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Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy Paperback – June 11, 2013
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A Mother Jones Staff Pick for Best Nonfiction of 2012
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A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2012
“Hayes, an editor-at-large of The Nation and host of the MSNBC talk show Up With Chris Hayes, has written a perceptive and searching analysis of the problems of meritocracy.” —Foreign Affairs
“[A] stunning polemic….Hayes' book is the rare tome that originates from a political home (the left) and yet actually challenges assumptions that undergird the dominant logic in both political parties. This is not mealy-mouthed centrism. It is a substantive critique of the underlying logic of both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – the logic of meritocracy.”
—Ta-Nehisi Coates, Baltimore Sun
“In a very good new book titled Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Chris Hayes offers one of the most compelling assessments of how soaring inequality is changing American society.”
“Let's just say that if you like politics and big ideas, you want to buy this book. It's a lot more intellectually ambitious than your typical pundit book and offers a really great blend of writing chops and social theory synthesis.”
—Matthew Yglesias, Slate.com
“In his new book, The Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Chris Hayes manages the impossible trifecta: the book is compellingly readable, impossibly erudite, and—most stunningly of all—correct.”
—Aaron Swartz, Crookedtimber.org
“Engrossing….thoughtful critiques of what's gone wrong with America's ruling class.”
“I was myself very impressed by the level of execution in this book.”
—Tyler Cowen, Marginalrevolution.com
“Hayes’s book makes for a great read….Twilight uses a wide variety of academic and journalistic work, balancing a deep, systemic critique of society with detailed and empathetic reporting about those most affected by elite failure.”
—Mike Konczal, Dissent
“Twilight of the Elites offers an elegant, original argument that will make both cynics and idealists reconsider their views of how, and whether, our society works. If Americans believe in anything, it’s our meritocracy. Hayes is brave to question it so forcefully.”
“A potent articulation of a society’s free-floating angst, Twilight of the Elites stakes its claim as the jeremiad by which these days will be remembered.”
“I read Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites last month and will suggest that you read it too – it's an engaging read that addresses the question of whether a meritocratic elite can really stay meritocratic over extended periods of time.”
—Daniel W. Drezner, Foreign Policy.com
“This was a book I found so stimulating and immersive that I cannot wait to be able to discuss it with a larger audience….Even if you think you are aware of the depth of the rot plaguing the highest levels of our society, you will likely earn a new level of outrage by reading this book.”
—Alexis Goldstein, Livetotry.com
“Make[s] you think in new ways about why we tolerate such vast and growing income inequality….an extended meditation on why the great hope and change revolution of 2008 has so far left the inequitable status quo a little bit too intact.”
“Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes may change the way you look at the world….[It] almost single-handily undermines virtually every precept we’ve come to accept about life in the modern age. It also may well turn out to be the seminal treatise for the so-called ‘FAIL’ generation, a term that loosely connotes everyone who graduated since the beginning of the 21st Century.”
—Good Men Project.com
“Twilight of the Elites is a engaging, insightful book. I finished it in less than 24 hours, and I encourage you to pick up a copy.”
“You should really get yourself a copy of Twilight of the Elites”
“A powerful critique of the meritocratic elite that has overseen one of the most disastrous periods of recent history.”
—The American Conservative
“In his new book, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Hayes raises demanding questions about a nation that is both enamored with and troubled by its elites.”
“[L]ively and well-informed….Offering feasible proposals for change, this cogent social commentary urges us to reconstruct our institutions so we can once again trust them.” – Publishers Weekly (starred)
“[A] forcefully written debut....A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“This is the Next Big Thing that we have been waiting for. Twilight of the Elites is the fully reported, detailed, true story of a 21st century America beyond the reach of authority. It’s new, and true, and beautifully told -- Hayes is the young left’s most erudite and urgent interpreter. Brilliant book.”
—Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show and author of Drift
“Here is the story of the ‘fail decade’ and how it made cynicism the inescapable flavor of our times. Along the way Chris Hayes delivers countless penetrating insights as well as passages of brilliant observation. If you want to understand the world you're living in, sooner or later you will have to read this book.”
—Thomas Frank, author of Pity the Billionaire
“Chris Hayes is a brilliant chronicler of the central crisis of our time – the failure of America's elites. His humane, spirited reporting and analysis capture what millions of Americans already know in their gut – the emperor has no clothes. Yet this is not a book defined by despair or cynicism. Hayes seizes this moment of crisis to offer important and unconventional ideas as to how to reconstruct and reinvent our politics and society. Twilight of the Elites is a must read book for those, across the political spectrum, who believe there is still time to cure the structural ills of our body politic.”
—Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher, The Nation
“In Twilight of the Elites, Hayes shows us what links the bailout of investment bankers but not mortgage holders, the useless public conversation in the run-up to the Iraq war, and the Catholic Church's harboring of child rapists: our core institutions are no longer self-correcting, and have become committed to protection of insiders at all costs. Read this and prepare to be enraged.”
—Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus
"A provocation; a challenge; and a major contribution to the great debate over how the American dream can be restored."
—David Frum, contributing editor, DailyBeast/Newsweek
“Chris Hayes is a gift to this republic. The brilliance he shows us each week on MSNBC has now been complemented by this extraordinary book. Beautifully written, and powerfully argued, it will force you to rethink everything you take for granted about ‘merit.’ And it will show us a way to a more perfect nation.”
—Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School and author of Republic, Lost
“Chris Hayes has given us the kind of book people don't write any more: a sweeping work of social criticism like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Michael Harrington's The Other America that take the failings of an entire society as their subject. Those books brought grand movements of reform in their wake. Would that history repeats itself with Twilight of the Elites—America ignores this prophet at their gravest peril.”
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and Before the Storm
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Top Customer Reviews
The reason behind this "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," dynamic, explains Hayes, is the Iron Law of Meritocracy (with a tip of the cap to Robert Michels). Meritocracy is designed to create inequality of outcome. Those who climb the ladder to levels based on their skills then rig the game by either pulling the ladder up after them or selectively lowering it to help their allies. Meritocracy, says Hayes, inevitably becomes oligarchy. In the United States, this has resulted since the mid-seventies in a growth in income inequality and a reduction in economic mobility. As meritocratic elites enjoy growing monetary rewards and political power, they are increasingly isolated from sanctions, competition and accountability.
This is the critical problem for Hayes. The natural inequality of outcome ordained by meritocracy widens the gap ("vertical social distance") between leaders and led. Increasingly out of touch with classes below them, elites lose knowledge and empathy. Hayes presents examples such as the reaction of Catholic bishops to reported abuses, the evacuation of New Orleans before Katrina and the length of existing American military engagements.Read more ›
For those who are unfamiliar with Chris Hayes: His POV is liberal, thoughtful, and incredibly well-informed. The first things I noticed about him were his wonderful way with words and how precise he is with language. He's got the best vocabulary in all of cable news-dom. I believe he has a background in philosophy, and so his writing style is academic in nature, but super readable.
"Twilight of the Elites" examines America's relationship with our traditional institutions of authority, and how the events of the past decade (Chris reviews these significant events for most of the first chapter, which results in most of the first chapter being kind of a bummer, but necessary for the premise of the book and you just have to slog through it) have affected the social contract between ordinary people and 'the meritocracy.'
TOTE isn't an anti-authoritarian polemic; Hayes is exploring the historic role of elites in America (no demonization of job creators, don't worry), how that role has changed/is changing, and what that might portend for our society. It isn't an ideological text, it's a critical one. And it is a refreshingly non-partisan and insightful look at structural society in America.
Hayes looks at scandal-ridden institutions like Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church, Enron, Wall Street, and Hunter, an elite New York school which uses a single test score to admit its student body. "In fact, one of the lessons of the decade is that intensely high-competitive, high reward meritocratic environments are prone to produce all kinds of fraud. deception, conniving and game rigging." Those who reach the top may be insulated enough to be out of touch with those below; and rewarded for moral laxness, while those who don't cheat are penalized. Lack of empathy for the less-successful may be one of the end products of a system which believes that only the best and brightest should succeed.
The book is jam-packed with examples of callousness directed at those they are responsible for, yet segregated from.Read more ›
I am almost embarrassed to even hint at any fault of anything that Chris does. I am an enthusiastic fan of his weekend roundtable, Up with Chris Hayes. His show is consistently the most interesting on TV. However, the lively discussions of future social developments and strategies for progressive forward movement that so interest me in the show were generally lacking in the book.
The exhaustive expose of the cult of kleptocracy that forms the bulk of the book gives way to a vague wistful glance forward in the book's final chapter. Chris, exactly how do we get from here to this better place we want to be? We want tactics, strategy, specific plans and suggestions. Where should we apply leverage? We're screwed, .. OK, we all see this .... Now What?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have never written an Amazon review before yet I feel compelled to do so for this book because it is simply brilliant. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Amazon Customer
It is a very insightful and interesting book. It helps me understand this year's election.Published 2 months ago by jct
This is my first Amazon review of a book because it is the first one that compelled me to write a review. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Boolgoki
Despite the writer's fame as a liberal pundit - the discourse within this book outlines the history of the fail decade in remarkable detail and in a exquisitely written prose that... Read morePublished 3 months ago by ellis_architect
Yes, we all know that Hayes has a definite left-leaning bias in his view. However, I believe this book does very well to get past that and explain the current problems we our... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Here is book for the Occupy Wall St brain dead! The book would propose to deal with ills of our society but ignores the biggest problems. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Gary M. Hetrick
Insightful. Informative. Well written. Well documented. Able to read it in one sitting.Published 8 months ago by v. cain