- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: John Wiley and Sons; 1 edition (November 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1118061810
- ISBN-13: 978-1118061817
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 117 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #992,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline 1st Edition
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From the Inside Flap
During the final century of the Roman Empire, it was common for emperors to deny that their civilization was in decline. Only with the perspective of history can we see that the emperors were wrong, that the empire was failing, and that the Roman people were unwilling or unable to change their way of life before it was too late. The same, says Morris Berman, is true of twenty-first century America. The nation and its empire are in decline and nothing can be done to reverse their course. How did this come to be?
In Why America Failed, Berman examines the development of American culture from the earliest colonies to the present, shows that the seeds of the nation's "hustler" culture were sown from the very beginning, and reveals how the very tools that enabled the country's expansion have become the instruments of its demise.
At the center of Berman's argument is his assertion that hustling, materialism, and the pursuit of personal gain without regard for its effects on others have been powerful forces in American culture since the Pilgrims landed. He shows that even before the American Revolution, naked self-interest had replaced the common good as the primary social value in the colonies and that the creative power and destructive force of this idea gained irresistible momentum in the decades following the ratification of the Constitution. As invention proliferated and industry expanded, railroads, steamships, and telegraph wires quickened the frenetic pace of progressor, as Berman calls it, the illusion of progress. An explosion of manufacturing whetted the nation's ravenous appetite for goods of all kinds and gave the hustling life its purposeto acquire as many objects as possible prior to death
The reign of Wall Street and the 2008 financial meltdown are certainly the most visible examples today of the negative consequences of the pursuit of affluence. Berman, however, sees the manipulations of Goldman Sachs and others not as some kind of aberration, but as the logical endpoint of the hustler culture. The fact that Goldman and its ilk continue to thrive in the wake of the disaster they wrought simply proves that it is already too late: America is incapable of changing direction.
Many readers will take exception to much of Why America Failedbeginning, perhaps, with its title. But many more will read this provocative and insightful book and join Berman in making a long, hard reassessment of the nation, its goals, and its future.
From the Back Cover
Why America Failed
"Morris Berman is one of our most prescient and important social and cultural critics. He marries a laser-like intelligence with a deep moral core. His writing is as lucid and crisp as it is insightful.His newest book, Why America Failed, rips open the dark and dying carcass of empire.His analysis is sobering and often depressing .But the truth at this stage in the game is depressing, very depressing. Those who refuse to face this truth because it is unpleasant, because it does not inspire happy thoughts or offer false hope, are in flight from the real. The collective retreat into self-delusion has transformed huge swaths of the American populace into a peculiar species of adult-children who live in a Peter Pan world of make believe where reality is never permitted to be an impediment to desire. It is too bad Berman, who sees and writes about all this with a stunning clarity, lives in Mexico.It gets lonely up here."
Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class and Empire of Illusion
"Morris Berman's masterpiece is a brutally honest, wonderfully crafted, exceptionally well-documented treatise on how America was spawned, several hundred years ago, to devour its offspringfinancially, socially, and technologically. Why America Failed shines a harsh, unavoidable light upon the cunning business mindset at the core of America's creation, expansion, and devolution. Berman describes with stunning clarity how and why the 'hustler' mentality, upon which our country was predicated, eviscerated alternative moral or social doctrines, and thus incorporated the seeds of our self-destruction from its very inception. This book is as uncomfortable to read as it is impossible to miss."
Nomi Prins, author of It Takes a Pillage and Other People's Money
"Morris Berman noticed that it's not morning in America anymore. His message may wake up the millions who are oversleeping while the late-day storm clouds gather over this land."
James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency
"As the decline of America's empire becomes both starker and gradually evident, nothing is more important than accessible analyses of the causes of that decline. Far too few such works exist because of the taboos against writing them. All the more welcome then is Morris Berman's clear, bluntly but cogently written work. Sensitive to the contradictions of U.S. history and how they are now playing themselves out in a changed world, this book will challenge and provoke in all the best senses of those words. Genuinely important to read and to think about."
