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Summary

How much of our fate is tied to the status of our parents and grandparents? How much does this influence our children? More than we wish to believe. While it has been argued that rigid class structures have eroded in favor of greater social equality, The Son Also Rises proves that movement on the social ladder has changed little over eight centuries. Using a novel technique - tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods - renowned economic historian Gregory Clark reveals that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies. The good news is that these patterns are driven by strong inheritance of abilities and lineage does not beget unwarranted advantage. The bad news is that much of our fate is predictable from lineage. Clark argues that since a greater part of our place in the world is predetermined, we must avoid creating winner-take-all societies.

Clark examines and compares surnames in such diverse cases as modern Sweden, 14th-century England, and Qing Dynasty China. He demonstrates how fate is determined by ancestry and that almost all societies - as different as the modern United States, Communist China, and modern Japan - have similarly low social mobility rates. These figures are impervious to institutions, and it takes hundreds of years for descendants to shake off the advantages and disadvantages of their ancestors. For these reasons, Clark contends that societies should act to limit the disparities in rewards between those of high and low social rank.

Challenging popular assumptions about mobility and revealing the deeply entrenched force of inherited advantage, The Son Also Rises is sure to prompt intense debate for years to come.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2014 Princeton University Press (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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  • Garbanzo
  • 10-08-18

Such a poorly reasoned work

I was quite surprised at the repeated insistence of the use of causal fallacies and folk-bigotry in this work, and I cannot understand why Princeton Press didn’t have editors clean this up or not publish. In the end, this book is more propaganda than science.

For one, we know that bit averages persist longer than single bit persistence in random bit collections, as a mathematical result. That simple statistical result explains much of the results in this book, and it has nothing to do with genes. But Greg insists that there are no heritable additive processes in the environment and this incorrect belief steers him to constantly downplay the very real familial process we have measured that transfer privilege between generations. And at one point he waxes poetically about how if there were any such process, it would be countered by giving resources like money to disadvantaged, not once considering that the transfer may be of some nonmonetary sort.

It was just a very disappointing read as one with a deep interest in the field, as it just seemed really poor scholarism. Seeing him regularly bring up Charles Murray was horrifying, and then that thing he did where he kept trying to couch his genetic hypothesis in cautious language (despite then using it in later reasoning like “it couldn’t be X because genes”) and then exploding in the last chapter with a genes-genetic-innate-unchangeable catharsis where he lets his whole supremacist freak flag fly was just sad. Why do these people have to try to pretend so hard, spreading unscientific and unethical implications?

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  • Joanna
  • 25-02-16

Bit same-y

Each chapter largely felt like a repeat of the first. The text is also not very suited to an audio format as there are so many references to graphs. In addition, some of the mispronunciation (such as of Govan and Edinburgh) was bothersome. If a UK author's work is going to be narrated by an American, care should be taken to get these British place-names right.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful