All remains to be seen. But Reich offers a persuasive, and spirited, view of the present political landscape and how it...



To the barricades, liberals: according to former Secretary of Labor Reich, your hour is at hand.

Americans, Reich (The Future of Success, 2001, etc.) argues, tend to be socially moderate, if not liberal; certainly they are not “radcons,” or radical conservatives, by inclination. In support of this assertion, Reich offers a series of public-opinion surveys showing that a majority of people favor a woman’s right to choose, America conceived of as a secular nation, environmental protection over short-term economic gain, and liberty and justice for all. Yet—and here’s the rub—even though Americans “have had enough of the radical conservatives—their intolerance, their mean-spiritedness, their moral righteousness, their arrogance toward the rest of the world”—Americans seem to have no problem putting such people in office. This, by Reich’s account, is because the progressive or liberal wing of the Democratic Party has failed to provide any kind of agenda that speaks to the “large, anxious middle and lower-middle class” and has instead stood by as others within the party have pushed it rightward toward an imagined center. “Centrism is bogus,” Reich thunders. “The ‘center’ keeps shifting further right because Radcons stay put while Democrats keep meeting them halfway.” Thus Clinton’s embracing an economic boom that benefited only a few; thus the Democrats’ having so little vision that the only thing they could think of to do with the budget surplus of a few years’ back was to retire the national debt early. Stuff and nonsense, Reich argues; it’s time to unfurl the liberal flag and proudly own the name, recognizing that the largest political group in the country is not Republicans or Democrats or “swing voters,” but those Americans who, out of apathy or disgust, just don’t vote at all. That’s the audience to court, Reich insists, for winning it will bring on a liberal restoration.

All remains to be seen. But Reich offers a persuasive, and spirited, view of the present political landscape and how it might be remade.

Pub Date: May 12, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4221-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

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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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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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