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The Law of Small Things

Book Description

The Law of Small Things begins with an IQ (Integrity Quotient) test designed to reveal the casual way we regard our promises and the misconceptions we have about acting truthfully. The book shows how most people believe that integrity is something we “just have” and that we just do, like a Nike commercial. It depicts these and other deceptions we deploy to appear to act with integrity without actually doing so. 

The Law of Small Things also exposes how our culture encourages breaches of integrity through an array of “permitted promise-breaking,” a language of clichés that equates self-interest with duty, and the “illusion of inconsequence” that excuses small breaches with the breezy confidence that we can fulfill integrity when it counts.

Brody challenges the prevailing notion that integrity is a possession you hold permanently. No one “has integrity” and no one is perfect in practicing it. What we have is the opportunity to uphold promises and fulfill duties in each situation that faces us, large and small. Integrity is a practice and a habit of keeping promises, the ones we make explicitly and the ones that are implied in all our relationships.

Ultimately, developing skill in the practice of integrity leads us to knowledge of who we are--not in the way the culture defines us, but in the way we truly know ourselves to be.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication Page
  5. Contents
  6. Foreword
  7. Preface
    1. Your IQ (Integrity Quotient): A Quiz
  8. Introduction
    1. I. A Short Story about a “Chicago Politician”
    2. II. Another Story about Politicians and about Us
    3. III. What Does It Mean to Practice Integrity?
    4. IV. The Pitfalls of Human Reasoning
    5. V. The Illusion of Moral Competence
    6. VI. Reimagining Integrity as a Habit of Discerning Promises
    7. VII. Practicing Integrity as a Habit of Keeping Promises
    8. VIII. Integrity: What’s in It for Me?
    9. IX. The Practices of Transformation
    10. X. A New Definition of Integrity
    11. XI. A Reader’s Guide to the Laws
  9. PART ONE THE ILLUSION OF INCONSEQUENCE IN EVERYDAY LIFE
    1. 1 An Inconsequential Untruth
    2. 2 The Small Evasions of Everyday Life
    3. 3 Free Dinner on a Friend’s Expense Account
    4. 4 The Truth about Lying
    5. 5 To Thine Own Self Be True
    6. 6 Freedom Is No Bargain
    7. 7 Just Do the Right Thing
    8. 8 Hogging a Table at Starbucks
    9. 9 Retaliation and the Practice of Integrity
  10. PART TWO SELF-INTEREST AND THE VEIL OF CONVENIENCE
    1. 10 The Trip of a Lifetime
    2. 11 The Crippling Use of Handicap Permits
    3. 12 A Contest of Wills
    4. 13 Your Cousin’s Keeper
    5. 14 Taking Stock of Your Portfolio
    6. 15 Into Thin Air
    7. 16 Your Obstinate Car Mechanic
    8. 17 Coping with Copyright Laws and Other Pesky Implied Promises
  11. PART THREE SURVIVAL AND COLLUSION IN THE WORKPLACE
    1. 18 Your Coworker’s Impending Layoff
    2. 19 Purveying Falsehood for a Living
    3. 20 Pressure to Make Quota
    4. 21 Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
    5. 22 Your Company’s New Mission Statement
    6. 23 Bribing Foreign Officials
    7. 24 How Do You Know When You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know?
    8. 25 “I Meant to Put in a Good Word for You; I Really Did.”
  12. PART FOUR SELF-INTEREST AND LOYALTY VERSUS TRUTH IN AMERICAN POLITICS
    1. 26 The Lying Truth about Negative Campaign Advertisements
    2. 27 Break Your Promise and Run for a Third Term
    3. 28 The Dysfunction of Partisanship
    4. 29 Paying Special Attention to a Campaign Contributor
    5. 30 Failing to Prepare for a Vote or a Meeting
    6. 31 “I’ve Just Had It with This Guy.”
  13. Afterword
  14. Notes
  15. Glossary of Terms Used in the Practice of Integrity
  16. Acknowledgments
  17. Index
  18. About the Author