An old way of thinking about the ownership of art and ideas smartly revived.




A MacArthur Fellow constructs an elegant argument opposing the modern drive to privatize our common cultural heritage.

Relying heavily on available scraps of knowledge and expression in the culture surrounding them to fashion their ballads and sermons, could a songwriter like Bob Dylan or a preacher like Martin Luther King Jr. emerge today, where the range of “private” property has been extended and the public domain has shrunk? Human knowledge, Hyde (Art and Politics/Kenyon College; Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, 1998, etc.) writes, is different from physical property. It’s more usefully compared to an 18th-century agricultural commons, where a bundle of rights, institutions and customs preserved the land for communal use. Just as the first enclosure movement walled off the land and converted it to private use, so too further enclosures—an extension of copyright and patent carrying a presumption of exclusion, an impulse to privatize academic science, drinking water, seeds, naturally occurring antibiotics, even words like “I have a dream”—threaten to choke off public discourse and creativity. Against the push of monied interests, especially the entertainment and biotech industries, Hyde marshals an unexpected and particularly eloquent lobby: America’s founders, including Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Franklin, all of whom took an expansive view about claims to cultural ownership. They championed a civic republicanism, where property was not an end in itself, but rather a precondition for freeing the individual “to produce something for the common Benefit,” as Franklin wrote. Loathing monopoly and rejecting the notions of isolated genius, the founders understood creative work as collaborative and dependent on the free flow of ideas. “Intellectual property,” the relatively new term lawyers assign to the intangible creations of the human mind and imagination, would hardly seem the matter for a book as revelatory and engaging as Hyde produces here, but citizens of a democracy relinquish this topic to free-market buccaneers at our own peril.

An old way of thinking about the ownership of art and ideas smartly revived.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-22313-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet