A readable and neatly paced examination of recent history that sheds light on even more recent events.




Political economist Jacobs (Woodrow Wilson Center/Princeton Univ.; Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America, 2005, etc.) considers the effects of the 1970s OPEC embargoes on subsequent politics.

It may surprise people too young to remember him, but Richard Nixon, though “not a New Dealer,” actually declared in 1973 that seven years hence, America would become energy independent. What happened? Politics happened. By the author’s account, Nixon’s carefully assembled program of price controls, designed to smooth out the bumpier edges of supply and demand, gave way at the end of the decade to the Reagan administration’s libertarian insistence that the market knows best. Nixon’s expansion of the regulatory power of the federal government remains controversial even today, but it was neither without precedent nor without successors. As Jacobs writes, Gerald Ford took things a quiet step further, calling both for “fiscal restraint and higher energy prices” in a time of rampant inflation, as well as creating a comprehensive energy policy that included a strategic reserve and requirements that the automobile industry improve fuel efficiency. The anti-regulatory forces eventually gained the field, but they were there all along; the famed Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, for instance, insisted not just on the free market, but also on licensing avarice: “Greed motivates the world….If we will just unleash the greed, then we will solve our energy problems.” Though unsuccessful on many fronts, the Reagan White House insisted that falling oil prices as a result of decontrol vindicated its policies. However, as Jacobs sagely notes, decontrol meant that the U.S. would “deregulate markets at home and protect them abroad,” which required an increased military presence everywhere oil was produced. The author concludes, depressingly, by invoking the political insider James Schlesinger, who once remarked, “it’s a hell of a lot easier and a lot more fun to kick asses in the Middle East than make sacrifices and practice conservation.”

A readable and neatly paced examination of recent history that sheds light on even more recent events.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8090-5847-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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