Good fuel for those who think that the sitting U.S. president is the worst thing to happen to democracy since Xerxes.

THE FATE OF THE WEST

THE DECLINE AND REVIVAL OF THE WORLD'S MOST VALUABLE POLITICAL IDEA

The West is premised on political and economic ideals that are under threat—from Beijing, from Moscow, and from Washington, D.C.

Emmott (Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future, 2012, etc.), former editor-in-chief of the Economist—which is seen as conservative just about everywhere except the U.S.—holds that the West is as much an idea as it is a geographic entity: the West is found in Seoul, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur as well as Paris and London. It relies on the operation and staunch defense of several principles, first among them relative equality of income and opportunity as well as openness—i.e., a society that is “open to new ideas, new elites, new circumstances and new opportunities whether of trade in goods and services or of culture and science.” An open society is thus one of porous borders rather than of walls, friendly to free trade agreements as opposed to protectionist tariffs, outward-looking rather than nationalist. There have been many well-documented studies of inequality, but Emmott’s appeal to openness recalls arguments not heard since Karl Popper, ones that are now broadly unwelcome anywhere that the words “liberalism” and “liberal democracy” are viewed with suspicion. Emmott examines aspects of inequality, international affairs, and the failures of one ideal or another in actual practice. As he notes, with respect to the abandonment of free trade agreements, if you pick a fight with a foreigner, a foreigner is likely to pick a fight with you, and “to deal with…enemies, the West’s greatest asset in the past has been its friendships,” friendships likely to be lost to isolationism and the resulting reshifting of world power relations. Emmott uses plenty of facts and figures to support his argument, which is profoundly one of ideas—and how the idea of the open, free, Western society is better than that of authoritarianism.

Good fuel for those who think that the sitting U.S. president is the worst thing to happen to democracy since Xerxes.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-78125-734-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM

Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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