The Pallas Athene Publishing House (PABOOKS) expanded its offerings with four books in February. It is a common feature of the works dealing with various fields and topics that they all focus on the management of conflicts, including conflicts of interest, from the resolving of workplace related problems through the effects of income inequalities and competing countries to the various contracts putting a pressure on the Middle East.

Jesper Roine: Pocket Piketty

The “Pocket Piketty” is practically a summary of Thomas Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”. From the originally more than 700-page-long, rather dry book the author, Jesper Roine created an easy to understand manual, a pocket guide. The Pocket Piketty provides a picture on the development and various effects of income inequalities in a way that it arouses the reader’s interest to a deeper analysis of the topic.

The questions about the distribution of income belong to the most widespread and debated topics of the age. Thomas Piketty’s book entitled “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” aims to answer questions such as: What could be done based on the long-term knowledge on the distribution of capital?; Will the accumulation of private capital imminently get into the focal point of economy as Karl Marx believed to be so in the 19th century? Is it possible that the equalising force of growth, competition, and technological development will lead to harmonisation and bigger equality, as Simon Kuznets thought in the 20th century?

The classical theories (Ricardo, Marx, Kuznets) all agree with the idea that there is a relationship between economic growth and the distribution of the profit deriving from this growth among the population. This is in the very focal point of Piketty’s book with the difference that Piketty bases his theory on facts relying on 20th-century income and wealth distribution data as well as those deriving from the relations between capital and income since the 18th century.

Piketty particularly focuses on two questions. First, based on the data, a tendency could be pointed out, according to which the upper layer of those acquiring their income from work (especially in certain countries) are separated from the others, overtake them, meaning that work-related income is concentrated at a smaller layer. Second, according to Piketty, capital gets accumulated in time in environments where the return on capital is bigger than the pace of economic growth, leading to an ever-increasing inequality.

The book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” draws more far-reaching conclusions based on historic data than anything else; still, Piketty admits that knowledge incorporated is not enough and the conclusions are far from being perfect. The final conclusion of the book is that the private property-based market economy mobilises such forces that could move the economy just as much towards increasing inequality, as to the other direction. The force working in the other direction, which is also in the centre of the book, means that the return rate of capital could be much higher than the rate of economic growth in the long run. And when the capital is concentrated, it grows faster than workforce-related income, and thus inequalities intensify over time. This is the reason why it is necessary to introduce progressive capital tax, which should be supranational by all means.

Joseph L. Badaracco: Managing in the grey

Every manager makes tough calls—it comes with the job. The bigger responsibility he takes in work and life, the more frequently he might face unexpected problems. Some of these might seem major and more complex, others might seem minor, but even these latter could not be called easy or insignificant.

The hardest decisions are the so-called “grey areas”, that is situations where the manager and his team have worked hard to find an answer to a certain problem, and the manager still doesn’t always know what to do, how to make the right decision. But he has to make a decision. He has to choose, commit, act, and live with the consequences and, not the least, persuade others to follow his lead. Grey areas test his skills as a manager, his judgment, and even his humanity. The question is: How do you get these decisions right?

Grey areas are nowadays especially risky, because one tends to analyse everything numerically only, while the really complex questions often involve emotional and psychological risks to which analytical methods are unable to provide an answer. Following a thorough analysis, the human aspects of the questions should also be investigated; for this purpose, intelligence, anticipation, imagination, and previous experience should be utilised. Solving grey problems as a human in a humane manner means nothing else but askingthe right questions from ourselves and continuously developing the answers given to them. These questions are indispensable tools of deliberation and decision-making.

Joseph L. Badaracco provides a buoyant, practical, and almost radical solution to the tackling of this sort of problems. When the traditional analytical tools run out of steam, the book “Managing in the grey” provides a solution for making the right decision, by answering five questions. Answering these five questions provides a simple, yet profound way of deepening thoughts, making decisions more accurate, and developing new perspectives. The five questions appearing in the book have been fine-tuned and tested in the course of numerous management trainings, MBA courses, research interviews, and personal consultations. The questions could be used also separately, but the expected result could truly be achieved by applying them collectively.

The 5 timeless questions for solving the most difficult workplace related problems are:

 

  • What are the actual consequences?
  • What are my core obligations?
  • What works in the world as it is?
  • Who are we?
  • What can I live with?

