Less a reasoned argument than an impassioned manifesto.

CAPITALISM

A GHOST STORY

A vehement broadside against capitalism in general and American cultural imperialism in particular, focusing on the effects on the novelist’s native India.

After winning international raves and the prestigious Booker Prize for her debut novel (The God of Small Things, 1997), Roy (Walking with the Comrades, 2011, etc.) has become an increasingly political, polarizing and controversial writer, even charged with sedition in her homeland. “Day after day, on primetime news, I was being called a traitor, a white-collar terrorist, and several other names reserved for insubordinate women,” she writes. She also recognizes that, as someone “who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses,” she risks biting the hand that feeds her. But her teeth are sharp, and her bite is fierce, as she focuses on how American corporate values and foundation philanthropy have had an insidious effect around the globe, resulting in a wider gap between the wealthy few and the impoverished masses. The influence extends from economics to education to arts and culture, as scholars in line with American values get funded and others see courses cancelled, while foundation support has had the same moderating effect elsewhere that it did in America, where it marginalized black militancy in favor of nonviolence. “Armed with their billions, these NGOs have waded into the world, turning potential revolutionaries into salaried activists, funding artists, intellectuals and filmmakers, gently luring them away from radical confrontation.” Like the Occupy movement, which Roy strongly supports, she sees class warfare as a political necessity that recognizes that systems of capitalist democracy require more than reform. Her accounts of political repression are vivid and moving, but her analysis would require more depth for her pontification to convert those who don’t already agree with it.

Less a reasoned argument than an impassioned manifesto.

Pub Date: April 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60846-385-5

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

THE ORDER OF THE DAY

A meditation on Austria’s capitulation to the Nazis. The book won the 2017 Prix Goncourt.

Vuillard (Sorrow of the Earth: Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the Tragedy of Show Business, 2017, etc.) is also a filmmaker, and these episodic vignettes have a cinematic quality to them. “The play is about to begin,” he writes on the first page, “but the curtain won’t rise….Even though the twentieth of February 1933 was not just any other day, most people spent the morning grinding away, immersed in the great, decent fallacy of work, with its small gestures that enfold a silent, conventional truth and reduce the entire epic of our lives to a diligent pantomime.” Having established his command of tone, the author proceeds through devastating character portraits of Hitler and Goebbels, who seduced and bullied their appeasers into believing that short-term accommodations would pay long-term dividends. The cold calculations of Austria’s captains of industries and the pathetic negotiations of leaders who knew that their protestations were mainly for show suggest the complicated complicity of a country where young women screamed for Hitler as if he were a teen idol. “The bride was willing; this was no rape, as some have claimed, but a proper wedding,” writes Vuillard. Yet the consummation was by no means as smoothly triumphant as the Nazi newsreels have depicted. The army’s entry into Austria was less a blitzkrieg than a mechanical breakdown, one that found Hitler stalled behind the tanks that refused to move as those prepared to hail his emergence wondered what had happened. “For it wasn’t only a few isolated tanks that had broken down,” writes the author, “not just the occasional armored truck—no, it was the vast majority of the great German army, and the road was now entirely blocked. It was like a slapstick comedy!” In the aftermath, some of those most responsible for Austria’s fall faced death by hanging, but at least one received an American professorship.

In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-969-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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