This cogent study of ideas of race and freedom has added relevance and crossover potential in today’s political landscape.

Historical examination of how, since the Enlightenment, ideas of freedom in the U.S. and France have been intertwined with race.

"White freedom,” writes Stovall, a professor of history at Fordham, is "the belief (and practice) that freedom is central to white racial identity, and that only white people can or should be free.” The author tracks this concept in France and the U.S. from the French Revolution and the creation of the U.S. Constitution to the official end of the Cold War, supplementing the historical and political account with relevant material in the areas of art, music, and literature. After opening chapters on pirates and children as examples of "savage freedom" in literature and law—as well as the changing interpretations of the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, from anti-slavery to pro-immigration—Stovall moves chronologically, covering ideas of White freedom implicit in the American, French, and Haitian revolutions; industrialization, imperialism, and modernity; and the world wars. In his intellectual archaeology, the author neither excuses nor cancels historical racism. The author concludes with challenges to White freedom in the name of "universal freedom," including anti-colonial struggles, feminism, and the civil rights movement. While noting that these movements have not completely triumphed, they have successfully reoriented the debate from challenging White freedom to fulfilling the promise of universal freedom. The international and Francophone orientation is distinctive among progressive histories and Whiteness studies. Although academically grounded, the author avoids extended disputes with other scholars. Each chapter has a preface and conclusion, as does the book itself, so Stovall often announces his intentions and the completion of each intention. This structure may put off some nonscholarly readers, but the frame successfully holds together a complex argument and a wide range of sources and examples, from Rousseau and The Magic Flute to Trump and Brexit.

This cogent study of ideas of race and freedom has added relevance and crossover potential in today’s political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-691-17946-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020


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


Deliberately provocative, with much for left-inclined activists to ponder.

A wide-ranging critique of leftist politics as not being left enough.

Continuing his examination of progressive reform movements begun with The Cult of Smart, Marxist analyst deBoer takes on a left wing that, like all political movements, is subject to “the inertia of established systems.” The great moment for the left, he suggests, ought to have been the summer of 2020, when the murder of George Floyd and the accumulated crimes of Donald Trump should have led to more than a minor upheaval. In Minneapolis, he writes, first came the call from the city council to abolish the police, then make reforms, then cut the budget; the grace note was “an increase in funding to the very department it had recently set about to dissolve.” What happened? The author answers with the observation that it is largely those who can afford it who populate the ranks of the progressive movement, and they find other things to do after a while, even as those who stand to benefit most from progressive reform “lack the cultural capital and economic stability to have a presence in our national media and politics.” The resulting “elite capture” explains why the Democratic Party is so ineffectual in truly representing minority and working-class constituents. Dispirited, deBoer writes, “no great American revolution is coming in the early twenty-first century.” Accommodation to gradualism was once counted heresy among doctrinaire Marxists, but deBoer holds that it’s likely the only truly available path toward even small-scale gains. Meanwhile, he scourges nonprofits for diluting the tax base. It would be better, he argues, to tax those who can afford it rather than allowing deductible donations and “reducing the availability of public funds for public uses.” Usefully, the author also argues that identity politics centering on difference will never build a left movement, which instead must find common cause against conservatism and fascism.

Deliberately provocative, with much for left-inclined activists to ponder.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016015

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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