PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... what can Joe Biden do to patch together a frayed nation? The political scientists Robert Putnam...and Shaylyn Romney Garrett provide a wealth of sociologically grounded answers in The Upswing. Although the title is reassuringly buoyant, this is a tale of two long-term trends, one benign, the other a dark descent. An unabashed centrism prevails: political stability, the authors recognise, is a dance that requires a measure of cooperation and disciplined deportment from both parties ... A Biden presidency brings into focus the difficult job of healing and reconciliation. But here Putnam and Garrett run into trouble, for it is impossible to identify a single decisive factor that caused the downswing. Rather the authors identify a range of “entwined” trends “braided together by reciprocal causality”. Just as diagnosis of ultimate causes is treacherous, so too is finding a compelling plan for throwing the Great Downswing into reverse. The authors look for the green shoots of a new Progressive movement in various forms of grassroots activism, but are worried that they have yet to see this take a \'truly nonpartisan\' form. They try to be upbeat, but the dominant note is wistful.
PositiveNew Statesman (UK)Paul Corthorn’s welcome and timely study invites us to assess the continuing purchase of Powellism in Brexiteering Conservatism. But he is also firm in his injunction that Powell’s ideas should be viewed in context—as they developed piecemeal and haphazardly in response to the dissolution of empire and the British turn to Europe—and in their full strangeness ... Corthorn is right to begin with the profound disenchantment that underlay Powell’s vision of international order ... Notwithstanding Powell’s clarity of vision and penetrating intelligence, Corthorn indicates tensions and weak points in his arguments.
PositiveThe GuardianOnly the most obtuse reader of his latest book, on national resilience, could miss the signs and portents with which it is studded ... Diamond’s checklist of factors that underpin national resilience is, however, of limited utility, as he recognizes, when it comes to the problems faced by our small blue planet ... Diamond has grounds for extreme pessimism, but he also sees some hopeful signs ... Diamond’s methods—drawing direct parallels between personal and national trauma, and between the psychology of individuals and character of nations—are not those practiced by historians, who tend to emphasize the particularity of circumstance and the intricate unrepeatability of events. Diamond nonetheless plots in counterpoint the various predicaments he discusses, alert, in as non-deterministic a mode as he can manage, to the open textures of historical possibility. The prophet spares us chiseled commandments, but we have been warned.
PositiveThe Guardian... a mammoth work of research that charted the course of Hamilton’s dazzling career and the dark controversies that accompanied it ... Chernow’s book serves as a reminder that the raw partisanship and personal hostility we see today in the Clinton-Trump contest is far from unprecedented.
PositiveThe GuardianSarah Churchwell’s book serves as a reminder that the version of American values espoused by Fred Trump’s son Donald and the hate-filled racism of last year’s \'Unite the Right\' rally in Charlottesville are not aberrant blips. Rather, racism, nativism and the quasi-fascistic call of \'America first\' are part of the warp and woof of the modern American experience ... Despite her tour of America’s dark undergrowth, Churchwell’s book is not unremittingly depressing, because she also charts the early 20th-century meanings of \'the American dream,\' and in the process recovers a pervasive social democratic sensibility. At bottom then, Behold, America, like so much of the best historical enquiry, is rooted in an acute sensitivity to language ... But the book is much more than a study of these catchphrases, and she deftly relates them to wider social, political and cultural developments.