Innumerate readers need not apply, but this book is still an essential document in following the Pikettian argument...

TOP INCOMES IN FRANCE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

INEQUALITY AND REDISTRIBUTION, 1901–1998

“In general…it is a healthy thing to show inequality as it exists”: a door-stopping work of economic history that does just that.

Opinion-shaking economist Piketty (Paris School of Economics) burst onto the English-reading scene in 2014 with his blockbuster book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. This predecessor volume, published in France in 2001, offers and interprets the body of evidence on which much of his argument was founded. He shows, for example, that economic inequality narrows in times of crisis and war, in some cases because states become more vigorous in collecting taxes when the coffers are empty. So it was in France in the 20th century, when incomes overall followed a non-American pattern, with greater divergence in times of peace and a lessening of gaps among the classes. As Piketty follows, exhaustively, tax records and other documents to construct a portrait of the French economy, he discerns patterns that he explicates in prose—but just as often in the form of tables, which are abundant throughout the book; fully half of the tome is given over to data-clotted appendices and other backmatter. Piketty’s prose is generally nontechnical, as when he writes, “in capitalist societies, ownership of the means of production…has always been the surest path to the possibility of attaining a very high income.” So how does one become an owner? Not just through acquiring the keys to the factory, but through stock ownership, which “helps to explain why large fortunes are usually made up of stocks.” Understanding tax regimes helps one understand the inner workings of an economy, as it is clear to see through the work, and the beneficiaries are therefore reluctant to see their tax records made public, a lesson that will not be lost on American readers living under the hyperactive inequality of the here and now.

Innumerate readers need not apply, but this book is still an essential document in following the Pikettian argument developed in later books.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-674-73769-3

Page Count: 1280

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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...

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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