Customer Reviews

280
4.4 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 12, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Twilight of the Elites" by Christopher Hayes offers an original perspective on the corruption of American institutions and what might be done about it. Pivoting from C. Wright Mills' classic The Power Elite, Mr. Hayes expertly discusses and critiques the contemporary state of American meritocracy including its unintended consequences for our democracy. Written with keen insight into many of the contentious social, economic and political issues of today, Mr. Hayes' astute and timely book will appeal to readers who might be concerned about America's future.

According to Mr. Hayes, Robert Michels' Iron Law of Meritocracy describes the America of today inasmuch as those who have ascended to the top have grown more socially distant from the masses than ever before: such persons can not help but subvert democracy for their own selfish purposes. In fact, Mr. Hayes contends that The Fail Decade of the 2000's was the product of a meritocracy that has become disastrously out of touch with the average person. From the Iraq War to Wall Street bailouts to Hurricane Katrina and more, Mr. Hayes contends that America's leaders have been keen to support powerful interests while often leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves.

Mr. Hayes understands this power grab has resulted in a crisis of authority. Mr. Hayes believes that institutionalists - meaning those who believe the system can be reformed - might be on the losing end of an argument. With access to education narrowing opportunities for the vast majority of Americans to achieve upward mobility, Mr. Hayes thinks that there is little chance to reform an American elite class that has become chronically self-serving and corrupt. Although Mr. Hayes' writing is always nuanced and measured, it is clear that the author's sympathies are with the insurrectionists who are demanding structural changes to the system.

On that point, Mr. Hayes foresees the possibility of a political coalition forming amongst Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street activists who both share the belief that the system is rigged against them. Mr. Hayes theorizes that professionals in the upper middle-income bracket might be best positioned to lead this coalition of odd political bedfellows against the one percent. Whether such a fanciful movement could ever result in a 'radical decentralization' of power as Mr. Hayes suggests is yet to be seen; however this intriguing book does provide plenty of evidence to suggest that a significant challenge to elite power may be coalescing.

I highly recommend this thoughtful book to everyone.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on March 1, 2015
Format: Paperback
I'm catching up on my reviews; I read this more than a year ago. If you are choosing to read it, you are probably familiar with Chris Hayes and his style and point of you. They are on display here. The book is earnest, fact-filled, well-presented and surprisingly easy to digest. I found his thesis about the perils of merit and the loss of trust insightful, if not the be all and end all as presented.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on December 9, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A perfectly written and articulated message that we should already know. While everyone makes these issues about politics and Parties, there is a simple solution in this book that the majority refuses to see. I suggest you read this book if you want to be angry about what our country has become, but also find viable solutions that may or may not be realistic in our climate.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In this book, author Christopher Hayes provides very good analyses of why meritocracy as practiced here in the United States had not worked out as well as its proponents had thought it would.

Theoretically, meritocracy calls for rewarding people solely on the basis of measured performance, rather than on factors such as skin color, gender, sexual orientation, social class, etc. The theory holds that when everyone is given an equal opportunity, the resulting hierarchy of successful and less successful people would be reflective of the distribution of talents occurring naturally in the population. Furthermore, because of an objective reward and penalty system, poor people with the requisite talent and drive should encounter no problem with upward mobility.

Mr. Hayes dismantles the theory behind meritocracy by pointing out major flaws in its key assumptions. Entrance examinations used by educational institutions for making "objective" admissions decisions, for example, do not really provide a level playing field for all applicants because wealthy families can give their children a leg up by enrolling them in various courses that would prepare them better for the exams than applicants who can't pay for such courses. The end result is that the better prepared children of wealthier families tend to get admitted to the more prestigious schools at a higher rate than their less fortunate peers, and they will build on this initial advantage to get the more prestigious jobs at the more prestigious companies later on in life and, therefore, limiting their poorer peers' upward mobility.

Mr. Hayes also asserts that on their way up the pyramid of success, people can engage in behaviors that undermine the vaunted virtues of meritocracy: they can become increasingly selective in the people they choose to associate with, develop blindspots, and delude themselves into thinking that certain moral, ethical, and/or risk management standards do not apply to them as long as they can take credit for producing financial windfalls for the organizations that they run or employ them, etc. The frequent outcomes of these behaviors include: businesses and public servants losing touch with the people they're supposed to be serving, epic fails in anticipating problems, and inability to respond empathetically to those they have affected adversely, etc.

