Students of geopolitics and world history will find Fukuyama’s thoughts both provocative and inspiring.

AFTER THE END OF HISTORY

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRANCIS FUKUYAMA

Conversations with the noted scholar of political theory.

Fukuyama became well known in 1989, a time when the communist world was collapsing and the Berlin Wall was coming down, for arguing that liberal democracy had won out over totalitarianism by its own self-evident virtues. He is less certain today, as these conversations with Norwegian think-tank administrator Fasting reveal. He began to take note of some of the inherent “weaknesses in Western political development” even as his “end-of-history” thesis was making the rounds, especially among the Cold War triumphalists in the Reagan and Bush administrations. One outcome of the financial crisis of 2008 was the acceleration of a body of left-behinds who were susceptible to populist and authoritarian leaders. Those left-behinds were not lacking in reasons to mistrust those in power, who, Fukuyama notes, “can game the system in such a way that they really make the system not responsive to the people’s true wishes,” working against the spirit of democracy itself. Things are worse elsewhere, of course, such as Russia, where Vladimir Putin has traded in a kind of “sovereign democracy” brand of populism that has found a large following in White nationalist circles—some in the U.S. Still, America has not proven immune to leaders who would diminish democratic values and profess a kind of populism that “basically uses democratic legitimacy to undermine liberal institutions.” Can democracy endure? Fukuyama suggests at various points that inequality must be addressed and corporate power diminished, the latter by enforcing long-abandoned antitrust laws. He also observes that the voters who made Donald Trump’s term possible “are a declining group within the country as a whole,” not likely to have the same clout in the future, even as new opponents—China, social media, predatory capitalism—do their best to diminish the rule of the people.

Students of geopolitics and world history will find Fukuyama’s thoughts both provocative and inspiring.

Pub Date: May 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64712-086-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Georgetown Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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