In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Who Cares about the White Working Class? 
edited by Kjartan Páll Sveinsson.
Runnymede Perspectives, 72 pp., January 2009, 978 1 906732 10 3
Show More
Show More

In the US, there is (or was) an organisation called Love Makes a Family. It was founded in 1999 to support the right of gay couples to adopt children and it played a central role in supporting civil unions. A few months ago, its director, Ann Stanback, announced that, having ‘achieved its goals’, Love Makes a Family would be ceasing operations at the end of this year, and that she would be stepping down to spend more time with her wife, Charlotte. Our ‘core purpose’, she said, has been ‘accomplished’.

It’s possible of course that this declaration of mission accomplished will prove to be as ill-advised as some others have been in the last decade. Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, where Love Makes a Family is based, but it’s certainly not legal everywhere in the US. No one, however, would deny that the fight for gay rights has made extraordinary strides in the 40 years since Stonewall. And progress in combating homophobia has been accompanied by comparable progress in combating racism and sexism. Although the occasional claim that the election of President Obama has ushered us into a post-racial society is obviously wrong, it’s fairly clear that the country that’s just elected a black president (and that produced so many votes for the presidential candidacy of a woman) is a lot less racist and sexist than it used to be.

But it would be a mistake to think that because the US is a less racist, sexist and homophobic society, it is a more equal society. In fact, in certain crucial ways it is more unequal than it was 40 years ago. No group dedicated to ending economic inequality would be thinking today about declaring victory and going home. In 1969, the top quintile of American wage-earners made 43 per cent of all the money earned in the US; the bottom quintile made 4.1 per cent. In 2007, the top quintile made 49.7 per cent; the bottom quintile 3.4. And while this inequality is both raced and gendered, it’s less so than you might think. White people, for example, make up about 70 per cent of the US population, and 62 per cent of those in the bottom quintile. Progress in fighting racism hasn’t done them any good; it hasn’t even been designed to do them any good. More generally, even if we succeeded completely in eliminating the effects of racism and sexism, we would not thereby have made any progress towards economic equality. A society in which white people were proportionately represented in the bottom quintile (and black people proportionately represented in the top quintile) would not be more equal; it would be exactly as unequal. It would not be more just; it would be proportionately unjust.

An obvious question, then, is how we are to understand the fact that we’ve made so much progress in some areas while going backwards in others. And an almost equally obvious answer is that the areas in which we’ve made progress have been those which are in fundamental accord with the deepest values of neoliberalism, and the one where we haven’t isn’t. We can put the point more directly by observing that increasing tolerance of economic inequality and increasing intolerance of racism, sexism and homophobia – of discrimination as such – are fundamental characteristics of neoliberalism. Hence the extraordinary advances in the battle against discrimination, and hence also its limits as a contribution to any left-wing politics. The increased inequalities of neoliberalism were not caused by racism and sexism and won’t be cured by – they aren’t even addressed by – anti-racism or anti-sexism.

My point is not that anti-racism and anti-sexism are not good things. It is rather that they currently have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and that, insofar as they function as a substitute for it, can be a bad thing. American universities are exemplary here: they are less racist and sexist than they were 40 years ago and at the same time more elitist. The one serves as an alibi for the other: when you ask them for more equality, what they give you is more diversity. The neoliberal heart leaps up at the sound of glass ceilings shattering and at the sight of doctors, lawyers and professors of colour taking their place in the upper middle class. Whence the many corporations which pursue diversity almost as enthusiastically as they pursue profits, and proclaim over and over again not only that the two are compatible but that they have a causal connection – that diversity is good for business. But a diversified elite is not made any the less elite by its diversity and, as a response to the demand for equality, far from being left-wing politics, it is right-wing politics.

The recent furore over the arrest for ‘disorderly conduct’ of Henry Louis Gates helps make this clear. Gates, as one of his Harvard colleagues said, is ‘a famous, wealthy and important black man’, a point Gates himself tried to make to the arresting officer – the way he put it was: ‘You don’t know who you’re messing with.’ But, despite the helpful hint, the cop failed to recognise an essential truth about neoliberal America: it’s no longer enough to kowtow to rich white people; now you have to kowtow to rich black people too. The problem, as a sympathetic writer in the Guardian put it, is that ‘Gates’s race snuffed out his class status,’ or as Gates said to the New York Times, ‘I can’t wear my Harvard gown everywhere.’ In the bad old days this situation almost never came up – cops could confidently treat all black people, indeed, all people of colour, the way they traditionally treated poor white people. But now that we’ve made some real progress towards integrating our elites, you need to step back and take the time to figure out ‘who you’re messing with’. You need to make sure that nobody’s class status is snuffed out by his race.

