Why America Failed shows how, from its birth as a nation of "hustlers" to its collapse as an empire, the tools of the country's expansion proved to be the instruments of its demise.
This is the third and most engaging volume of Morris Berman's trilogy on the decline of the American empire. In The Twilight of American Culture, Berman examined the internal factors of that decline, showing that they were identical to those of Rome in its late-empire phase. In Dark Ages America, he explored the external factors - e.g., the fact that both empires were ultimately attacked from the outside - and the relationship between the events of 9/11 and the history of U.S. foreign policy.
In his most ambitious work to date, Berman looks at the "why" of it all. This book:
Why America Failed is a controversial work, one that will shock, anger, and transform its listeners. The book is a stimulating and provocative explanation of how we managed to wind up in our current situation: economically weak, politically passe, socially divided, and culturally adrift. It is a tour de force, a powerful conclusion to Berman's study of American imperial decline.
©2012 Morris Berman (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Morris Berman is one of our most prescient and important social and cultural critics. He marries a laser-like intelligence with a deep moral core. His writing is as lucid and crisp as it is insightful. His newest book, Why America Failed, rips open the dark and dying carcass of empire. His analysis is sobering and often depressing. But the truth at this stage in the game is depressing, very depressing. Those who refuse to face this truth because it is unpleasant, because it does not inspire happy thoughts or offer false hope, are in flight from the real. The collective retreat into self-delusion has transformed huge swaths of the American populace into a peculiar species of adult-children who live in a Peter Pan world of make believe where reality is never permitted to be animpediment to desire. It is too bad Berman, who sees and writes about all this with a stunning clarity, lives in Mexico. It gets lonely up here." (Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class and Empire of Illusion)
"Morris Berman's masterpiece is a brutally honest, wonderfully crafted,exceptionally well-documented treatise on how America was spawned, several hundred years ago, to devour its offspring - financially, socially, and technologically. Why America Failed shines a harsh, unavoidable light upon the cunning business mindset at the core of America's creation, expansion, and devolution. Berman describes with stunning clarity how and why the 'hustler' mentality, upon which our country was predicated, eviscerated alternative moral or social doctrines, and thus incorporated the seeds of our self-destruction from its very inception. This book is as uncomfortable to read as it is impossible to miss." (Nomi Prins, author of It Takes a Pillage and Other People's Money)
"Morris Berman noticed that it's not morning in America anymore. His message may wake up the millions who are oversleeping while the late-day storm clouds gather over this land." (James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency)
I can't disagree with many of Morris Berman's assertions.
Yes, moronic, vulgar, violent aspects of U.S. culture abound.
Americans are not exceptional. They are not exempt from human frailty and sin.
But were things better in any of the Good Old Days? During the days of
Berman's "Southern graciousness?" Is progress really an illusion? Not if
you know much history. Not if you have had my experience of working
with young people in K-12 schools. The Net Generation is far smarter and
more compassionate than their elders. Great social progress has been made.
Berman comes across as an "angry old white guy." Not the kind you see on
Fox. The kind found on the academic Left, whose life experience is spent in
academe, dealing with abstractions. The messy concrete realities that make
up the hustle of working life are seen from afar. That is for the "hustlers" Berman disdains.
The author's un-nuanced criticism of technology also expresses an elitist mindset.
Neo-Luddite ranting on "those kids and their gadgets" is another marker of the
Berman hates TV, even likes the Taliban prohibition of satellite dishes in
Afghanistan. I bought his Audible book because I saw him on CSPAN Book TV
promoting his book. Is he going to turn down his cut from those hustlers at Amazon?
Presumably the author does not cross the Mexican border on a burro when he
comes to the U.S. Bet he would prefer the speed and safety of flying Aeromexico,
bristling with avionics technology. Thanks to hustlers like William Boeing, Donald Douglas, et al.
Probably he avails himself of the wonders of the electric grid in Mexico City.
Brought to him by hustlers like Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse.
Berman might have a more positive view of progress if he saw studies showing that
human lifespan is doubled in areas with electricity. Beats "natural living" in Chiapas.
Maybe a high-tech hospital in Mexico City is the preference for medical problems, too.
Hopefully he is drinking purified water, getting vaccinations, eating safe food, and
using modern sewer systems--brought to us by technology hustlers.
"Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline" has plenty of cogent points and
is done by that rarity of academe: a good writer. But it is unbalanced. And hypocritical.
University age students, and others without much life experience, are likely to buy into it
uncritically. To do so is to buy into nihilistic hopelessness.
For all of you trying to see through the fog of American culture, here is the lens and the candle. Not a happy book, more like 'the truth hurts' but Berman certainly covers all the bases. Unexpected coverage of the Civil War proved fascinating and salient as well.
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