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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

When did America give up on fairness? The author of Fantasyland tells the epic history of how America decided that big business gets whatever it wants, only the rich get richer, and nothing should ever change - and charts a way back to the future. 

"The one book everyone must read as we figure out how to rebuild our country." (Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci

During the 20th century, America managed to make its economic and social systems both more and more fair and more and more prosperous. A huge, secure, and contented middle class emerged. All boats rose together. But then the New Deal gave way to the Raw Deal. Beginning in the early 1970s, by means of a long war conceived of and executed by a confederacy of big business CEOs, the superrich, and right-wing zealots, the rules and norms that made the American middle class possible were undermined and dismantled. The clock was turned back on a century of economic progress, making greed good, workers powerless, and the market all-powerful while weaponizing nostalgia, lifting up an oligarchy that served only its own interests, and leaving the huge majority of Americans with dwindling economic prospects and hope. 

Why and how did America take such a wrong turn? In this deeply researched and brilliantly woven cultural, economic, and political chronicle, Kurt Andersen offers a fresh, provocative, and eye-opening history of America's undoing, naming names, showing receipts, and unsparingly assigning blame - to the radical right in economics and the law, the high priests of high finance, a complacent and complicit Establishment, and liberal "useful idiots", among whom he includes himself. 

Only a writer with Andersen's crackling energy, deep insight, and ability to connect disparate dots and see complex systems with clarity could make such a book both intellectually formidable and vastly entertaining. And only a writer of Andersen’s vision could reckon with our current high-stakes inflection point and show the way out of this man-made disaster.

©2020 Kurt Andersen (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“This is the one book everyone must read as we figure out how to rebuild our country. With lucid writing and head-snapping insights, Kurt Andersen explores how a confederacy of the right and big business, with unabashed greed, deliberately reengineered our economy. To fix that will require understanding the roots of the problem. A triumph.” (Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci)

“Nostalgia is the antithesis of history. Andersen brilliantly exposes how nostalgia - the strategic oversimplification of our past - has erased complexity and friction from our country’s narrative to serve a single goal: to preserve the status quo for the benefit of those in power. Evil Geniuses documents how history and nostalgia are engaged in hand-to-hand combat that may determine our future.” (Ken Burns, director of The Civil War and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History)

“How did the United States turn from its longstanding egalitarian ideals to its present course of socially and morally catastrophic inequality? Kurt Andersen interrogates the past half century with characteristic intellectual ambition and literary bravado to find out. At once cultural history, memoir, and riff, Evil Geniuses explains how our country found its way into this predicament, and how we might yet get out of it.” (Jacob Weisberg, author of The Bush Tragedy and Ronald Reagan)

What listeners say about Evil Geniuses

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So Many Words!

Evil Geniuses, The Unmaking of America, by Kurt Andersen, presents an extended history of the revolutionary changes that have taken place in the United States starting in the 1980's. He tracks the shift from a booming post WWII economy to the disastrously unequal and unfair economy of today. This is a book about economics and politics. It is well thought out, well argued, and packed with useful information. It sheds a lot of light on how and when things went wrong, and names some of the key players along the way. It also points toward what changes we need to make in our culture, politics and thinking in order to navigate back to a more just and saner society. A+ on all of that from me. However, oh my God! This man loves his own words! Too many words! Should have been edited down by a third. He is a clever writer, and is so taken with his own cleverness that he becomes self-indulgent and annoying at times. He reads his own work well, and very fast, Even so the book is over 16 hours in length. It contains important ideas and insightful observations, but I would recommend the Cliff Notes version for busy people. If you have lots of time on your hands and lots of patience with men who think they are cute, (a trait I obviously lack) go for it!

32 people found this helpful

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History through a far left lens

First, let's be clear about what this book is:  It's an extremely long OpEd from a very intelligent man on the far left.  He craftily peppers in one of his opinions for every four-or-so immutable facts he enumerates.  Please don't mistake this book for an unbiased historical account.

Now, that being said, when I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the propaganda, I found this book thorough, clever, and enlightening.

25 people found this helpful

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Nostalgic 1900s MAGA v More perfect democracy

Author's arguments for progressive change leading us toward a "more perfect union" of freedom, justice, and shared prosperity are well referenced. Political and economic democracy, if to survive without our own Tale of Two Cities' Bastille Day violence, requires redistribution of wealth, power, and opportunity. Trump is but an incompetent vessel promoting corporatist greed. The hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 casualities, Trump calls "warriors," are the victims of that greed. The lack of empathy and unwillingness to stop enabling this violence by the GOP will end only by electing Progressive Democratic leadership in local, state, and federal offices. For example: Biden-Harris for POTUS/VP, Amy McGrath, Jamie Harrison, and Katie Porter for US Congress.

15 people found this helpful

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Andersen delivers essential reading for 2020

Expertly read by Andersen, he delivers a well-constructed analysis of the many small cuts in the U.S. political economy since 1970 that have torn the fabric of American economic solidarity. All boats once rose together, but after the few decided to control the many to gain financial dominance we are here today together at a fork in the road. Andersen offers hope that revolution or constitutional dissolution aren't our only possible fates. Read this book and you'll receive one possible history of the present that seemed authentic to this reader.

13 people found this helpful

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How we got here!

One of the best thorough explanations of how the country became so incompetent and how it has lost its democracy, and by whom. It is a journalistic recounting of what happened when, by whom that is easy to see. I've read several along this line and feel this one is the best. It's also always fun and more engaging when you listen to the author reading his own work.

11 people found this helpful

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A must read for anyone who cares about the future of The United States.

Mr. Andersen lays out the map and the territory of where we find ourselves socially, politically, artistically, and economically. Then he gives us astute and well reasoned solutions to help our country escape the oligarchic stranglehold that encumbers growth and opportunity in our society.

10 people found this helpful

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A must Read!

What a wonderful book at such a terrible time in our history. It really is a must read for anyone who wants to know what’s been happening to our country since the 1980s and before. How the plutocrats have controlled the levers of power in our country and what a complete mess they’ve made of things in their insatiable desire for more wealth and power.

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Wake up America!

This book is a wonderful outline of the last 50 years. I know because it discribes my entire adult life. Read it then read it again. There is much wisdom here. If we fail to understand it and act accordingly we are doomed.

9 people found this helpful

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Should be required for every econ 101

This is the best book I've read in a year. Captivating, through, and terrifying. A must read.

7 people found this helpful

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change your life

incredibly good, essential for realizing that the world did not magically become an austerity hellscape, it did not organically tend toward this catastrophic capitalism like some natural force, it was made this way, by these people. somehow knowing what they did and how makes it seem more tangibly undo-able

3 people found this helpful