Richard D. Wolff, Emeritus Professor of Economics,University of Massachusetts Amherst
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To those objections, however, I must say that this book is one of the most provocative and well-researched social critiques I've read in a while. Even if I would have preferred a somewhat more complex discussion of America's commercial ethic (cf. Victoria de Grazia's "Irresistible Empire" where she shows that business organizations have promoted a social ethic of service), the evidence he assembles about the hollowing-out of our institutions and the all-too-evident pervasiveness of greed and short-sightedness in our official life is compelling. Moreover, as in his other books, he demonstrates a thorough understanding of American history and social theory: his endnotes are invaluable. If for no other reason, "Why America Failed" will encourage a reader to investigate some of the alternative traditions and thinkers - writers like Thoreau and Lewis Mumford - that he highlights. (Although his efforts to rescue Jimmy Carter's historical reputation seem to me, at least, to be a bridge too far).
Berman's "Dark Ages America" (2006) is still his most accomplished book. Yet, "Why America Failed," even though it has numerous problems, compels you to look at the USA in a different and radical way - as a failed civilization where any chance of social improvement is a foregone conclusion. The Dream Is Over, folks. In that respect, it encourages you to consider the Big Picture of American history and the character of our civilization: no small accomplishments in themselves. You can disagree with Berman's methods, but his overview of the life and death American Idea is one that cannot be waived away.
Few Americans understand this for they are unable to open their minds sufficiently to see the cancer devouring us. Constantly we are fed news that has been sanitized and jacked, easily co-opting us into wholesale belief of the mainstream media and discard everything else as conspiracy theory. Groupthink transmogrifies us into the Socratic herd. Thus we end up with a nation of true believers who accept everything and question nothing. Americans have become compliant-&-mute as depicted in the brilliant 1984 Apple Computer Super Bowl commercial parodying Orwell’s 1984 ... money trumps everything (pun intended), even life itself.
This hustle-swindle addressed by Berman creates an pecking order whereby the rich-&-powerful constantly harass the lower classes and this explains why the USA is the world’s most racist country. This also explains Flint, Michigan grinding its jackboot into its poorest citizens by knowingly poisoning and then charging obscene rates for their own poisoning! Or the tobacco industry willingly killing millions with their cancer sticks. Or GM concealing defective ignition switches and killing-&-maiming thousands in lieu of spending $0.57 per switch to fix this problem.
Traditional societies are crushed for they are polar opposites this hustling mindset (Native and African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Filipinos etc). Of America’s 134 illegal and unjustified wars only one was necessary ... and all along the way Americans are cheering so loud they are pissing their pants in glee at the wreckage we have sown (atomic pillage of Japan, Sherman’s march through Georgia, My Lei, Wounded Knee, Abu Ghraib etc). It's not that Americans are slow learners, rather they are null learners.
A few years back I was in a restaurant in León, México chatting with a Mexican financier who had lived in the USA & Europe and I asked him, “Guillermo, tell me, just who do Americans hate the most?” His answer was succinct ― “Other Americans.” Bingo!
Long ago the USA passed the tipping point of self-correction. It took 414 years for the Roman Empire to collapse. We are now in year 397 of our own Waterloo. All nations eventually fail for their past ultimately catches up with their future.
The USA died as a functioning nation during the Uncivil War. Canadian data shows American immigration is up 40% over the past 2 years & Mexico reports 20%. Get it? Americans are beginning to flee the sinking ship realizing that everything is broken and nothing is being fixed. The quickening is accelerating.
Game, set, match ... ballgame over.
If you have been moderately observant & can allow yourself to see most of the American dysfunctions the author very adequately writes about, then you will find his astute arguments to be quite cogent...&, unfortunately, saddening. In addition, I especially appreciated his insight into the beginning genesis of the American Mythos, an interesting mixture of our religious underpinnings intertwined with a "hustling," capitalistic zeal & a blind confidence in an endless technological manifest destiny--a "progress" to be spread to rest of the world by a narcissistic & sheer American will & the force of our military might.
If you think there's more to life than deciding "what is yours & what is mine"; or endlessly consuming & pursuing wealth (things); or you have some constant & vague feeling of an emptiness you can't quite ever shake--then the author will help you understand better the source. He clearly reminds us that "meaning" & value is only to be found in human relationships & a pace of living that allows for savoring what is really important in life.
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