The Gift exploits Mauss’s high-level analytical and interpretative skills to produce a brilliant investigation of the forms, meanings, and structures of gift-giving across a range of societies. Mauss, along with many others, had noted that in a wide range of societies – especially those without monetary exchange or legal structures – gift-giving and receiving was carried out according to strict customs and unwritten laws. What he sought to do in The Gift was to analyse the structures that governed how and when gifts were given, received, and reciprocated in order to grasp what implicit and unspoken reasons governed these structures. He also wanted to apply his interpretative skills to asking what such exchanges meant, in order to explore the implications his analysis might have for modern, western cultures. In Mauss’s investigations, it became clear that gift-giving is, in many cultures, a crucial structural force, binding people together in a web of reciprocal commitments generated by the laws of gifting. Indeed, he concluded, gifts can be seen as the ‘glue’ of society..
For Prahalad and Hamel, managers need to be able to identify and evaluate their company’s unique skill sets, and the technologies that distinguish them from others businesses. How well they then coordinate these elements defines a company’s competitive strength and how quickly it can adapt to new challenges. As Prahalad and Hamel showed in their case studies, the critical thinking skill of evaluation – knowing what you do best, how well you do it, and how you might improve – is absolutely central to staying ahead of the crowd.
Capitalism, thought Marx, works by exploiting the working class. Their wages do not reflect the value of their labor. Marx concluded that capitalism would fail because of this contradiction at the heart of the capitalist system. He wrote Capital to give activists the theories and language they needed to criticize the system. But the work also outlines the new communist society that Marx hoped would rise in its place, and it helped to inspire the rise of states that largely shaped the modern history of our planet. Today, after a century of conflict, Marx’s analysis still offers valuable tools that help us analyze the modern world.
Marx's belief that he had arrived at a scientific way of describing the present and predicting the future may not be shared by many of his modern interpreters. But his ability to connect things together in new ways is not in doubt – and nor is the influence of the new hypotheses that he generated as a result of so much careful analysis.
In his highly influential best seller, first published in 1973, Burton Malkiel demolishes the idea that investment ‘experts’ can predict stock price changes and ‘beat the market.’ Since all information that could affect the value of a company’s shares is known almost instantly to all investors, Malkiel argues, shares quickly find the price that reflects that information.
He recommends buying a broad range of stocks to reflect the market price level as a whole—investing in an index fund—and holding on to them. This, he argues, will achieve the same performance as the stock market as a whole, which always goes up over time.
Ways of Seeing is a key art-historical work that continues to provoke widespread debate. It is comprised of seven different essays, three of which are pictorial and the other containing texts and images.
Berger first examines the relationship between seeing and knowing, discussing how our assumptions affect how we see a painting. He moves on to consider the role of women in artwork, particularly regarding the female nude. The third essay deals with oil painting looking at the relationship between subjects and ownership.
Finally, Berger addresses the idea of ownership in a consumerist society, discussing the power of imagery in advertising, with particular regards to photography.
Susan Sontag’s 1997 text, On Photography, brought photographic theory into the university classroom with its staunch defence of the medium as art and inspired a new wave of Marxist Criticism in the field. Sontag explains the way in which we are addicted to images and depend on them for knowledge of our surroundings and the problems and challenges this causes.
Already an established academic figure, Sontag brought Walter Benjamin’s theories in into the academic mainstream. The book retains its relevance in the everyday world because of the applicability of its ideas to the world of digital photography.
Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998 having written Inequality Reexamined in 1992, a seminal text setting out a theory to evaluate social arrangements and inequality. By asking ‘equality of what?’ Sen shows that (in)equality should be assessed as human freedom. The text lays out the fundamental ideas to Sen’s Capability Approach.
This approach is celebrated in diverse academic disciplines because of its specific contribution towards the improvement to debates on inequality beyond economic deprivation and utility measures. Sen’s arguments have had many practical applications throughout policy circles such as Human Development Index.
Outline of a Theory of Practice is recognized as a major theoretical text on the foundations of anthropology and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu develops a theory of practice that is simultaneously a critique of the methods and postures of social science and a general account of how human action should be understood, illustrated by his fieldwork in Algeria.
The text’s rigorous, consistent, materialist approach lays the foundations for a theory of symbolic capital and, through analysis of the different modes of domination, a theory of symbolic power.
Widely accepted as a philosophical masterpiece, Ethics sets out to explain nothing less than the nature of God, the world, and how we should live. Rejecting some of the most deeply held presuppositions of classical and medieval thought, Spinoza makes the radical claim that God and the universe are in fact one and the same, a single substance with infinite attributes.
Ethics is famously complex, its elaborate and self-referential matrix of definitions and propositions unfolding across five sections. Published in 1677, it was largely shunned for decades, but remains strikingly original in its metaphysics and virtually unparalleled in its scope.
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction combats traditional art criticism’s treatment of artworks as fixed, unchanging mystical objects. For Benjamin, a work of art closed off from any active visual or tactile engagement becomes an object of passive contemplation and a potential tool of oppression. He argues that technology has fundamentally altered the way art is experienced.
