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TWO CHEERS FOR POLITICS

WHY DEMOCRACY IS FLAWED, FRIGHTENING―AND OUR BEST HOPE

A thoughtful consideration of issues in sore need of solution by democratic means.

A nuanced prescription for a politics remade in the wake of the Trump era.

“Our lives depend on the choices we make and those we are unable to make,” writes Columbia Law School professor Purdy, who opens with a thought experiment that imagines four textbooks published in 2050. One tells the story of a triumphant authoritarianism, another of political fragmentation, yet another the surrender of functions of civic life to a technocracy. “These three futures are already with us,” he notes, while the fourth and most desirable has yet to take shape: a movement of citizens who took charge of their own lives and made a history that addressed flaws in government, economic inequality, the climate change crisis, and other existential issues. Even though many of us claim that we are sick of politics, we all make demands of it: the left for reforms in policing and a stronger commitment to civil rights, for instance, and the right for nationalist trade policies and an end to immigration. A healthy body politic, writes the author, will recognize the plural, diverse nature of American society and the fact that “majority rule is not a license for the majority to do whatever it wants with everyone else.” He goes on to examine various theories of democracy and its discontents, from Alexis de Tocqueville to Samuel Huntington, the conservative theorist whose “clash of civilizations” thesis was predated by his view that democracies in action often undermine the premises of democracy itself, proven by a “minority-rule president who led a minority-rule party”—i.e., Donald Trump and the GOP. Purdy argues convincingly that reforms must address issues such as economic and social inequality, predatory capitalism, and “systems of relentless, hierarchical pressure.” The alternative is to lose democracy, he warns, which is to surrender any decision-making authority over our own lives.

A thoughtful consideration of issues in sore need of solution by democratic means.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-541-67302-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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