Deserves wide attention in our current political landscape.

BREAK 'EM UP

RECOVERING OUR FREEDOM FROM BIG AG, BIG TECH, AND BIG MONEY

A forceful argument about the stealthy resurgence of monopoly within the global economy.

Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University, redirects progressive attention toward this easily overlooked issue. “Wall Street,” she writes, “has been a driving force behind the gutting of antitrust laws.” The purported democratic norms of the tech economy have clouded such predatory business practices in many aspects of life, from the effect of Uber on drivers’ livelihoods, to less obvious but chilling examples—e.g., how poultry monopolies have turned farmers into indentured servants. “Uber successfully sold the idea that, if we wanted to use our phones to get a taxi, we needed to destroy 80 years of anti-monopoly laws,” writes Teachout. Furthermore, the “chickenization” model is creeping into many industries, especially restaurant delivery: “Surveillance and power go hand in hand, each reinforcing the other.” Race and class inform many of these hidden narratives: In one chapter, the author tracks how arbitration has become an alternate justice system serving the ultrawealthy. She also discusses the “body snatcher” effect of corporate super PACs on the political system: “corporate institutions replacing democratic institutions by burrowing inside them and using their language and forms.” Similarly, the journalism industry has been gutted by greedy corporate raiders and their continued search for quarterly profit increases. Regarding the secretive CEOs of social media, Teachout writes, “it is crucial that we understand [Mark] Zuckerberg, and monopolists like him, as seekers of political power, for it is only through political action that they can be tamed.” Wide-ranging, well-organized chapters are full of unsettling tidbits, such as Amazon’s courting of the surveillance state via commercial data-sharing. Finally, the author looks back at the original populist antitrust movement, but she also makes the salient point that “we shouldn’t require people to boycott essential communications infrastructure like Facebook and Google in order to demand that they be broken up.” Teachout confidently wields energetic, urgent prose and stark research, adeptly blending subtopics including law and technology.

Deserves wide attention in our current political landscape.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20089-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: All Points/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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