THE VAMPIRE STATE

AND OTHER MYTHS AND FALLACIES ABOUT THE U.S. ECONOMY

An ultraliberal academic's immodest proposal for a new world socioeconomic order—one appreciably more statist than those envisioned by Plato in his Republic or Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan. Before presenting his against-the-grain initiatives, Block (The Mean Season, 1987, etc.) engages in an extended rant as to how right-wing extremists have falsely convinced large segments of the American electorate that the US government is a malefic vampire sucking the domestic economy's lifeblood. In aid of this arguable premise, the author (Sociology/Univ. of Calif., Davis) cites examples of so-called conventional wisdom he deems irrational, if not mad. Cases in point range from faith in balanced federal budgets, deregulation, free markets, low taxes, and unrestricted trade through an abiding antipathy to activist governance and inflationary procedures. Block dismisses any notion that deficits depress private-sector investment, affect savings rates, or cause other of the financial harms ascribed to them. Getting down to business, Block obligingly furnishes a detailed agenda that could put the country on course toward a practical utopia (a term whose oxymoronic character he concedes). He would make managed trade and fixed currency-exchange rates hallmarks of foreign policy. On the home front, he would introduce wage controls to keep the aggregate compensation of top corporate executives at no more than 25 times that of low-income or jobless individuals and cut the work week (possibly in half). Expressly wary of elitist, individualist entrepreneurs, Block would also use the power of government to encourage establishment of a network of small firms and cooperatives. In time, he asserts, his incentive-free revolution could be taken global. A wish-list tract amounting to the triumph of hope over experience for its trust in the constructive capacities of big government.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 1996

ISBN: 1-56584-193-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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