Much-needed, readably concise political and economic analysis.

THE SYSTEM

WHO RIGGED IT, HOW WE FIX IT

The bestselling author presents his case that severe income inequality is the leading factor eroding American democracy.

After serving as the secretary of labor for Bill Clinton, Reich became a professor, frequent commentator on our ailing political system, and author of such bestsellers as Locked in the Cabinet, The Common Good, and Supercapitalism. In his latest, he urges all Americans outside the wealthiest 1% to stop thinking in terms of left vs. right or Democrat vs. Republican. Instead, writes the author, the crucial battle is Oligarchy vs. Democracy. The oligarchs, no matter what they say publicly about promoting democracy within a vigorous capitalistic economy, care almost exclusively about expanding their wealth. The accumulation of such wealth, writes Reich, has destroyed the middle class and offers nothing but misery to minimum wage workers. Throughout the narrative, the author relies heavily on the career of Jamie Dimon to illustrate his theories. Dimon, the CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase, presents himself as an enlightened supporter of the Democratic Party as well as a philanthropist actively seeking to reduce income inequality. Digging deeper, Reich argues that Dimon, while perhaps sincere in his own mind, is just another enabler of oligarchy. That enabling occurs not only via his too-big-to-fail bank, but also through Dimon’s leadership of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying organization consisting of the most powerful chief executives in the U.S. By opposing government regulation of industry and pushing for corporate tax cuts, Dimon and his fellow BR board members demonstrate their disdain for any legislation that might increase income equality among all socio-economic levels. As the author incisively shows, while opposing a safety net for the needy, corporate leaders regularly accept socialism for the extremely wealthy through government bailouts, an unfair tax code, and other measures. In various passages, Reich explains how the oligarchs have helped create and then bolster Donald Trump and his supporters.

Much-needed, readably concise political and economic analysis.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-65904-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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