In the wake of Gates’s arrest, among the hundreds of people protesting the injustice of racial profiling, a white cardiologist married to a black man put the point best when she lamented that even in the ‘diverse area’ where she lives (Hyde Park, Obama’s old neighbourhood) she’ll hear people nervously say, ‘Look at those black guys coming towards us,’ to which she replies: ‘Yes, but they’re wearing lacrosse shorts and Calvin Klein jeans. They’re probably the kids of the professor down the street.’ ‘You have to be able to discern differences between people,’ she went on to say. ‘It’s very frustrating.’ The differences she means, of course, are between rich kids and poor kids, and the frustration she feels is with people who don’t understand that class is supposed to trump race. But while it’s easy to sympathise with that frustration – rich black kids are infinitely less likely to mug you than poor black kids or, for that matter, poor white kids – it’s a lot harder to see it as the expression of a progressive politics.

Nevertheless, that seems to be the way we do see it. The neoliberal ideal is a world where rich people of all races and sexes can happily enjoy their wealth, and where the injustices produced not by discrimination but by exploitation – there are fewer poor people (7 per cent) than black people (9 per cent) at Harvard, and Harvard’s not the worst – are discreetly sent around to the back door. Thus everyone’s outraged that a black professor living on prosperous Ware St (and renting a summer vacation ‘manse’ on Martha’s Vineyard that he ‘jokingly’ calls ‘Tara’) can be treated with disrespect; no one’s all that outraged by the social system that created the gap between Ware St or ‘Tara’ and the places where most Americans live. Everyone’s outraged by the fact that Gates can be treated so badly; nobody by the fact that he and the rest of the top 10 per cent of American wage-earners have been doing so well. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Liberals – especially white liberals – are thrilled by Gates’s success, since it testifies to the legitimacy of their own: racism didn’t make us all this money, we earned it!

Thus the primacy of anti-discrimination not only performs the economic function of making markets more efficient, it also performs the therapeutic function of making those of us who have benefited from those markets sleep better at night. And, perhaps more important, it has, ‘for a long time’, as Wendy Bottero says in her contribution to the recent Runnymede Trust collection Who Cares about the White Working Class?, also performed the intellectual function of focusing social analysis on what she calls ‘questions of racial or sexual identity’ and on ‘cultural differences’ instead of on ‘the way in which capitalist economies create large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs with poor job security’. The message of Who Cares about the White Working Class?, however, is that class has re-emerged: ‘What we learn here’, according to the collection’s editor, Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, is that ‘life chances for today’s children are overwhelmingly linked to parental income, occupations and educational qualifications – in other words, class.’

This assertion, unremarkable as it may seem, represents a substantial advance over multiculturalist anti-racism, since the logic of anti-racism requires only the correction of disparities within classes rather than between them. If about 1.5 per cent of your population is of Pakistani descent, then if 1.5 per cent of every income quintile is Pakistani, your job is done. The fact that the top quintile is four times better off than the bottom quintile – the advantage the children of rich Pakistanis would have over the children of poor ones – is not your problem. Which is why, in a society like Britain, whose GINI coefficient – the standard measure of income inequality – is the highest in the EU, the ambition to eliminate racial disparities rather than income inequality itself functions as a form of legitimation rather than as a critique. Which is also why, when an organisation like the Runnymede Trust, which has for years been devoted to promoting ‘a successful multi-ethnic Britain by addressing issues of racial equality and discrimination against minority communities’, starts addressing itself to class, it’s undergone a real change. Racial equality requires respect for racial difference; class equality requires the elimination of class difference.

In the event, however, what Who Cares about the White Working Class? actually provides is less an alternative to neoliberal multiculturalism than an extension and ingenious refinement of it. Those writing in this collection understand the ‘re-emergence of class’ not as a function of the increasing injustice of class (when Thatcher took office, the GINI score was 0.25; now it’s 0.36, the highest the UK has ever recorded) but as a function of the increasing injustice of ‘classism’. What outrages them, in other words, is not the fact of class difference but the ‘scorn’ and ‘contempt’ with which the lower class is treated.

