Bold proposals for a radical revision of contemporary society.

THE MERITOCRACY TRAP

HOW AMERICA'S FOUNDATIONAL MYTH FEEDS INEQUALITY, DISMANTLES THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND DEVOURS THE ELITE

How the myth of achievement through merit alone has created a schism between the wealthy and the middle class.

Markovits (Law/Yale Univ.; Contract Law and Legal Methods, 2012, etc.), founding director of the Center for the Study of Private Law, responds to the much-debated issues of income inequality, middle-class discontent, and the rise of angry populism by mounting an impassioned and well-argued attack against meritocracy: the belief that talent and ambition lead to wealth and status. “The meritocratic ideal—that social and economic rewards should track achievement rather than breeding—anchors the self-image of the age,” writes the author. But that ideal, he counters, championed by progressives as a solution to inequality, is “a sham,” creating “aristocratic distinctions” that separate the rich from the increasingly frustrated middle class. Nor does meritocracy serve the rich, instead consigning elite workers to the “strained self-exploitation” of long hours at relentless, inhumane overwork that leads to an impoverished “inner life” and “destruction of the authentic self.” Markovits, who was educated and has taught at elite institutions, offers compelling evidence that despite gestures toward diversity, wealthy students make up the majority of admissions, producing “superordinate workers, who possess a powerful work ethic and exceptional skills.” These workers, who take “glossy” jobs, have displaced mid-skilled, middle-class workers, who are relegated to dismal, “gloomy” jobs that lead to income stagnation. Meritocracy, asserts the author, “debases an increasingly idled middle class, which it shuts off from income, power, and prestige.” He offers two far-reaching solutions: taking away private institutions’ tax-exempt status unless they expand opportunities for higher education to a broad public, making admission open and inclusive; and payroll tax reform and wage subsidies that would impel businesses, including the health care industry, to hire the “surging supply of educated workers” coming from newly accessible colleges. In medicine, for example, hiring nurses and nurse practitioners could make health care more accessible than hiring a few specialist doctors. Sure to be controversial, the author’s analysis and proposals deserve serious debate.

Bold proposals for a radical revision of contemporary society.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2199-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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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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