on March 6, 2014
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.
on March 25, 2014
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. His irony is spot on when he notes the liberal passion for unlimited sexual freedom in an ever more tightly-controlled state. Finally, the work is peppered with references, allusions, and quotes, but there are no notes or citations. That should certainly be corrected in a second edition.
This is a terrific book. It is the best explanation of 20th century politics in the US that I have seen and i have read quite a bit. I sent a copy to one of my children, who is a leftist but seems more open minded than most leftists. One of the things that Fred Siegel explains is why the left has closed all avenues to debate or compromise. Charles Krauthammer, another excellent theorist, has said that Republicans think Democrats are stupid while Democrats think Republicans are evil. This is in the same vein as Siegel's book but he explains how this came about. The Democratic Party has changed sharply since 1972 and the McGovern revolution. It is no longer the party of HarryTruman and Albin Barkley. It may no longer be the party of Lyndon Johnson who meant well but whose legislative prowess left us with an unaffordable welfare state. If Barack Obama has his way, the new immigrants that he is flooding the country with, will vote to keep their patrons in power but the whole edifice will collapse as Detroit has collapsed and as Chicago is about to collapse. I can only hope my daughter will read it and take some counsel from it.
I have a few disagreements with Siegel who seems to disdain Coolidge and Harding while I consider them to have been heroes of American progress. Few are willing to think about why the 1920s were so successful and prosperous. I consider them to have been the equivalent of the 1990s as new technology and inventions fueled rapid growth. Like the 2008 collapse, the 1920s ended with a bubble due to unreasonably low interest rates and the speculation they fueled.
on September 22, 2014
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.
on April 4, 2014
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. ... For liberals, the great revelation of 1919 that they carried into the 1920s was that middle-class society at large, and not just the Bible Belters with their restrictive mores, was to blame for their subjugation. Their disdain for Main Street was matched by their contempt for the detritus of urban popular culture.
The Revolt Against the Masses tells the story of the leaders of modern American liberalism--Herbert Croly, Randolph Bourne, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis, and Mencken--who sought to discard America’s most sacred principles of democracy and the rule of law for a bastardized version of European elitism, with decisions made by experts and social scientists.
“Siegel traces the development of liberalism from the cultural critics of the post-WWI years to the gentry liberals of today, and he shows how the common thread is scorn for the middle-class and for America itself,” notes author Michael Barone in his cover note. “This is a stunningly original--and convincing--book.”
The Revolt Against the Masses also identifies modern exponents of the new liberal elitism, influential figures such as John Kenneth Galbraith, who, “more than any other liberal, was able to meld the two central strands of 1920s liberalism: a Menkenesque contempt for the burghers and an undue regard for technocrats who cloaked their prejudices in the language of social science.”
Last week, I wrote a column for Zero Hedge entitled "A Political History of 'Too Big to Fail'" that connected Siegel’s excellent analysis and the modern tendency to bail out large banks. Ultimately, TBTF is about bailing out institutions that support the agenda of key liberal elites in partnership with Washington:
The notion of free-market capitalism driving the growth of the US economy and the American dream after WWII was a convenient fiction. Behind this facade, generations of liberal political operatives worked to realize the dreams of a society led by an enlightened elite with heroic overtones that bear close resemblance to the fascist era of 1920s Europe. Men like Herbert Crowley, editor and co-founder of The New Republic, advanced the ideal of a secular priesthood that would Europeanize America. He envisioned an elite vanguard of intellectuals, writers and scientists who would not be swayed by outmoded ideas of popular democracy and individual freedom. And the mechanism for advancing the new liberal agenda was government.
Both liberals and conservatives alike need to read The Revolt Against the Masses. For conservatives, this book provides ample ammunition to use it, characterizing and countering the attacks of the liberal elite against people of faith, small business, and civil libertarians--the three pillars of a future conservative majority. Every conservative in Congress and across America needs to read The Revolt Against the Masses.
For liberals and those who call themselves “progressives,” however, The Revolt Against the Masses is an equally important resource. Siegel describes how the ideals of 19th Century Progressivism were hijacked a century ago by an arrogant elite who despise working people and enrich themselves at public expense. Barack Obama is the ultimate example of this elitist tendency in American politics.
The majority of Americans who call themselves conservatives--and liberals--will be shocked and outraged by many of the revelations in this concise and well-written book.
on June 8, 2015
I have long wondered why modern liberals think and act the way they do. Quick explanations - level the playing field, make the rich pay their fair share, protect the weak, etc., etc. - have never satisfied my curiosity. In this book Fred Siegel does not explain it all, but certainly sheds new light on the subject for me. I agree with him that the common view today is "progressive" is synonymous with "liberal", but through a rather deep recounting of thinkers, writers, and politicians from the late 19th century through recent days he shows that things are much more complex. The notion that progressivism began with Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, hit a dry spell through Harding/Coolidge/Hoover, rebounded and flourished with FDR, and hit its heights with Barack Obama, is much too simplistic. Siegel shows that the progressive movement was never monolithic and suffered major fracturing after Wilson and WWI. I was especially fascinated by his descriptions of how individuals such as Herbert Croly, H. G. Wells, Ralph Bourne, H. L. Mencken, and many others shaped the thinking and culture of the USA and how liberal US presidents variously studied and reacted to them. For the political science educated reader all this may be ho-hum, but for me it was a great read and an eye-opener.
on March 19, 2016
Progressives against Progress.
