Chomsky continues to hope that demands for “independence, self-respect, and personal dignity” may reappear “when awakened by...

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WHO RULES THE WORLD?

The dean of left-wing American public intellectuals surveys the current scene and despairs.

Ever wonder what it must be like to read a single edition of the New York Times the way Chomsky (Emeritus, Linguistics and Philosophy/MIT; What Kind of Creatures Are We?, 2015, etc.) reads it? Perhaps the most intriguing chapter here devotes itself to just this exercise, and it usefully reveals his cast of mind. For Chomsky, the Times is a kind of house organ, valuable for many things but more useful as a guide to the conventional wisdom of those who rule: the United States, the G-7, the global trade organizations and financial institutions they control, multinational conglomerates, retail and media empires. As he considers the news of the day and the responsibility of privileged intellectuals, Chomsky positions himself not with his peers in service to the state but rather with those committed to a higher set of values, “the causes of freedom, justice, mercy, and peace.” For decades, the author has written from this perspective—hardly a chapter passes without him citing a previous work of his own—and by now, both critics (infuriated) and admirers (charmed) are familiar with his analysis. Conversationally, with numerous historical references and his trademark mix of wit, sarcasm, invective, insight, and wrongheadedness, he identifies two principal threats, nuclear war and global warming, isolates for particular attention three geographic areas of widespread unrest and violence—Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Islamic world—and drubs our rulers for dismissing public opinion, ignoring the powerless, and placing their own interests and security over the people’s welfare. No surprise that the Republican Party and a string of its presidents come in for a pounding, but Chomsky has almost as harsh things to say about presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton, and Obama and their ministers, and liberal commentators like Paul Krugman.

Chomsky continues to hope that demands for “independence, self-respect, and personal dignity” may reappear “when awakened by circumstances and militant activism,” but he doesn’t appear to be holding his breath.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-381-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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