Review of "Emotional Intelligence"

The research in Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence brought together the current body of scientific literature to derive a holistic picture of how modern science explains the manner in which biochemical interactions in the brain and body effect and are effected by our daily existence. Recognizing that it is impossible for sheer rationality to guide our daily lives as the emotional system flavors every aspect of our existence – Goleman provides a model for understanding how it is that the emotions work, gives numerous examples of their potential to help or harm in specific situations and offers a series of guidelines which, if applied by the conscientious reader or the school teacher, can greatly increase the quality of one’s life.

In the opening chapter we learn the components and order of the neurochemical phenomenology of brain functions. The instinctual, associative area of the brain is the first to receive the neurotransmitter sent from the sense organs while the neocortex, the emotional center, is the second site that receives it and is the one that is able to bring to bear whatever rational responses one has developed over time to the stimulus. One of the popular conceptions of this divide of potential reactive outcomes is “nature vs. nurture”, though a better manner for describing it would be genetic inheritance versus cognitive development.

Emotional intelligence includes empathy, self-control, persistence, the ability to motivate oneself, zeal and the proper mobilization of interpersonal skills. It’s by analyzing these traits that it becomes possible to see that the traditional markers of intelligence may make one an ideal candidate for a position as a lecturing professor however the lack of emotional intelligence trait means that one will be poorly suited to manage their relations and selves in periods of crises imagined or real. Goleman is not an essentialist his valuation of all emotions. Sometimes “positive” qualities, due to the vicissitudes of circumstance can a normally positive emotion for successful activity a maladaption the face of reality. Not all emotions however are capable of being beneficial to the experience given the right context. Worrying, for instance, is not a manner for dealing with potential problems but a form of paralysis as new solutions to issues doesn’t come from worrying nor does it affect the feared outcome.

Bringing this emotional intelligence to our awareness alters the manner in which us as the observer assesses the situation and can thus lead to an increased number of potential responses to it based upon which outcomes are considered to be most appropriate, desirable, etc. Those with interpersonal, emotional intelligences are better able to organize and co-ordinate groups, negotiate solutions to issues that flare up, make personal connections and have insight into others feelings, concerns and motives. Goleman moves from these observation to a series of anecdotes where people aren’t able to gain control of emotions that are “affecting them” like as if they were foreign spirits inhabiting their bodies rather than “being affected” by people in a particularly trying set of circumstances. The results of those that can’t control them are the opposite of the self-mastery, both as in such circumstance the individual is not controlling the self and as such abdication of agency typically leads to negative outcomes – be it depression, anxiety, etc. Such emotions can be specific and feel as if they are “flooding” in at times or can be generalized. These temperaments, however, are not destiny and can be changed by various practices.

In contradistinction to this flooding of emotions deleterious to human happiness is the possibility of reaching a state of “flow”. In Goleman’s terms this is “…a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture. Because flow feels so good, it it intrinsically rewarding. It is a state in which people become interlay absorbed in what they are doing, paying undivided attention to the task, their awareness merged with their actions” (91). To describe the process on more poetic terms, specifically that of Yeats, we could say that flow is when “the dancer becomes the dance” and is an ideal manner of existence that is described in various contemplative religious traditions.

Following these wide strokes on the impact of the emotions of one’s romantic and work life, Goleman delves into the social and physical aspects of emotions. Interpersonally the arts of emotional intelligence apply to the manner in which people display their emotions – where they minimize shows of emotion, exaggerate it or substitute. Emotions are transmittable and indeed those which we describe are charismatic are those that can elicit in others their attitudes. Indeed, emotions also have a significant impact on human health with those that are positive having a not just having a happier but healthier existence.

A final note worth mentioning is the author’s multiple positive references to Aristotle, specifically Nicomachean Ethics, which two-thousand plus years ago came to many of the same conclusions as Goleman. I mention this both for it’s general noteworthiness, and as a part of my FICAM training I’m returning to much of my previous philosophical training as a means of supplementing it by bringing problematics which which I think are worth tarrying. Put briefly, I specifically plan to bring together the FICAM reading with modern developmentalist perspectives in the Hegelian vein, such as Gillian Rose’s social model and Catherine Malabou’s individualistic approach and her concern with various form of brain plasticity (developmental, modulational and reparative). This will be something further worked on in abloom post, but thought it worth mentioning.

