A RADICAL JEW

PAUL AND THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY

A markedly contemporary study that navigates the New Testament scholar past the perils of Pauline theology. Boyarin (Talmudic Culture/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley; Carnal Israel, not reviewed) attempts to ``reclaim Paul as an important Jewish thinker.'' He goes on to establish this primary apostle as a Hellenized Jew whose Platonic sensibility calls for a universal sameness that negates the divisions separating Jew from Gentile and man from woman. The disembodied spirituality of Platonic dualism allows females (especially virgins) to be equal to men under Christ, and allows an uncircumcised Christian of any gender to ``circumcise the foreskin of her [sic] heart'' with Hebrew Bible commandments universalized and allegorized. Boyarin does not glibly valorize Paul as a champion of feminism and an opponent of Jewish exclusivist chauvinism. After crediting Paul for being a radical social critic, the author makes clear how the apostle's pre-Marxist universalism too easily slid into violent coercion in the later, blood-soaked chapters of Christian history. Boyarin analyzes the work of many Christian scholars in concluding that Lutheran misinterpretations of Paul allow us to consider the apostle to be far more antagonistic to Jews and Judaism than he really was. The benefit of Boyarin's Jewish defense against hermeneutical Christian anti-Semitism is tempered by his disdain for a Judaic ``tendency towards contemptuous neglect for human solidarity'' and his anti- Zionism (``modern Jewish statist nationalism has been...very violent and exclusionary''). Sometimes he confuses Christian ``salvation'' theology with Jewish belief, and he fails to find any similarity between Pauline Platonism and the allegorical and universal levels of Torah laws. The final chapter digresses to a personal view of the ``essentialist/social constructionist dichotomy,'' but the book does end with ample notes and bibliography. A rewarding read for students of Christian theology willing to be challenged by today's multicultural, poststructuralist, postfeminist scholarship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-520-08592-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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

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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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