You get a perfect sense of how this works from Beverley Skeggs’s analysis of a story told by one of her working-class research subjects about a trip she and her friends took to Kendals in Manchester: ‘You know, where the really posh food is, and we were laughing about all the chocolates, and how many we could eat – if we could afford them – and this woman she just looked at us. If looks could kill … It was like it was her place, and we didn’t belong there.’ The point Skeggs makes is that ‘the gaze that embodies the symbolic reading of the women makes them feel “out of place”, thereby generating a sense of where their “place” should be,’ while her more general point is that ‘the middle class’ should be ‘held accountable for the levels of symbolic violence they enact in daily encounters’ with the lower classes.

The focus of her outrage (indeed, insofar as we can tell from the story, the focus of the women’s own outrage) is not the fact that some people can afford the chocolates and others can’t, but that the ones who can are mean to the ones who can’t. And this represents something of an innovation in left politics. While everyone has always disapproved of adding insult to injury, it’s traditionally been the right that’s sought to treat the insult as if it were the injury.

It’s thus a relevant fact about Who Cares about the White Working Class? that Ferdinand Mount, who once advised Thatcher, is twice cited and praised here for condemning the middle class’s bad behaviour in displaying its open contempt for ‘working-class cultures’. He represents an improvement over those who seek to blame the poor for their poverty and who regard the culture of poverty rather than the structure of capitalism as the problem. That is the view of what we might call right-wing neoliberalism and, from the standpoint of what we might call left-wing neoliberalism, it’s nothing but the expression of class prejudice. What left neoliberals want is to offer some ‘positive affirmation for the working classes’. They want us to go beyond race to class, but to do so by treating class as if it were race and to start treating the white working class with the same respect we would, say, the Somalis – giving ‘positive value and meaning to both “workingclassness” and ethnic diversity’. Where right neoliberals want us to condemn the culture of the poor, left neoliberals want us to appreciate it.

The great virtue of this debate is that on both sides inequality gets turned into a stigma. That is, once you start redefining the problem of class difference as the problem of class prejudice – once you complete the transformation of race, gender and class into racism, sexism and classism – you no longer have to worry about the redistribution of wealth. You can just fight over whether poor people should be treated with contempt or respect. And while, in human terms, respect seems the right way to go, politically it’s just as empty as contempt.

This is pretty obvious when it comes to class. Kjartan Páll Sveinsson declares that ‘the white working classes are discriminated against on a range of different fronts, including their accent, their style, the food they eat, the clothes they wear’ – and it’s no doubt true. But the elimination of such discrimination would not alter the nature of the system that generates ‘the large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs with poor job security’ described by Bottero. It would just alter the technologies used for deciding who had to take them. And it’s hard to see how even the most widespread social enthusiasm for tracksuits and gold chains could make up for the disadvantages produced by those jobs.

Race, on the other hand, has been a more successful technology of mystification. In the US, one of the great uses of racism was (and is) to induce poor white people to feel a crucial and entirely specious fellowship with rich white people; one of the great uses of anti-racism is to make poor black people feel a crucial and equally specious fellowship with rich black people. Furthermore, in the form of the celebration of ‘identity’ and ‘ethnic diversity’, it seeks to create a bond between poor black people and rich white ones. So the African-American woman who cleans my office is supposed to feel not so bad about the fact that I make almost ten times as much money as she does because she can be confident that I’m not racist or sexist and that I respect her culture. And she’s also supposed to feel pride because the dean of our college, who makes much more than ten times what she does, is African-American, like her. And since the chancellor of our university, who makes more than 15 times what she does, is not only African-American but a woman too (the fruits of both anti-racism and anti-sexism!), she can feel doubly good about her. But, and I acknowledge that this is the thinnest of anecdotal evidence, I somehow doubt she does. If the downside of the politics of anti-discrimination is that it now functions to legitimate the increasing disparities not produced by racism or sexism, the upside is the degree to which it makes visible the fact that the increase in those disparities does indeed have nothing to do with racism or sexism. A social analyst as clear-eyed as a University of Illinois cleaning woman would start from there.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Letters

Vol. 31 No. 18 · 24 September 2009

Walter Benn Michaels argues that erasing race inequality in a place like Britain would be a pointless exercise without confronting its deeply ingrained hierarchical class structure (LRB, 27 August). Such a society would merely give everyone an equal chance of becoming unequal. I’m in agreement with Michaels that ‘the correction of disparities within classes rather than between them’ is a lost cause.

