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The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy Paperback – January 17, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (January 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393313719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393313710
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cultural critic Lasch, who passed away before this book was published, argues that American democracy is withering in the hands of professional and managerial elites who lack a sense of social and civic values.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

If you don't think that democracies are being threatened from without by benevolent dictatorships, then maybe you'll agree that they are being threatened from within by self-serving elites. From the author of the best-selling The Culture of Narcissism (LJ 4/15/78), who completed this work shortly before his death.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Bainbridge on December 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In "the Revolt of the Elites" Christoper Lasch powerfully and persuasively contends that that the values and attitudes of professional and managerial elites and those of the working classes have dramatically diverged. Although the claim is controverted, many of us on the right (especially social conservatives) agree with the quasi-populist/communitarian notion that democracy works best when all members of society can participate in a world of upward mobility and of achievable status. In such a world, members of society will perceive themselves as belonging to the same team and care about ensuring that that team succeeds. But how can society achieve this sort of mutual interdependence if its members are not part of a community of shared values? As Christopher Lasch explains: "[T]he new elites, the professional classes in particular, regard the masses with mingled scorn and apprehension." For too many of these elites, the values of "Middle America" - a/k/a "fly-over country" - are mindless patriotism, religious fundamentalism, racism, homophobia, and retrograde views of women. "Middle Americans, as they appear to the makers of educated opinion, are hopelessly shabby, unfashionable, and provincial, ill informed about changes in taste or intellectual trends, addicted to trashy novels of romance and adventure, and stupefied by prolonged exposure to television. They are at once absurd and vaguely menacing." (28)
The tension between elite and non-elite attitudes is most pronounced with respect to religious belief.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Luciano Lupini on June 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is very interesting and provocative. Nobody seriously interested in political science, the structure of society and government, the need to reassess democracy and reconsider the roles of pressure groups, should overlook this last contribution by professor Lash.
According to the author, modern democracy is not only challenged by the masses (as Ortega y Gasset stated in its Revolt of the Masses), but also, and mostly, by the elites. Modern elites are not anymore connected with their geographical and social background and roots, they have a global vision and ambition, and do not accept any constraints and limits in the pursuance of their egotistical interests, which are basically money oriented. It is now common for the leaders and members of the ruling meritocracy to base self esteem upon success, material success, and to downplay humanistic ideals such as respect and tolerance.
The ideas and perceptions of Lash must provoke serious rethinking about the effective level of "democraticity" of the modern political structure, and the remedies that have to be conceived to ensure a truly democratic participation of the citizens in the exercise or control of power and government.
I would suggest that this book has to be accompanied by other works on the subject of democracy and elitism, in order to appreciate the dangers and pitfalls of the transformation and "materialization" of the values of the elites, and its overall effect upon the system analyzed by Lash. So read this book, but also the classic works by Robert Michels and Maurice Duverger about political parties, elites and pressure groups. Also, the book by Vilfredo Pareto "The rise and the fall of Elites" and the recent "Democracy and its critics" by Robert Dahl. You will then understand better this caveat by professor Lash, within the context of modern democracy.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Morseburg on October 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
Christopher Lasch (1932-1994) was a historian and penetrating social critic. In his articles, essays and books, he challenged everyone - modern liberals and conservatives as well as the leftist and academic elite. While one did not have to agree with his conclusions, he was a man who always asked questions that needed to be answered, and raised issues that needed to be confronted. Politically, Lasch could probably be best described as a New Deal liberal, for he was very suspicious of both unfettered consumer capitalism and the rise of the New Left, whose goals and views he felt were in direct opposition to American values. He could also be described as a "thoughtful declinist" but one who always held out hope for the future.

In this book, Lasch's the last one published during the author's lifetime, he argued that America was not in danger from the "Revolt of the Masses" which was the title of Jose Ortega y Gasset's landmark book which was written in 1932, in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution and the rise of Fascism, but that we are threatened by a "Revolt of the Elites." In 1994, Lasch had come to believe that the economic and cultural elite of the United States, who historically has insured the continuity of a culture, had lost faith in the traditional values that had animated and organized our culture since its inception. He saw a threat to the continuation of western civilization was not a mass revolt as envisioned by the pro-communist New Left of the 1960's, but a rejection of its liberal and pluralistic values by the educated elite that run its institutions and educate its children. Lasch's last question was an important one: can a society survive when a significant portion of its elite have forsaken its founding principles?
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