It begins with superiority... smugness.
It becomes contempt... disdain.
Progressives proceed from demanding to be obeyed to a full repudiation of the public. This is how the political left has become engaged in an active struggle against morality.
Fred Siegel demonstrates the effects of Radical Chic: embracing crime, embracing the vulgar, embracing violence, embracing chaos : when angering whites equals cultural authenticity. This part of the book was very well done.
Democrats have become the party of The State. Violent minority democrat voters are the enforcers of compliance. Progressives rule by fear and decree, not by law. Worming deep within public bureaucracies, leftists are an entrenched self-interest group, pitted against the people. The only real enemy they have is regular Americans. This section of the book is worth a read, as a standalone - good for high school students and soon-to-be-voters. (pp 163 - 176, and continuing on to p. ~190)
Siegel continually cycles back to the roots, H.G. Wells and Mencken. He even ties in the Obama era: President Obama's War on Jobs, the policy and electoral failures, the moral preening.
This book is a very very slow read. Next up: "A Conservative Hostory of the American Left" by Daniel J. Flynn
on May 24, 2015
Fred Siegel is a recovering liberal, which means he knows his subject matter from the inside. What we see developing in the US and the West in general is what Marx described as "feudal socialism", a perverse and evil utopia. Fred Siegel understands the arrogance and snobbery of our decadent Ruling Class as exemplified in both political parties. To have any hope of returning the US back into a Constitutional Republic, we need to understand the mentality of our rulers. This is a great primer for all us rubes out here in flyover country.
on August 31, 2015
Class warfare from Marx to Obama.
Ever since Marx, in order for communism to take over, it has been
thought necessary to eliminate the middle class-- for the proletariat (the workers)
to take over the bourgeosie (the middle class and its business complement).
A false crisis is staged and a revolution occurs. What usually happens next is that
since mindless Marx's fantasy of rule by the proletariat has no chance of success,
a dictatorship is established as it was in Russia, Cuba, China, and several south
Obama has been hard at work creating many ways of making like difficult,
unpleasant, and even dangerous. To name a few:
Piling up the national debt
Preparing the nazi muslims to get the bomb
Constructing a completely unworkable "national" health care system
Attacking conservative groups through the IRS
Destroying US energy sources such as the coal industry.
and so forth.
In general these should endanger or constrict out economy
through preventing growth, the cottage industry of the Left.
This has been going pon for generations-- ever since Marx,
so Obama is nothing new. The book "The revolt against the masses-
How liberalism has undermined the Middle Class" by Fred Siegel.
So, in summary, our enemy is not Obama or Hillary or liberals.
The historical enemy of freedom is the hard left.
-------- There is an entirely new way of looking at reality, through whatI call Plato-Leibniz, the 21st century philosophy to replace that of 20th century science, in which that is only a subset. See my website on Plato-Leibniz, www.independent.academia.edu/RogerClough Start with the read me first page.For personal contacts, use firstname.lastname@example.org
on September 6, 2014
Oscar Wilde and D.H. Lawrence turned up their noses at the bourgoise, while praising poets, according to the author. It won’t take a lot of convincing to tell me these men were full of themselves, because bourgoise money is what paid for their education and financed the production of Wilde’s plays. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis satirized the middle class, but it was middle class money that paid for their education. The author uses the heroine of Lewis’ novel Main Street as an example of dissatisfaction with small town life. But would she prefer living in a subdivision? Remember the town of Maycomb, Alabama, from To Kill a Mockingbird? That small town may seem dull, but there was plenty of social life for everyone, and the kids could walk to and from school.
In the 1920’s, the New Republic’s Waldo Frank (NY born) voiced his disgust with the “human waste” that rode the subway home. But what had he done to contribute to progress? When Lewis turned up his nose at small town life, would he have preferred to live in one of Eugene O’Neill’s plays? Would he have preferred an apartment above the Last Chance Saloon, in a strip populated by hookers, crooked cops, gamblers, and drunks?
I agree with the author’s criticism of society’s critics. Everyone chooses to live where they feel the need. Some like the city, some prefer a house, some don’t mind the long drive to work. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis were within their rights to satirize the middle class, but they never worked to make positive changes. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for Ivy League graduates to become teachers in rough, failing schools. Who’s opinion counts more?
I don’t, however, agree with his use of Leopold & Lobe as an example of elitism run amok. Both men got life in prison, and although they were spared the death penalty, they didn’t get special treatment just because their families were wealthy. Clarence Darrow’s argument that they killed to satisfy intellectual desire didn’t influence the judge, who was probably against the death penalty anyway. A better argument for the author would be the Jack Henry Abbott case, now that was an example of intellectual stupidity gone wild. Norman Mailer fought to free a convicted murderer, over the psychiatrist’s objection, and a month later he committed another murder. Call it “radical chic” if you like, but Mailer was so awed by Abbott’s writing talent that he overlooked the man’s violent nature. At least the author rails against Amiri Baraka and other black intellectual hucksters who’ve killed any chance of progress.
Keep in mind, in the early 60’s, Baraka was named “LeRoi Jones” and was living in Manhattan’s west Village, married to a white woman and a staple in the beatnik scene. With the death of Malcolm X, he suddenly became a great black radical.