An invigorating book with much fodder for thought on this side of the Atlantic.




Vigorous polemic on the makeup of England’s ruling elite, with eerie parallels to the inequality in the United States.

Guardian columnist Jones (Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, 2012) embarks on another scathing examination of British systemic ailments by directly challenging the powerful interest groups that essentially rule the country. Politicians, financial titans, media barons, and an authoritative police force form the pillars of society, and since the 1950s, when Britain collectively shook off the “defeatism” and “permissiveness” of the postwar era in order to embrace an “open economy,” these pillars have turned increasingly reactionary. Where once the aristocracy and Church of England formed the Establishment (both still hold enormous tracts of land, the author notes), the “outriders” who championed the return to laissez faire economics at the Mont Pelerin Society of 1947 (Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman et al.) got their deliverance with the accession of Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s. They forged a new Establishment, founded on free market principles and libertarian philosophy. In the U.S. under Ronald Reagan, that philosophy was reflected in the attempt to roll back FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society programs. Jones looks at the role of conservative think tanks, such as the powerful Institute of Economic Affairs, in launching an all-out offensive on the working class, the trade unions, and the “little people.” This offensive often goes hand in hand with a 24-hour news cycle that popularizes their ideas to the public. In successive chapters, the author tackles one pillar after the other: the “Westminster Cartel”; a dishonest, corporate-fed media playing into racism and other prejudices (e.g., the Rupert Murdoch press); the “boys in blue,” who are authorized to use unlawful force; and tax dodgers and financiers operating with impunity. The supreme irony, Jones emphasizes, is that these “free-market” pillars actually derive their power from the “largesse of the state.”

An invigorating book with much fodder for thought on this side of the Atlantic.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61219-487-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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A sharp, compelling, and impassioned book.


A London-based journalist offers her perspective on race in Britain in the early 21st century.

In 2014, Eddo-Lodge published a blog post that proclaimed she was “no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race.” After its viral reception, she realized that her mission should be to do the opposite, so she actively began articulating, rather than suppressing, her feelings about racism. In the first chapter, the author traces her awakening to the reality of a brutal British colonial history and the ways that history continues to impact race relations in the present, especially between blacks and the police. Eddo-Lodge analyzes the system that has worked against blacks and kept them subjugated to laws that work against—rather than for—them. She argues that it is not enough to deconstruct racist structures. White people must also actively see race itself by constantly asking “who benefits from their race and who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes.” They must also understand the extent of the privileges granted them because of their race and work through racist fears that, as British arch-conservative Enoch Powell once said, “the black man will [one day] have the whip hand over the white man.” Eddo-Lodge then explores the fraught question of being a black—and therefore, according to racist stereotype—“angry” female and the ways her “assertiveness, passion and excitement” have been used against her. In examining the relationship between race and class, the author further notes the way British politicians have used the term “white” to qualify working class. By leaving out reference to other members of that class, they “compound the currency-like power of whiteness.” In her probing and personal narrative, Eddo-Lodge offers fresh insight into the way all racism is ultimately a “white problem” that must be addressed by commitment to action, no matter how small. As she writes, in the end, “there's no justice, there's just us.”

A sharp, compelling, and impassioned book.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4088-7055-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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