A highly revealing study with global implications.

THE RULE OF THE CLAN

WHAT AN ANCIENT FORM OF SOCIAL ORGANIZATION REVEALS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM

A compelling argument about the indispensable function of the modern liberal state as a bulwark for individual freedom against traditional kinship-based clan forms of social organization.

Weiner (Constitutional Law and Legal History/Rutgers School of Law; Americans Without Law: The Racial Boundaries of Citizenship, 2008, etc.) asserts that, in the wake of the recent financial crisis, current calls to “engage in the wholesale dismantling of public institutions” have the potential to be “a catastrophe for individual freedom.” He forcefully presents the case that individual rights will be weakened, not strengthened, by the diminution of state power. Personal liberty will be challenged due to the need of people to place greater reliance on the family structure to ensure survival. This decentralization will enhance the power of the kin-based group, with its collectivist organization of honor and blood feud and social justice among kin. The author presents legal, historical and current political contexts for his case, drawing from the work of the British legal historian Henry Sumner Maine, who distinguished between societies of “status” and societies based on “contract” for a foundation. Weiner also presents anthropological studies of the Nuer in Sudan and tribal organization throughout the Arab world and the Indian subcontinent. The author turns to Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon history to show how clans and the liberal state have coexisted in the past and continue to do so. He makes a convincing case that it is the strength of the clan structure, rather than the Islamic religious worldview, that breeds terrorism in countries such as Pakistan or Syria. Romeo and Juliet and Walter Scott's Waverley also provide grist for the author's mill. Weiner believes that modern liberal states can support the constitutional development of clan-based societies by supporting the professional classes.

A highly revealing study with global implications.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-25281-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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