Outrageously padded, but worth it for Ignatieff's contribution.

HUMAN RIGHTS AS POLITICS AND IDOLATRY

Cogent analysis of the crusade for human rights—from its origins to its present status as a surprisingly influential movement that sometimes oversteps its bounds.

Prolific novelist, journalist, and historian Ignatieff (Virtual War, 2000, etc.) discerns the beginning of the human-rights movement in the antislavery crusade of the 18th century, after which it languished until galvanized into new life by the barbarism of WWII. Before that war, only states had rights under international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 granted individuals the right to challenge unjust laws or oppressive customs. Most states (the USSR included) ratified this and other human-rights treaties, confident they would remain a pious set of clichés that could be ignored. In fact, movements such as Amnesty International wield a modest amount of genuine influence. The US and the UN ignored the subject for decades, dipped a toe into the water by criticizing South Africa in the 1970s, and now devote major, though often ineffective efforts to protecting human rights. Even dictators take notice—a bad human-rights record makes it difficult to get international loans or attract business. Despite its successes, the movement is under increasing attack from Asian and Islamic nations as well as many western intellectuals. The author gives a sympathetic analysis of its problems. Fifty years ago, oppressive governments were the chief human-rights villains. Today, the greatest abuse occurs in places where weak governments cannot maintain order, and anarchy rules: Rwanda, Kosovo, Somalia, Lebanon. Ignatieff urges the movement to pay more attention to the balance between the rights of states and the rights of citizens. His views ring true, and he writes lucidly. Unfortunately, his essays occupy only 100 pages; the volume is doubled by commentaries from four scholars who agree with Ignatieff on all except minor points but whose writing doesn’t match his own.

Outrageously padded, but worth it for Ignatieff's contribution.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-691-08893-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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