How do we define the corruption that money brings to our politics? It's easy to be vaguely concerned about "money in politics" in the dollar-saturated public sphere that's risen up following 2010's Citizens United and subsequent federal-court decisions. But the "corruption" that's taking place now isn't as simple as some would make it seem, and its complexity contributes directly to its power and endurance.
Ruben Castaneda may be the nicest crack addict in the history of the drug. His worst transgression seems to be missing his brother's wedding-rehearsal dinner. He also, in the grips of his disease, began to call people near and far saying he'd lost his wallet, and showed up for work disheveled and reeking of booze.
William Deresiewicz begins his blistering, arm-waving jeremiad against Ivy League colleges and their dozens of emulators, which are creating a caste that is ruining itself and society, with the insistence that the book is a letter to his twenty-year-old self.
It is both reassuring and unnerving to recall the Cold War as conducted with books rather than tanks. Both the CIA and the KGB implicitly endorsed Maxim Gorky's proclamation that "books are the most important and most powerful weapons in socialist culture."
Web-enabled innovations like crowdfunding make for wonderful add-ons to, but very poor substitutes for, existing cultural institutions. We have never fully grasped the logic that has produced these institutions in the first place—and, in pre-digital times, we didn't really have to.
Utopianism is as much an enunciation of a better world as it is an enactment of one. Benjamin Kunkel's Utopia or Bust, a guide to several of the master theoreticians of the left, helps us believe in a future alternative to our present.
Anand Giridharadas's The True American operates on the seemingly provocative question of who is more American: the Bangladeshi air-force officer who immigrates to Dallas, hires on as a gas-station cashier, and dreams of working with computers; or the Bud-swilling, tatted, truck-driving, meth-blasted Texas peckerwood who shot him as "revenge" for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Which man more encapsulates the true core of American ideals? And, really, what are America's post-9/11 ideals?
A meticulous exposé of the meat industry, The Meat Racket is about more than just how big companies are ruining rural farmers. It's also more than another installment in the stomach-churning saga of the industrialization of our food supply. Christopher Leonard, whether he means to or not, is telling a broader story about American business, consumerism, and—most of all—greed.
This is a study of how authority maintains authority—and of how the subjugated stay subjugated, in ways spoken and unspoken. Oppressive structure exists not just as a matter of corporate policy but in the very architecture of the workplace—the physical boundaries within which the business of business is carried out. The genius of Cubed is that Saval recognizes the mood of barely controlled panic that suffuses most American offices, and tracks it through every element of the overmanaged, time-sucking, and keystroke-counting world of work.