LilachGilady: The Price of Prestige

In international relations, countries do not always go for the narrowly defined version of profit maximisation, i.e. what is taught by theoretical economics, but also consider prestige and its value. According to LilachGilady, this behaviour is basically rooted in four causes. First, the decline of wars between big powers, including interparadigmatic wars in international relations theory has allowed previously neglected issues to resurface. Second, the emergence of China and several aspiring powers raises questions about status and prestige. Third, in certain countries, there has always been a certain degree ofmotivation for winning respect, striving for prestige, and establishing the mentality necessary for all these. Last, but not least, there has been a resurgence of interest in prestige among the researchers of economics. The behavioural school of economy, which has strengthened since the crisis, places the precise understanding of man and human motivations at the forefront.

It is status symbols and luxury products that represent a characteristic group of conspicuous consumption. A status symbol characteristically provides an efficient communication channel: the more attractive and long-lasting it is, the more efficient it proves to be for transmitting values and maintaining various signals. A luxury product is also able to convey highlighted messages in the international network of relationships, as its consumption has a certain underlying content, and it usually goes beyond pure use. A modern and peculiar consumer behaviour could indicate development and, at the same time, convey a message stating that the buyer has a strong, stable financial background, as (s)he can afford status symbol-based purchases. And such luxury products could amplify the values and norms represented by the buyer country.

For example, the development of a marine fleet, especially including the purchase or construction of an aircraft carrier might refer to conspicuous consumption at the first sight because it is entails huge expenses. The maintenance and development of a marine fleet it unattainable for many countries, and activity in this field in itself assumes belonging to an elite group. The maintenance and development of a marine fleet requires several spectacular sacrifices from many developed superpowers.

In international relations, charity also plays an important role in the achievement and maintenance of recognition; this can be in the form ofassistance abroad, peacekeeping, or humanitarian aid. Participation in peacekeeping programs exhibits the signs of conspicuous consumption. However, despite the good social goal, as a result of the increasingly moderate “return”, several countries have had to decrease such expenses.

In order to increase the international prestige of a country, grandiose scientific projects are also especially suitable. According to LilachGilady, there are three areas that are characterised by conspicuous consumption: space travel, particle accelerators, and ambitious medical-biological projects. Regarding huge scientific projects, conspicuous consumption can often be explained by a major expenditure, which is often significant even for the richest countries, motivation for excellence, the huge interest shown by other countries, and the prestige-value that could arise even in the case of partial success.

James L. Gelvin: The New Middle East

When in December 2010, Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, igniting the uprisings which continue today, the entire Middle Eastern landscape changed in ways that were unimaginable before. Despite the fact that the so-called“Arab Spring” attracted much attention and implied the downfall of regimes and an end to their abuses, most of the protests and uprisings have had disastrous results across the whole Middle East. While the old powers reasserted their control with violence in Egypt and Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and Syria have virtually ceased to exist as states, torn apart by civil wars. While in the “hybrid democracies”, i.e. Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq, protests against government inefficiency, corruption, and arrogance have done little to bring about the sort of changes protesters have demanded. Simultaneously, ISIS, along with other jihadi groups (such as al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Shariahs) have thrived in an environment marked by state breakdown.

This book by James L. Gelvin explains these recent changes, outlining the social, political, and economic contours of what some have termed “the new Middle East”. In this book, “Middle East” means the area stretching from east of Morocco to the present-time Iran. According to the UN Population Division, in 2015, there were approximately 510 million people living in the region. The author, as an expert of the field, answers the questions raised by himself briefly, in plain language. These are questions that have been swirling in our minds unanswered since the change that took place in the political situation of the Middle East. James L. Gelvin synthesises in a clear way the political and economic reasons behind the dramatic news that arrivefrom Syria and the rest of the Middle East every day. He shows how and why bad governance, stagnant economies, poor healthcare, climate change, population growth, refugee crisis, food and water insecurity, and war increasingly threaten human security in the region.

Besides revolutions and military conflicts, the situation of the Middle East and the security of the people living there are threatened by other factors as well. The Middle East is the second biggest urbanised region of the world. Besides the general water scarcity, the scarcity of clean water is becoming increasingly serious. The majority of the region’s population live in coastal areas, and the climate change-related rising sea-level endangers the population of towns situated along the seashore. Although agriculture was invented in the Middle East, this region is now the least developed agricultural area. Arab countries are important food importers, but global warming decreases the quantity of the food to be imported. Poverty in the biggest part of the Middle East has been either stagnating or worsening. In 2014, in 16 out of the region’s 21 states, the unemployment rate exceeded the international average of 9.4%, while only Turkey, Israel, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar were below the average. The Arab world is less industrialised than it used to be in 1970.

The books “Pocket Piketty”, “Managing in the grey”, “The Price of Prestige”, and “The New Middle East” are available in the bookshop of PABooks 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 webshop.

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