Book note – The Persuaders, by Anand Giridharadas

by Ingrid Robeyns on December 28, 2022

I recently listened to the new book by Anand Giridharadas, who is well-known for his previous book Winner Takes All. That book was about how (some of) the superrich are happy trying to contribute to some of the world’s problems, but never ask any questions related to why the world is so unequal as it is, what power and the workings of capitalism have to do with all of this, and whether their capitalist strategies are at all suited to address these problems. I thought that was a great book.

So I was looking forward to his new book. It is called The Persuaders. Winning Hearts and Minds in a Divided Age. It is a book about why we shouldn’t just give up on people who have political or social views that we find wrong, perhaps even horrible. The book presents a series of cases, the activists involved, and the techniques or strategies they use – interspersed with some insights from social psychology and other sciences on what works (and what doesn’t) to make people change their mind in a non-manipulative way.

My take-away from the book is that there is no point in believing you are right (or have the right policy, or the right analysis on what needs to happen on matter X), and believing the only thing that is needed for change is airing those views and that analysis. It’s just not enough. We need to actually spend time and effort to persuade others that this is the right analysis/policy/direction, and this persuasion cannot be merely cognitive; it requires understanding “where people are”, what makes them believe what they believe, and showing respect for them as a person at the outset. All of that requires listening, and being willing to engage in a genuine conversation, and finding out why people believe what they believe. Just believing I am right (and having all the arguments sorted out in my head) and airing my views, is not enough to also make a difference in the world, especially not in deeply divided societies. And, very importantly, trying to persuade others, and being willing to be persuaded, should be an essential part of any democracy. Thus, this book is also, at a deeper level, about what contemporary democracies need. [click to continue…]

My year in fiction

by Chris Armstrong on December 28, 2022

Reading novels is my life-blood; I can’t go more than a few hours between books. That said, this year was a slightly odd one in my reading career. First, the year leading up to August represented the home strait of a self-enforced 12 months of not buying books. So lots of reliance on the not-especially-good local library, and some re-reading. Second, this was a ridiculously busy year for me, and so my yearly total of 46 novels is slightly below par. With that said, here were my top 10:

Katie Kitamura, Intimacies
Natasha Brown, Assembly
Julia May Jonas, Vladimir
Hanya Yanagihara, To Paradise
Mary Lawson, A Town Called Solace
Jordy Rosenberg, Confessions of the Fox
Tessa Hadley, Late in the Day
Julie Otsuka, When The Emperor Was Divine
Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Elizabeth Strout, Oh, William!
[click to continue…]