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America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire Hardcover – October 6, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0765802194 ISBN-10: 0765802198

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (October 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765802198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765802194
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,421,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Ryn (Catholic Univ.) does not like neoconservatives. He does not even like the term. Instead, he refers to the conservative intellectuals who have secured prominent positions in the media and in the Pentagon as the "new Jacobins." Like the Jacobins of old, they possess a dangerous arrogance that will lead their nation to disaster… Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.”

—R. A. Strong, Choice

“An important contribution for those interested in the intense post 9/11 debate on US foreign policy.”

—David C. Jordan, University of Virginia

“Claes Ryn paints a truly alarming portrait of the new Jacobinism that now constitutes a powerful ideological force among our nation’s elites. . . . Ryn’s splendid book is a warning of things to come if we fail to recognize the dangers.”

—George W. Carey, Georgetown University

“There is much wisdom in Ryn’s book, and the moral realism he calls for and explicates commands respect. . . . Ryn is onto deep truths about the nature of politics.”

—David C. Henderickson, World Policy Journal



America the Virtuous diagnosed our contemporary maladies in both foreign policy and domestic life. . . . We Americans pretend we’re a peace-loving people and that our wars have all been foisted upon us. But the United States, as Ryn explains, is an Enlightened or Ideological Republic that has slipped its constitutional moorings, and become a Fighting Faith.”

—Walter A. McDougall, Huminatas

About the Author

Claes G. Ryn is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America where he was chairman of his department. He has taught also at the University of Virginia and Georgetown University. He is chairman of the National Humanities Institute and editor of the journal Humanitas. In 2000 he gave the Distinguished Foreign Scholar Lectures at Beijing University His many books include A Common Human Ground, Will, Imagination, and Reason (2nd., exp. ed. published by Transaction), and Democracy and the Ethical Life.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am glad I heard this author on the radio and checked out his book. It's clear to me now: America has been pushed into an aggressive posture in foreign policy by imperialist thinkers and actors who want the U.S. to dominate the world,ostensibly for the sake of democracy.In the end they are most interested in power and in advacing their own hidden purposes. Because they build on utopian ideas and are breaking with the older American political tradition, they are doing great damage to American institutions and liberties domestically and creating hatred of the U.S. abroad. America the Virtuous relates the ideas of American neo-Jacobinism to a general decline of American culture, but the author also shows that this political movement is just a symptom of a much larger problem with modern America. I was vaguely aware of some of this before, but now I can see it clearly. Although the book deals mostly with ideas rather than practical politics,it is a pleasure to read. You don't have to be a scholar to find it engaging and enlightening.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
At first I didn't like the way this book sounded at all. It went against to many of my assumptions and made me uncomfortable. But something made me stick with the book and the more I read the more I could see that I needed to rethink some of my beliefs about conservatism and America. The perspective is unusual, I don't understand it completely, and I still have to get used to it, but I don't think that I can every go back to what I used to think about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and some others. Believe me, I didn't want to go in this direction. But the author has arguments and facts that I can't ignore. A lot becomes a lot clearer in my mind. I have to give him credit.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Everyone puzzled at GWB's radical shift from his promise of a "humble" foreign policy and modest domestic programs in 2000 must read this book!!
Bush the Younger, evidently a decent man, has been led to change his views, to act on them, and to demean the principles of history and the U.S. Constitution by "neo-conservatives," many of whom began infiltrating the first Reagan Administration after allegedly being "Scoop Jackson Democrats."
Unfortunately, neo-cons have almost nothing to do with conservatism. Instead, they are crusaders bent on toppling the USA's rich and unique historic experiences, and its superb 1789 Constitution in favor of ahistorical "shared principles" emanating from their own superior brains.
Ryn identifies their beliefs as historically similar to the Jacobins of the vile revolution in France and more properly names neo-cons as neo-Jacobins.
Ryn makes a good case for his assertion that wild-spending, interventionist, and anti-civil liberties activities at home -- all in the context of a mega-government -- and crusaderism overseas in the name of forced democracy emanate from neo-Jacobin thinking.
It's such a pity that neo-Jacobins claim to be conservatives, or to defend the values of truth, justice and the American way, since it comfuses all and gives the more traditional, constitutionalist position a bad name.
Finally, Ryn notes the immense media influence of neo-Jacobin talking heads. Even many Democrats spout a variant of the neo-Jacobin line, including John Kerry. The U.S., they say, exists to remake the world -- not by humility and example, but by might and endless virtue. Here at home, the only solution is a surveillance state, combined with intrusive, profligately expensive government.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I saw somewhere that this book is a "blockbuster," and got a copy. It is a brainier book than I expected. It really explains the current quest for empire and how it grows out of a deteriorating american society. I learnt a lot! The book is engrossing. Read this if you want to know what dangers we face and how we might save ourselves!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be very informative concerning the modern transformation of political thought in America and about the significant shift in American foreign policy that has taken place in the last two years. Anyone involved in foreign policy and/or the study of political ideology can not afford to miss reading this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book really makes you think about the general direction of American society, especially U.S. foreign policy. It goes a lot deeper than current discussions of empire. It puts the present U.S. policies in a historical context and explains them. Reads very well.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By gaius marius on February 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
it's hard to gain a sense of scope, in a short book, of the depth of the malicious current which now afflicts american politics in the fascist redux of neoconservatism. ryn does admirably, tracing the mindset of radical/revolutionary polarized idealism such as we see today in neoconservatism to the rousseauian jacobins.

ryn concentrates revealingly on the revolution within the form that has taken place in america, including the onset of political euphemism and the perversion of abstract words like "freedom", "capitalism" and "democracy" such that they mean now nearly the opposite of what they once meant. using the same words with wildly different meaning is the mechanism by which the united states pretends to adhere to the old lockean/puritan values of its founders while betraying them on every front. it is a central point in understanding the political development of america in the 20th and 21st centuries as it moves to totalitarianism.

it's extremely difficult for any short book to cover western militant idealism as it has evolved from plato through the renaissance and counter-enlightenment to modern decadence and fascism, and ryn to her credit tries to concentrate her field of view in a very complex topic. that necessarily means oversights, of course, and many aspects of idealism's intellectual development are left untreated -- most notably, the heavy influence of trotsky, himself something of a new jacobin and the advocate of perpetual revolution.

but the book remains a compelling foundation for her thesis and potentially represents brutally enlightening reading for many americans who think fascism "ended" in 1945 and could never happen here. the unfortunate truth appears to be that is has been happening here for decades, and is moving to an endgame.
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