by Eric Berkowitz ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 11, 2015
As laws and mores continue to change at a rapid pace, this engaging study offers helpful historical and legal explanations.
This follow-up to lawyer Berkowitz’s Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire (2012) brings Western society’s continued attempt at regulating sexual mores to the present.
Sex, as the author pertinently grasps in this comprehensive survey that moves forward from around the turn of the 19th century, “burns at the intersection of existence, identity and power,” and the way we regard it tells a great deal about our society. Berkowitz covers the enormous changes that have swept sex law in the categories of family and marriage; homosexuality; minors; definitions of obscenity; rape and sexual harassment; and interracial sexual relations and marriage. In each chapter, the author reveals the way that power has been gradually relinquished and fear vanquished. He explores the intractable (until a groundbreaking 1984 decision in New York) legal doctrine of what Berkowitz calls the “Rape-Your-Wife Privilege,” which entitled a husband to force himself on what was legally his property; the increasing availability of birth control, which has allowed women agency over their bodies, especially significant to the health of working and poor women; the breaking of long-held stereotypes about black females being the “root cause of black poverty”; the defeat of what now appears to us astounding prejudice against “feebleminded” women who got pregnant and homosexuals as criminal and deserving of sterilization and incarceration; and how the hysterical terror of the sex offender prompted draconian residence-restriction laws. Sagely, Berkowitz throws some much-needed light on the still-shadowy definition of obscenity (for example, in public performance), pornography (“sexting” by minors, Clarence Thomas’ record of porn-video rentals), and, especially, “the limits of consent” (what constitutes rape in the college setting and who should deal with it). The author cogently exposes what he believes is “panic mentality” in many cases of rape and child molestation.As laws and mores continue to change at a rapid pace, this engaging study offers helpful historical and legal explanations.
Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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