Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Triple Package

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

This book got some notice when it came out because one of the authors is the Tiger Mother woman.  Turns out she's also a law professor and does a lot of this global analysis stuff too.  (I have not read the tiger mother books, so maybe she said that and I just didn't know.)

Chua and Rubenfeld sort of profile ethnic/cultural groups in America that have done unusually well: Jews, Nigerians, Cubans, Chinese, Mormons, and a few others.  They isolate three cultural traits: a superiority complex, impulse control, and feelings of inferiority.  Their claim is that these three traits, working together, in an open society, will produce a group that tends to be more materially successful than the average.  And then they delve into some detail.

I didn't feel like they did anywhere near as much analysis as would be useful.  They'll kind of jump around, spending a page or two on one group before moving on to another.  I really mostly picked the book up because the inclusion of Mormons caught my eye--that's the only group in the book that isn't ethnically based.  Anybody can be a Mormon.  But they restricted the working definition of 'Mormon' to mostly include people whose families have been LDS for more than a generation, even though some of the people they profile are converts.  Anyway, I felt like any analysis of Mormons was so shallow and short as to be nearly useless.  So I'm kind of thinking that if a Cuban or Nigerian read this book, they'd feel like the analysis of their cultures was useless too.

More usefully, the authors talk about why these three traits might produce a lot of driven, wealthy people.  I was happy to see that they talk about the (often severe) problems that can come along for the ride, and I was even happier that they spent quite a while talking about how "success" might not really be solely defined as "getting rich."  They also discuss how Triple Package traits can be crushed right out of a group or can be useless in an oppressive society; they work very hard to be fair.

Not a bad read, not earthshaking either.

No comments: