Bad last chapters

David Greenberg examines the way books on social or political issues veer from good quality analysis to end with simplistic solutions.

Practically every example of that genre no matter how shrewd or rich its survey of the question at hand, finishes with an obligatory prescription that is utopian, banal, unhelpful or out of tune with the rest of the book. When it comes to social criticism, no one, it seems, has an exit strategy.

I’d say this applies, in spades, to a lot of business books too.

Greenberg opines:

The weakness of last chapters is in large part a function of the sheer difficulty of devising answers to complex social problems that are sound, practicable and not blindingly obvious. Besides, those who give the most subtle diagnoses may not have the problem-solving disposition needed to come up with concrete, practical recommendations.

Actually, I think a problem-solving disposition is what leads to inadequate recommendations… the unwillingness to live in paradox.

Greenberg also fingers book publishers too, which makes sense to me.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

1 thought on “Bad last chapters

  1. Ian Glendinning

    I like that. Exit strategy is a good way to think about it. I have a book in mind myself – still in gestation, but off-ramps (and circularity) is part of the structure I have in mind …. it’s a matter of not patronising or insulting the reader’s intelligence from my perspective, whilst not at the same time presuming your reader already agrees with your whole thesis.

    There may be no “natural conclusions”.


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