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A Nation of Victims: The Decay of the American Character Paperback – August 15, 1993

3.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a trenchant and tonic analysis of America's loss of backbone, the author of The Hollow Men alleges that we have become a nation of self-proclaimed victims. "I am not responsible; it's not my fault" is the common refrain linking compulsive gamblers, co-dependents in dysfunctional relationships, obese people "oppressed" by narrow restaurant seats and others who claim victim status, Sykes charges. He excoriates the psychiatric profession for continually inventing new disease categories and lashes our "therapeutic culture," which turns everyday difficulties into certified psychological problems. He stretches his argument too thin, however, when he attacks '60s activism, and "victimist explanations" of inner-city poverty and youth crime that, in his view, have distorted our criminal justice system, schools and urban policy. Even here, though, he scores points, calling upon Americans to dismantle the culture of victimization by recognizing personal responsibility and refusing to reflexively blame others. His sometimes shrill critique of sensitivity workshops, Afrocentric scholars and minorities "embracing their victim status" will make this book controversial.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Here is yet another manifestation of the intellectual backlash against the diagnosing of every bad personal habit as an illness and the myriad self-help groups modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that have arisen from this phenomenon. (See Wendy Kaminer's I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional , LJ 6/1/92.) Sykes ( ProfScam , Regnery Gateway, 1988) argues, in a journalistic, rambling, and superficial style, that we have allowed psychotherapy to run amok and now routinely accept the illness excuse in cases of public misconduct or personal sloth. Murder, for example, is variously attributed to fetal alcohol syndrome or junk food diets. This perception of ourselves as a nation of victims represents nothing less than the decay of the American character. Sykes calls for a "moratorium on blame" and a return to the acceptance of personal responsibility for one's actions along with stiff penalties for criminal behavior. An optional purchase for academic and public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/92.
- Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (August 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312098820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312098827
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Fantina on February 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
In an era where politically correct shibboleth dogmatically trumps common sense, Charles Sykes volume is a breadth of fresh air. His well-known but rarely spoken thesis is that a shrill cry of victimization has obliterated personal responsibility and this degrading mantra has developed into a fast growing and far-reaching industry.
Unlike other books that limit their scope, Sykes issues a broadside against the entire victimization cult. Harebrained lawsuits, expansive therapeutic whims, diversity nonsense, and sensitivity fads are all targets of his animadversion, and he repeatedly hits bull's eyes.
Of the diversity divisiveness, Sykes shows how a silly trend has grown into a suffocating mania. He points out how the craze has stripped Americans of their uniqueness and put them into classifications pitted against each other. Each division must fight to prove how it has been hurt worse than the others have. Women wounded by sexism: blacks blocked by racism: homosexuals hampered by homophophia. And of course a gay black woman would have three strikes in her favor-four if she can claim some real or imagined handicap! While many corporations are actively engaged in the separatist dross, diversity rituals have reached epidemic levels on college campuses. Sykes sites The University of Arizona where "individual style" constitutes minority status and all the special accommodations it affords. The school assures this measure is necessary to prevent discrimination against "nerds and people who dress differently."
Many of his examples would be hilarious were it not for the tragedy of their reality. As an avatar of this absurdity, the author describes a woman in Miami whose "illness"--bigotry made it impossible for her to work with black people.
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Format: Paperback
I came across this book six years ago, and I still rank it in the top three books I hve read in the last ten years.

Charles Sykes carefully analyzes the modern culture of victimhood and how it has undermined personal responsibility, the work ethic, and true victims of circumstances beyond their control.

He carefully analyzes how the introduction of psychotherapy, along with the proliferation of lawyers and lawsuits has rendered America into a whining nation instead of one that works hard for success.

Sykes also chronicles how the protestant work ethic at one time considered hardship and troubles as something to deal with. Such troubles make people stronger and more resilient.

He does this by not only looking at history, but also at contemporary society. At full speed, this victim mentality now lets the human spirit be beaten by a ubiquitous society that takes away responsibility.

Ultimately, this trivializes life. Even worse, we lose the true victims who are truly abused. As Sykes said, "in a society where everyone is a victim, no one is a victim."
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By A Customer on January 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Charles Sykes presents and exhaustive articulation of what is bothering many rational Americans, the victim mentality that is permeating our nation. He is the voice of all of us who work hard, try our best but do not try to blame anyone else for our shortcomings. This book encapsulates what is wrong today with our nation.
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A few years back I would have considered this volume a right-wing screed. However, with experience and presumed "wisdom" I find that persons with opportunities far beyond those of probably 97 percent of the human race label themselves as victims. It's as if their whole identity revolves around that status. If not adequately victimized, I'm valueless.
Indeed, one of my favorite victims now is a woman in her 30s who is independently wealthy enough that she hasn't worked for probably six years. She is a proclaimed radical, with a nightlife rivaling that of a Hollywood "personality." I understand, however, that "she hates it." She's a victim of circumstance, and I should feel sorry for her predicament. Right.
So at this stage in my life, I agree with much of what the author says.
When I began the book, I was a little apprehensive. It seemed to be a document decrying what took place in the 1960s. Mind you, I'm less of an advocate of much of that than I was years ago. But too many of the books doing that decrying are from the religious right which uses whatever didn't work from that era as an excuse to return to a Utopian past which, I remind them, never existed. But the arguments the author used to comment on the 1960s I tend to agree with. We DID tend to disregard "traditional" morality in that era, saying that "ours" was a superior moral code. Indeed, I think "we" were overly moralistic, the mores consisting predominantly of rejection of the morality of our parents which we felt was groundless and insubstantial. And that led to another of the author's arguments that was fairly solid: Much of what "we" demanded in that era was the right to be impulsive, to "do our own thing," to use a cliche of the era.
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By A Customer on May 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is a desperately needed critique of the victim mentality so prevalent in the USA. At one time you could convict someone just by proving they committed the crime, but that's no longer the case. So many people now say "Yes, I did it, but I'm not responsible".
Yes, the U.S. Constitution includes the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. But the men at the constitutional convention should have balanced the Bill of Rights with a Bill of Responsibilities. Only a fool would bestow rights upon citizens without requiring them to accept responsibility for their actions.
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