An informative study that conveys a subtle but powerful argument for the attraction of anti-liberal populism.

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THE LIGHT THAT FAILED

WHY THE WEST IS LOSING THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY

Two academics and policy experts bring considerable erudition to the conundrum of why anti-liberalism has gained currency since the fall of the Soviet Union, when the world seemed happy to see it go.

According to Krastev (After Europe, 2017, etc.), a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and Holmes (New York Univ. School of Law; The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity, 2012, etc.), once communism fell, the “radiant future” of Enlightenment democracy—encompassing a separation of powers, checks and balances, free elections, freedom of the press, and so on—seemed the sole alternative model. However, in chapters moving from Central and Eastern Europe through Russia and China, the authors show how imitating the "masters" created a groundswell of resentment and backlash. In Central Europe, Hungary and Poland were at first content to imitate the Western model. Unfortunately, “Central and East European versions of liberalism had been indelibly tainted by two decades of rising social inequality, pervasive corruption, and the morally arbitrary distribution of private property into the hands of a few.” Krastev and Holmes succinctly explain why this brand of populism and nativism would ring familiar in Russia, China, and eventually in the United States under Donald Trump. The authors also cogently explore the anti-immigration hysteria that has continued to plague these countries. In Russia, the authors see a convulsion of “aggressive isolationism” at work in addition to an effective destabilizing revenge theory bent on revealing the mask of hypocrisy of the U.S., especially in foreign affairs. Meanwhile, China, once an imitator of the Soviet Union, has ceased exporting its brand of Maoism and is reaping grandly the effects of centralized economic control.

An informative study that conveys a subtle but powerful argument for the attraction of anti-liberal populism.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-369-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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