cover image Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History

Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History

Walter Mosley. Ballantine Books, $17.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-345-43069-4

Mosley, the author of the popular and critically acclaimed Easy Rawlins mystery series and other novels, issues an ardent manifesto that addresses the political and economic ""chains that define our range of motion and our ability to reach for the higher goals"" under capitalism, and argues that these ""chains might be more recognizable in the black experience, but they restrain us all."" Pointing out how ""history, economics, self-image, the media, politics and our misuse of technology"" limit us, Mosley boldly calls for an aggressive reevaluation of how public information, social life, work and identity are constructed in the United States, invoking a simple axiom: ""What we need is a reexamination of the people and their needs."" While he claims not to be specifically advocating socialism, he targets an economic system that values corporate profits over the lives and well-being of workers as the main source of psychic and physical pain and ill health in our society. His evaluation of U.S. politics is harsh (""What kind of democracy gives you two candidates who represent less than 5 percent of the population?""), but his message is idealistic, even utopian in its simplicity. In the end, Mosley urges his readers to take responsibility for their own lives and to use their imaginations to envision a new world: ""The only way out is to be crazy, to imagine the impossible... to say what it is you want."" Less a rigorous political proposal than a cri de coeur against the stifling of the human spirit, Mosley's short book is a bracing and provocative declaration of intellectual and political independence. (Jan.)