BOOKS

Four political books from 2023 that looked to history for answers

Catching up with a year in books

Heath Brown
3Streams
Published in
2 min readDec 19, 2023

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Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

This year involved a lot of reading for me and a lot of crises for all of us. Dara Strolovitch’s was ready for this with her book When Bad Things Happen to Privileged People: Race, Gender, and What Makes a Crisis in America. Strolovitch reminds us that crises are never just one thing. They empower and disempower. The strategic use of the term, on the rise today, also avails some but not all of government redress.

This explanation of crises helps put into context all that happened in 2023. To be sure, nobody dealt with more crises that President Joe Biden, and Franklin Foer’s book, The Last Politician, is a master-class in understanding how White House insiders responded to the multitude of first-year crises for the new administration.

Read this book to better understand what’s to come in 2024 as well as the importance of access to writing an important book.

Whereas Foer reveals our recent political history, Nelson Lichtenstein’s new book, A Fabulous Failure, recounts a presidential history a bit older. Lichtenstein’s book is an interesting read with a new interpretation of Bill Clinton’s path to power and legacy. The book itself also has an interesting origin story as well.

Elizabeth Popp Berman’s book Thinking Like an Economist: How Efficiency Replaced Equality in U.S. Public Policy also has much to say about those Clinton years, but she traces her central thesis back even further. The economic way of thinking, so central to Clinton’s vision for policy making, didn’t start in 1992. Popp Berman tells a longer story that stretches back to the 1950s and 60s, but its a story that still unfolds today with the language of economic still so dominant in the making of public policy.

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Heath Brown
3Streams

Heath Brown, associate prof of public policy, City University of New York, study presidential transitions, school choice, nonprofits