PanThe New RepublicGopnik’s attempt to convert [his daughter] to the bare-minimum politics of the late twentieth century frequently lapses into parody and unwittingly exposes the emptiness of the old liberal orthodoxy ... Gopnik’s efforts to give his argument empirical flourishes are random, sloppy, and unpersuasive. But even in the philosophical clouds, where he would clearly prefer to stay, his claims are riddled with tensions ... Gopnik’s familiarity with the Marxist critique of imperialism doesn’t get close to a real engagement with today’s left...Nothing, either, from the expansive constellation of well-known contemporary left publications, nothing on existing left politicians, organizations, or positions that might indicate what socialism in 2019 is really about ... Instead, Gopnik leads us through a fun house of his own random reading and his vague sense of the internet outrage cycle ... rather than seek meaningful explanations, he falls back on ahistorical platitudes ... We might not have expected much more from Gopnik, but A Thousand Small Sanities’ aimless joyride of free-associated clichés and its stubborn refusal to look at reality may indicate more broadly how little the American establishment has learned since the turn of the century ... Gopnik’s blissful ignorance reads not as comical but as deeply sinister.
PositiveThe New RepublicFor nearly half a century, an air of inevitability has clung to the decline of the American labor movement. As union density has fallen to near 10 percent and strike activity has reached historic lows, labor has often fumbled in its response to political attacks...In June, the Supreme Court dealt a blow, ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees that public employees cannot be required to pay fees to a union. With this decision, public-sector unions are now set to go the way of the once-great industrial unions—institutions that underwrote the creation of middle-class wealth and crystallized a still-powerful image of American prosperity ... Erik Loomis argues in A History of America in Ten Strikes, because even though the workplace is still a \'site where people struggle for power,\' the memory of workers who fought for basic rights has largely disappeared, he observes, \'from our collective sense of ourselves.\' Every leap forward in American labor history—from safety regulations to the eight-hour day—has been achieved by mass mobilization of workers. But if at least some, and often many, Americans have always been ready to take militant action for a better life, why have their successes proved so limited and fragile?
Joshua B. Freeman
PositiveThe New RepublicAn effortless and engaging guide, Freeman embarks on a tour of the last three centuries, in which the factory played a defining role in world history ... Behemoth shows that the idealism of the factory was not limited to the capitalist West. The process of industrialization in the Soviet Union differed from the capitalist sort in that it openly avowed its desire to change every aspect of social life, and in that it took place in a society where profit had been abolished ... Freeman makes an impressive effort to cover both the history of twentieth-century China and post-1970s globalization...But here the weakness of the factory as a historical subject begins to become apparent: The true subject of Freeman’s story is global capitalism itself.