Nation Books, 1988

Article excerpt

The following books were published by Nation editors, correspondents and columnists during the past year.

THE RADICAL RENEWAL: The Politics of Ideas in Modern America. By Norman Birnbaum. Pantheon. 275 pp. $17.95.

While the vast majority of his fellow social scientists march lockstep into historical triviality, Birnbaum pursues his passionate concern with the classical questions of a vinuous Republic. To this end he explores an extraordinary range of the relevant contemporary writers historians, economists, social theorists, feminists, anthropologists, legal theorists, psychoanalysts, even the stray sociologist -for critical insights into the specific limits and prospects for freedom in America. The Rascal Renewal implicitly provides a persuasive model for at least part of the canon (though not the "cannon") required for Birnbaum's Radical Party -which currently boasts more wallflowers than live wires.

THE GOOD NEIGHBOR: How the United States Wrote the History of Central America and the Caribbean. By George Black. Pantheon. 200 pp. Paper $9.95.

An improbable entry in the Latin American book sweepstakes, The Good Neighbor is both imaginative and amusing. Casting sidelong glances at song lyrics, postage stamps, cartoons, advertisements, news photographs and travel brochures, Black gives a century or so of our Latin American neurosis a deep but lively reading.

The allusion to Freud is appropriate: Here are the fears, anxieties, phobias and projections of the standard neurosis, and here too are what Freud described as its secondary gains-in this case, the use of an entire region for the sort of behavior usually forbidden at home. The narrative is swift, packed with historical detail and neither polemical nor tendentious. At less than $10 it also ought to become a classic in the classroom.

REVOLUTIONARIES AND FUNCTIONARIES: The Dual Face of Terrorism. By Richard Falk. E. P. Dutton. 235 pp. $17.95.

While one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, the terrorist label has been seized by the right to smear or to oppose, often violently and illegally, the liberationist movements it dislikes. Falk has weighed in with an authoritative condemnation of all such activities by the United States. His service over the years in preventing the right from usurping and perverting the language of international law and normative legitimacy deserves a salute.

PREPARED FOR THE WORST: Selected Essays and Minority Reports. By Christopher Hitchens. Hill & Wang. 35 7 pp. $19. 95.

The best of the capacious Hitchens file culled from more than a dozen publications, including this one. Although the author offers up these items in the hope that, taken together, they will help to keep the spirit of confrontation alive, readers will also discover that Hitchens has done as much or more for the English language.

WINNING AMERICA: Ideas and Leadership for the 1990s. Edited by Marcus Raskin and Chester Hartman. South End Press and the Institute for Policy Studies. 415 pp. Paper $16.

Thirty-nine persuasive articles on domestic and foreign affairs intended to supply progressive ideas and programs for a new American leadership. Although that leadership now seems farther away than it did at the book's inception, the information and opinions here remain useful. …