Strictly for graduate school seminars.

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THE CRISES OF CAPITALISM

A DIFFERENT STUDY OF POLITICAL ECONOMY

A prominent eco-socialist explains why capitalism is doomed.

Sarkar (Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism?, 1999, etc.) casts himself as not merely a reformer of capitalism, but rather a radical who believes no amount of tinkering will prop up a capitalist system that’s come up against the twin killers of global warming and the imminent depletion of vital, nonrenewable natural resources. Neither of these developments, he insists, could have been foreseen either by the defenders of capitalism or its fiercest critics. Focusing primarily on the 20th century, the author engages in a critique of the theories of prominent economic commentators, carefully distinguishing the historical crises in capitalism—the Great Depression, the mid-’70s stagflation, the disruptions caused by globalization, the Great Recession of 2008—from the crisis of capitalism, the system’s inevitable collision with the newly appreciated fact of finite resources. He intends this manifesto for general readers interested in political-economic issues, economists open to a new critique of political economy and, primarily, for well-meaning activists who require theoretical clarity and objective knowledge to abandon the illusions and false theories that have heretofore hobbled them. Sarkar refers to fellow activists as comrades, but there’s nothing friendly about the turgid, relentlessly donnish prose (to be fair, the text is translated from the German) that carries his argument. It’s difficult to imagine those already converted to Sarkar’s worldview casually picking up this tome for guidance. Still, for those who passionately believe that innovation can no longer prolong capitalism, that the end of the Oil Age is near, that dwindling resources and today’s dangerously unstable economic moment point to “ecological socialism as the only convincing alternative,” Sarkar’s text supplies the requisite theoretical scaffolding so dear to the academy.

Strictly for graduate school seminars.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61902-006-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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