September 16, 2011

The WAF Dust Jacket

Dear Friends,

The text below constitutes the dust jacket of my forthcoming book, Why America Failed. It is already posted on Amazon, but I thought I would post it on this blog as well, fyi. Scheduled release date for book is Nov. 1, but I think it will be in Wiley's NJ warehouse on Oct. 17. Anyway, here goes:

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 progress—or, 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 purpose—to 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 Failed—beginning, 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
Praise for 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 aPeter 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 offspring—financially, 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 cloudsgather 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


Anonymous Mr. D said...

Morris - Looking forward to reading WAF. I got my request in to the publisher on time, grateful for that.

I just started David Graeber's "Debt: The First 5000 Years," and wondered if you've read it or had any thoughts. There's a lot of commentary available on the web, if you haven't.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morris Berman is an individual that deserves a place in my hero pantheon along with Michael Parenti, MLK Jr, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Phillip Berrigan and Jesus.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman –

It looks great, and I can't wait to read it. I was particularly impressed by what Chris Hedges wrote. I guess it will be good to have him on your side. Do you think he may provide a foot in the door at -- at least a good review?

David Rosen

7:16 PM  
Anonymous eponymous said...

Dr. Berman,

Thanks for posting the dust jacket info. I'll be looking to purchase the book as soon as it becomes available.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


My friend Hay-SUS, who lives in Mexico City, will be honored by the comparison (as am I, since he can make a beef taco to die for). As for that other Jesus, there seems to be some controversy over whether he ever existed...


8:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Announcement to All: My friend and colleague Nomi Prins, author of "It Takes a Pillage" (itself a masterpiece), just published a novel based around the crash of 1929: "Black Tuesday". I recommend it highly. It's an absorbing read, filled with both social and romantic tension, and with obvious implications for our own current economic circumstances. Odds are high you'll enjoy it greatly.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Also not to be missed:

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I'm thrilled for you that you're finally getting long overdue but much deserved recognition from your peers. Your observations and analysis on America's culture and probable future have always been on target accurate. Hopefully, news blogs such as Truthdig, CommonDreams,and Truthout will give you a wider audience and the opportunity to enlighten more like minded readers. My youngest daughter is leaving for graduate school in anthropology in a week and taking only two books--one of them is Wandering God.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

Many thanks. As far as recognition goes, it remains to be seen; mostly (as in above Common Dreams article) my stuff gets repeated w/o accreditation, and (to be fair) w/o the author even being aware that I exist. I did run into an elderly (i.e. abt my age) gringa in town yesterday, who said to me: All of your predictions proved to be true; this is dismaying. The US is dying, I replied; it's effectively dead already. She looked at me like I had hit her on the head w/a
2 x 4. It's very hard for Americans to take this in, no matter how huge the stats are of our demise. Even more, that the American Dream was a mistake to begin with. Hey, what're ya gonna do...


11:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Thanks for posting this. I very much look forward to reading the book. "Hustler culture" is a very apt description. As Susan says, recognition for your insights into the American malaise is long overdue.


12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I read the following excerpts from a review of Eli Pariser's recent book The Filter Bubble, and I thought of this blog:

"We are beginning to live in what Pariser calls 'filter bubbles', personalized micro-universes of information that overemphasize what we want to hear and filter out what we don’t. [...] And because the information we are exposed to perpetually reshapes our interests, we can become trapped in feedback loops. [...] The result, Pariser suggests, may be 'a static ever-narrowing version of yourself'.

Of course, no one here who reads the excerpts above will believe that they apply to him or her, or to the content of this blog.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, it *doesn't* apply to this blog, and I've never had any problem posting critiques that were courteous, and had evidence to back them up. Sad to say, this has not been the case, wh/is why a lot of people got weeded out. What came in by way of critique was emotional broadside and ad hominem attack; unsophisticated in the extreme, in short. This doesn't interest me; it contributes nothing to debate. For those who are interested in that sort of thing, however, I'm told that it can easily be found on tons of other blogs (as well as the O'Reilly show, etc. etc.).


1:49 PM  
Blogger Al M said...

I'm already convinced of our upcoming demise.

All we need now is the election of a Perry, Bachman, or some other fool from the mainstream (yes mainstream, because we here reading this are the minority)to seal our fate and watch as our 'civilization' lapses into free fall mobacracy.

I'm not sure I should read this book to add to my gloominess.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Dear Maury,

Congratulations! Although I missed out on the freebie, I immediately ordered a copy from Amazon that came with an assurance that the price would be pegged downward if it fluctuates before release--further appropriation of the surplus value of your labor? (And in the accounting of that appropriation one must also include the self-published books.)

I'm looking forward to an intellectual and emotional adventure that I have treasured ever since becoming your reader when first I read CTOS many years ago.

Thank you, once again!

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman --

"The American Dream was a mistake to begin with." You really said it! And that's what seems to be lost on so many American liberals -- and websites like Truthdig. (Do they think that they can organize the American Masses to storm the winter palace, or maybe just to vote for Hope — that this time we can REALLY believe in?)

