A carefully reasoned plea for a continuing engagement of the American judiciary in establishing a worldwide rule of law.

THE COURT AND THE WORLD

AMERICAN LAW AND THE NEW GLOBAL REALITIES

A liberal Supreme Court justice takes on a conservative bugbear.

Associate Justice Breyer (Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View, 2010, etc.) notes that consideration of the decisions of foreign courts in Supreme Court opinions has recently "sometimes evoked strongly adverse political reactions," even though references to foreign decisions appear from the court's earliest days. The author attempts to allay such concerns by placing the court's modern engagement with foreign law in the context of a global economy. "The objections of critics," he writes, "do not reflect the reality of today's federal court dockets….It is not the cosmopolitanism of some jurists that seeks this kind of engagement but the nature of the world itself that demands it." Breyer argues that as American government and business become more closely enmeshed with foreign governments and with international organizations and commercial interests, federal courts cannot function effectively without taking perceptive account of the decisions and underlying reasoning of other nations' courts. While he acknowledges concerns that decisions based in part on foreign law may lack political legitimacy, particularly in the context of determining what constitutes unacceptable "unusual" punishment under the Eighth Amendment, he dismisses these cases as a sideshow. Breyer illustrates the plethora of international issues confronting the court by examining at length a number of cases involving, for example, the geographical reach of the Securities and Exchange Commission rule prohibiting fraud in securities sales and the interaction between a treaty on a foreign defendant's consular access and American criminal procedure. Breyer's style and exposition are remarkably clear. His summaries of cases are sufficiently detailed to highlight the complexity and subtlety of the issues presented for decision without being entirely daunting to readers outside the legal profession. Nevertheless, few but lawyers will likely have the patience to work through the arguments.

A carefully reasoned plea for a continuing engagement of the American judiciary in establishing a worldwide rule of law.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-94619-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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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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