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The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class Hardcover – January 28, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“The roots of American liberalism are not compassion but snobbery. So argues historian Fred Siegel in The Revolt Against the Masses. Siegel traces the development of liberalism from the cultural critics of the post WWI years to the gentry liberals today, and he shows how the common thread is scorn for middle-class Americans and for America itself. This is a stunningly original—and convincing—book.”

Michael Barone, senior political analyst at the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics

“Fred Siegel’s superb The Revolt Against the Masses should be required reading for those who wonder how liberal elites came to dominate our culture, overriding the will of the people. Siegel’s book is history at its best and most relevant.”

Roger L. Simon, Academy Award–nominated screenwriter, author, and founder of PJ Media

“In The Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel reveals the intellectual underpinnings of today’s ascendant gentry liberalism, which leaves old-fashioned liberals, including, I suspect, Siegel himself, politically homeless. The increasingly anti-democratic character of liberalism also undermines much of the reason we became progressives in the first place, which was to help the middle and working classes. The gentry’s stridency and hypocrisy—what’s OK for them is not for everyone else—is utterly transforming liberalism today. The progressives portrayed in this book are not so much the heirs of Jefferson or Jackson or even Roosevelt, as they are the American heirs of the worst high-toned Tories.”

Joel Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

About the Author

Fred Siegel is the author, most recently, of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life (2005), which received the cover review in the New York Times Book Review. His previous book, The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America’s Big Cities, was named by Peter Jennings as one of the 100 most important books about the U.S. in the twentieth century. He has written widely on American and European politics and was described as “the historian of the American city” in a November 2011 profile in the Wall Street Journal.

The former editor of City Journal, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Atlantic, Commentary, The New Republic, Dissent, and many other publications. He has also appeared widely on TV and radio.

A former senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., Mr. Siegel is currently a scholar in residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (January 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594036985
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594036989
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By JackBluegrass on March 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If the terms Liberal, neo-liberal, gentry liberal, neo-con, Progressive, and Conservative confuse you, you’re not alone. Siegel describes when, why and how those terms came into use in the United States. If you’re curious about all the variations of liberal and conservative we have today in the US, Fred tells you in this short book.

His main thesis is that the highest and the lowest classes of society today have joined together in a struggle against the middle class ("a top/bottom coalition"). That idea may seem crazy to you. However, he lays out enough facts to convince you, if you’re really willing to consider them, while comparing them to your own political beliefs.

My one complaint is that the author doesn’t list specific references for all the statements and books he quotes. The vague name and year given for a person or group’s writings, speeches, or books on politics makes deeper searches harder for us, but not impossible.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Peter Cohee on March 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A wonderful book, with some deficiencies. Fred Siegel has obliterated the conceit of today's liberals, now self-styled as "Progressives," namely that they derive their ideology from the first generation of the great progressives, filtered through the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Kennedys, and the Great Society. No, today's liberals are in fact but present links in a long chain of writers and thinkers, especially after WWI, who loathed and detested the middle class of shopkeepers and enterprisers ("Rotarians" and "Babbitts" being the most common pejorative epithets for Americans), who continue to strive to place American government in the hands of an elite corps of We Know Best technocrats, and who yearn for a European decayed aristocracy and welfare statism. It details, step by step, how the Democratic party, far more than the Republican, has lost its respect for, need of, and interest in the American middle class, clinging to guns and religion. The book is thus an exposé; the exposed will not much like it. But you will. It follows a chronological development, with many illustrative examples.

It is witty, sharp, and lucid. But it needed better editing. There a numerous repetitions, typographical errors, and mixed or inapt metaphors. Reaching back to Plato's Republic would have provided greater historical depth, for his "Guardians" are the antecedents to Wells's "samurai," as is the whole notion of utopian central planning by a trained elite. Of course, for Plato, it was only a thought experiment. Siegel does trace throughout a thin thread of the free love movement that began with some of the original progressives, but I think it should be made a much larger part of the whole fabric.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Rc Whalen on April 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism has Undermined the Middle Class is one of the most important books written about American politics in the past fifty years.

The author, Fred Siegel, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a think tank that focuses on urban policy and politics. He also serves as a professor of history and the humanities at Cooper Union and is a contributor to numerous publications, including the New York Post (where he has a weekly column), The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, Commonwealth, Tikkun, and TELOS.

The Revolt Against the Masses tells the story of how what some think of as liberalism is, in fact, a form of arrogant elitism modeled on an American form of aristocracy long associated with European statism.

“Today’s brand of liberalism, led by Barack Obama, has displaced the old Main Street private-sector middle class with a new middle class composed of public-sector workers allied with crony capitalists and the country’s arbiters of elite style and taste,” the book reveals.

Siegel describes how the American left turned away from its progressive roots between WWI and WWII, espousing a cynical and anti-American attitude that embraced experts and despised democracy and the average man. Siegel writes that the liberalism that emerged from 1919, taking its cue from H.L. Mencken, who sided with Germany in WWI and labeled Americans who supported “Wilson’s War” as “boobs” and “peasants" was "contemptuous of American culture and politics." He added:

For the liberals, the war years had revealed that American society and democracy were themselves agents of repression. These sentiments deepened during the 1920s and have been an ongoing undercurrent in liberalism ever since. ...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By william reyda on September 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very good book, should read this book along with Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism and Modern History by Paul Johnson.The nagging problem here,is not how liberalism got here,but is to late to completely stop it.Liberal governance does not work.Like Margaret Thacther said "the problem with socialism,is that you eventually run out of other peoples money", and evidence of that is Detriot and Stockton,CA , the state of CA,IL,NY. The book is well written and readable to someone is does not read political history on regular basis.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Sharp on May 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In "The Revolt Against the Masses," Fred Siegel argues that modern liberalism is an outgrowth of post-WWI dissatisfaction with the authoritarian presidency of Woodrow Wilson. He contrasts his reading of history with the common belief that liberalism dates back only as far as the New Deal. The first half of the book is extremely quote-heavy as Siegel reproduces text from a small number of writers such as Sinclair Lewis, H.G. Wells, and Herbert Croly. Siegel offers passing commentary on these authors' works, but does not tie their ideas back to political action and does not demonstrate just how much influence these authors may have actually had. At best, we can agree with Siegel that some early liberals held dismissive views of American culture and middle class values. But this fact does not get us very far, and does not support the subtitle's declaration that liberalism has undermined the middle class.

The book is a decent overview of the left's intellectual movements from the 1930s to the present. But I suspect that many readers who finish the book will be struck by how the theory of liberal aristocratic snobbery so well set out in the introduction does not seem as convincing by book's end.
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