THE DISUNITING OF AMERICA

REFLECTIONS ON A MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY (REVISED AND ENLARGED EDITION)

A passionate criticism of multiculturalism by the two-time Pulitzer-winner. Schlesinger, a lifelong advocate of human rights, believes that this "eruption of ethnicity" has had many good consequences, that the belated recognition of the pluralistic character of American society has had a bracing impact on the teaching and writing of history, and that nothing is more natural than for black Americans to assert pride and claim identity. But cultural pluralism is not the issue, he says—"the issue is the teaching of bad history under whatever ethnic banner." When Oregon students learn that Africans visited the Americas before Columbus, or that Pythagoras and Aristotle stole their mathematics and philosophy from black scholars in Egypt, it is not only wrong, the author says, but it is the use of history as therapy. When black educators argue that black minds work in genetically distinctive ways, it is "just another word for racism." The Ku Klux Klan, says Schlesinger, could not devise a curriculum more effective in handicapping and disabling black Americans. Moreover, the author sees the multiculturalism movement as attacking the very fundamentals of American democracy, finding that its underlying philosophy is that "America is not a nation of individuals at all but a nation of groups, that ethnicity is the defining experience for most Americans." Schlesinger is blunt in his rebuttal: "It may be too bad that dead white European males have played so large a role in shaping our culture. But that is the way it is." A refreshing, outspoken treatment of a phenomenon too often clothed in euphemism.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 1992

ISBN: 0393318540

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1991

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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