THE POLITICS OF OUR TIME

POPULISM, NATIONALISM, SOCIALISM

Readers with an interest in global political trends will want to consult this skillfully argued book.

A sobering assessment of recent history as a string of poorly managed catastrophes.

Gathering and updating three previously published reports, Judis voices an intriguing thesis: that “all the decades of modern history—beset by the emergence of rival nation-states and imperialisms, the ups and downs of global capitalism, war, and natural disasters—can be described as times of crisis.” One of the increasingly evident trends Judis identifies is the democratic world’s willingness to slide into authoritarianism as a response to these challenges. That tendency comes from both left and right, which agree on a few points, especially inequality and the problems of globalism and neoliberalism. To these the right adds “an exclusionary nationalism that limited who was included in ‘the people,’ and charged elites with coddling an outsider group of illegal immigrants, refugees, or Muslims.” The American exponent of such values, Donald Trump, gained office because of his appeal to those left behind by economic progress. However, the author also argues that Hillary Clinton “ran an extraordinarily inept campaign (ignoring those areas of the country that had been hard hit by neoliberal neglect).” Judis reaches back several decades to identify the origins of the modern revivals of populism and nationalism on the one hand and socialism on the other. One proponent of a recognizably modern nationalism was Ross Perot, who led the race against Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush until losing credibility by claiming that “the Black Panther Party, on contract with the Viet Cong, had once tried to break into his house.” But then, as Judis notes in his on-the-ground reporting from Arizona on the promulgation of new exclusionary laws in 2010, he observed that many people were in mortal fear that “al-Qaeda operatives were sneaking across the border.” The author projects that the class and geographical (urban vs. rural) divide is likely to grow, and with it, the problems he so cogently analyzes.

Readers with an interest in global political trends will want to consult this skillfully argued book.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73591-360-5

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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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