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Charles Murray – The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

Posted by StepTb su settembre 7, 2016

Crown Business, 2014
144 pagine

A book divided in four parts.

“On the Presentation of Self in the Workplace” [7]: many good points, but, in some others, Murray just sounds like a grumpy nostalgic man out of touch with the contemporary workplace realities. A lot of people seem to judge negatively or ‘sarcastically’ the entire book because of this part, but it’s also the only actually grumpy and clearly conservative one.
“On Thinking and Writing Well” [7]: a more technical, dry part. Murray tried to put together a very short list of dos and don’ts of writing well, but you can already find the topic discussed better and much more in depth in The Elements of Style, Words Fail Me and Common Errors in English Usage, that the author himself cites, plus others like On Writing Well and the contemporary The Sense of Style.

The second half of the book is easily the best one.
“On the Formation of Who You Are” [8] is a highly practical and highly insightful series of life advices concerning career, experiences and ethics. His advice targeted at the ‘elite kids’ is particularly sound.
This great section is everything books like The Start-Up of You and tons of other self-help fluff should have been, and are not.
It seems like its chapter about being judgemental is the one most people have a problem with. In fact, it’s not controversial at all. Murray roughly says three things: not all opinions are equal (experts exist), we can’t avoid judging, and, since there’s no choice anyway, we should do it with a ‘bigger picture’, ethical goal in mind. All these points make perfect sense.
Rejecting the concept of ‘being judgemental’ as outlined by Murray implies a point of view similar to ‘all opinions are equal’, which in turn implies rejecting the concept of expertise – a rapidly and dangerously growing position in the Internet era, that leads to populism, pseudoscience, scammers and other bad stuff triumphing. And also a ridiculous position, because, if it were true, we should have already eliminated all higher education institutions and all job titles (hence Murray’s point about the hypocritical nature of it).
(plus: people leaving one-star harsh reviews because they don’t agree with the author’s views on being judgemental: don’t they see the irony in all this?).
Finally, “On the Pursuit of Happiness” [8] contains wise advices on how to deal with fame, fortune, religion and marriage. And it ends with two essential recommendations: reading The Nicomachean Ethics, and watching Groundhog Day repeatedly. What’s not to love?

7.5/10

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