Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America.

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Author: Anthony Gill
Date: Wntr 2021
From: Independent Review(Vol. 25, Issue 3)
Publisher: Independent Institute
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,570 words
Lexile Measure: 1450L

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* Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America

By Noah Rothman

Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 2019.

Pp. xvi, 272. $28.99 hardcover.

Social justice is all the rage nowadays. And all the rage is about social justice. Students are taking to university quads to demand action be taken on behalf of oppressed minorities, income inequality, and/or the environment. A growing number of university course catalogs include classes devoted to social justice. Campus speakers are shouted down, "de-platformed," and physically attacked for holding views deemed unjust or dangerous. And that sums up just what goes on within the hallowed halls of academia.

Calls for ever-greater levels of "social justice" can also be heard championed in legislative chambers, corporate boardrooms, and religious congregations as well as on the streets where activist groups march and sometimes riot. (My hometown of Seattle, Washington, is infamous for its May Day revelry that begins with peaceful parades and usually ends with window-smashing riots, often directed at corporations such as Starbucks that explicitly make "social justice" a central part of their business plan.)

It is within this context that Noah Rothman raises alarm bells over how this intensified focus on social justice is leading to the demise of America's founding principles. These principles include the rule of law, due process, free speech, tolerance, and egalitarianism. His book, like many within the "popular social science" genre, identifies our contemporary period as uniquely dangerous and yearns to be a clarion call for an improved political climate wherein both sides of the ideological spectrum reign in their most radical elements.

Although defining a "new" type of social justice activism and providing a series of both amusing and infuriating anecdotes, Rothman falls short in delivering insight into why all this may be happening. Moreover, his suggested solutions for ameliorating the toxicity of contemporary social activism come across as naive and quixotic, which may be expected given that his book is geared to a popular audience.

Admittedly, I read this work from the vantage point of a trained political economist seeking well-specified causal explanations and evidence that systematically tests those assertions. But this approach is unfair. Rothman is an editor of Commentary magazine, which has an outreach to a well-educated yet not academic readership that would likely chafe under the jargon-laden and systematically predictable writing of most academic scholarship today. So I grant him the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A652364021