LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

In a series of evocative though uneven essays, Brinkley (History/Columbia Univ.) ponders the fate of liberalism. Brinkley is both a historian of liberalism and a liberal historian; this dual role brings a tension to these writings. There is a sense of loss for the post—WW II era of liberalism’s optimistic dominance, combined with a sober analysis of why this dominance did not—and perhaps could not—last. The early essays on the emergence of modern American liberalism from the experiences of the New Deal and WW II are perhaps the best in scholarly terms, for they review and somewhat extend Brinkley’s earlier work in this area (New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War, 1995). Liberalism emerged after WW II as an ideology that viewed government as the “compensatory state.” The state would not so much regulate what was once thought to be a deeply flawed capitalism, but, rather, insure its continuation through Keynesian fiscal and monetary policies and an expanded welfare system. Spurred on to produce by the state, capitalism would do so, producing above all else “full employment.” With the economic question settled, liberalism could, if at times tentatively and half-heartedly, move on to “solving” the great social issues of the day, such as civil rights. As these social problems proved more intransigent than first thought, the largely imagined liberal “consensus” faced strong challenges—first from the (New) Left and then from a resurgent Right. As the economy faltered and the New Left faded, the Right took center stage, an unimaginable outcome 30 years ago, when historians had by and large consigned the Right to a marginal place in US politics. There is little thematic unity among the essays, and their quality varies; Brinkley is superficial and simply wrong-headed on the New Left, brilliant on the contemporary Right. Overall, however, this volume offers much to help us understand the cynicism and restricted vision distinguishing politics today.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-674-53017-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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