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Showing 1-10 of 66 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 238 reviews
VINE VOICEon March 27, 2010
Oh America, what has become of you? This might well be the subtext of Kevin Phillips's "American Theocracy". How could such a previously enlightened nation conceived with such great hope fall to imperial over-reach, debt and uncompromising religion?

Kevin Phillips has written a thorough book that broadly compares 21st century America with other historical examples of over-reach. He notices eerie similarities. In America today we see the prosecution of wars on several fronts, a nation falling into increasing private and public debt and the rise of religious intolerance. Indeed, although this book was published in 2006, he very presciently anticipates the rise of the tea party movement.

So, can America fail? Well, possibly but not in the short run. A nation of such depth and entrepreneurial spirit will not collapse overnight. But, in the longer run? Well, the jury is still out. Afghanistan looks like a morass, debt will take decades to be repaid unless inflation helps out, and this creates problems of its own. And, as far as religion is concerned, America has made a clear turn to the unenlightened. No other nation in the developed world has such belief in a supernatural god, miracles and an eventual world ending clash between good and evil. The rest of the world is far more rational. Yet, it is not just the fact that Americans are religious. This is not a problem per se. Rather, it is that religion has become so intolerant. Never in living memory has America elected a non-believing President and there are no signs that this is about to change.

Kevin Phillips has done an admirable job documenting modern America. It will not be well received. My fear is that it will be even less heeded.
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I read this amazon book after seeing the author interviewed on BookTV.

Born in 1940, he was a political advisor to president Richard Nixon, and originally a Republican, he has since switched to being an Independent.

The thrust of his political view seems to be that he favored Eisenhower and Nixon, but opposes the ideas of the Bush presidents.

In this book, he convincingly argues that fundamentalist Christianity, the pursuit of oil riches, and the evil of national borrowing and debt, have left the Republicans in a position of great political vulnerability.

The author has written many many books on politics and history. One can only covet his erudition, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to delve more deeply into our history and politics.
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VINE VOICEon March 22, 2006
Kevin Phillips is a well-respected political analyst who is garnering hostility among right-wing reviewers precisely because his account of the rise of the Christian right is factual, objective and compelling. There is no bigotry in calling a political movement a political movement. Christian doctrine is broader, and Christianity more inclusive, than the narrow views and political boundaries adovcated by the religious right, the members of whom hide behind their religious beliefs when their political opinions and actions are challenged. I am a Catholic and a liberal democrat. Phillip's book -- which describes the perils to our nation caused by overdependence on oil, excessive debt, and the hijacking of the national agenda by relgious right -- is a must read for anyone who believes that freedom and justice for all is a higher value than domination by the zealous few.
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This is a five-star book that offers up two very serious values:

1) There is no other author who has written in such depth, over the course of four books, on the Republican party, the Bush dynasty, and the inter-relationship between the religious right and corporate wealth. This Republican is as serious an analyst as any that can be found. he joins Clyde Prestowitz, Paul O'Neil, and Peter Peterson as "go to guys" for when Senator John Edwards forms the American Independence Party and breaks away from the idiot Democrats and the Clinton mafia.

2) The author has done his homework and very ably integrated, with all appropriate footnotes and index entries, three broad literatures, two of which I have read multiple books on (oil and debt), one on which I have not (radical US religion--fully the equal of Bin Laden and suicidal terrorists, these folks just send others to do the dying for them).

So I have to say, given that this is a serious book by a serious author, why so many obviously loosely-read individuals writing short dismissive reviews? I have to conclude he has touched a nerve. When I used to appear on NPR, before I was kicked off for condemning Israeli lobbyists and suggesting that the common Arabs (the real people, not the sadistic opulent corrupt House of Saud or the other dictators) never got a fair shake from the US, I would get hate calls and mail from what I now realize were know-nothing radical right-wing religious nuts. We'd get into the issues, and I would ask, "what books have you read on this?" only to be told, "There is only one book that matters, the Bible."

Well, this author has helped me understand where the Bush constituency comes from: these are the folks that graduated from rote reading of the Bible to the "Left Behind" fiction series. They are the intellectual equals of the Islamic kids learning to be suicide bombers by reciting old Arabic they don't understand.

If you do not have the time or money to buy all the other books I have reviewed, spanning emerging threats, the lack of strategy and the inappropriate force structure, the anti-Americanism that we spawn, the corruption of Wall Street and the shallowness of white collar law enforcement, the end of cheap oil, the end of free water, the rise of pandemic disease, the coming date with destiny when the 44 dictators we support are overthrown and the US pays the price for its long-term nurturing of all but three of them....this book brings a lot together. It avoids only two really important topics: the environmental implications such as covered by TIME Magazine in the 3 April 2006 cover story on Global Warming; and the minutia of how America is no longer a real democracy--not only do most voters not vote, but once elected, most Congressman are corrupted immediately by lobbyists.

