid criticism. Just be aware that it will not be true for everyone.
Another criticism is that Jacobs didn't explore concepts or provide guidance that they expected. While I cannot argue that their expectations were met and they just missed it, I can argue that the expectations of the critics are owned by the critics and that there is no evidence that Jacobs promised to meet those expectations. I would also add that just the fact that her book created the desire to have additional ideas covered and guidance provided is a positive thing--not a negative.
This explains much of what both sides of the political divide like and dislike about our political leaders, past and present.
This is the way we can keep our economy from sinking to 3rd world and how Developing nations can rise above and succeed.
Very hearty food for thought. I am a little surprised that I don't see folks making the connection between the duality that Jacobs outlines here and the similar duality that is described in the book "Clash!: How to Thrive in a Multicultural World " by Markus and Conner. The way tehy describe something very similar is the clash between Independent and Interdependent cultures.
The tone of this book was different than those read previously, but is similar to "The Nature of Economies."
It is set up as a didactic dialogue of varied perspectives. The conversational tone is a little difficult to take seriously initially.
However, all the observations are sensible, and Jacobs has a knack for presenting the theoretical with a solid basis of facts.
The author uses two techniques that are particularly useful in conveying this rich material - Socratic dialog, and inductive reasoning. The wealth of examples and the detailed analysis are compelling, yet as a reader you feel free to disagree, to question, and to challenge the ideas being presented -- all good exercise for the mind.
The book's thesis is discussed elsewhere. Suffice it to say I find that thesis highly persuasive, and I plan to put it to the test in coming months. I recommend this book highly.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The first got lost in my library.
Platonic dialogues very interesting.
Amaury TemporalRead more
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