The diverse offering of Pallas Athéné Publishing House (PABooks) was expanded with several books in January. It is a common feature of works dealing with various fields and topics that with their help, the reader can get an extensive picture about the effect of the ever-spreading big corporate culture on everyday life, from parenthood to social relations or mainstream politics.

Hal Brands: American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump

Hal Brands in his book “American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump” focuses on the foreign policy strategy followed by the United States in the past couple of years. According to the author, the United States has remained a successful superpower; it has not changed its foreign policy radically since the Cold War; this policy has remained to be efficient and the American world order has not come to an end. The US has used the same tools in the Cold War as later (trade agreements, military intervention, strengthening the local enemies of aggressive authoritative systems, supporting economic liberalism and human rights). Certain foreign policy steps of the US could be rightfully criticised (intervention in Iraq, Somalia, and Libya), but the objective (the establishment of a stable, expanding alliance) has more or less been achieved. The US has not lost its leading role, but its advantage has been decreasing.

The so-called offshore balancing was previously the subject matter of various academic discourses, but since 2012, it has played an important role among the decision-making aspects of Washington, according to some analyists. Offshore balancing stands for the foreign policy trend, according to which the best solution for the US was not relying on its hard power (military power) in order to achieve global influence but retreating to the continent. The election of Donald Trump – the level of rhetoric for sure – brought about the primate of this trend. The supporters of offshore balancing and traditional American foreign policy have set similar goals, but the methodology of the two approaches are different. Globalists want to make use of the toolkit of hard power, whereas the supporters of offshore balancing consider the support of local nations as expedient.

The election of Trump suggests that the American voters are not satisfied with the decade-long consensus any longer, namely that it is a role of the US to intervene into the domestic affairs of other countries, to adopt multilateral agreements, to proclaim the values of democracy and freedom and conclude free trade agreements. The Trump era gives way to two different political trends. In the future, the US will either seclude itself from the rest of the world and try to establish a “Fortress America”, or make the already existing status quo somewhat more nationalistic, but in a way that its basic characteristics remain intact.

Although Trump’s election has created quite a spur, from his politics shown until now (the book was published in spring 2018) it is unclear what trend the US wishes to follow in its foreign policy. However, what one could surely know about the worldview of the president is that he looks at world politics and trade relations as a zero-sum game. This might result in dangerous trends; just like the way he manages his allies. It unpredictability involves great risks both from military and economic perspectives. An unpredictable world faces numerous challenges. This haphazard and often inconsequential strategy could be harmful to the international reputation of the US, and thus indirectly to the prevailing world order.

Hal Brands hopes that the presidency of Trump would not bring about the politics of the “Fortress America”, the US would spend more on maintaining its military leadership role, could increase its global influence, and could continue to proclaim the values of freedom and free trade all over the world.

Allyson Downey: Here’s the Plan

The book of Allyson Downey entitled “Here’s the Plan” is a guidebook for the period of pregnancy and parenthood for parents of this age, as it especially focuses on how motherhood could be combined with employment, and the process of returning to the workplace. “Here’s the Plan” is a practice oriented read; the author made personal interviews with 50 women and collected data from thousands of women; and although the author is American and discusses American peculiarities, legislations, practices, the book serves every parent with tons of useful tips.

The author lists the challenges from the wish of having a child through pregnancy and childbirth to the arrival of the baby and provides practical advice on how to solve these multi-fold situations. The first part of the book focuses on the period prior to the arrival of the baby. It is useful to put together a plan, a list on the opportunities and tasks: for example how much time off and what kind of benefits one could count on following childbirth; when one should announce pregnancy at the workplace (25% of the women asked told the news before week 12, but the majority of them waited until week 20); it is necessary to have a discussion with the HR regarding certain requirements and necessary documents; it is recommended to create a substitution plan for the duration of the absence, and it is also necessary to decide how much we want to be involved in the office work during this period. In this section, the author pays special attention to the situation when family planning and job hunt take place at the same time, and the reader can also get to know what to be done if discrimination occurs related to pregnancy or family duties.

In the second part of the book, Allyson Downey summarises the tasks following childbirth, such as the child benefit system, and the questions of resettling to the office environment. It is recommended even before the start of the maternity leave to decide which type of childcare to select, and the nanny could perhaps start to lend a helping hand even during the maternity leave as this way it would be easier to return to work. However, burdens might be eased in other ways as well that are cheaper than a nanny, for example by outsourcing cleaning. The book discusses the advantages and disadvantages of having a nanny, taking the kid to a nursery, or involving a close relative, for example a grandparent, in childcare.

