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More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America) Hardcover – March 14, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First edition (March 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691117888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691117881
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,527,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hodgson sets out to say some things outside "the two ruling narratives of American history over the past three decades: the liberal recessional or conservative triumphalism." Above all, he observes, "Great and growing inequality has been the most salient social fact about the America of the conservative ascendancy. It is hard not to ask whether that was not one of the conservatives' strategic goals." Yet inequality is mentioned more than discussed, while conservative mechanisms that may increase it are barely even mentioned until 100 pages later. Despite occasional flashes of insight, Hodgson, biographer of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and a scholar at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University, repeatedly muddles matters with generous dollops from those ruling narrativesâ€"such as the Democratic Leadership Council's analysis of what ailed the Democrats in the 1980sâ€"regurgitated as gospel. Similarly, he attributes white backlash to "the noisy claims of radical black leadership" in his chapter on race, while his chapter on women blames articulate feminists not so much for antagonizing men and conservative women but for letting their middle-class "cultural" movement get in the way of a second, "primarily economic" women's movement, "silent and largely the sum of private decisions." He rightly notes that the Internet boom was built on decades of government-funded, university-nurtured research, then says, "[T]he legendary entrepreneurs deserve every bit of their fame and fortune." Hodgson inadvertently demonstrates what he seeks to explain: how inequality can grow so sharply, yet be marginalized in political discourse.
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"In More Equal Than Others, an up-to-the-minute critique of modern American life, the British historian Godfrey Hodgson combines intelligent discussions of pressures that have shaped American society during the last quarter-century . . . With a factoid-packed jeremiad against the triumph of the suburb--the demographic zone where half the population now lives, where two-thirds of new jobs are located, whose voting strength overawes Congress. . . . Although Hodgson writes as a liberal, he levels [his] charges across party lines."--Allen D. Boyer, New York Times Book Review

"[A] wonderfully written, wide-ranging and profoundly depressing book. Hodgson's theme is that the US has changed for the worse in the past 25 years: inequality is supplanting equality, even equality of opportunity."--Kathleen Burk, Financial Times

"[Hodgson] sees a country which the postwar liberal consensus has indeed moved right, turning free-market capitalism from an economic theory into a cultural template. The result is an America in which financial segregation increasingly preserves opportunity for a wealthy elite. . . . [He] argues convincingly that American society has come to resemble old-fashioned Europe, with its strictly class-structured elites."--Michael Carlson, The Spectator

"The most thoughtful, thorough and sorrowful book imaginable on what has happened in these years."--Bernard Crick, The Independent

"Godfrey Hodgson . . . delivers a relentless indictment of an American grown . . . far too sure of itself. In More Equal Than Others, he argues that a wave of right-wing triumphalism has overtaken the country since the Soviet Union's death from exhaustion. In its train, it has brought us a sanctification of the unfettered market, an intensification of Americans' long-standing contempt for government, and--most appallingly--a complacent acceptance of unprecedented inequalities in wealth, education, and opportunity."--Matthew A. Crenson, Political Science Quarterly

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Celia Redmore on May 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There is general agreement in the United States that the last few decades have been much more profitable for the wealthiest few percent of the population than for everyone else. "More Equal Than Others" makes the point that even this understanding of inequality is greatly underestimated by most Americans. Godfrey Hodgson, who is a long time Washington correspondent for the British media and who wrote this book for The Century Foundation in New York, believes that the US media have consistently presented a picture of the country that makes it appear more economically successful and more egalitarian compared to other countries than is in fact the case. He claims that recent statistics show that the US is, by some measures, the least egalitarian of the eleven most industrialized countries.
Hodgson bases his case on a review of history from the 1970's through the first couple of years of this century. Much of what he presents will be entirely familiar to anyone who has lived in the US during that time. Indeed, the book has a tendency to present history by anecdote, rather than analysis. Nevertheless, it contains nuggets of information which should interest any close social or political observer of the country. Where he doesn't persuade, he certainly proves himself to be a worthy debating partner. Above all, he makes us think.
Godfrey Hodgson's political concern is made transparent by both the book's title and its dust jacket, which shows two photographs: One is of a man in a suit looking at the skyline from a penthouse office; the other is of a group of people seated around a table under a freeway overpass. That neither photograph needed to be staged is unarguable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on August 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a useful survey of the USA's society and economy by Godfrey Hodgson, a British journalist and author, who is an Associate Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University.

Chapters deal with politics and the Constitution, the economy, immigration, technology, women, slavery and race, the frontier, society, foreign policy, the world and the new century. He explodes the myth that the market, not the government or the universities, built the Internet.

What he calls the `conservative ascendancy' is really just corporate power leading to a corporate state. All the polls show that the American people have far saner views than either wing of the capitalist party. But in the USA, money talks, so much so that its courts now hold that the First Amendment's protection of free speech protects the absurdly high levels of election spending.

The ruling class has turned the USA into the most unequal of all developed countries: its great and growing inequality means that it has the least opportunity, the least social mobility and the fewest escapes from poverty. The USA is failing economically: average wages were 10% lower in 1999 than in 1973. In 2000, it had lower annual incomes per head than Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg. Between 1960 and 2000, productivity grew more slowly in the USA than in Britain, France or Italy.

Hodgson raises, but does not answer, the question why, after the Soviet Union's suicide, world peace and prosperity did not ensue. What caused the wars and slumps of the 1990s? The Soviet Union's demise proved that it was not the Soviet Union that prevented peace and prosperity, but capitalism.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By on June 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Godfrey Hodgson is a distinguished journalist whose new history of the past thirty years of American history is published with the help of The Century Foundation. There is something offsetting about the foreword written by Century Foundation president Richard Leone, which seems to apologize beforehand for being critical about the current United States and eager to remind people that Hodgson is a friend of the United States. The book itself starts off with the free market consensus and then goes on to discuss the new post-Nixon politics. And so get familiar treatments of the fall of the Democratic South, the rise of the taxpayer's rebellion, and the corruptions of party financing. We then have a chapter on the internet which makes what should be the obvious point that it did not spring from the heads of a few Titanic entrepreneurs but arose from a long history of government and public support. We then have a chapter on the new economy which points out the underside of wage stagnation and increasing inequality. In Spring 1999 average wages were actually 10% lower than in 1973. If we use market exchange rates to measure income the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland make more money than the United States. Productivity growth is lower than France or Italy. We then have a chapter each on immigrants, women and African-Americans which notes progress but also delays and residual hostility. We then have a chapter on the new society which focuses on the problems of suburbanization, mass transport, the decline of sport, the decline of community and the increased atomization of the American public. We then look at the new world order of American domination.Read more ›
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