February 16, 2013

Best (overlooked) books 2012

Inside Story contributors nominate the books from 2012 (or, in a few cases cases, late 2011) that didn't get the attention they deserved

Nicholas Gruen's nomination:

Jonathan Haidt is an American academic psychologist whose research has focused on uncovering deep patterns common to the ethical framework of all human societies. In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Penguin, $39.95), he likens the five or six basic themes of all cultures' ethical systems — avoidance of harm, protection of the weak, reciprocity, respect for authority, purity and loyalty — to "moral tastebuds" with which different societies build the sociological cuisines that constitute their moral codes. It's a compelling perspective that enables him to explain how, as a liberal (what Australians would call a "left liberal"), he came to have more empathy for the concerns of those on the right, whom he calls "conservatives." Liberals, he argues, deploy only two or three of the fundamental five or six foundations of the ethical repertoire, while conservatives' palate extends to all of them. This doesn't make Haidt a conservative, but does help him empathise and, so, understand conservatives better. The book is simply and compelling written and I strongly recommend it.

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