While Mr. Hayes devotes about 90% of the book to a systematic analysis of the various failures of meritocracy here in the United States, only the last 10% of the book attempts to address potential solutions. One of the proposed solutions is to help minimize the effects of income disparity by ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. The other items discussed struck me more as an exhortation for activists of various stripes and leanings to find common ground at holding government and businesses more accountable, etc.

I thought the book was well-written, although some of the chapters could have been shortened without diminishing the information conveyed.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Chris Hayes has written an interesting book that adds to the ongoing national discussion of "elites," meritocracy, income distribution and economics.

Hayes' offering is not so much systematic as personal. He brings together a wide range of observations about increasing inequality of income and wealth, stagnation of middle-class wages, and corruption and failures among "leaders" in nearly every American institution of our time. He suggests that underlying all of these trends is the rise of the "meritocracy" of the past half-century. People credentialed by elite institutions or who have amassed great personal wealth are funneled into roles of power and influence. In turn, though many have come from less-privileged backgrounds, they combine into a class that cultivates its own interests and strives for self-preservation at the expense of their fellow citizens.

Hayes is at his best exposing this toxic mix of supersonic self-interest, stripped of remaining credibility by tragic instances of incompetence, venality and criminality.

What would he have us do? Here's where the book trails off....

Hayes' ideal would be "a straightforward program of higher taxes and more redistribution." He posits this as though it were obvious, the unquestionable approach to greater equality and therefore a greater society. He finds hope for creating the "political space" to achieve it, through uniting the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. In his rendering, the resulting group would basically adopt the program of Occupy Wall Street.

This reader's sense is that Hayes has underestimated the magnitude of the ongoing changes now underway in the Digital Age. Internet access, the capacity to publish text and images, and the rising transparency of institutions everywhere may hold the key to breaking at least some of the negative leadership trends Hayes identifies. Certainly it makes poor or self-serving leadership more exposed, more vulnerable to change. As Hayes acknowledges late in the book, these tools are already having an effect on our politics through the Tea Party and OWS, both of which rely on them. They are also having impact on the business sector, as shareholders and other stakeholders demand greater accountability.

The same tools and trends of empowerment enable talented and productive individuals and groups to create disproportionate value in the marketplace, exacerbating inequality of incomes and wealth. Hayes' redistributionist notions would surely curtail wealth creation, though he does not address the question or suggest how it should be analyzed.

This books bills itself as "social history for the post-bailout age." That it is. Hayes passionately conveys one man's sense of how to create a new order from the wreckage and uncertainty of a disordered moment.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I appreciate the vantage point Chris Hayes brings to this topic. Unlike the people who think they earned their advantages -- top notch schools or a trust fund -- Chris Hayes understands that opportunities are too rarely earned. Hard work is less likely to bring success than access.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on July 6, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I think it points out many of the problems most people know exist with the politicians in Washington. You need to be wealthy just to get elected and those people do have an appreciation for the struggles of the poor and a large portion of middle class. The book explains the problems with why the economy can not move forward with the large difference in income from the few wealthy and vast number who can not seem to move up.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on July 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Not a bad book. I would like to see a better solution to the problems presented instead of just complaining. Actions are better than just complaining. American Séance was a much better book that showed the same passion but inspired new approaches to resolving the issues. I like that better than just calling out other people. Follow up with a plan instead of pointing fingers.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on March 19, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book has some great insights to the state of today's America. If you think Hayes is smart, you will be more convinced!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition
Hayes is every bit the intellect we would expect from his MSNBC TV show. He spends 75% of the book describing the fail decade of 2000 to present and leaves the reader hopelessly depressed. The analysis is thought provoking. The problem is the final quarter of the book where he gives an obvious liberal solution (I won't spoil it.) He also waxes romantic over the failed Occupy Wall Street movement which makes me doubt his judgment.

A good read but keep your Prozac nearby and don't expect a great solution to what ails us.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Questions? Get fast answers from reviewers

Please make sure that you've entered a valid question. You can edit your question or post anyway.
Please enter a question.


Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.