Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard believed that “more businesses die from indigestion than starvation.” His policies allowed greater flexibility and protection for workers, made management approachable, turned a healthy profit–and avoided layoffs. Before his death earlier this year, Packard set down the history of his company from its 1938 beginnings in a Palo Alto, Calif., garage to its strategies for success in a downsizing era in The HP Way: How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company (New York: Harper Business, 1995).
Bhopal and Love Canal weren’t unfortunate accidents, says American University professor Ralph Estes, but the inevitable result of the business world’s loss of connection to communities. In Tyranny of the Bottom Line: Why Corporations Make Good People Do Bad Things (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1996), Estes reminds us that corporations were once founded for the public–and accountable to it. Tyranny offers reform guidelines that keep both stake-holder and stockholder in mind. In conjunction with the book, the Center for Advancement of Public Policy is creating a Stakeholder Alliance. Write: 1735 S St., N.W., Washington, DC 20009.
President Ronald Reagan handed out copies of right-wing economist George Gilder’s 1981 book Wealth and Poverty to anybody who’d take one–Gilder’s argument for deregulation sat well with the 1980s GOP. Now espousing communications deregulation and the benefits of “intellectual capital,” he testifies before Congress that monopolies aren’t so bad, even though workers continue to be pesky irritants (companies need the “courage” to make layoffs, he says). Gilder is a resident of various right-wing think tanks; one, Seattle’s Discovery Institute, maintains The Official George Gilder Web Site.
Dubbing itself “The business magazine for people who work for a living,” Disgruntled is a witty collection of articles about the day-to-day realities of corporate work, from CEO salaries to sexual harassment. And should a supervisor wander by while you’re looking, Disgruntled comes with a “boss button” that sends you to a fake financial report screen.
Casablanca notwithstanding, a kiss is not still a kiss, according to Leonore Tiefer. Its meaning changes depending on the culture: Standard practice in America may be a gross offense in Oceania. In Sex Is Not a Natural Act & Other Essays (San Francisco: Westview Press, 1995), Tiefer scrutinizes sex studies for how they perpetuate socially proscribed definitions of “normal” sexuality.
Janice M. Irvine’s Sexuality Education Across Cultures: Working With Differences (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995) turns its focus on popular culture, showing how movies, music, TV, and everyday language help create false assumptions about human sexual nature.
In 1988, Paul Ingram, a deputy sheriff in Olympia, Wash., received a 20-year prison sentence for sexually abusing his two daughters in satanic rituals. The trial sparked widespread debate about “recovered memory syndrome,” covered by Ethan Watters in Mother Jones (July/August 1991, Jan./Feb. 1993), and later in his book, co-authored by Richard Ofshe, Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria (New York: Scribners, 1994).
A short, straightforward exposé of the National Rifle Association’s history and inner workings, Jack Anderson’s Inside the NRA: Armed and Dangerous (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Dove Books, 1996) documents how the organization has mutated into a juggernaut that’s lost sight of the Second Amendment it claims to defend. The book also investigates the relationship between Institute for Legislative Action contributions and congressional voting records.
One of the best places to learn about the NRA short of actually joining is its Web site (http://www.nra.org). Graphically bland but comprehensive, the site features propagandist press kits (one details the “racist” history of gun control), a collection of Second Amendment “fact sheets,” and for kids, the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program. The smiling, sneaker-clad bald eagle informs children about gun safety with activity books and cartoons. Eddie, who also makes live guest appearances, says his first priority is to teach children to recognize real guns when they see them, but he has his work cut out for him: The NRA dictates that Eddie cannot “appear where firearms are being used, displayed, or sold.” Still, the NRA’s monthly magazine, American Rifleman, proclaims the 8-year-old Eddie Eagle program to be a huge success: “Fewer children die in gun accidents today than did 90 years ago.”
Amidst the mad dash toward larger networks and faster communications, the essays in Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995) take a much-needed step back, asking hard questions about the global village. Edited by James Brook and Iain A. Boal, the book punctures the idealism surrounding technology by focusing on its influence on privacy, community, work, and our bodies. It’s required reading for anybody who believes in computers but not the hype surrounding them.
Conventional wisdom dictates that technology has split society into two camps: the high-tech in- crowd and the know-nothings–and the former is decidedly a boys’ club. Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace (Seattle: Seal Press, 1996), edited by Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise, compiles essays by women (including Paulina Borsook) that cover everything from chat room politics to Wired magazine. Scholarly but without jargon, it’s one of the first books to confront intelligently the lack of parity on the Internet–and to provide possible solutions.
Founded in 1993 by Pushcart Prize editor Bill Henderson, the Lead Pencil Club rejects the latest technology in favor of human relationships. Luddite and proud, Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club: Pulling the Plug on the Electronic Revolution (Wainscott, N.Y.: Pushcart Press, 1996) includes essays, cartoons, and letters by the likes of Neil Postman, Doris Grumbach, and Wendell Berry. While the contributors’ views conflict (can I have my radio or can’t I?), they all share an interest in finding humanism outside the machinery. For the Leadite’s newsletter, typed on a 1942 Royal manual typewriter, write to P.O. Box 380, Wainscott, NY 11975.