Social analysis with verve and insight.



A perceptive and original take on the causes and consequences of South Africa’s current crime wave.

In the decade since South Africa became a multiracial democracy, crime, as British and South African journalist Cohen (Chasing the Red, White, and Blue, 2001, etc.) notes in this informative account, has risen “169 percent, housebreaking by 33 percent, cash heists, as well as carjacking, by 30 percent . . . [and] 71 percent of companies report being the victims of fraud in the last two years, compared to 51 percent of business in the rest of Africa, and just 37 percent worldwide.” Crime affects black and white, rich and poor, and is perpetrated by blacks and whites desperate for money as well as those who have no apparent need. It is also the biggest cause of brain drain and sluggish foreign investment. Cohen attempts to show how crime has become a way of life, with far-reaching effects on a society still coping with the legacy of apartheid. The author illustrates the problem with the experience of the family-owned Jules Furniture Store in downtown Johannesburg. Jack Rubin and Harry Sher, the resilient sons of Jewish immigrants, transformed the original bicycle store into a chain that sells low-end furniture and appliances. Their stores, despite expensive security measures, are consistently robbed. Specially modified cars break through the security grilles, then barrel through the shop windows, their drivers making off with what they can before the police arrive. They also experience internal stealing, at the hands of Harry’s brother and another employee. The firm hired to transport the money to the bank steals from them, and they must repossess more furniture as customers fail to pay. Weaving the story of the owners, Jules Street itself, the trial of the two thieves, and the current repossessors, two former carjackers who have gone straight, Cohen draws a vivid portrait of a society struggling to emerge from years of sanctioned violence and corruption.

Social analysis with verve and insight.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-28869-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.


Known for her often contentious perspectives, New York Times opinion writer Weiss battles societal Jewish intolerance through lucid prose and a linear playbook of remedies.

While she was vividly aware of anti-Semitism throughout her life, the reality of the problem hit home when an active shooter stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue where her family regularly met for morning services and where she became a bat mitzvah years earlier. The massacre that ensued there further spurred her outrage and passionate activism. She writes that European Jews face a three-pronged threat in contemporary society, where physical, moral, and political fears of mounting violence are putting their general safety in jeopardy. She believes that Americans live in an era when “the lunatic fringe has gone mainstream” and Jews have been forced to become “a people apart.” With palpable frustration, she adroitly assesses the origins of anti-Semitism and how its prevalence is increasing through more discreet portals such as internet self-radicalization. Furthermore, the erosion of civility and tolerance and the demonization of minorities continue via the “casual racism” of political figures like Donald Trump. Following densely political discourses on Zionism and radical Islam, the author offers a list of bullet-point solutions focused on using behavioral and personal action items—individual accountability, active involvement, building community, loving neighbors, etc.—to help stem the tide of anti-Semitism. Weiss sounds a clarion call to Jewish readers who share her growing angst as well as non-Jewish Americans who wish to arm themselves with the knowledge and intellectual tools to combat marginalization and defuse and disavow trends of dehumanizing behavior. “Call it out,” she writes. “Especially when it’s hard.” At the core of the text is the author’s concern for the health and safety of American citizens, and she encourages anyone “who loves freedom and seeks to protect it” to join with her in vigorous activism.

A forceful, necessarily provocative call to action for the preservation and protection of American Jewish freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-13605-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2019

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