A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.
Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another - from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball - imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.
How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite - one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.
Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit - utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom - produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.
Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.
©2012 Christopher Hayes (P)2012 Random House Audio
"[L]ively and well-informed.Offering feasible proposals for change, this cogent social commentary urges us to reconstruct our institutions so we can once again trust them." (Publishers Weekly)
"[A] forcefully written debut.... A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest." (Kirkus Reviews)
"This is the Next Big Thing that we have been waiting for. Twilight of the Elites is the fully reported, detailed, true story of a 21st century America beyond the reach of authority. It's new, and true, and beautifully told - Hayes is the young left's most erudite and urgent interpreter. Brilliant book." (Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show and author of Drift)
Chris Hayes, editor at large of The Nation, and host of his own show on MSNBC, identifies some serious issues, and makes a sound case for them, without offering serious solutions, though giving a problem a name is the beginning of a discussion about possible solutions. His primary point is that our nation has come to be based on meritocracy rather than inherited aristocracy, i.e., being able to rise competitively from whatever class we are born into to elite status by being identified as exceptionally intelligent and having access to elite education at exclusive schools or being so successful in business as to accumulate exceptional wealth, but those considered elite do not always act competently or in the best interests of society. Being smart or a good businessperson is not necessarily accompanied by good character, good citizenship, or good judgment.
Further, the privilege of elite status has not come with accountability for performance commensurate with that status, and therefore extreme failures by the elites are not corrected and are in fact perpetuated, compounded, or even rewarded. Elites depend upon other elite "experts" for guidance about major issues, and their life experience becomes so far removed from that of those affected by their decisions that they make decisions they might not make if they or their loved ones had to experience the consequences themselves. His excellent examples range from the White House to the world of sports. As for a solution, he points to the Occupy movement. This is unsatisfactory [imho], since the Occupy movement lacked leadership sufficient to press its causes politically, but his point is really that a revolutionary way of viewing and exercising power and merit in our society is needed, short of revolution in the streets.
Hayes narrates his own book, and even though his voice is not sonorous, it is easy to listen to, and his emphasis adds to the meaning of his points. In general a good "read."
Chris Hayes is very bright and I really enjoyed this book. He has many keen insights on just how a system seemingly based on merit has dug us into a whole that looks pretty tough to get out of at this moment. I didn't mind Hayes' narration of the book, but he would have done himself and the book a favor by getting a professional. I think he was trying to emulate Rachel Maddow's success in narrating her brilliant work, Drift, but he just didn't pull it off.
I'm Stephen, Rebecca's husband.
The title is intriguing; the book is not worth reading. It deserves less than the one star I gave it.
It took real discipline to read one and one-half hours of the droning repetition of this socialist propaganda.
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