What We Are Reading Today: Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank

Updated 04 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank

  • Robert Frank explores the surprising implications of those findings to show why the rich underestimate the importance of luck in success

How important is luck in economic success? No question more reliably divides conservatives from liberals. As conservatives correctly observe, people who amass great fortunes are almost always talented and hardworking. But liberals are also correct to note that countless others have those same qualities yet never earn much.

In recent years, social scientists have discovered that chance plays a much larger role in important life outcomes than most people imagine. 

In Success and Luck, bestselling author and New York Times economics columnist Robert Frank explores the surprising implications of those findings to show why the rich underestimate the importance of luck in success— and why that hurts everyone, even the wealthy.

Frank describes how, in a world increasingly dominated by winner-take-all markets, chance opportunities and trivial initial advantages often translate into much larger ones— and enormous income differences— over time; how false beliefs about luck persist, despite compelling evidence against them; and how myths about personal success and luck shape individual and political choices in harmful ways.


What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

Updated 21 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Race Is About Politics Jean-Frederic Schaub

  • Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination

Racial divisions have returned to the forefront of politics in the US and European societies, making it more important than ever to understand race and racism. 

But do we? In this original and provocative book, acclaimed historian Jean-Frédéric Schaub shows that we don’t— and that we need to rethink the widespread assumption that racism is essentially a modern form of discrimination based on skin color and other visible differences.

On the contrary, Schaub argues that to understand racism we must look at historical episodes of collective discrimination. Built around notions of identity and otherness, race is above all a political tool that must be understood in the context of its historical origins.

Although scholars agree that races don’t exist, they disagree about when these ideologies emerged. Drawing on historical research from the early modern period to today, Schaub makes the case that the key turning point in the political history of race in the West occurred not with the Atlantic slave trade and American slavery, as many historians have argued, but much earlier, in 15th-century Spain and Portugal, with the racialization of Christians of Jewish and Muslim origin.