A rather arid but useful work in the sociology of political communication.

THE REVOLUTION THAT WASN’T

HOW DIGITAL ACTIVISM FAVORS CONSERVATIVES

Academic study of how contending political groups do—or do not—leverage digital media in their quests to recruit support and members.

Focusing on the workers rights movement in the battleground state of North Carolina, documentary filmmaker and sociologist Schradie points out a great gulf in technological sophistication between left and right, with the former “having belatedly awoken to the notion that they were on the wrong side of a digital political divide that they weren’t even aware existed.” Part of the problem, writes the author in a book likely to appeal most to sociologists and aspiring digital activists, is that many working-class labor activists have neither the interest nor the resources required to master social media even as conservative activists manage to form themselves into “hierarchical organizations” with the money to buy computers and the people committed to getting their message out. Thus, Schradie suggests, the image the words “digital activist” should conjure is not of a left-wing student or labor activist but instead a well-heeled think-tank denizen or technologically adept tea party member. Though the latter groups tend to be well-funded, it’s not only money that carries the day; it’s that very hierarchical organization that seems central. Moreover, as Schradie observes, the decline of traditional journalism has come in an atmosphere in which rightward organizations such as Fox News and Breitbart have filled the vacuum even as left-leaning publications have struggled to find space in the cybersphere and funding to permit them to compete. “As a result,” she notes, “digital evangelists were able to spread their anti-government message in sync with the convergence and ascent of social media, conservative news, and the Christian right.” If they are to compete, leftist activists must do more to gain access to media and attain the skills necessary to put out a coherent message; if not, the gulf will only grow.

A rather arid but useful work in the sociology of political communication.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-674-97233-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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