Review of "Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street"

Karen Ho initiated the fieldwork for Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street by obtaining employment at Bankers Trust NY Corporation, a Manhattan investment-banking firm, for 6-months before she was eventually “restructured” out of employment there. Ho utilized kinship bonds via colleagues she’d met during her undergrad and graduate degrees at Stanford and Princeton and the aura of “smartness” attached to those institutions much in the same manner that the majority of young investment bankers did to obtain their position. She than expanded the scope from her own experiences to include those that she interviewed via contacts she made over a three-year period.

Ho connects this portrait of embryonic and low-level finance culture illustrated to traditional historical writing that limns the development of the American corporations divergence from stakeholder models of business to the prioritization of shareholder value. As Ho shows, in sections that would make good companions to excerpts from Balogh’s A Government Out of Sight, this perspective emerged first as a result of legal rulings contesting the nature of who the modern corporation was meant to serve – the public interest or the private shareholders. What develops is a judicial imperative to serve the former no matter the cost to the latter and the adoption of a financial model that concerns itself solely with the bottom line shown in quarterly reports rather than the long-term prosperity of the corporation, its employees or anyone else otherwise connected to them. The implications of these rulings have huge social and economic effects, ones leading to increased “liquidity” justified, at its base, by the need for increased capital return. Shareholder value, however, is not just a business practice but, like that of Christian free enterprise, has a moral tenor to it. It “…meant more than raiding the stock price of a corporation, it also signified a mission statement, a declaration of purpose, even a call to action. Creating or reclaiming shareholder value was morally and economically the right thing to do, it was the yardstick to measure individual as well as corporate practices, values, and achievements” (Ho 125).

Using the language and conceptual framework of the dismal science, economics, this rhetoric encouraged illogical corporate mergers and hasty leveraged buyouts that served to temporarily boost stock prices, while simultaneously rendering thousands unemployed, millions of dollars of corporate assets stripped, and driving the longevity of hundreds of corporations straight into the ground. This viewpoint additionally glossed over the inescapable interconnectivity between financial actors, neglects numerous other stakeholders and glossed over the “smartness” of those running the business about to be purchased by a conglomerate with that of the fresh faced newly grads incentivized to continuously be breaking apart and putting together new combinations.

Ho discusses this shift away from the stable corporation dominated market of the 1950’s and 60’s with an almost nostalgic tone, mourning the marginalization of the perspective that the combination of government regulation and corporation as social bodies offering its citizens/employees certain forms of stability and protection from the market forces. With the increasing emphasis placed upon the individual to guard against all possible outcomes, this is understandable. Freedom is not just that ability to do as one pleases but to be free from imposition, be it levies or need to engage in increased attention to myriad economic indicators due to the deinstitutionalization of financial security within the private and public sector.

In this vaguely concerned as to the state of business affairs vein, Liquidated is akin to To Serve God and Wal-Mart and Liar’s Poker, where we see an insider account of the business practices constituting the markets and culture of neoliberalism. Ho, however, differentiates itself by delving further into the abstract rhetorical practices used within the industry to obfuscate the social and material realities that conceptualize businesses as “too big to fail” and individuals are “too small to be cared about.”

Review of "To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise"

Bethany Moreton’s book To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise historicizes the Ozarks region, showing how the growth of Wal-Mart was related to the yeoman ideal and a feeling of resentment towards Northern bankers. Legal mobilizations occurred in these regions against northern owned chains coming in during the 1920’s as a means of “preserving competition by denying the combinations their unfair advantages” (Moreton 17). During a period of economic hardships mandating thrift and with the development of a “home-grown” chain that is able to produce a quasi-Christian image reflecting the values of the community – Wal-Mart is able to become successful. These two developments are intimately related. As U.S. manufacturing jobs moved abroad (a process dealt with in more detail in Judith Stein’s A Pivotal Decade) it created shifts in economic subjectivity, largely by creating the need for households to have multiple income earners. This occupational/economic context was addressed by Wal-Mart’s low prices and employment opportunities. Management positions are prioritized for men emerging from Christian colleges while service labor positions were offered to unskilled women, not as a means of obtaining economic self-reliance but as a means for supplementing the primary income of their husband. With the both adult members of the family working, childcare was now often delegated (externalized) to immediate family and community members, a situation that was celebrated as it encouraged the values of the hearth rather than the market. Moreton’s focus on description rather than valuation can lead the reader to believe either that those believing the servant-leadership model proselytized by Wal-Mart aren’t dupes operating within the confines of false consciousness but adherents to a new “Christian” system, or that they are. It is this ambiguity, I believe, that made the book so popular by readers that weren’t strictly speaking academic (it’s the only academic book that I’ve ever seen at an airport book store).

