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Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History (Class : Culture) Paperback – December 27, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0472031986 ISBN-10: 0472031988

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Product Details

  • Series: Class : Culture
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press (December 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472031988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472031986
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Acclaimed novelist Walter Mosley spins a different yarn in Workin' on the Chain Gang, imploring citizens to solve the social, economic, racial, and political crimes of late-20th-century civilization. Mosley takes aim at the average American's feelings of disempowerment and--while he is quick to point out the role race plays--he also states: "The problem facing Americans today does not originate from racial conflict. The problem is the enslavement of a whole nation to the rather small and insignificant goals of the few who own (or control) almost everything." Mosley covers a lot of ground--from Plato's Republic to his own bid for the presidency--but through it all, his faith rests in the individual to change the world through changing his or her own world; he cites as an example his creative powers as a writer to turn fiction into reality. Mosley calls for us to "recognize some of the restraints placed on us by the organization of labor and popular culture, then to see, from a calm place, that there might be a world in our hearts that we would like to realize, first by speaking out, then by shouting out, and finally by action." --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mosley, the author of the popular and critically acclaimed Easy Rawlins mystery series and other novels, issues an ardent manifesto that addresses the political and economic "chains that define our range of motion and our ability to reach for the higher goals" under capitalism, and argues that these "chains might be more recognizable in the black experience, but they restrain us all." Pointing out how "history, economics, self-image, the media, politics and our misuse of technology" limit us, Mosley boldly calls for an aggressive reevaluation of how public information, social life, work and identity are constructed in the United States, invoking a simple axiom: "What we need is a reexamination of the people and their needs." While he claims not to be specifically advocating socialism, he targets an economic system that values corporate profits over the lives and well-being of workers as the main source of psychic and physical pain and ill health in our society. His evaluation of U.S. politics is harsh ("What kind of democracy gives you two candidates who represent less than 5 percent of the population?"), but his message is idealistic, even utopian in its simplicity. In the end, Mosley urges his readers to take responsibility for their own lives and to use their imaginations to envision a new world: "The only way out is to be crazy, to imagine the impossible... to say what it is you want." Less a rigorous political proposal than a cri de coeur against the stifling of the human spirit, Mosley's short book is a bracing and provocative declaration of intellectual and political independence. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Walter Mosley is one of America's most celebrated and beloved writers. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, including national bestsellers Cinnamon Kiss, Little Scarlet, and Bad Boy Brawly Brown; the Fearless Jones series, including Fearless Jones, Fear Itself, and Fear of the Dark; the novels Blue Light and RL's Dream; and two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, for which he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, and Walkin' the Dog. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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This book has changed my way of thinking.
John McLean
You may not always agree with Mosley (though I did), but he always presents a logical line of thinking.
"earllantern"
I would advise everyone read this exceptional book.
Truthseeker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "earllantern" on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Walter Mosley pitches a great game. This book may be light in physical weight, but it is full of heavy thinking.
Mosley examines modern American culture in a way that probably seems heretical to most Americans. Mosley asks his readers to do things most people would never seriously (I mean really seriously) consider.
The light stuff includes viewing people as individuals, not skin colors. Getting to know someone before passing mental judgement on them. Treating everyone with respect, until a person gives you reason to do otherwise. Ensuring all the elderly and all children have adequate food and medical care. Yeah, everyone's with Mosley on those ideas; if not deep inside, at least the majority of Americans realize that is the way it should be.
However, can you name three close friends or family members whom you could convince to give up all television for three months? How about a season's moritorium from sporting events and sports news? While you're at it, locate a group of friends also willing to forgo other forms of LCD (lowest common denominator) entertainment.
If you find it easy to contemplate abandoning those activities, Mosley has another suggestion for you. Let's dump capitalism as a way of life, as a staple of American society. There, are you still with me? Your job is slowly killing you. Going to work daily is like going to the plantation, except the whip has been replaced with credit card debt . . . that is, if you're lucky enough to have a credit card. By eagerly participating in the world as it is, you are no less brainwashed and perversly dependent than a woman who stays with a physically abusive man.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By epictitus on January 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've been enjoying the author's fiction career for some time. With Always Outnumbered,Always Outgunned, I started to think he was becoming one of the great writers of our century. When he branched out from his original genre to speculative fiction with Blue Light my respect grew.
This non-fiction analysis of our current life has little to do with the problems of 'race'. As in his fiction, it has to do with the problems and solutions of humans imbedded in an inhumane system.
I belive the 21st century equivalent to Luthers manifesto to the ruling church will be a team effort. Walter Mosley is a member in good standing in that team.
I suggest reading Birth of the Chaordic Age by Dee W. Hock in close proximity to this book. Members of the team come from all races and classes.
Vivez la revolution! Vivez l'humanite!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John McLean on February 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I believe that Walter Mosley is the greatest author I have ever read. That is no small feat. His works of fiction paint a picture so vivid, I find myself believing and becoming his characters.
Workin' on the chain gang is a different story. This book has changed my way of thinking. Mosley references to the human's quick judgement i.e. the blue car, the dead tree. This is what causes most of our problems with other people.
I now see that the "people" I see everyday, are not limited to their physical frames. That is not really them at all. They are a consciousness that is so deeply rooted, that they themselves may not be fully aware of it.
This book should be read to children everywhere and taught in every school. To let this genius go unnoticed would be a travesty.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What is even worse is that we must be reminded of these social issues that have become ingrained in this Country's psyche. This essay by Mr. Walter Mosley is not a one-dimensional discussion on race; rather it encompasses all of the citizens of our Country and what we accept actively or passively.
He touches on several topics in this brief work ranging from the selective history we continue to believe and teach, to obsessions with the absurd and worthless that consumes billions of dollars. He specifically cited the time and money spent on the coverage of O.J. Simpson, and Monica Lewinsky as examples. He challenges readers to turn off the television for three weeks to live outside of the sitcom, arena sports, and the for profit network news. Why? So that people have the time to think about what is truly important to them, and for many to realize the system that they are a part of has little concern for them, ever.
He also touched on privatized for profit prisons. This should not be a cause for debate for anyone who thinks about the topic for a moment. What decisions have been made when a prison needs to be profitable? What does a prison become when it is a business like any other that must have a positive bottom line from its operations? What incentive is there to minimize incarceration and its causes when those that are imprisoned have become a source of profit?
And then there is the apathy that is the cause of a minority of eligible voters that bother to vote. Less than half of those who can, choose from two candidates from the same parties election after election. These candidates resemble about 5% of the Country they wish to lead. They are wealthy, well educated, white, male, and have the ability to raise tens of millions of dollars in their pursuit of power.
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