The author, who is uniquely qualified to sum this all up in this book because of his three prior books centered on the Bush Family, oil, and wealth, does a tremendous job of outlining how oil money ultimately bought the White House and Congress. If you have time for two other books, I recommend Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil in which a former LAPD investigator makes a case for indicting Dick Cheney for fabricating the march to war on Iraq under the delusion that we would get another ten years of "cheap oil" and Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy in which it is clearly documented that both Congress and the White House knew in 1974-1975 that Peak Oil was over, and they concealed this for another 25 years in order to keep the bribery coming--this was nothing less than a treasonous betrayal of the public interest worthy of retrospective impeachments for all concerned. The books by moderate Republicans Prestowitz (Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions) and Petersen (Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It) should be read as well as Brand Hijack : Marketing Without Marketing which is about why Paul O'Neil quit the Bush Administration--he realized that ideological fantasy and Dick Cheney had displaced a reasoned policy process, the Cabinet, and Congressional concurrence.....

This is a very bad time. This book is as good as any at setting the stage for intelligent people to campaign and vote in 2006 and 2008.

EDIT 7 Dec 07: Since I wrote this review, several gems are newly available:
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America
Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom
God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It (Plus)
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency

and on and on and on....
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on September 14, 2007
Former Republican strategist, Kevin Phillips, believes he knows what is wrong with our nation. Chances are, by very virtue of your reading a book review on a Christian e-zine, you contribute to the erosion of our national health. American Theocracy: The Politics and Peril of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century is at times scathing and at times coolly analytical in its survey of dangers Phillips sees threatening our superpower status.

Part I examines the effects of America's dependency on oil. Our industry, automobiles, and military have an insatiable appetite for oil. Phillips argues that this energy dependency gives Big Oil too much sway over our domestic and foreign policies. At home we lax our environmental laws to accommodate oil drilling. And abroad we resort to international thuggery to secure control of Iraq's mostly untapped oil fields. "The war on terror?", "Importing democracy to the Middle East?" Phillips sees these as slogans to sell an imperialistic war.

In Part II: "Too Many Preachers", Phillips takes aim at Christian Fundamentalism, a movement the he sees embodied by the Southern Baptist Convention, Pentecostals, and the charismatic movements. Phillips chronicles these denominations rise to prominence and how they shape national politics. The culture wars are provoked by radical Christians attempting to establish a theocracy--a Christian America governed by God's rules. "Disenlightenment" is Phillip's descriptor for the effect that these empowered believers have on our country: They value faith over science and a literal Armageddon over peace.

Phillips closes his diatribe with Part III on our national and individual debt. Again, Phillips provides a valuable historic context at how debt played a role in the decline of England, Spain, and the Netherlands as superpowers. Phillips offers an undeniable outline of the depths of our national debt as well as personal credit lodes. He argues that our increasing debt and decreasing hard industry has created a thin ice that will eventual give in under our largesse.

American Theocracy finds its value when Phillips is able to sustain his analytical voice, and he's able to do so for extended periods of time. His historical perspective on our oil dependency, the changing face of American religion, and our national debt demand your attention. I'll confess, as an evangelical with political tendencies a few notches right of centrist, this was uncomfortable stuff to read. Even so, Phillips places important issues on the table.

However when Phillips slips into his polemic voice the book becomes tedious. Phillips has open contempt for people superstitious enough to buy into the Biblical creation account, Noah Arc, or a literal interpretation of Revelation, such as the one popularized by the Left Behind franchise. Phillips also makes too many gaps in his evidence with clauses like, "Although the evidence is weak." He's on a mission to connect the dots and is willing to supply any missing points along the way.

Make no mistake; Kevin Phillips wields too much anger and bias to be objective. But are there any takeaways for the evangelical and fundamentalist Christian communities?

I think so. American Theocracy provokes us to ask several poignant questions:

-- Have we developed what Phillip's calls "American Exceptionalism"; a belief that America has an exclusive blessing from God? How does this belief influence our foreign policy?

-- Does our theology concerning the end times make us overly tolerant of military interventions in the Middle East? ("The faster we get to Armageddon the faster we get to heaven.")

-- Should the political arena our primary method of advancing God's kingdom on Earth? Does Jesus truly expect that we establish an "American Theocracy?"