That ambiguity of the text laid out, I think it’s important to note that Moreton’s description of servant-leadership seeks to supplant previously existing populist ideologies that were antagonistic to “the feminization of labor”. Lower wages are here naturalized, supplemented with notions of personal benevolence on the behalf of the employer and social conservatism. The concept of the servant leader is an alibi within a structurally static hierarchy that reinforces gender norms of men as leaders and women as subservient. Moreton also shows how such an operational ideology helps create the strange alliance between evangelicals and military hawks, due to the valorization of obedience and the conflation of capitalism with Christian values.

Moreton doesn’t just rely upon the oral histories and available literature but also shows how as Wal-Mart expanded they sought to recreate the practices that originated in the Ozark region in their competitive quest to be the dominant chain retailer. Specifically, through their associations with groups such as the Business Round Table and financial donations to school’s M.B.A. programs, Wal-Mart sought to counter-act the anti-capitalist sentiments created by a higher level of education. Through a result of their combined efforts: “By 1981, graduating business majors already outnumbered their classmates in all languages and literatures, the arts, philosophy, religion, the social sciences and history combined” (Moreton 151). The emphasis of this education was of an explicit anti-leftist orientation and these courses promoted mythologies rather than material realities.

In a final note, I want to argue against claims that “Christian free enterprise” is not defined by Moreton. As I’ve tried to show in the above exegesis of the text, it seems to me that the word is a positively conceived code phrase for “neo-liberalism”. Whereas Liar’s Poker is an account of the pursuit of money as a religion, here we see an ideology in which it is more important to pursue religion and money is secondary to the social relationship in which it is made. In this way those that would say the phrase is an oxymoronic trope are correct – for it elides the sites of Wal-Mart’s production and numerous of Christianity’s generally accepted values – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t operative in the manner in which Moreton outlined.

Review of "Liar's Poker"

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis is a first person account of his employment with Salomon Brothers during the time that a number of new financial instruments such as mortgage backed securities and junk bonds were created. In contradistinction to the books that we’ve read thus far this semester, with the exception of a section of Galambos, the book is unique in it’s insider insights into the culture and context of these developments as well its colorful character descriptions.

Lewis memoir is in a way a eulogy for Saloman, which was purchased by Citigroup in 1998. By recounting the many ways it was unable to properly manage its growth, diversify its offerings when new ones were created, create a stable, sustainable staff Lewis shows how the company analysts had trouble looking at themselves. The listing of the sophomoric pranks, culture of fatness, lack of seriousness on behalf of the trainees, inability for upper management to maintain talented employees, the internecine departmental conflicts leading to purges of talented people as well as the desire to project a grand image in new and emerging markets (London) that hadn’t yet wholeheartedly embraced the New York model reads like a litany of decadent symptoms that would have been cause for it’s buyout and dismantling by those such as Michael Milken, who did try to do just that.

In the tight focus on Saloman, it’s investors and the companies it interacts with the broader economic implications fall by the wayside. For instance, one of the topics which has been discussed extensively in class has been the government’s regulatory relationship to markets. We learn that Lewis Ranieri was instrumental in creating the framework for the national legality of mortgage bonds by transforming the state-to-state legal codes presiding over such issues into a national one.

While in accordance with mass-market consumers values, the book is light on it’s citation. It’s not just the foregoing of an annotated bibliography, but the stating of certain events and circumstances happening without giving much background. I think this a strength as it does not scare away the casual reader, but an annotated companion piece, preferable free and posted on the author’s website, would be a welcome addition to those interested in following at least some way down a path of further inquiry.