I spent a lot of time with a four-generation working-class family in São Paulo back in 1982, and I was really impressed with how difficult it was to see where the family ended and the rest of the neighborhood began. The center of the house was the kitchen, and it was always a hub of warmth and friendship. In terms of material wealth and possessions, these people were surely well below the US poverty level, but I can tell you that they were in no way poor. One of the daughters (after a mistake in judgment) had been abandoned by her baby's father. She and her baby were showered with help and affection, and I cannot imagine that anybody in such a situation could ever be driven to abuse a child – or that it would even be possible.

I am sure that the isolated ‘nuclear family’ is a bizarre aberration on this planet. But it is one that most Americans take as normal – and that's only one part of the "Great American Dream".

David Rosen

4:46 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

Interesting comment re: filter bubbles. I am surrounded by people encased in such impenetrable bubbles. It is one of the reasons I am so utterly isolated in this society. I'll offer one example. I teach at a college in a very right-leaning area. The faculty are highly educated by American standards yet I estimate the majority do not believe that humans are altering the climate. A few even share their poorly informed opinions on the subject with students. I have a scientific background and this motivated me to learn about the science of climate change. I went so far as to read the IPCC's most recent 1000 page report, Climate Change: The Scientific Basis from cover to cover and to research some of the most common arguments of the so-called "skeptics". I recognize now that my "skeptical" colleagues parrot the scientifically discredited talking points of a well-financed disinformation campaign. I've learned that when I confront their misconceptions with scientific facts I am met with either a. silence or b. hostility. I'm certain the reaction would be the same from the great majority of Americans upon challenging any of the manifold of beliefs that comprise the mainstream ideology of self-interest above all else.

MB you are absolutely correct. The Enlightenment is dead, dead and buried. This is what a dark age feels like.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Actually, the entire US is one big filter bubble. Not counting holiday travel to Canada and Mexico, only 12% of the American population ever ventures outside of the country, and as a result they know only one reality. Supposedly intense conflicts between the two major parties are a charade: they are both interested in a market-driven consumer society, in profit and technology. They can't imagine life being anything else, and the media reinforce this on a daily basis. We basically live inside of a glass sphere lined with mirror-paper (silvering), so that everything reflects everything else and nothing new can enter. Joe Bageant used to refer to this as The Hologram--a variant of The Matrix, I suppose.

Intelligence in the form of IQ, such as I'm sure your colleagues possess, makes no difference for this process. As I've often said on this blog, even smart Americans are stupid, because the brainwashing is so early and so effective. One story I like to recount was told to me by a friend of mine who happens to be a dean at a major medical school in the US. Reading DAA, he was impressed by the discussion I have there of Joyce Appleby's work (Capitalism and a New Social Order), in which she talks about how, in the 1790s, the definition of 'virtue' underwent a 180-degree reversal. It used to mean putting community concerns above private interests, whereas by 1800 it had come to mean (a la Adam Smith, among others) personal success in an opportunistic environment. Anyway, my friend was quite fascinated by this, and in various contexts (dept. mtgs, cocktail parties, dinners, one-on-one, etc.) he would broach the subject of Appleby's research. Within 30 seconds, he told me, the faculty's eyes would glaze over; their minds had checked out. They simply couldn't tolerate any foundational critiques of the US (and Appleby, BTW, is a very centrist historian). And these folks are (technically) the smartest ones in our society--cream of the intellectual crop.

When I say there's no hope, and that it's all over...I'm not kidding!


7:09 PM  
Blogger Metro Thought said...

Dr. Berman,

Have you had a chance to read Adam Gopnik's recent essay covering books related to "declinism" in The New Yorker? On the one hand, it seems like the idea that the United States is in decline is gaining credence amongst "mainstream" writers; on the other hand, these authors do not seem to tie the hustler culture to decline, and Ian Morris would likely tie this culture to past American successes. Thomas Friedman seems overly optimistic about the chances of a renewed American ascendancy, and Gopnik, to his credit, exposes some of the weaknesses in Friedman's argument.

I wonder if Gopnik would have included your new book in his essay if he had written it a little later this year (assuming he had access to an advanced review copy)? Perhaps The New Yorker will at least grant you a place in their "Briefly Noted" section in one of their November or December issues.



9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Berman:

Allow me to elaborate on the Jesus Pantheon comment.

Today and yesterday, I am/was a Christian Atheist.

One day, a friend of mine, an Old Testament Scholar for 35 or so years at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, told me that's what I was. Seemed to fit nicely because I do not believe in any God, but, I like many of the ideas in the NEW Testament. Turns out he is under a contract deadline to write a new textbook and he is on the subject of wether or not Jesus actually existed. So, no, neither of us think he actually existed.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


But what abt that para in Josephus (Jewish Wars)?


That Thos Friedman even exists is a source of embarrassment to the human race. That he writes a regular column in the NYT is the best evidence I know of that the US is going down the tubes.

As for me and the New Yorker, the day I get mentioned in that magazine, by Gopnik, the book reviewer, or anyone else on staff, I'll have to rethink my entire position on the (non)existence of God.