I won't pretend to offer the final word on these questions. Instead, I just note that in spite of all the book's weaknesses, American Theocracy provides the agenda for an important conversation that's long overdue
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on March 22, 2006
This is a wonderful book for thoughtful conservatives who still believe that governement should (A) live within it's financial means, and (B) stay out of our private lives.

The only people who have criticzed this book are far right religious fanatics ... the very people that Phillips articulately warns us all about.

This is also a wonderful book for all those of us who believe that people should keep their religious views to themselves, stop shoving their religious zealotry onto the rest of us, and just mind their own business.

If, instead, you believe that government should spend spend SPEND, no matter how much debt we rack up, and/or believe that America should give up it's freedom and free thinking to instead adopt a Christian Taliban-like theocracy run by ignorant religious freaks, then this book is clearly not for you.

But for all thoughtful conservatives with half a brain, READ THIS BOOK ... it will fill up the other half.
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on April 14, 2006
"American Theocracy", the startling new book by longtime Republican Kevin Phillips, details a pessimistic view of the United States today and an even less rosy picture for the future. Phillips writes what an increasing number of Americans think.....the country is being run by religious right-wingers who have far too much power. Garnering and presenting facts and figures, Phillips is one to listen to as he also knows a thing or two about prognostication....he's been deadly accurate before.

It's refreshing to hear Phillips as he weaves together histories of Spain, Holland and Britain, how their empires grew and ultimately collapsed and their collective comparison to the United States today. The author centers on three areas about which Americans should be very concerned....our over-reliance on oil, our soaring debt and the frightening new religious base of the Republican party.

Phillips says that the connection of oil to the invasion of Iraq was one of the most underrated stories of the war. As George Bush would have liked it, the oil wells of Iraq would be under American control by now and we would be dictating who got Iraqi oil and how much it would cost. The immense failure of the Bush team in Iraq is but one of a plethora of disasters brought on by the current administration. Phillips, an ardent foe of the Bush "dynasty", mirrors the view of a majority of Americans who feel that Bush is inept. He minces no words about it, either.

The author is good at relating how and why the debt is a growing problem. The loss of manufacturing as a basic tool in the American economy has been replaced by finance. As he points out, certain preceding empires (the ones mentioned above) all began with agriculture as an economic base and proceeded through to climaxes which ended in reliance on finance. He speaks of "rentier cultures"...("rentier" being a French word that means a person living off unearned income... the United States now having a myriad of people in that category) as one sign of an empire's doomed fate.

Regarding religion, (the last of the three areas upon which Phillips discusses) the mainline Republican party of a generation ago went south, turned hard right and discovered religion. The fringe elements became the core and made the present-day Republican party the first truly religious party in our history. Here Phillips gets most impassioned, and for good reason...the anti-science, pro-faith, Armageddon-waiting fundamentalists have stripped the once middle-of-the-road Republican party of their respectability. The dangers, he reminds us, are that this new core of Republicans are in control of all three branches of government. They've caused havoc already and haven't ceased yet.

"American Theocracy" sometimes has a textbook feel to it as Phillips writes as he sounds on tv.....informative, but dry. What he has to say, though, however provocative, should be a wake-up call to those millions of Americans who want to turn the country around. I highly recommend this book for its forthright message and terrific insight.
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on March 31, 2006
As a former GOP strategist, Kevin Phillips has a viewpoint that other Bush Administration critics do not. He sees the multiple faults clearly and up close. His superb writing abilities have provided the curious reader a true gem. Put simply, GET THIS BOOK!

Phillips' broad knowledge and experience are only exceeded by his careful research and analysis. He takes aim at difficult and disturbing current events, and succeeds in making sense out of these unusual times. Big Oil, The Bush administration, Iraq, Iran, are only part of the problem. Rising, irrational and destructive evangelical beliefs, rooted in the supposed inerrancy of the bible, together with even more irrational beliefs in a present day Rapture and Armageddon, have taken a choke hold over important parts of society, government and policy. Phillips' analysis is often scary, yet it becomes patently (and painfully) obvious due to his interesting and informative historical perspective.

Phillips' analysis of our debt situation is sobering. Yet, this looming danger is being ignored by almost all of today's MSM. Phillips manages to convey his fears and analysis without ever sounding like a hysterical teenager, screaming about pimples and acne before a big date. To the contrary, his approach is all the more effective because his research and facts seem irrefutable.

One comes away with the strong feeling that this generation is seeing the destruction of America - not from "terra-ists" or those who "hate us for our freedom", but from incredible debt, peak oil, corporate mismanagement, a thoroughly incompetent Bush Administration and worst of all, the rise of evangelical beliefs which are actually damaging the country.

