Race and Culture: A World View


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Thomas Sowell has taught economics at a number of colleges and universities, including Cornell, University of California Los Angeles, and Amherst. He has published both scholarly and popular articles and books on economics, and is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.


Sowell, a black conservative and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, moves beyond the domestic focus of his Ethnic America (LJ 6/1/81) to analyze the interplay between the cultural capital and social position of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities around the world. Observing ethnic and racial minorities migrating from country to country, Sowell postulates that existing intergroup cultural values play a predominate role in social status. These values determine which groups follow advances in science, technology, and organization, which fall behind, and which become societal leaders. Sowell concludes that the economic and social condition of many minorities lies not in social and political programs such as affirmative action but in the internal cultural values of the group. Sowell's study undoubtedly will arouse controversy and provoke debate. A valuable addition to minority studies collections in public and academic libraries alike.-Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.

Sowell ( Ethnic America ) draws on a worldwide range of examples and more than a decade of research in this intriguing exploration of the role of cultural attributes on group advancement. He aims to demonstrate the ``reality, persistence, and consequences of cultural differences--contrary to many of today's grand theories based on the supposed dominant role of `objective conditions,' `economic forces' or `social structures.' '' He tackles a host of issues: the costs and benefits of residential segregation; how affirmative action primarily helps better-off members of preferred groups; how prominent political leaders are not crucial to group success; how low-scoring groups on intelligence tests do their worst on abstract questions devoid of ``cultural bias.'' Sowell's observations have force, but he sometimes sacrifices depth for breadth. Although he claims to avoid policy prescriptions, he includes facile swipes against multiculturalism and argues, with varying degrees of plausibility, against liberal policies on race. Conservative Book Club selection. (Aug.)

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