Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America
Email this review


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. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-87286-693-5
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: City Lights
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015


NonfictionDIVIDED by David Cay Johnston
by David Cay Johnston
NonfictionTHE DIVIDE by Matt Taibbi
by Matt Taibbi
NonfictionTHE ESTABLISHMENT by Owen Jones
by Owen Jones