AMERICA NOW: Why Nothing Works by Marvin Harris

AMERICA NOW: Why Nothing Works

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A harangue on ""the interconnectedness"" of everything wrong--""cults, crime, shoddy goods, and the shrinking dollar . . . sex shops and men kissing in the streets""--by the anthropologist-author of Cannibals and Kings. That ""causal web""? Well, ""the shift from a goods-producing to a service- and information-producing"" low-paid, part-time, transient labor force, combined with ""the rise of giant government and corporate bureaucracies,"" brought us shoddy goods and slipshod services. Keynesian economics prevented ""Great Depression II"" at the price of ""Great Inflation I""; married women had to go to work; and those low-paid, etc. jobs were waiting for them. And from married women going to work came: 1) the sexual revolution--because of ""the collapse of the marital and procreative imperative and of the male breadwinner family""; and 2) the rise in violent crime--because ""white women were preferred over black men"" in the only expanding sector of the economy. The all-round ""bewilderment and frustration"" then produced the cults--which also represent an attempt ""to achieve earthly dominion and material well-being by magical and supernatural means."" Harris, for his part, would return us to reason. Not all of this is hogwash: there is some connection, obviously, between gigantism and alienation, between women working and not having babies, between black unemployment and violent crime. Nor is it simpleminded in quite the usual doom-crying way: Harris doesn't object to homosexuality as such (there is a good deal--with details--on the practices of the Greeks, the Azende of the Southern Sudan, the Etoro of New Guinea); it should just be kept in its proper, secondary place. But the book exploits popular grievances and prejudices; distorts facts (on economics, completely) and suppresses related factors; reduces complex situations to formulas; and comes out almost nowhere--Harris' only proposed cure is all-round decentralization. His name and the litany of complaints will draw attention--briefly.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster