A lucid, accessible introduction to globalism and its discontents.

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IRRESISTIBLE EMPIRE

AMERICA’S ADVANCE THROUGH 20TH CENTURY EUROPE

A smart and engaging look at how US consumerism swept aside European cultural conservatism to create a transatlantic, transnational market.

Globalism has an American face, writes de Grazia (History/Columbia Univ.), but perhaps not for much longer. While 80 percent of Europe’s 519 million inhabitants are by now accustomed to going to supermarkets, just shy of the 85 percent mark in the US, the leading innovator in getting people in China and South America to shop one-stop is now Carrefour, a French firm. (Carrefour, she adds, is even beating out Wal-Mart in China, but facing stiff competition from Taiwanese and Thai chains.) Thus the wheel turns, set in motion by the expansion of the American “Market Empire” throughout the 20th century; the resultant economic and political hegemony “was built on European territory,” where American concerns had to combat patterns of production and trade long established by the European bourgeoisie. Overturning the old order was spurred on by both the demands of local peoples for better living standards and by the occasion of two world wars that opened European markets; when the second finished off the ancien régime, programs such as the Marshall Plan were on hand to build a consumer society friendly to US goods from tractors to films to hula hoops. Just so, the European success of firms such as McDonald’s has depended on changing local habits to conform to American models—doing away with the extended lunch break, making long commutes the norm, and so on. Yet, de Grazia notes, even the Marshall Plan had competitors, such as England’s Beveridge Report, which hinted at ways of rebuilding that lacked the American “overweening confidence in technology, raucous commercialism, and tolerance for social wreckage as the price paid for progress.” The US model is looking shopworn at the beginning of the 21st century—but even if it has a different accent, the Market Empire endures.

A lucid, accessible introduction to globalism and its discontents.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-674-01672-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2005

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

NIGHT

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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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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