A usefully organized, concise history of social movements that will appeal to newer generations of activists.

THIS IS AN UPRISING

HOW NONVIOLENT REVOLT IS SHAPING THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Optimistic overview of the recent surge in politically directed, nonviolent mass advocacy movements, focused on historical examples and the tactical future.

Co-authors Mark Engler (How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy, 2008) and Paul Engler, founding director of the Center for the Working Poor, collaborate on a cleareyed, enthusiastic treatise, seeing evidence in diverse historical and recent events that collective civil actions are supplanting violent rebellions in creating social change. At the outset, they wonder, “what if periods of mass, spontaneous uprising are neither as spontaneous nor as unbridled as they might at first appear?” They build their response around a number of longitudinal real-world examples, ranging from Martin Luther King’s 1963 campaign in Birmingham to Gandhi’s 1930 “salt march,” which discredited the British Raj, to the recent Occupy protests. They synthesize these narratives with an overview of effective strategies, based on theorists Saul Alinsky, Frances Fox Piven, and Gene Sharp (an obscure academic considered a perennial favorite for the Nobel Peace Prize), producing a clearly organized mix of history and handbook. Although King was an early proponent of “momentum-driven mass mobilization,” the Englers note that his approach was more improvisational and high-risk than is historically remembered. They hold up the surprisingly quick mainstream acceptance of gay marriage as an example of successful legislation and networking; in contrast, the divisive tactics of ACT UP in response to the 1980s AIDS crisis produced both backlash and effective change. In a chapter on organizational discipline, the authors examine how the Weather Underground’s destructive approach essentially crippled the New Left. Although the authors write with clear passion regarding these examples of dramatic social change, they acknowledge that the Arab Spring has provided a counternarrative: “the revolution in Egypt presents a troubling case….Not all efforts to create change prevail over the long term.”

A usefully organized, concise history of social movements that will appeal to newer generations of activists.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56858-733-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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

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