A penetrating profile of the Supreme Court’s longest-serving justice.


For Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, racism in America can never be expunged.

Analyzing speeches, court opinions, and Thomas’ writings, Robin (Political Science/Brooklyn Coll. and CUNY Graduate Center; The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Donald Trump, 2017, etc.) argues persuasively that Thomas’ right-wing conservatism and black nationalism make him “the most extreme justice on the Supreme Court.” Thomas, writes the author, believes “that racism is permanent, the state is ineffective, and politics is feeble.” Noting that he rejects “virtually all of Thomas’s views,” Robin warns against dismissing them, and he presents them in detail along with critiques from other justices and analysts. Central to Thomas’ beliefs is the valorization of the black male provider and protector, “a figure of authority whose word is law for the women and children under his care.” Black men, “stolid, moral, responsible, authoritative, upstanding,” are essential to the black community. For Thomas, white racism and liberal politics combine to undermine black interests. Blacks, therefore, “should cease to look to electoral politics as a means of bettering their situation; any involvement in electoral politics will only confirm white power and reinforce black powerlessness.” Efforts such as affirmative action, for example, reinforce black powerlessness by failing to treat blacks and whites as equals, defining blacks as “inferior and deficient.” When Thomas considers the incarceration rate for blacks and liberals’ cry for judicial and prison reform, he counters that “the racist dimensions of the carceral state” actually benefit African Americans: Harsh policing protects black neighborhoods from crime, and stringent punishment fosters law-abiding behavior. Adversity—even slavery and society under Jim Crow—“helps the black community develop its inner virtue and resolve.” Acknowledging that we are all trapped “in the same historical moment” as Thomas, Robin asks readers to examine the premises underlying their own social and political views. Thomas’ “beliefs are disturbing, even ugly,” Robin acknowledges; “his style is brutal. I want to make us sit with that discomfort rather than swat it away.”

A penetrating profile of the Supreme Court’s longest-serving justice.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62779-383-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?