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Political activists are in something of a pickle -- the need for radical change in the US has never been more evident, at the same time theoretical justification has never been more lacking. Stepping into the breach is Levine's well-aimed little volume, laying a strong foundation for social democratic change, though those exact terms are never used. His approach works a middle ground between lofty abstractions such as Reason, and more empirical levels touching on social well-being. The book's core, however, centers on a distinctly American ideology, now being exported via cruise missle and the IMF, a core that rests on two defining features: efficiency and political liberalism. These are the conceptual cornerstones of Washington's power grab and ones that must be confronted by thoughtful activists opposed to the hegemonic system. In this vein, his critique of the Invisible Hand is topical, compact, and compelling -- particularly the neat way he turns Pareto Optimal against its usual free market master. Anyone looking for a digestible understanding of how free markets, despite the Econ. 101 lectures, cannot provide the best of all worlds should glom onto these chapters. On the other hand, I had more difficulty following the interfaces between Rawls, Dewey, and liberal institutionry. I wish that connection had been more clearly spelled out, even as his counterposing of liberalism to democracy remains both ironical and incisive. Still and all, Levine's view of Washington's destructive role at home and abroad is clearly understood and unequivocally stated -- always a risk for an academic on the public payroll and subject to a board of trustees. Now that Islamo-fascism represents the only impediment to corporate imperialism, there's clearly no greater political need than that of a revitalized Left. Levine's timely work is a boost to the common effort.
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