Current-affairs books present strategies for social change
Business in the Shadow of Apartheid: U.S. Firms in South Africa, edited by Jonathan Leape, Bo Baskin, and Stefan Underhill. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books. 242 pp. $19.95. Can Americans who oppose South Africa's policy of apartheid, or racial separation, have any real influence on the situation? The editors provide a lengthy introduction to these essays, largely by South Africans, on the prospects for change in South Africa and opportunities for United States influence. They conclude that the probability of radical change is extremely small, because of the political weakness of the black majority and the effectiveness of the entrenched white Afrikaner regime in dividing a nd dispossessing the blacks. But Americans can still have some effect on the pace of change through their government and businesses. Little chance is seen for corporate disinvestment, but US firms could be pressured to focus attention on redefining their interests to benefit black South Africans. Concludes with a list of some 350 US companies with subsidiaries or affiliates in the land of apartheid. Nation Against Nation: What Happened to the U.N. Dream and What the U.S. Can Do About It, by Thomas M. Franck. New York: Oxford University Press. 384 pp. $19.95.
The United Nations provides another international frustration for a different group of Americans. Franck -- a former research director of United Nations Institute for Training and Research and now a law professor at New York University -- acknowledges this growing disenchantment. The UN is nowhere near as noble and effective as was once hoped, but neither is it as venal or useless as some now claim. The UN system will not be reformed, except in the most marginal ways. The US can choose between operating
as effectively as possible within this flawed institution, or getting out. Franck hopes that if America opts to withdraw, such action should follow full public debate on the order of that which preceded its entry in 1945. American Violence and Public Policy, edited by Lynn A. Curtis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. 263 pp. $23.
Despite a slight decline since the early 1980s, the rate of violent crime in America is nearly twice as high as it was in 1969, when the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence issued its report. This commission update notes that the level of crime in the US remains ``astronomical'' when compared with that of other democratic nations. What can be done? The criminal-justice system merely reacts to crime and cannot do much to prevent it. Massive new investment will thus not reduce our
historically high levels of crime. Rather, the consensus recommendation is summarized as ``neighborhood, family, and employment.'' This new framework avoids the limits of deterrence, the shortcomings of incapacitation, and the naivet'e of past social reform. Sense and Nonsense About Crime: A Policy Guide, by Samuel Walker. Monterey, Calif.: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. 229 pp. $10.50, paper.
A feisty companion to the Violence Commission update, focusing on what works in reducing crime. Unfortunately, this book concludes, not much. Virtually all of our ``desperate nostrums promising quick and easy solutions'' are questionable, and many are dangerous, says the author. Based on the ``research revolution'' of the past 15 years, the University of Nebraska professor trashes conservative ``get tough'' proposals as well as liberal nostrums for system reform and individual rehabilitation. Think agai n, Walker says, about the efficacy of the death penalty, preventive detention, selective incapacitation, mandatory sentencing, more police, abolishing the insanity defense, improving parole, and current gun-control proposals. Forget direct assaults on the criminal-justice system; we can only strike at crime indirectly, by creating economic opportunity for the poor. Fighting Violent Crime in America, by Ronald S. Lauder. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 241 pp. $16.95.
In contrast to the scholarly approach of ``what works'' (above), Lauder, former CEO of Est'ee Lauder and now deputy assistant defense secretary, proposes advanced technology and techniques that have been successful in business in order to reduce crime. This potpourri of passionate proposals includes a ``computer czar'' to oversee the US fight against crime, computers to locate policemen and civilian crime watchers, more family counseling instead of probation, more halfway houses and intensive job progra ms (as a less-expensive alternative to building new prisons), restitution by criminals to their victims wherever practical, removing young predator criminals from the streets, and funding for local prevention efforts. Some of these ideas may indeed succeed. Ideally, this ``can do'' exhortation to action could be combined with the reflection on what really works. The Paideia Program: An Education Syllabus, by The Paideia Group. Preface and introduction by Mortimer J. Adler. New York: Macmillan. November 1984. 283 pp. $8.95, cloth; $4.95, paper.
How should the children of rich nations be raised? At a time when deregulation and diversity are the fashion, Encyclopaedia Britannica's Adler and his band of 22 distinguished educators propose a uniform general curriculum for all American children. The first volume of this trilogy, ``The Paideia Proposal'' (1982), outlined a one-track democratic system of schooling devoted to all three kinds of teaching/learning situations: seminars, coaching, and the all-too-familiar didactic instruction. ``Paideia Pr oblems and Possibilities'' (1983) clarified misconceptions about the initial book and elaborated on methods of carrying out policies. This third volume covers what is to be learned, why, and how. Challenging and timely.
Michael Marien is the editor of Future Survey, an organ of the World Future Society in Bethesda, Md. He writes a current affairs roundup for the monthly book section of the Monitor.