Good reading, especially for students of political culture and early American history.

READ REVIEW

AFFAIRS OF HONOR

NATIONAL POLITICS IN THE NEW REPUBLIC

Sex-tinged scandals, political mudslinging, sectarian division, tabloid exposés: Bill Clinton may have had a bad time, but the Founding Fathers had it worse.

Freeman (History/Yale) opens her lucid study of early American politics with an anecdote. Arguing before a hostile crowd to defend the Jay Treaty of 1795, Alexander Hamilton was beaned by a rock. The bleeding Federalist left the podium only to encounter a Republican opponent and, after an exchange of angry words, challenge him to a duel. Rebuffed, Hamilton challenged the next group of Republicans he met to a fistfight; one of them responded with an offer to duel with pistols. The events of that summer day were by no means unusual, Freeman writes. Governed by a class-bound code of honor, the revolutionary generation regarded political contests as personal ones; they were quick to take offense and quick to fight. Early American politics, she maintains, was a rough-and-tumble affair of wounded egos and hurt pride that can be understood only in the context of this “honor culture,” which had rules we moderns can scarcely comprehend. “There was an emotional logic to [early politicians’] actions and reactions that is apparent only in the context of their time,” Freeman notes, adding, “Of course, logical decisions can be bad decisions.” Among the many she chronicles are the vicious wars Thomas Jefferson waged in print on his many opponents (including sometime friend John Adams), the duel that left Hamilton dead and opponent Aaron Burr disgraced, and the vituperative presidential election of 1800, during which, a Republican recalled, a Federalist was “insolent enough to dictate to me that tho’ he esteemed me as a Man, yet we must all be crushed and that my life was of little Importance when compared to the peace of the State.” To judge by Freeman’s vivid anecdotes and smart analysis, it’s a wonder the republic survived the Founders.

Good reading, especially for students of political culture and early American history.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2001

ISBN: 0-300-08877-9

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more