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GLOBAL INEQUALITY

A NEW APPROACH FOR THE AGE OF GLOBALIZATION

Packed with charts and graphs and not for the numerically faint of heart. For those versed in economics, however, Milanovic...

The rich get richer, and the world gets poorer.

Inequality is a constant of history. But, writes economist Milanovic (Luxembourg Income Study Center; The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality, 2010, etc.), only recently have we been able to work with meaningful numbers about it. His terminus is 1988, “a convenient starting place because it coincides almost exactly with the fall of the Berlin Wall and reintegration of the then-communist economies into the world economic system.” Armed with strong data, the author charts how inequality of income and wealth, among other axes, though a global phenomenon, also has local results: in the face of globalization, workers in China may want to unionize, for instance, while workers in the United States might demand protective tariffs. Building on but not entirely endorsing the work of Thomas Piketty, Milanovic looks closely at some specific consequences of this push and pull across the globe: unskilled workers may be drawn to the U.S. because of the tightening of possibilities of intergenerational mobility, while more skilled ones might instead opt for the Northern European nations, where that opportunity is greater. If that premise is guaranteed to irritate America-firsters, so are some of Milanovic’s other findings, presented with the arid calmness of his profession. As inequality rises, the middle class disappears; as it does, political power concentrates in the hands of the rich, who may opt to send their children to private schools and refuse to fund public ones, with the “countervailing power of the middle class…no longer sufficiently strong to oblige them to finance public health and education and participate in it.” Milanovic is cautious about forecasting either economic or political consequences, noting in passing how wrong analysts were in the 1970s and ’80s about the world of today and observing, “predicting important discrete events may be a form of charlatanism.”

Packed with charts and graphs and not for the numerically faint of heart. For those versed in economics, however, Milanovic provides an illuminating analysis.

Pub Date: April 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-674-73713-6

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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