Shrewd, witty, informed essays that are much needed in our anti-intellectual age.

ARGUING WITH ZOMBIES

ECONOMICS, POLITICS, AND THE FIGHT FOR A BETTER FUTURE

Penetrating analyses of urgent, controversial problems.

Krugman (Economics/City Univ. of New York; End This Depression Now!, 2012, etc.), winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, gathers more than 90 articles, most from his New York Times columns, lucidly explaining often confounding economic issues. Prefacing each of 18 sections with a cogent overview, the author takes on topics that include social security, health care, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath (essays that comprise more than a third of the book), the myths of austerity, Europe’s economic problems, tax cuts, trade wars, inequality, climate change, and, not least, the damage being inflicted by Donald Trump and his enablers. Many of the pieces are hard-hitting arguments against zombie ideas, “an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.” Zombie ideas, Krugman asserts, are put forth by “influential people” who “move in circles in which repeating” such ideas “is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity.” Alternatively, ideas such as climate change denial, which persist despite prolific evidence, are “better described as cockroach ideas—false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.” There are plenty of villains in Krugman’s crosshairs: the “anti-labor” extremist Brett Kavanaugh, “flimflam man” Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush and his “fraudulent march to war,” and Ronald Reagan, to name a few. Many essays focus on the current president. “It’s not just that Trump has assembled an administration of the worst and dimmest,” writes the author. “The truth is that the modern GOP doesn’t want to hear from serious economists, whatever their politics. It prefers charlatans and cranks, who are its kind of people.” Krugman is a serious economist who detailed his intellectual focus and style in a 1993 essay, “How I Work.” He cites four rules that guide his research: listen to intelligent views; question the question; “dare to be silly”; and “simplify, simplify.” All serve him—and his readers—admirably.

Shrewd, witty, informed essays that are much needed in our anti-intellectual age.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00501-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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

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