I would have no doubts that Mr. Phillips will suffer from threats, abuse and potentially dangerous situations caused by the ultra-religious right, but for the fact that most of those he so accurately describes probably have difficulties with words containing more than two syllables, unless they pertain to NASCAR or the bible. Add to that, his targets probably don't read anything outside the Tim LeHayne religious propaganda. Thus, we hope that Mr. Phillips remains safe from those extremists.

Mr. Phillips has provided Americans with an important, well-written, beautifully edited and impressive book. A generation from now, when historians look back at the fall and collapse of the United States, they will point to his book and say, "Ah, here is one guy who got it, and even warned about it, but like the oracles of old, he suffered greatly by being ignored simply because he was correct."

Some works of fiction make for great brain candy, and are fulfulling because they are hard to put down. Rarely does a non-fictional book take on difficult times, scary subjects and do it so well. Phillips' latest is hard to put down, even if his conclusions and findings are so disturbing. A highly recommended read.
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Kevin Phillips is one of a now rare community: a true conservative with deep felt convictions with whom one can disagree but nevertheless regard (and in turn be regarded by) as an honorable, upright individual. In American Theocracy Phillips analyzes the disturbing evidence that the United States, like the Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Hapsburg Spain, and the British Empire, is now experiencing numerous danger signs of a precipitous economic, political, and spiritual decline. With what must have been among the most painful words Phillips has ever written, the predictor of today's Republican dominance points the finger of blame squarely at the Grand Old Party and its leadership.

The book is divided into three parts. Parts 1 and 3 deal primarily with economic matters, Oil and Debt. The desire to control and protect petroleum supplies for the Western industrial economies is traced from the early twentieth century to the present. Like British dependence on coal in the 19th century, Western oil dependence has led us into questionable economic and political decisions and most recently has embroiled us in the Iraq debacle. Much of what he reveals has been reported before, but now we have all the links completed and the necessary conclusions made clear. In the third section Phillips again reveals his true conservatism, decrying the deficit spending and budget gaps and forewarning us of any number of probable disasters lurking in the future.

I wanted to discuss the second section most thoroughly since it hits closest to home with me: the influence of the American South and of "conservative" churches and denominations on the US political system. As a 15-generation Southerner with seven Confederate veteran great-great-grandfathers, I yield to no one in my pride in and love for the American South. Yet despite the fact that I still get a lump in my throat when I think of all those men in gray going off to fight for a hopeless cause, I am not morally blind enough to believe that all parts of that cause were noble or deserving of present day praise, and I find it deeply insulting when a political party attempts to gain my support as a Southerner by championing (albeit in kinder, gentler guise) that same cause today. Phillips makes it very clear that the GOP's Southern Strategy of fomenting racial divisions (which Phillips helped create) is alive and well. Phillips also decries the Republican distortion of religion: seeking political gain by cynically exploiting the fervor of truly believing and faithful Christians and causing good people to become convinced that the path to Heaven lies through an agenda of right wing social change injurious to their own economic and moral self-interests. Here again I am affected personally. I am a member of one of the churches targeted by the Republicans, and while our congregations, unlike the Southern Baptists and other denominations, do not typically take overt political actions, the atmosphere in some of our churches has become less pleasant for those members who do not agree with Republican politics. This distortion of religious faith is catalogued with great detail and readily apparent anguish by Phillips, particularly when he details the Republicans' readiness to exploit those who believe the theologically groundless rapture/end times doctrines.

Throughout American Theocracy, and particularly in the second section, Phillips warns the United States by drawing parallels with similar situations in past societies. He spares none of his party's leadership, particularly George W. Bush himself, who is either the most cynical of them all or a hapless stooge. especially their absolute refusal to take into consideration criticisms by other leaders here and abroad. He also warns that while the Republican coalition is too narrow and self-absorbed to govern effectively or even survive, the Democrats have not yet come up with a plausible alternative.

America should be grateful to Kevin Phillips, who has the courage to stand up and say that his own political party has abandoned honorable conservatism and has become captive to its Radical Right Wing. It is to be hoped that there is time before the 2006 and 2008 elections for principled men and women in all American political parties to take up the challenge and take our country back from Theocracy.
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on March 20, 2006
Kevin Phillips most recent book, American Theocracy, chronicles the growth of the Religious Right in the past 50 years. This book, more than any other, is a must read for anyone who in concerned about the philosophical direction of America in the 21st century. It is clearly and cleanly written with ample research and data to support its conclusions. Along with Mr. Phillips preceeding books, it forms a significant treatise on American policy and cultural shift. This is an exceptional book and should be read by everyone.

A
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