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Book reviews for "Josephson,_Matthew" sorted by average review score:

The Poet Assassinated
Published in Paperback by Exact Change (2000)
Authors: Guillaume Apollinaire and Matthew Josephson
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Los cuentos fantásticos de Apollinaire
Además de la novela corta que da título al libro, la edición se acompaña de un conjunto de relatos en los que el autor demuestra su capacidad imaginativa y su dominio del lenguaje. La prosa de Guillaume Apollinaire nunca ha sido tan reconocida como sus versos, pero debemos advertir que los textos que integran "El Poeta Asesinado" han servido de hipotexto para obras maestras posteriores de la talla de Kafka.

Edison : a biography
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Author: Matthew Josephson
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Still Readable
"It's still burning" was the phrase repeated as the light bulb stayed lit longer and longer. The same phrase was used by Edison's son to keep the death-vigil crowds informed as the great man lay dying, as relayed by this author. Unlike the Edison method of great volumes of empirical data patiently sifted down in huge experiments, the author deftly moves in and out of topics in a refreshingly constrained manner, which he really has to do to keep his book medium-length and still cover a lot.

The middle to the end of the book explores some very important themes, where there are irreconcilable problems with some of Edison's later inventions and the marketability of the resulting products. Like the ore-smashing enterprise in New Jersey, which worked, but not at a market profit. Same thing with the goldenrod-into-rubber operation in Florida.

These then become background for some surprisingly sensitive observations on Edison, made by his friends John Burroughs and Henry Ford. Ford is too sentimental to shut down the funding of the hopeless goldenrod operation; and Burroughs gently points out how Edison in his later years at least, contradicted his personal core-beliefs about sleeping and eating food (He sleeps till 10 am, "bolts half a pie," dumps tons of sugar in his coffee, then lectures on how Americans should eat less and sleep less).

The disconnect which also developed between Edison and his children is developed against the backdrop of Edison's inability to relate to the scale and demands of the electric power industry which he helped create. At his core, as the author shows, Edison's ability to do things was not necessarily transferable to others, including his children. The first batch of kids went kind of bad, and the group from marriage #2 turned out better because wife #2 was more strict and traditional than Edison.

Harvard Business Review recently had an article on great leaders, and pointed out that for every narcissistic leader, you need about 100 obsessive-compulsives scurrying around to make things really work. Each type needs the other to get anything done. This seems to have been the case with Edison, who in addition to being headstrong and creative, had the essential gifts described by Henry Ford as necessary to get anything done: also have "the soul of an Irish construction foreman and a Jewish broker." Or something like that.

In depth and very readable
I had been looking for something to get me past the grade school biographies that I remember reading about Edison -- this is the best biography of the inventor that I have read. Not only does it dispell many of the myths surrounding Edison (he didn't come up with the idea for the incandesent lamp; he was not made deaf by a conductor chastising him for a fire with his chemistry set), but it highlights his major work not in individual inventions, but in combining his inventions into systems ... that were both practical and profitable.

The book is very readable, and goes into just enough depth about his personal life (of which he had very little) and his public and professional lives. The only negative is that because it was written in the early 1950's, it is missing a perspective that could be added by 50 more years of luxuriating in the lifestyle which Edison has made possible.

Al Smith: Hero of the Cities; A Political Portrait Drawing on the Papers of Frances Perkins
Published in Hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Co (1969)
Author: Matthew, Josephson
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Interesting biography;recommended
While this book can be criticized for simplistic portrayals of the likes of William Jennings Bryan and other characters, its view of Smith is a very good and objective one. His growing up on the streets of New York, his meteoric rise to the governorship and institution of some public assistance programs, his presidential run and his later conservatism are all discussed. Alot of space is given to Frances Perkins, whose unfinished manuscript the book is based on, so the book also serves as a quasi-biography of her life.

The Robber Barons
Published in Paperback by Harvest Books (1962)
Author: Matthew Josephson
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A 1930s Socialist's view of the Gilded Age
Originally published at the height of the Depression, Matthew Josephson's "The Robber Barons" marks the climax of academic and popular hostility toward the early industrialists. The fact that it still remains in print is testament to its profound influence and popularity. Indeed, the title of the book resurrected what was then an old and rather obscure term and elevated it into the mainstream American lexicon.

Reading the book today, the reader will discover that many of Josephson's observations - such as his favorable comments on the then contemporary economic programs of Stalinist Russia - are risible in hindsight. But he does provide a broad overview of the major players and thoroughly chronicles the great evils attributed to them and their practices - at least from the perspective of a 1930s socialist.

In short, this book, if it must be read at all, should be read to gain insight into the early twentieth century liberal bias toward capitalism and its embrace of a socialist future, rather than a legitimate economic history of the United States in the post bellum period, which it most definitely is not.

Two Histories for the Price of One
If you're going to write history, the best thing to do is be objective and balanced. But if you can't do that, the second best thing is to broadcast your bias loud and clear.

By going the second route, this book provides not only a historical account of the robber barons, but a pretty clear picture of the Marxist perspective on them in 1934.

