The book reads more like a Democrat’s attack on Republicans, but many of the ills it illuminates are bipartisan.

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THE CORPORATE INFILTRATION OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

A United States senator argues that “there is virtually no element of the political landscape into which corporate influence has not intruded.”

Whitehouse is in a similar position to Bernie Sanders before the last primary campaign: a little-known Democratic senator from a small northeastern state (in this case, Rhode Island) sounding the alarm about the pervasive influence of corporate dollars on American politics. Since his co-author, Stinnett, is also more of a policy specialist than a writer who can humanize these issues, the book reads more like a legal brief or a series of position papers. Yet they are persuasive, particularly for Democrats of a populist bent. Whitehouse continually stresses that corporate money “is usually the strongest political force arrayed in any part of [the political] landscape.” He shows how the insidious influence of money extends from PACs to lobbyists to the Supreme Court and how Republicans in particular have succumbed to the lure of filthy corporate lucre. Since the book was well into the publication cycle before the surprising triumph of Donald Trump, skeptics might wonder how Trump prevailed over the likes of Jeb Bush (who benefitted heavily from corporate backing and PAC support) and then Hillary Clinton (who did as well). The author twists himself into a pretzel as he attempts to show how the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act actually advanced a corporate conservative agenda. Yet it’s hard to dispute so many of these assertions—e.g., how “the right pursues eliminating the estate tax, which only about 0.2 percent of the very wealthiest Americans—those whose estates are worth more than $5.45 million—will ever have to pay”; how corporation funding has fought tobacco warnings and climate change alike with pseudo-science and public relations lies; or that “corporate money is calling the tune in Congress.”

The book reads more like a Democrat’s attack on Republicans, but many of the ills it illuminates are bipartisan.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62097-207-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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