book reviews

  • Ted Kennedy Bios Show Liberalism's Trials, and its Necessity

    by David Masciotra

    As liberalism is under attack from the right and from a growing left, the author argues that recent biographies of Ted Kennedy illustrate the imperfections and trials of the idea, but show it's still the best option for organizing a free and fair society.

  • Pekka Hamalainen's Ambitious Book Reinforces Some Old Myths (Review)

    by Ned Blackhawk

    The new book shows the complexity of territorial conflict between settler and indigenous groups, but by ending in 1890, it punts on the task of explaining how the conflict ended resoundingly in favor of the settlers and their ideas of territory, law and power. 

  • Nicole Hemmer Reviews Martin and Burns's "This Will Not Pass"

    by Nicole Hemmer

    The book by two political reporters portrays the dire contrast between a Republican Party willing to do anything to hold power between November 2020 and January 2021 and a Democratic Party enmeshed in business-as-usual. 

  • Is the West Laissez-Faire About Sanctions?

    If economic sanctions become a replacement for military force in international conflict, they also risk becoming a normal part of nationalist economic policy that escalates international rivalry as a feature of the global economy. 

  • Review: The Pragmatism of Police Abolition

    Activist and police abolitionist Derecka Purnell's book draws on personal and academic history to push readers to question what they think an ideal society looks like, and whether police forces are an instrument for achieving it. 

  • Review: The Afterlife of Black Hawk

    by David Roediger

    A suppressed history of conquest and expulsion pervades the state of Illinois; A new book seeks to recover it.   

  • Tracing the Origins of Today's Archconservatives (Review)

    by Randall J. Stephens

    "John Huntington convincingly concludes that Trump 'tapped into the government mistrust, racial resentment, and conspiratorial beliefs that had festered within conservatism for decades'."

  • Is the Narrative Impulse Dangerous (Review)?

    by Timothy Snyder

    Jonathan Gottschall's book proposes that human intellect is a captive of the structure of stories. Reviewer Timothy Snyder is skeptical of his case. 

  • Direct Action: The Practical Politics of Protest

    by Erin Pineda

    "Protesters may be a loud minority of citizens, a set of especially motivated and impassioned individuals who are in many ways not representative of the general public. But the silent majority of voters are not as disconnected from—or dismissive of—protest as many assume."

  • Should Germany Prosecute the Few Surviving Nazis?

    by David Motadel

    "Most of the perpetrators of the Holocaust have passed away, but German courts still have an opportunity to prosecute those who remain alive. It is the final chapter in the country’s long and not very successful history of ensuring justice for their victims."

  • Radical Movements and Political Power: Terence Renaud on New Lefts

    by Justin H. Vassallo

    Terence Renaud's history places the international New Left movements that emerged in the 1960s, and today's left activism, in the context of radical traditions that have sought to avoid hierarchy and rigidity. Questions remain about how ideals and ethics can combine with organizing to change institutions.

  • Land of Capital: Jonathan Levy's "Ages of American Capital" Reviewed

    by Steven Hahn

    "Ages of Capitalism" is one of the first synthetic accounts of the relationship of capitalism and American politics and society, and provides an important vocabulary for a developing field of inquiry. It also, oddly, resonates with the older consensus history that assumed capitalism as a core part of American life.

  • "This Obstinate Little Man": Tom Segev on Ben-Gurion as the King Lear of Zionism

    "Ben-Gurion was not a saint and should not be made into one posthumously. An unvarnished account of his vices is essential, but so is an appreciation of his merits." A reviewer says Tom Segev's new biography sheds little light on his influence over the Zionist movement and the Israeli state.

  • Rebel is Right: Reassessing the Cultural Revolution

    by Chaohua Wang

    A new book by the Chinese scholar Yang Jisheng examines the Chinese Cultural Revolution's lasting impact on the Communist Party, concluding that the generation of party leaders who experienced it were indifferent to utopianism but deeply attracted to the exercise of absolute power.