Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, Jonathan Kwitny (Penguin: $8.95). If conservatives in the United States truly believe that capitalism offers the highest quality of life for the majority, liberals often ask, then why don't they favor a "hands-off" approach to foreign policy so other nations can come to appreciate the superiority of our system on their own? Because, conservatives respond, the Soviets have already skewed world politics through military intervention. Jonathan Kwitny, a Wall Street Journal reporter, offers a third theory in this powerful, convincing plea against the superpower strong-arm tactics that have become so prevalent today. Communism can be a threat, he writes, but the power to mitigate the danger remains in our hands: "There is only one reason why a country would want to adopt Marxist-socialism today . . . Joining the Soviet network is the only way to have a national government that is independent of CIA manipulation and that stands a chance of bargaining at arms length with multinational corporations." Kwitny acknowledges the need for military intervention in the event of "violent political threats to our safety and our commercial rights." Most of this book, however, is concerned with detailing the instances in which military intervention has proven ineffectual in recent years, from Central America, where State Department officials admit they've provided "misleading" and "overembellished" information, to Pakistan, where we fought nomads until we discovered they were our vital allies.
Shadow Dancing in the USA, Michael Ventura (Tarcher/St. Martin's: $7.95). These wayward essays on marriage and self-identity, religion and the American Dream, voodoo and video games, brought national recognition to their author, a talented screenwriter and senior writer at the L.A. Weekly. Their strength--Michael Ventura's skepticism about every dogma from capitalism to Marxism--is ultimately their weakness, however, for Ventura's vision is so rootless and kaleidoscopic ("What America is, and what the rest of the world is fast becoming, is an enormous and constantly shifting juxtaposition of every form humankind has ever known or imagined") that he's unable to turn illuminating insights into a mature system of thought. Consequently, Ventura's awareness of contradiction and complexity gives way in the book's conclusion to questionable "crystal ball" predictions similar to those forwarded by Utopian socialists in the 1930s: "When Jesus fails to arrive in the next 25 years, what's left of Christianism will be shaken to the core" and "As the world economy progresses it will no longer be advantageous to East and West to continue the arms flow," and "a planetary culture" is emerging that combines "Eastern thought with relativity physics with cybernetics with Sufic and Franciscan and Hasidic and Zen mysticism with pagan animism with astronomy with biology with Hellenic polytheism with tribal ritual with . . . ." World cultures are, of course, becoming increasingly aware of each other as technology makes isolation difficult, but consciousness of other cultures does not necessarily lead to fusion with those cultures. Even so, this 1985 book remains an engrossing, unusual meditation on the relationship between society and self-realization.
Woman of Tomorrow, Kathy Keeton with Yvonne Baskin (St. Martin's: $4.95). The title is more hopeful than realistic, for both the author and the nationwide surveys she consults indicate that technology may be ready for the future, but most women aren't. When asked how interested they were in science and technology, "few women claimed to know much," writes Kathy Keeton, president of Omni magazine. Keeton, however, is unfailingly optimistic, and so in this apathy, she sees a "hardy old stoicism," a realization that women will survive whether or not they're prepared. Some predictions might be overly sanguine: No one knows whether bionic lungs and pancreases will prove viable by the year 2010, as Keeton claims, and her assumption that the work week will be shortened to 25 hours by 2010 assumes the existence of an adaptable economy. The publisher calls this book a new "Megatrends," an "Our Bodies, Ourselves" of the '80s, and though resemblances are superficial (this is a survey, not a tractate), they do exist. Like "Our Bodies, Ourselves," this book underscores women's strengths, imparting a human dimension to technological facts. And like "Megatrends," it will act as a primer for young adults seeking a secular sense of purpose and direction.