THE CYCLES OF AMERICAN HISTORY

Schlesinger's first book since his National Book Award-winning Robert Kennedy and His Times, this one exploring the grand themes which he sees weaving their way through American History. The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner sees themes in contention over the meaning of America. The first, which he calls "the tradition," sprang from Christianity "as mediated by Augustine and Calvin." This strand made of the American experience an "implacable process of testing." As Schlesinger puts it. "Antiquity haunted the federal imagination." The second strand, termed "the counter tradition," also had roots in Calvinism and was represented in an emergent spirit of national destiny. Ever since our earliest history, Schlesinger suggests, our society has pitted realism against messianism, experiment against destiny. Pragmatically, this contention has resulted in alternating periods of reform and retrenchment. Schlesinger, mirroring the writings of economist Albert Hirschman, refers to these as periods of private interest and public purpose. Up to this point, Schlesinger's book appears to be Olympian in its objectivity. He is speaking as the aging historian emeritus who has earned the right to philosophize. However, suddenly the rest of the book degenerates into a slapdash (the book is actually a collection of updated, previously published essays) compendium of political writings aimed at demonstrating, for the most part, his own suspicion of the private-interest periods and his attraction to public purpose governments. He attempts, somewhat weakly, to demolish the idea that America's economic development was a direct result of the spirit of laissez-faire. The Founding Fathers, he states, were basically mercantilists who recognized the need for strong state action; Adam Smith, far from reflecting their ideals, actually wrote The Wealth of Nations to refute them. Undeniably a worthy and important work, if one keeps a wary eye out for the political bias.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 1986

ISBN: 0395957931

Page Count: 516

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

NIGHT

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more