New review in The Outline

Thanks to Rebecca Stoner for this wonderful first review of Keywords.

A brief excerpt:

By demonstrating how dramatically these words’ meanings have transformed, Leary suggests that they might change further, that the definitions put in place by the ruling class aren’t permanent or beyond dispute. As he explores what our language has looked like, and the ugliness now embedded in it, Leary invites us to imagine what our language could emphasize, what values it might reflect. What if we fought “for free time, not ‘flexibility’; for free health care, not ‘wellness’; and for free universities, not the ‘marketplace of ideas”?

His book reminds us of the alternatives that persist behind these keywords: our managers may call us as “human capital,” but we are also workers. We are also people. “Language is not merely a passive reflection of things as they are,” Leary writes. “[It is] also a tool for imagining and making things as they could be.”

1 thought on “New review in The Outline”

  1. Wonderful! I now have an idea for my husband. He has been bugging me about what I want for Christmas. This goes to the top of the list.
    I am happy that this book goes beyond the silliness of these words and into the danger of them– the way they present ideas as inevitable.
    When the scooters got dumped here and city council said “Shit. We’d better do something before we face liability.” the mayor’s response was “We must be nimble in our response so as to not stifle innovation.” (exact words elude me and perhaps it was “entrepreneurship” rather than “innovation” and maybe there was a “thoughtful” in there. Anyway, the mayor was certainly playing his role as the lumbering agent of government– always in danger of stifling the heroic innovators.
    I was hoping someone would write such a book. I am so lazy that my dreams consist of someone else writing on a topic I wish to see covered in depth.


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