Intriguing but not entirely convincing. Stay tuned to see if the author's contentions play out in the next decade or so.

READ REVIEW

THE LEADERLESS REVOLUTION

HOW ORDINARY PEOPLE WILL TAKE POWER AND CHANGE POLITICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

A personal assessment of the transforming power of consultative democracy in the coming century.

Political advisor Ross (Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite, 2007, etc.) looks back at his disaffection with the British diplomatic service and resignation in the wake of the exposure, and subsequent suicide, of the government's top weapons-inspection scientist David Kelly. He had been intimately involved with Iraq sanctions and the buildup to war, as well as many other conflict situations, and he portrays the violence resulting from official "group think" with the Milgram experiment's proof of people's unquestioning potential for cruelty. The author provides many fascinating personal insights into the crises not only in Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mauretania and Sudan. While many will be drawn to this aspect of his account, Ross' concern is not the past but the lessons to be applied now. In his view, the nation-state basis for the international diplomatic order has been undermined by the increasing power of particular interests acting through global institutions. Writing that society requires “authority in order to enjoy peace and stability,” Ross questions authority itself by pointing to some of the worst outrages in human history—e.g., Nazi Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union. In democracies as well, he writes, “the very rules and institutions established to protect us in fact do the opposite,” mainly because people tend to abdicate responsibility when they empower elected representatives to act on their behalf. Ross is an advocate for deliberative democracy—typified by Gandhi's nonviolent movement against the British in the 1920s and ’30s—which he distinguishes from terrorism, anarchism and representative government.

Intriguing but not entirely convincing. Stay tuned to see if the author's contentions play out in the next decade or so.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-15872-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more