What is the relevance of morality today? Eden Collinsworth enlists the famous, the infamous, and the heretofore unheard-of to unravel how we make moral choices in an increasingly complex—and ethically flexible—age.
To call these unsettling times is an understatement: our political leaders are less and less respectable; in the realm of business, cheating, lying, and stealing are hazily defined; and in daily life, rapidly changing technology offers permission to act in ways inconceivable without it. Yet somehow, this hasn’t quite led to a complete free-for-all—people still draw lines around what is acceptable and what is not. Collinsworth sets out to understand how and why. In her intrepid quest, she squares off with a prime minister, the editor of London’s Financial Times, a holocaust survivor, a pop star, and a former commander of the U.S. Air Force to grapple with the impracticality of applying morals to foreign policy; precisely when morality gets lost in the making of money; what happens to morality without free will; whether “immoral” women are just those having a better time; why celebrities have become the new moral standard-bearers; and if testosterone is morality’s enemy or its hero.
Collinsworth (I Stand Corrected), a business consultant and former media executive, conducts an entertaining, if overly discursive, study of ethical quagmires and moral gray areas in modern-day business, interpersonal, and military practices. Taking a global view, she maps the moral landscapes of Swiss bank accounts and the murky waters of Japanese business practices, and compares American and French perspectives on monogamy. Determined to leave no stone unturned, Collinsworth subscribes to "Wolf of Wall Street" Jordan Belfort's motivational newsletter and interviews a convicted murderer. She considers the "liberalization" of sexual mores via dating apps and wrestles with moral relativism: is it a necessary component of globalization, or the downfall of American society? Sometimes she makes an already expansive topic too wide in scope. Transitions are abrupt, and references to the Large Hadron Collider and Tiananmen Square are dropped in and quickly left behind for no discernible reason other than to cover as much ground as possible. She sets the scene for an interview with a Kurdish pop star and then fails to include a single word of it. Ending on a high note, Collinsworth speaks to 20-somethings who sound infinitely more reasonable than the so-called experts who dominate the rest of the book.