Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?

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It is commonly assumed that the best way to help the poor out oftheir misery is to allow the rich to get richer, that if the richpay less taxes then all the rest of us will be better off, and thatin the final analysis the richness of the few benefits us all. Andyet these commonly held beliefs are flatly contradicted by ourdaily experience, an abundance of research findings and, indeed,logic. Such bizarre discrepancy between hard facts and popularopinions makes one pause and ask: why are these opinions sowidespread and resistant to accumulated and fast-growing evidenceto the contrary?

This short book is by one of the world’s leading socialthinkers is an attempt to answer this question. Bauman lists andscrutinizes the tacit assumptions and unreflected-upon convictionsupon which such opinions are grounded, finding them one by one tobe false, deceitful and misleading. Their persistence could behardly sustainable were it not for the role they play in defending- indeed, promoting and reinforcing - the current, unprecedented,indefensible and still accelerating growth in social inequality andthe rapidly widening gap between the elite of the rich and the restof society.
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The production of 'human waste' - or more precisely, wasted lives,the 'superfluous' populations of migrants, refugees and otheroutcasts - is an inevitable outcome of modernization. It is anunavoidable side-effect of economic progress and the quest fororder which is characteristic of modernity.

As long as large parts of the world remained wholly or partlyunaffected by modernization, they were treated by modernizingsocieties as lands that were able to absorb the excess ofpopulation in the 'developed countries'. Global solutions weresought, and temporarily found, to locally produced overpopulationproblems. But as modernization has reached the furthest lands ofthe planet, 'redundant population' is produced everywhere and alllocalities have to bear the consequences of modernity's globaltriumph. They are now confronted with the need to seek - in vain,it seems - local solutions to globally produced problems. Theglobal spread of the modernity has given rise to growing quantitiesof human beings who are deprived of adequate means of survival, butthe planet is fast running out of places to put them. Hence the newanxieties about 'immigrants' and 'asylum seekers' and the growingrole played by diffuse 'security fears' on the contemporarypolitical agenda.

With characteristic brilliance, this new book by Zygmunt Baumanunravels the impact of this transformation on our contemporaryculture and politics and shows that the problem of coping with'human waste' provides a key for understanding some otherwisebaffling features of our shared life, from the strategies of globaldomination to the most intimate aspects of human relationships.
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John Wiley & Sons
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Published on
Jul 11, 2013
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Social Science / Sociology / General
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"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

“Every teacher, every student of history, every citizen should read this book. It is both a refreshing antidote to what has passed for history in our educational system and a one-volume education in itself.”
—Howard Zinn

A new edition of the national bestseller and American Book Award winner, with a new preface by the author

Since its first publication in 1995, Lies My Teacher Told Me has become one of the most important—and successful—history books of our time. Having sold nearly two million copies, the book also won an American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship and was heralded on the front page of the New York Times in the summer of 2006.

For this new edition, Loewen has added a new preface that shows how inadequate history courses in high school help produce adult Americans who think Donald Trump can solve their problems, and calls out academic historians for abandoning the concept of truth in a misguided effort to be “objective.”

What started out as a survey of the twelve leading American history textbooks has ended up being what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “an extremely convincing plea for truth in education.” In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen brings history alive in all its complexity and ambiguity. Beginning with pre-Columbian history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, the My Lai massacre, 9/11, and the Iraq War, Loewen offers an eye-opening critique of existing textbooks, and a wonderful retelling of American history as it should—and could—be taught to American students.

In our individualized society we are all artists of life - whetherwe know it or not, will it or not and like it or not, by decree ofsociety if not by our own choice. In this society we are allexpected, rightly or wrongly, to give our lives purpose and form byusing our own skills and resources, even if we lack the tools andmaterials with which artists' studios need to be equipped for theartist's work to be conceived and executed. And we are praised orcensured for the results - for what we have managed or failed toaccomplish and for what we have achieved and lost.
In our liquid modern society we are also taught to believe that thepurpose of the art of life should be and can be happiness - thoughit's not clear what happiness is, the images of a happy state keepchanging and the state of happiness remains most of the timesomething yet-to-be-reached.

This new book by Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most original andinfluential social thinkers writing today - is not a book ofdesigns for the art of life nor a 'how to' book: the constructionof a design for life and the way it is pursued is and cannot but bean individual responsibility and individual accomplishment. It isinstead a brilliant account of conditions under which ourdesigns-for-life are chosen, of the constraints that might beimposed on their choice and of the interplay of design, accidentand character that shape their implementation. Last but not least,it is a study of the ways in which our society - the liquid modern,individualized society of consumers - influences (but does notdetermine) the way we construct and narrate our life trajectories.
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