A valuable view of the explosive movement that gave voice to outrage over our new gilded age.

THE OCCUPIERS

THE MAKING OF THE 99 PERCENT MOVEMENT

Sociology doctoral student Gould-Wartofsky debuts with an inside look at the “new, new Left” that emerged when fewer than 2,000 people seized New York City’s Zuccotti Park, near Wall Street, in 2011, sparking similar protest rallies against the wealthiest “1 Percent” in some 1,500 towns and cities.

Chanting “We! Are! The 99 Percent!” the occupiers numbered many thousands, including millennials hit hard by the 2007-2009 recession, who opposed “the politics of austerity, restricted democracy, and the power of corporate America.” Veteran activist Gould-Wartofsky was both a participant and observer at the monthslong New York action, interviewing some 80 protesters there and in cities from Atlanta to Madrid and examining the inner workings of the complex intergenerational mélange—an “awesome petri dish of political engagement,” one participant called it. The author’s sympathetic account traces the origins of the occupy tactic to events elsewhere, from the Zapatista land occupation in Chiapas, Mexico, to uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Athens, and describes the critical roles played by online social media and the “People’s Microphone” (where people in a crowd repeat a speaker’s works, eliminating the need for amplifiers) and by alliances with labor unions and nonprofits. Working groups provided food, shelter and safety to the Zuccotti Park encampment. Many rifts occurred, notably between upper-echelon occupiers and the “lower 99 Percent” (the homeless and drug users). Gould-Wartofsky captures the chaotic, carnivallike atmosphere that reined as chanting crowds marched twice daily on Wall Street, stormed the Brooklyn Bridge and, on Oct. 15, a day of global action in 951 cities, made their way to Times Square. The author argues the movement’s ideas and practices have lived on after the eviction from Zuccotti Park: “The 99 Percent identity—and the sense of solidarity it lent an otherwise divided Left—[was] the movement’s most enduring contribution to the political culture.”

A valuable view of the explosive movement that gave voice to outrage over our new gilded age.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-19-931391-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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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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