An accessible academic treatise worth understanding.

THE VALUE OF EVERYTHING

WHO MAKES AND WHO TAKES FROM THE REAL ECONOMY

A British economics professor is debunking again; this time, her target is the conventional wisdom that so-called wealth creators deserve to accumulate massive riches.

In the consequential battle of perception between the makers and the takers, Mazzucato (Economics of Innovation and Public Value/Univ. Coll. London; The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, 2015) sides with the actual makers, those who struggle in an economy tilted in favor of the ultrawealthy. The author mixes easily accessible lay language with technical jargon as she constructs her case that investment bankers, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and other billion-dollar enterprises—as well as small tech startups—actually create little of societal value but reap outsized benefits. Meanwhile, laborers continue to be shortchanged. The result is widespread income inequality. As Mazzucato builds her argument, she expresses specific incredulity about the banking sector’s self-serving statements about wealth creation. As recently as the 1970s, the author maintains, economists viewed financial institutions as merely transferring existing wealth rather than creating new wealth. The shift in emphasis caught on quickly, and suddenly, bankers were perceived as wealth creators. “If we cannot differentiate value creation from value extraction,” writes the author, “it becomes nearly impossible to reward the former over the latter.” She wants to convince those in power that so-called value-creating entities should be viewed as value-extracting entities and thus regulated accordingly. When Mazzucato cites specific corporations and individuals feeding at the trough of income inequality, readers will be able to see through the abstractions and grasp the theories dividing economists. She is especially eloquent when commenting on arrogant tech-giant billionaires such as Peter Thiel, who claims that his wealth accumulation occurred in spite of, rather than because of, government presence. Mazzucato characterizes the statements of Thiel and his ilk as “entrepreneurs good, government bad.” Actually, the author argues, national, state, and local government agencies offer countless incentives to corporate employers.

An accessible academic treatise worth understanding.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61039-674-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

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