What We're Up Against


A political treatise that focuses on empowering readers with its ideas.

A political writer and former Democratic Party congressional candidate endeavors to galvanize America’s liberal left by illustrating how the Republican Party has become a destructive force.

Schmookler (Debating the Good Society, 1999, etc.) presents what he sees as a nation in crisis—a country careening under the harmful influence of the Republican right wing, unprotected by a liberal America unwilling to acknowledge they are in a fight between good and evil. Nothing better crystallizes this than the 2014 elections, he says, in which a contrarian, disruptive Republican Party was rewarded with greater political control. The weak challenge from the Democrats, he asserts, comes from their basic unwillingness to acknowledge and vocally confront the right wing’s orthodoxy of “brokenness”—the hallmark, he says, of an evil force that lusts for wealth and power, pursues conflict, and relies on dishonesty to divide and influence others. Upon realizing this, Schmookler says, liberals will be able to embrace their role as a force for good and press back against the machinations at work in the government; to that end, he draws comparisons to conflicts in pop-culture narratives, such as the 2009 film Avatar, the Star Wars series, and The Lord of the Rings saga. Noting what he sees as similarities between today’s political climate and those during the American Civil War and the rise of Nazism in Germany, the book illustrates how groups thrived on spreading brokenness, and how they spread destruction until people stood up to them. Overall, Schmookler’s book is intellectually informative and socially eye-opening. He cites many of his own, earlier writings on politics and social evolution, offering ways to identify what he sees as evil through the upheaval and anarchy they cause, so that readers may meet them with absolute, moral truths. However, the text is quite dense and often necessarily repetitive when exploring some of its more abstract ideas. It more often seems to be aiming to inspire readers, rather than suggest concrete actions. Other sections, such as the “Interlude” chapters, seem self-indulgent, as the author expresses anxieties over sharing his message and speculating on its success.

A political treatise that focuses on empowering readers with its ideas.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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