April 06, 2006

A Sobering work that reveals that America has entered an inescapable social, cultural, and economic Dark Age.

Historians now recognize that the fall of Rome, and the subsequent onset of the Dark Ages in Europe, cannot be ascribed to any single cause. The truth is that Rome no longer knew how to live; its decline was the result of a general malaise and structural weakness that grew over time. In Dark Ages America, Morris Berman argues that much the same can be said of the United States today. As religion triumphs over reason, and democracy turns into plutocracy, the nation has entered a phase in its historical development from which there is no return.
A particular strength of this book lies in the connections Berman makes between the large-scale processes of national collapse, such as an overextended economy and a self-destructive foreign policy, and the obvious deterioration of our daily lives: the frenzied acceleration of work, the erosion of integrity and community, and the impoverishment of the mass media. As the corporate consumerist juggernaut that now defines the nation rolls on, removing meaning from our lives and leaving no real alternatives in its wake, the very factors that once propelled America to greatness--extreme individualism, territorial and economic expansion, and the pursuit of material wealth--are now, paradoxically, the nails in our collective coffin. Like the citizens of ancient Rome, we too no longer know how to live; and within a few decades the United States will be marginalized on the world stage, its hegemony replaced by China or the European Union.
Our options at this point, Berman suggests, are two: to continue pursuing policies that are short-sighted and destructive, thereby guaranteeing a fairly rapid decline; or to attempt some slight modifications of these policies, thereby rendering that decline a bit more gradual. What is not an option is reversing this trajectory, for the levers of social and political change have effectively vanished from the scene. There is, in short, no rabbit to be pulled out of a hat here; our eclipse is a fait accompli. Copyright © W. W. Norton & Co., All rights reserved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I highly recommend this book. Can't put it down.I was happy to read some more background on the history of US foreign policy.

Thanks for writing it. also thanks for the introducing me to the concept of liquid modernity.

Keep well

9:13 PM  

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