An impassioned, intellectual, and vigorously dense report on the repercussions of severe socioeconomic imbalance in the...

UNDER THE AFFLUENCE

SHAMING THE POOR, PRAISING THE RICH AND SACRIFICING THE FUTURE OF AMERICA

Acclaimed inequality essayist and community activist Wise (Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority, 2012, etc.) reports on the damage being incurred in America whereby “the have-nots and have-lessers are dehumanized while the elite are venerated.”

In describing how modern society has become a “culture of cruelty,” as past attempts to sympathize and support those less fortunate have collapsed beneath the weight of classism and racism, the author explores the framework and the consequences of the nation’s economic crisis. He lucidly ponders its genesis as well as the ramifications of wealth inequality, including the rampant demonization of the poor and the valorization of the rich by way of what he refers to as “Scroogism.” Wise’s extensive experience as an anti-racism activist and a longtime member of the radical left greatly informs his text, which demonstrates, through facts and case histories, that America’s enduring racial divide continues to be directly tied to its economic problems. His well-rounded scholarly discussion benefits from the varying intellectual perspectives he offers, including opinions on the damaging effects of blind corporate obeisance to the “myth of meritocracy.” What is apparent, he believes, is the need for solutions to achieve the kind of “culture of compassion” necessary for true redemption and a dismantling of social stratification. Wise recognizes that this achievement is a tall order to fill, particularly in the presence of the current elite economic oligarchy possessing the capital and the influence to trounce equalization efforts. Sharp and provocative—though often distressingly cynical and uncompromising—the book concludes with hope that his analysis and those like it will spur a counternarrative outwardly challenging the false notion that both the wealthy and the poor “deserve” their places within our culture’s economic stratum.

An impassioned, intellectual, and vigorously dense report on the repercussions of severe socioeconomic imbalance in the United States.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-87286-693-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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