An interesting but not always convincing exercise in political theory.


Israeli academic Hazony (The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, 2012, etc.), president of the Herzl Institute, offers a full-throated defense of nationalism as a guarantor of liberty.

Describing himself as “a Jewish nationalist, a Zionist, all my life,” the author argues that nationalism—the self-determination of nations, free to follow their own interests without interference—stands in sharp distinction to imperialism, which aims to unite humankind into a single polity. Today’s “globalism,” he claims, is only a variant on the imperialism of old, and the hated European Union might just as well be an extension of the old Holy Roman Empire. Hazony takes a Wilsonian view of the right of nations to exercise self-government, though the term “nation” becomes a slippery beast: Can it embrace outgroups without being imperial? Nationalism sometimes maps to bigotry and hatred. Here, the author’s argument is somewhat disingenuous, in that the kind of nationalism people find objectionable these days is of the supremacist sort, insisting not on self-determination but on primacy. Even so, Hazony writes that “imperialist” theories such as Marxism and liberalism also have their detractors, so that hatred “may be endemic to political movements in general.” The author believes that walling off the world into nations is for the good of all humankind, organizing us by “tribal language and culture” to keep us safe from alien ideas that may be spreading faster than they should, “giving time for what is misguided and destructive to be tried and found wanting”—liberalism, presumably, or maybe the kind of international organization represented by NATO, which makes the president of the United States the de facto head of Europe’s armed forces, which “is to say that the president, in effect, plays the role of the emperor in today’s Europe.” Given the current president’s imperial flourishes, of course, that may just be enough to get him to abandon his own nationalism.

An interesting but not always convincing exercise in political theory.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5416-4537-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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