Useful and interesting socialist takes on 20th-century history, but far short of the compelling social prophecy to which it...

AFTER PROGRESS

EUROPEAN SOCIALISM AND AMERICAN SOCIAL REFORM IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

An analysis of 20th-century social reform that explores Western history and economics in order to comment on the current state and future prospects of socialism.

The 1989 Eastern European revolutions, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and China’s slow but steady implementation of capitalist reforms cause many political commentators to dismiss socialism as an outdated and discredited philosophy. Birnbaum (The Crisis of Industrial Society, not reviewed) provides his new social history in response to such assertions. Offering as his foundation a detailed chronicle of reform movements in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, Birnbaum detects key shifts in social concerns over the course of the century. He argues that these Western nations reacted to the totalitarian nature of the Stalinist Soviet state by approaching social reform tentatively rather than embracing socialist doctrine. According to Birnbaum, this resulted in the rise of Reaganism and Thatcherism and a corresponding loss of faith in the Marxist idea of historical progression. Despite the beleaguered state of socialism today, Birnbaum sees hope for the socialist spirit. He points to Americans’ dedication to New Deal and Great Society programs like Social Security and Medicare, and to the entrenched social welfare systems of Western Europe as evidence that a reimagined and reinvigorated socialism waits to burst upon the international scene. Birnbaum’s failure to offer clear indications about what direction this might take creates an effect opposite to that he wants to produce: rather than inspiring hope for the future of socialism, his analysis leaves the reader feeling that its chances of revival are slim indeed.

Useful and interesting socialist takes on 20th-century history, but far short of the compelling social prophecy to which it aspires.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-19-512005-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more