Much food for thought for policymakers, if with a disagreeably Machiavellian tang.




The American project to spread democracy is a failure—and so it’s time for some realpolitik instead.

Krasner (International Relations/Stanford Univ.; Power, the State, and Sovereignty: Essays on International Relations, 2009, etc.) offers the rather dispiriting observation that popular self-governance is not part of the natural order and that because “despotism is much more likely than consolidated democracy,” it makes good sense to adjust foreign policy goals to recognize that we’re likely to be dealing with tyrants wherever we turn. Certainly, this has been the case with the current presidential administration, which would seem to have despotic tendencies itself. Elites hold power, and they will do what they can to maintain it, which means that injecting power-sharing values into any discussion of political reforms in exchange for foreign aid is likely to be a nonstarter. Krasner serves up numerous examples from Afghanistan, a failed state into which America has poured buckets of blood and dollars. Attempted institutional reforms, such as tying aid to educating women to become voting, equal citizens, have largely been rejected. Just so, Krasner notes, civil rights standards that give equality to LGBTQ citizens are also likely to be rejected by many societies around the world. Our demand for “good governance,” which would establish such things as inalienable rights, is too often overlooked or subverted, which means that we need to lower our expectations to what the author calls “good enough governance.” This is better than poor governance, he argues, which is responsible for numerous ills that affect the developed world—e.g., setting in motion armies of refugees and migrants and increasing the chances that “some new communicable disease will not be detected at an early stage.” Krasner often resorts to professional jargon (“path-dependent,” “open access order,” “clientelism,” “prebendalism,” and the like), and his argument is both accessible and open to criticism since it goes against—or used to, anyway—the American grain to cozy up to monsters.

Much food for thought for policymakers, if with a disagreeably Machiavellian tang.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63149-659-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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