Levine, Rhonda F. 2019. When Race Race Meets Class: African Americans Coming of Age in a Small City. Routledge.
A rare, 15-year ethnography, this book follows the lives of individual, low-income African American youth from the beginning of high school into their early adult years. Levine shows how their interaction and experience with multiple institutions (family, school, community) and individuals (parents, friends, teachers, coaches, strangers) shape their hopes, fears, aspirations, and worldviews. The intersectionality of their social identities—how race, class, and gender come together to influence how they come to think about who they are—influences many behaviors that directly contradict their stated aspirations. Affected, too, by limited access to resources, these youths often take a path profoundly different from their stated values and life goals. Levine explores the volatility and constraints underlying their decision-making and behaviors. The book reveals the critical junctures and turning points shaping life trajectories, challenging many long-held assumptions about the persistence of racial inequality by offering new insights on the educational and occupational barriers facing young African Americans.
Lachmann, Richard. 2020. First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Power. Verso Books.
The extent and irreversibility of US decline is becoming ever more obvious as America loses war after war and as one industry after another loses its technological edge. Lachmann explains why the United States will not be able to sustain its global dominance. He contrasts America’s relatively brief period of hegemony with the Netherlands’ similarly short primacy and Britain’s far longer era of leadership.
Decline in all those cases was not inevitable and did not respond to global capitalist cycles. Rather, decline is the product of elites’ success in grabbing control of resources and governmental powers. Not only are ordinary people harmed, but also capitalists become increasingly unable to coordinate their interests and adopt policies and make investments necessary to counter economic and geopolitical competitors elsewhere in the world.
Conflicts among elites and challenges by non-elites determine the timing and mold the contours of decline. Lachmann traces the transformation of US politics from an era of elite consensus to present-day paralysis combined with neoliberal plunder, explains the paradox of an American military with an unprecedented technological edge unable to subdue even the weakest enemies, and the consequences of finance’s cannibalization of the US economy.