Which is why I was surprised to find that he attributes this line of thinking to the authors of Runnymede’s Who Cares about the White Working Class? Perhaps the provocative title is misleading, but it paraphrases the question: when and why does the working class matter to those in power? In any case, I recognise neither the British context he describes, nor the views he ascribes to me.

In recent years, we have heard a lot about the white working class being the losers in the struggle for scarce resources, while minority ethnic groups are the winners. We wanted to ‘shift our attention from who fights over the scraps from the table, to think instead about how much the table holds, and who really gets to enjoy the feast’. What outrages us, in other words, is a situation in which ‘it is permissible to use class as a stick to beat multiculturalism with, but not as a demand for increased equality for all.’

I don’t think this corresponds to the ‘neoliberal multiculturalism’ Michaels describes. But the fact of the matter is that ethnic inequality is a persisting issue in Britain. Class inequality is rampant, but racism adds a further dimension of discrimination, so the fight for race equality is as important as ever. I share Michaels’s view that a more-disadvantaged-than-thou way of thinking benefits no one, and doubt Michaels would want to suggest that tackling class inequality would automatically rid us of racism.

Kjartan Páll Sveinsson
Runnymede Trust, London EC2

Vol. 31 No. 19 · 8 October 2009

Walter Benn Michaels writes that anti-racism today has ‘nothing to do with left-wing politics’, and that, in distracting attention from class inequality, it ‘can be a bad thing’ (LRB, 27 August). Reading his cookie-cutter logic, one wonders whether he’s been following the healthcare debate in the US. Obama’s efforts to reform America’s healthcare system may be sorely wanting, but they have been opposed every step of the way by a right-wing populist movement driven by a powerful current of racial animus. The ‘Obama haters’ speak a corrupted language of class injustice, decrying the bail-out and Wall Street’s stranglehold over the economy. But the symbol of their disenfranchisement is the black man in the White House. For the likes of Glenn Beck and his followers, the defeat of the Obama initiative is but a prelude to the defeat of Obama, who, by virtue of being black (and, of course, ‘foreign’ and ‘Muslim’), has no right to be president: it’s not for nothing that at the recent ‘tea party’ rally on 12 September protesters carried signs with images of Obama as an African primitive with a bone in his nose. Anti-racism can, to be sure, go hand in hand with a complacent neoliberalism, leaving class privilege unscathed; but class anger is not always progressive, least of all in the US, where working-class anger has often been infused with a commitment to white skin privilege, and to a ferocious opposition to black enfranchisement.

Alan Harvie
New York

‘It would be a mistake to think that because the US is a less racist, sexist and homophobic society, it is a more equal society,’ Walter Benn Michaels writes, adding: ‘in certain crucial ways it is more unequal than it was 40 years ago.’ But equal and unequal in what ways? Crucial to whom? And why should economic equality trump everything else? If America has focused on eliminating racial and sexual inequality over the past 40 years, it is only because many Americans wanted to eliminate inequalities, including economic inequalities, that result from racial and sexual discrimination. Michaels gets this entirely right. Most Americans are neoliberals, and eliminating discrimination based on ethnicity, race, gender or religion is part of their philosophical creed. But unless I am mistaken, few Americans have ever wanted to eliminate economic inequality per se. They do not, in other words, want to put an end to some people being better off than others. They want, instead, to ensure that they, and everyone else, are among the people who have that opportunity.

Mark Amadeus Notturno
Washington DC

Vol. 31 No. 17 · 10 September 2009

Bernard Porter did his best to remind us that it wasn’t Carlo D’Este, the author of Warlord: A Life of Churchill at War, 1874-1945, but Churchill himself, who wrote: ‘Given an audience there is no act too daring or too noble. Without the gallery things are different.’ It was our mistake, and our mistake, too, that it went uncorrected (LRB, 27 August).

In Walter Benn Michaels’s piece in the same issue, the sentence ‘White people, for example, make up about 70 per cent of the US population, and 62 per cent of those are in the bottom quintile’ should have read: ‘White people, for example, make up about 70 per cent of the US population, and 62 per cent of those in the bottom quintile.’ Editorial gremlins, we’d like to think.

Editor, ‘London Review’

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.