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DICTATORSHIP OF VIRTUE

MULTICULTURALISM AND THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE

From New York Times reporter Bernstein (Fragile Glory, 1990), a stinging attack on multiculturalism, a ``messianic political program...[that] does not take kindly to true difference.'' Just as the egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution fell into a dÇrapage (slide) that led to the Reign of Terror, Bernstein avers, so the civil-rights revolution has lurched into a leftist intolerance that is contradictory to its professed pluralistic ideals. Broader-ranging than Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education (1990), this analysis covers not only higher education, but also elementary and secondary school systems, state legislatures, corporations, newsrooms, even the National Council of Churches. All of these institutions, it is alleged, are increasingly being assaulted by pious, often well-meaning ``diversity experts'' who peddle fraudulent visions of an oppressive American and Western tradition. Bernstein sensibly contends that racism, sexism, and homophobia are receding to the margins of American life, not growing, as is often claimed. He neatly disposes of claims that today's ethnic and racial groups represent an exotic new force in American life by noting that immigration was proportionately higher in earlier eras, and that today's immigrants, unlike their predecessors, were constantly exposed to American culture before coming here. Bernstein offers chilling examples of how ``diversity'' has been used as a bludgeon by leftists in battle over high school curricula, sexual harassment hearings that deny due process, the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's initial voyage to the New World, and school courses that stigmatize ``dead white European males.'' Worst of all, Bernstein charges, diversity advocates, now comfortably lodged in the intelligentsia, question cultural norms that have historically enhanced upward mobility in the US, thereby damaging the disadvantaged whose interest they claim to serve. A sophisticated, tough-minded examination of the newest fault line in late 20th century American culture. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-41156-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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