Returning to the workplace could mean a major challenge, and this could be further encumbered by postpartum depression, or the separation anxiety of the baby or the mother. Any women expect that they could accommodate back to work fast, but if they are unable to do so, they would become disappointed and blame themselves, and the arrangement of daily duties is also difficult. When a mother returns to the workplace, she needs to establish some sort of protection of her own territory; to say thank you for her substitutes and document her return, in order to ensure that she would be able to take over all her former duties. At the same time, new limits should also be set in order to ensure work-life balance and to separate private life and work.

In the third section of her book “Here’s the Plan”, Allyson Downey gives practical guidelines for change, such as what one could do at her workplace. For example, don’t wait until the boss finds out what you need; dare to say and explain why that would be advantageous for the company. Vote with your deeds: for example, use your exit interview to explain what the company could do for working mothers; make the management understand that hiring someone new is much more costly than for example 16 weeks of paid leave. In this chapter, the author also introduces some companies that represent an example to follow in this respect. For example, Netflix announced the system of unlimited paid leave, whereas Amazon goes for the policy of “leave sharing”, which makes it possible for the spouses of the employees to get some benefits. Vodafone gives 16 weeks of paid leave for every young mother, and in a further transition period of six months, mothers only need to work 30 hours per week, while getting their entire salaries.

Dr. Peter Bloom – Carl Rhodes: CEO Society

According to the authors, Dr. Peter Bloom and Carl Rhodes, the expression CEO, i.e. chief executive officer has extended beyond its former meaning of senior expert. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have become the cultural icons of the 21st century; they are considered role models who epitomise the modern pursuit of innovation, wealth, and success. Nowadays, the term refers to the person standing on top of the corporate hierarchy, the person with the biggest power and bank account. Today’s CEOs are not only good managers but charismatic celebrities as well. An extreme example to this could be Donald Trump, who at the same time acts as the number one leader of his huge corporate empire and the host of a well-known TV-show, The Apprentice.

Throughout human history, people turned to idols for salvation, let these idols be either heavenly or earthy, so that they could help them out of their difficulties. In modern times, top leaders have become idols of the mortal. This kind of omniscient, powerful, and praising ideology making is, on the one hand, the lifeblood of CEO society, and on the other hand, it is suitable for distracting attention from business mistakes, the merciless hunt for self-interest, the environment destroyed by industry, or the uncontrollable global inequality.

In recent years, the CEO lifestyle in business has rippled through into everyday life, assuming that these people act as risk-takers and adventure-seekers not only in business but also in everyday life, as if they were superheroes. The fact that Donald Trump has been elected president proves the best how significant transformations take place in today’s political life, too. In today’s CEO-centred society, company managers are not only the most efficient leaders of companies, but viable political leaders as well.

CEO lifestyle is a model, a set of values that increasingly gains ground day by day; it is like a leadership bid, targeting something deeper than fighting for global economic superiority. This is the dreadfully successful and hostile annexation of the entire society, alongside with corporations and the values embodied by them. It is an attack with the aim to transform the modern psyche, targeting not only the acquisition of enterprises and institutions. This process basically modifies the picture about who we are and who we want to be. It drums it into us that our dreams and desires can only be achieved by means of cost-benefit analysis, in order to maximise our own profit to the detriment of others.

The spread and rippling through of today’s corporate management practice into everyday life has a dramatic effect on the world and us as well. This constant belief of ours, however, endangers the present world and our future. As by using business rhetoric, no global problem can be solved; one needs to realise that more sophisticated and complex tools are required for politics than a short-term, hollow corporate management mindset. The very objective of the book “CEO Society” is nothing else but provocation against management fundamentalism and a call for resistance, hoping that finally we would be able to find the way to dismiss the CEO and start to build a stronger, less exposed and more democratic economy and society.

The books “American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump”, “Here’s the Plan”, and “CEO Society” are available in the bookshop of PABooks opened in September in the House of Wisdom, together with other earlier publications. Recent information about the latest books of the publishing house are available at the www.pallasathenekiado.hu website, where the publications can also be purchased via the web shop.

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