It's interesting at times to watch Josephson struggle for balance. On the one hand, he seems to almost admire the big capitalists when they're creating collectives by crushing the little capitalists. On the other hand, when they start tromping on the workers, they're clearly Very Naughty. And he addresses the rampant religious fervor of most of the barons, but never really figures out how to make it fit the picture other than by suggesting they're just enormously hypocritical.

The story of railroad, steel and banking essentially taking over the country is here, nicely organized so that we can follow relevant threads without getting to caught up in chronology. Josephson sometimes lets his billowing prose and sweeping characterizations overwhelm detail and fact; his style is definitely not for all tastes.

Ultimately it's a double history, not only of the Robber Barons themselves, but of the singular vantage point of the mid-thirties. Yes, Josephson is not the most objective of chroniclers, but his bias is so clearly stated and in evidence that it is easy to filter out, and his point of view becomes an interesting subject of this study in its own right.

The classic book on the subject
This book was first written in 1934 and remains the definite description of the Robber Barons. The author describes the Barons in the context of the political, social, and industrial trends of the time. It describes how they were shaped by the industries they were in, and by the competitive forces set in motion by each other. It is very well written, well researched, and the stories are simply fascinating.

This book has a certain bias against the Barons and the laissez-faire system that created them, but it is not overwhelming. Keep in mind that it was written in the depths of the Great Depression, when many people questioned their faith in the free market system. While the author describes their many great accomplishments, he also spends plenty of time on their weaknesses and excesses, especially in the latter chapters. But remember, even the most admirable Barons also bribed politicians, abused their workers, and cheated ordinary investors by manipulating their own stock. Many of their actions would be illegal today.

This book contains a lot of detail (though if you are like me, you will soon be wanting more). It is not a light book for a lazy Sunday afternoon. But if you are really interested, this is the place to start.

Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists
Published in Hardcover by Amereon Ltd (1940)
Author: Matthew Josephson
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An opportunist marxist
The writer was a stock broker who had lost his fortune in 1929. This personal failure had made him lose faith in himself - and mankind to pursue its own happiness.

A Great History
This account of a critical aspect of American history is a classic, as shown by the fact that it is still being released in new editions 60 years after it was first written. Josephson has a very broad conception of how this phase began and developed, and communicates in a compelling way the social and political circumstances explaining the rise of the 19th c. monopolists.

Incidentally, I would call Josephson neither a "Marxist" nor an "Opportunist," as did a previous reviewer. The book never advocated socialist revolution or indeed any policy alternative, and therefore seems not particularly Marxist. Anyway, if Josephson harbored doubts about capitalism, he was hardly alone in his generation. Many Americans of his time shared such doubts, as seems understandable under the circumstances--the book was written during the 1930s, in the midst of one of the worst economic crises in world history, and before Keynes refuted a fear widely held amongst prominent economists that capitalism would inexorably produce more and more depressions as time went on.

He also seems not particularly "Opportunist"; rather, he was a serious historian, who wrote a number of other historical works that were widely revered in his time and since (one of which, "The Politicos," is every bit a classic of American history, as is "The Robber Barrons"). I'm not sure where the "Opportunism" comes in.

A word of caution is that the book is written in a somewhat archaic style that to modern eyes might seem ostentatious and sometimes melodramatic, and might at times seem a tedious read. Still, if you want a good introduction to a classic account of this important phase of American history, the Robber Barons is an excellent resource.

Near-objective view of the Captains of Industry. 1840-1910
This should have been required reading for advanced high schoolers and college undergrads. This near-objective view of our capitalist leaders thru the "gilded age" gives us the good and the bad. The book presents more facts and tales, and has less opinion and political rambling.

It's treatment of politicians as more villainous than the worst of the "Robber Barons" is entirely believable. Josephson worked hard to recount a coherent tale of industrial struggle.

The book helped popularize the phrase "Robber Barons" But in today's treatment of "monopolies" such as Microsoft and Intel and ATandT, it's informative to see what a REAL trust was. The trust may be put in negative light in this book, but study of America's incredible progress in this era, above all other countries in the world at this time, teaches us that trusts really don't hinder progress at all-- they actually result from the most intense of all competition and can only last until it is superceded by new technology-- just as AtandT would have met eventual ruinous competition from wireless, cable, and internet companies had the gov't not screwed the American people by breaking it into 7 regional "GOVERNMENT-AUTHORIZED MOnopolies". No need for gov't interference in business-- period! Only when gov't gets its hands dirty in business is the monopoly harmful. See today's railroads (which are now getting their asses kicked by the trucking industry which is also gov't subsidized via gov't built and maintained roads) for details.

Published in Paperback by John Wiley & Sons (1992)
Author: Matthew Josephson
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Empire of the Air: Juan Trippe and the Struggle for World Airways
Published in Hardcover by Ayer Co Pub (1972)
Author: Matthew Josephson
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Matthew Josephson Bourgeois Bohemian
Published in Hardcover by Yale Univ Press ()
Author: David E Shi
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Published in Paperback by Harcourt (1963)
Author: Matthew Josephson
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The politicos, 1865-1896
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Author: Matthew Josephson
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