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The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno-Affluence Paperback – November 13, 2001

3.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

The chief problem societies have faced "since the time of the Babylonians," writes Dinesh D'Souza, has been the problem of scarcity. "But now that age has passed, and America has a new problem: coping with prosperity." It's a good problem to have, but also a serious, even debilitating, one. "The moral conundrum of success," the author continues, means that all too often, "the body is flourishing, but somehow the soul still feels malnourished." D'Souza is well known for his bestselling conservative books Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, and Ronald Reagan. On these pages, however, he seems to set politics aside to ask deep questions about the meaning of life in a world of material abundance:
What is my life for? As affluence spreads ... hundreds of millions of people will be asking just this question. That they can ask it is in and of itself a great moral achievement, because it opens up to innumerable ordinary people the avenues of human fulfillment that were previously open only to aristocrats. Yet at the same time it is a strangely disquieting question, because there is no complete answer to it within the modern techno-capitalist framework.
The Founders promised "the pursuit of happiness," but they didn't explain where happiness can be found, or even what it is. D'Souza argues that it must not be found in materialism--in both the consumerist sense of the word as well as the philosophical one. In a time of unprecedented prosperity, of course, the temptation is to find happiness exactly there, and the threat is profound: materialism may "transform our very nature as human beings and possibly introduce a new species in the world, the posthuman." D'Souza does not welcome this prospect (and consequently sounds very conservative indeed). The Virtue of Prosperity is a bold and thoroughly engrossing book. Readers won't need to agree with every one of D'Souza's points to find his many digressions fascinating. Whether he's writing about an extravagant Silicon Valley party, describing the ideas of Richard Dawkins, or making a casual reference to Marcus Aurelius, he's at once erudite and accessible. It's not always clear where he's going with his ideas until he gets there, but he makes the journey a pure joy. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This latest work may mark D'Souza's graduation from a promising to an important writer, a possible heir to Michael Lewis's role as an insightful chronicler of our times. After serving a year in the Reagan White House, he wrote two conservative tracts, Illiberal Education (1991) and The End of Racism (1995). These well-argued, one-sided books established D'Souza as a B-list conservative commentator. In 1997, his political biography of Ronald Reagan achieved acclaim for its nuanced insights, even from some who didn't agree with D'Souza's politics. The new volume finds D'Souza wandering around the country discussing how to be hip, rich and wired with Internet billionaires, street people and regular folks. He wants to know if the techno-rich are different from other rich, whether the superrich act like the merely rich and whether most rich people are guilty, driven, shallow or happy. Lengthy discussions ensue on the meaning of inequality, who gets rich and how, the history of wealth in the world and what the future holds for the wealthy and the wired. Some Reagan-style homilies lead into predictable philosophical essays that may interest intellectual Republicans. But other stories show a sharp pen and sharper eye that transcends polarized politics, leading to philosophical reflections that are much deeperDor at least less predictableDthan in D'Souza's first two works, and delivered in a unique voice and with an unusually light touch. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 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: Free Press; First Printing edition (November 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684868156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684868158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,504,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mr. D'Souza does an excellent job of describing the principal
arguments in favor of and against rapid growth in technology and
capitalism. He then takes on the difficult task of creating common
ground among the diverse positions, and has some success in putting
the first rope ladders across this abyss of discord. Even though the
permanent bridge remains to be built, getting those rope ladder across
is worth five stars.
The best parts of the book are his interviews
with prominent figures and thinkers in both camps. Their candid
comments and actions will often leave you laughing. If the subject
wasn't so important, this book could have easily been turned into a
satire along the lines of Candide about the optimism of
the"techno-capitalist" (today's equivalent of Dr. Pangloss
as seen in the form of people such as Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and
MichaelDell).
Mr. D'Souza clearly tilts more toward the
techno-capitalists than toward their critics, except when it comes to
applying bio technology to pick the traits of one's children. So
don't look for a "down the middle" splitting of
differences.D'Souza takes a typical economic approach in most cases of
"the most good for the most people, net of the
harm."
Techno-capitalists have their good sides as
characterized by D'Souza. They often contribute money to worthy
causes, they can improve the rate of economic development, they
sometimes create new resources for society, and they often solve
problems. In fact, being successful means that techno-capitalists
have to behave in ways that help someone else. Capitalism thus has a
self-reinforcing positive aspect to it.
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Format: Hardcover
The American Enterprise Institute's enfant terrible Dartmouth College grad author (his 1991 book, ILLIBERAL EDUCATION: The Politics Of Race And Sex caused quite a stir), Dinesh D'Souza (born in India, became a USA citizen in 1991) has written a very interesting book titled THE VIRTUE OF PROSPERITY (2000). It's about the moral and ethical aspects of the present highly touted USA wealth "boom," and it asks the intelligent question, is all this so-called "wealth" really success?
D'Souza points out early in his book that techno-capitalism in the present age has created enormous inequalities, has undermined families and communities, and has all but destroyed many of our (previously) most cherished values. He asks the question "how can we learn to be happy with out 'success'?"
Well, being sponsored by the unabashedly right-wing, pro-capitalism American Enterprise Institute (a Washington, D.C. "think tank" dedicated to telling it the way right-wingers think it is), Mr. D'Souza doesn't really join the attack on what's happened to equality, families, communities, and values. He is rather an unabashed apologist for "aren't these great times" crowd. After all, he's been on their payroll since finishing Dartmouth in the early 80's (and prepared for it by working as a student staffer on the infamous DARTMOUTH REVIEW, then America's most famous conservative student publication).
Even so, agree with Mr. D'Souza or not, he does raise many very intelligent and interesting questions, and provides a generous amount of space in his 284 page book for the opposing side to tell its story.
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Format: Hardcover
Dinesh D'Souza has traveled through a vast territory of ideas, arguments, worries, concerns and fears - articulating a vision for how Captalism has provided the engine for the dramatic change around us. Rather than feel guilty, or fault the weaknesses (which he illuminates in detail) of the West, Dinesh offers a promotion for the advancement of what works, why it works and how to harness the energy of the human spirit - the VIRTUES of Greed - to for the first time in human history dramatically raise the quality of life for all. Excellent book, great romp through history and wonderful calrity of vision. He's on my permanent must read list.
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Format: Hardcover
Dinesh D'Souza has written a very significant book in which he endeavors to find the deep, true meaning behind the euphoria, the hype, the madness that is the new economy. After a sober and methodical reassesment of the profound changes left behind in the wake of our recent prosperity, D'Souza ultimately comes down on the side of the optimists, the Party of Yeah he calls them, who embrace transformational technologies even as critics (whom he dubs the Party of Nah) charge that they threaten to uproot the old bonds of community, replacing spiritual values with purely materialist passions.
D'Souza is scrupulously balanced in forthrightly presenting both sides of the argument. The arguments themselves aren't new; the rigor with which D'Souza analyzes them quite possibly is. Does technological capitalism ultimately degrade the soul? We have all heard the liberal economic critique of the gap between the rich and poor. How does the emerging conservative critique of the social consequences of inequality stack up in comparison? D'Souza discusses these questions briskly and adroitly. Often while reading the book, I would find myself thinking of possible counter-arguments to the views presented on any given page and invariably found them echoed a turn or two of the page later.
More than most defenders of the marketplace, D'Souza does take very seriously the notion that the new prosperity may hinder our search for spiritual meaning. The case for either sides of this often demagogued controversy is clouded by the fact that one's economic good fortunes don't seem to guarantee either frustration or inner fulfillment. For every white collar criminal, there is a young man who is moved to depravity by hunger or poverty.
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