A bland and frustratingly abstract examination that emphasizes theoretical concepts, paying scant attention to specific people, places, and events. Ponting (Politics/Univ. of Wales; Armageddon: The Reality Behind the Distortions, Myths, Lies, and Illusions of World War II, 1995), argues that a few “core” states (e.g., the US, Britain, and Germany) have asserted their economic and military power to dominate the rest of the world’s “periphery” and “semi-periphery” states. He views the 20th century as a continual, and largely predetermined, struggle between the few powerful “haves” and the majority of powerless “have-nots.” After discussing the demise of colonialism, Ponting shifts to the contemporary reality of unregulated global corporations exploiting cheap labor and material resources around the globe. Ponting also cites problems of overpopulation, especially in Africa, and the related crisis of the world environment. While Ponting’s analysis is difficult to deny, it’s hardly groundbreaking. In discussing the global environment, for instance, he invokes the usual litany of cautionary tales: Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, Bhopal, Love Canal, and the Brazilian rainforest. What Ponting notably neglects to discuss is how the solutions to global environmental problems will inevitably conflict with basic concepts of individualism and nationalism. In discussing the growing levels of economic inequality among and within nations, Ponting exhausts the reader with a barrage of statistics. (Do we really need to know the rate of automobile ownership in Qatar?) At times, Ponting’s conceptual approach results in bloodless, academic prose. Personalities are almost completely absent. That said, Ponting is outstanding when discussing the most important trend of the post—Cold War world: the destabilizing resurgence of nationalism. Now, more than ever, we exist in a world of regional alliances, confusing ethnic conflicts, and nationalist fervor. The Balkans, always a stew of ethnic and nationalist rivalries, has reemerged as “the tinderbox of Europe.” Other than his highly relevant discussion of the “new” nationalism, Ponting’s conceptual analysis offers little that’s edifying.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-6088-X

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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


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

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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