An absorbing, solidly documented study of America's welfare system and the circumstances of five women and their children who are dependent upon it. Berrick (director of the Center for Research on Public Social Services at the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley) focuses on five diverse families in her attempt to dispel stereotypical myths of welfare mothers. Too many Americans, contends Berrick, perceive welfare recipients as lazy, irresponsible, and conniving. Budget-cutting politicians, moreover, are quick to offer simple economic solutions to complex social problems. Three of the women portrayed here have temporarily fallen through the cracks and need some assistance to get back on their feet. The other two, products of highly unstable backgrounds, are not likely to walk even with society's crutches. Berrick is clearly sympathetic to the full range of her subjects. She argues that ``none of the women depicted here wanted to be on welfare, and few of them expected to use it for a long time.'' Long-term welfare users, comprised mainly of high school dropouts and women of color, are the exception rather than the rule. Berrick's statistics illustrate how welfare alone does not lift a family above the poverty level, and she elucidates how the system encourages mothers to cheat in order to make ends meet. The author feels that many condescending welfare officials also evoke hostility, and she is extremely critical of welfare workers, whom she describes as ``notoriously rude and unhelpful.'' One theme that emerges, though not addressed by Berrick, is these women's poor choices of matesmen who are mostly irresponsible and abusive alcoholics or drug addicts. A passionate, perceptive assessment of a complex and timely issue.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-509754-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1995

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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