Open to interpretation and accessible to many, art in the age of mechanical reproduction has the potential to be mobilized for radical purposes. While ostensibly addressing the artistic consequences of technical reproducibility, Benjamin also addresses the wider political consequences of this shift.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman offers a general audience access to over six decades of insight and expertise from a Nobel Laureate in an accessible and interesting way. Kahneman’s work focuses largely on the problem of how we think, and warns of the dangers of trusting to intuition – which springs from “fast” but broad and emotional thinking – rather than engaging in the slower, harder, but surer thinking that stems from logical, deliberate decision-making.
Written in a lively style that engages readers in the experiments for which Kahneman won the Nobel, Thinking, Fast and Slow’s real triumph is to force us to think about our own thinking.
One of the most widely read books in the social sciences, Purity and Danger established Mary Douglas as one of the twentieth century's leading social scientists. Her career spanned fieldwork in the Congo to wartime service in the British government to teaching at Oxford and Princeton, and her work continues to influence not only the social sciences but also fields as diverse as economics, design, and environmental studies.
Douglas wrote 19 books, but it is on Purity and Danger, her study of how concepts of purity and dirt unite religions and societies, that her scholarly reputation chiefly rests. What we consider dirt, she says, tells us a great deal about how we create order in the world.
Ludwig Von Mises’s 1912 contribution to the theory of monetary policy and the current prevailing consensus in modern economic liberalism, The Theory of Money and Credit, was a milestone achievement. The author’s familiarity with the historical literature on banking and credit allows him to present a coherent theoretical structure that links private exchange between individuals, business and banks to condition the markets affecting money and credit.
Through its wider influence on liberal thinkers and politicians, The Theory of Money and Credit has become a classic reference for those seeking to understand the advance of economic liberalism since the 20th century.
Culture’s Consequences was the first study took and in depth look at cultural differences using data. Taking advantage of the global span of his employer, IBM, Hofstede gathered survey data in 20 languages and across 70 countries to produce a unique study of national values.
He introduced an innovative framework for analyzing his data, identifying patterns he called “dimensions.” This allowed him to plot the values of different cultures to new levels of accuracy. Hofstede then identified dimensions in the cultures of organizations that were based not on values but on practices—practices that organizations could change to fit the values of their employees.
With 1962’s Centuries of Childhood, Philippe Ariès didn’t just produce the first comprehensive history of childhood he also called attention to the consideration ordinary people. Ariès argues that the concept of childhood did not even exist until the 17th century; before that, children were regarded simply as small people.
When the ‘discovery’ of childhood came about, it was not because children had changed, but because people’s mentalities had changed. Arguing that mentalities are a more powerful force for changing society than economic, political or population factors, Ariès was the first major scholar to explore what is now the thriving discipline of childhood and family studies.
Ikujiro Nonaka’s A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation outlines the creation of organisational knowledge through the constant conversion of the two types of knowledge, tacit and explicit, which Nonaka believes has the potential to guide managers’ knowledge creation strategies.
This argument is centred on the conviction that companies are not passive parties that simply utilise existing knowledge for providing solutions to the customers, and that organisations and environments simultaneously influence knowledge creation. This text is considered fundamental for the knowledge management field and as such, it has been utilised by a large number of academics.
Tabbaa's The Transformation of Islamic Art offers an innovative approach to understanding the profound changes undergone by Islamic art and architecture during the often neglected Medieval Islamic period.
Tabbaa argues that devices such as calligraphy, arabesque, muqarnas, and stonework were propagated during a moment of confrontation and facilitated the re-emergence of the Sunni Abbasid caliphate in a more orthodox image. Tabbaa offers a timely and thought-provoking alternative to conventional essentialist, positivist and ethno-narrative interpretations of Islamic art.
Vision and Difference, published in 1988, is one of the most significant works in feminist visual culture arguing that feminist art history of is a political as well as academic endeavour.
Pollock expresses how images are key to the construction of sexual difference, both in visual culture and in broader societal experiences. Her argument places feminist theory at the centre of art history, proffering the idea that a feminist understanding of art history is an analysis of art history itself.
This text remains key not only to understand feminine art historically but to grasp strategies for representation in the future and adding to its contemporary value."
Argyris’s "The Individual and Organization" is part of a series of essays and books considering how organisations should be run. This essay explores the lack of congruence between the needs and expectations of individual employees and the organisations that employ them.
Grounding his argument in studies on human nature, Argyris highlights that demands of greater independence, an expansion of interests, and re-orientation of goals usually accompany maturation, which is at odds with higher control stemming from formal organisations. This frustration, he contends, is detrimental to productivity, increases the chance of failure and causes conflict.
Exploration and Exploitation is a key text for scholars and business practitioners interested in promoting economic well-being and sustainable growth.
March’s work promotes the preservation of companies’ competitiveness and sustainability in the fluctuating market environment by maintaining a balance between exploration and exploitation processes. He explicates that this balance depends on the interchange between the adaptive capability of the company, predictability and consistency, competition, anticipations, level of risk, learning, socialization dynamics within the organization, and the overall environmental turbulence. These intricacies make March’s text invaluable.
What is the past – and what can we really know about it? This is the big question Febvre explores in this 1942 text. Relying on his groundbreaking technique championing ‘problem-based history,’ Febvre focuses on sixteenth-century French writer François Rabelais to answer one controversial question: Was Rabelais really one of France’s first atheists?
Febvre conducted thorough research on Rabelais and the times he lived in to challenge this accepted view. He studied the mindsets of the day and concluded that Rabelais was not – indeed could not have been– a non-believer because it would have been impossible for a man to conceive of a world without God in that time and place.