10:52 PM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

Its hard for me to have a higher opinion of you, but when I read your comments on Thos Friedman, an extra star is added to your name. If there ever exists a world of sanity and honesty, its dictionaries will have his picture in place of the citation for the word pompous.

1:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's worse than that, actually: the man is little more than a charlatan, a corporate shill, hyping globalization while ignoring its worldwide effect of increasing poverty. He flits from boardroom to boardroom, thinking he thereby knows countries like China and India, and getting himself celebrated by flattering the rich. This is what the NYT has come down to (cf. also David Brooks), and what they stand for. To make it worse, the guy can't even write: see Matt Taibbi's 2009 essay, "Someone Take Away Thomas Friedman's Computer Before He Types Another Sentence." The guy is a bozo, and in a healthy country wd be recognized as such.


2:34 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: also check out "Thomas L. Friedman's Brain is Hot, Flat and Crowded," by Bradford Schmidt.

2:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman,

Did you have inklings that something was very wrong at an early age? Was there a 'eureka' moment? Or was it an understanding that unfolded over time?

In a previous book you mentioned three instances I remember to this day.

You wrote about taking cookies to a woman who had just moved into a nearby apartment and her shock at the gesture. You also mentioned a boating trip where a woman was injured. The other guests showed little concern and wanted to continue with the trip. I also recall you going to teach at a school in an inner city (Wash?) and noting how the students were way more interested in being rich than learning.

Forgive me if I got some details wrong as I am working from memory.

Seems to me a long series of events like this can lead one to Gracián's 'desengaño.' I know it well.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

What worse is you can't escape the guy, he's everywhere. Listening NPR a few months ago, as they introduced the guests each was an expert on the topic, and then there was TF who seemed to be there just because he was TF. His job was to spew meaningless business techno jargon while taking away time from guests with real knowledge. He's like what Whoppi Goldberg was some years ago, a dancing nun one minute, next a sage-like character on Star Trek. For some reason she had to be in everything. Everywhere you turned there she was. This culture delights in overexposing certain repulsive people on the public.

4:42 AM  
Blogger satyaSarika said...


I was just thinking of Joe Bageant as I was reading these comments and then you up and mentioned him. How I miss that man. I'm reading his last book, but it makes me sad knowing he's gone. The grief from his loss gets overwhelming when combined with the isolation living here. (here being red state USA ...AZ and UT. I'm probably too old and broke to make it outta dodge. Kudos to all you ex-pats. Lookin forward to reading your new book. I'm reading some of your old work now ... Reenchantment of the world. Appreciate the good work.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I just read the "Thomas Friedman's Brain" article you recommended. Very refreshing. Friedman and his ilk at the NYT are the very face of the hucksterism poisoning our culture and country. The huckster culture metaphor reminds me of Melville, who from crazy Ahab to The Confidence Man (our national book?) looked behind the mask of official American culture to see what was raging underneath. He was called "mad" by his contemporaries, of course, and spent his later days in obscurity. Such is the fate of our true seers and geniuses, I guess.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

WAF is already on order on Amazon. As I say to people about Friedman, if corporate America didn't want him to have a seat at the table, he wouldn't. He's there for the Grand PSYOP that starts taking place, as Dr. Berman noted, with the very first flickering images of the TV through the crib slats. And it's true - some of the smartest people I've met are some of the most clueless when it comes to the effect of culture on the broader society. We are our values, like it or not.

Oh, and speaking of the culture of 'hustling' check out this telling photo from 1925:

9:26 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr: Berman
Looking forward to reading your new book. Congratulation on the book and accolades.
Whenever someone mentions Thom (I know it all about the middle east) Friedman on your blog it gives some satisfaction. I was calling him the hack he is 15 + years ago.

I appriciate your response on fascism. If your inclined to, could you point out the specific work that Stanley Payne and Roger Griffin did on fascism the next time you post. I would like to read more about it and I would be in your debt. Might save me some time doing research.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Jerome, Z-

Friedman is pure dreck, as far as I'm concerned; one of our major cultural undertakers, and a true mouthpiece for a phony age. The DAA65 needs to fly to suburban Md. and vomit on his shoes. As for Melville: he figures largely in my new book, as it turns out.


Thank you and hang in there, amigo.


I think I knew something was very wrong in general by age 8. As for the US being fucked up, that slowly dawned on me in the 90s, incidents such as u indicate. I recall I was in a supermarket and the word 'mayonnaise' was misspelled. I said something to the clerk abt, "What's next, they'll misspell 'egg'?" She gave me a weak, awkward smile--didn't get it, I guess. What am I doing here?, I thought to myself.


9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just someone please tell me, please, that the U.S. combat units in Iraq named 'Stryker' are NOT named after 'the Duke's' character in 'The Sands of Iwo Jima.' I'll burst into tears if it is so.

The draft-dodging 'Duke' was booed by WWII vets and now he's dropped back into Eye-Rak!

nota bene: I've got a lot of respect for the American posters on this blog. If you formed the majority the clowns would be heaved off the stage.

Is it true that there are giant signs on motorways that flash: 'REPORT SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOUR!' Can't be.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Dr. Berman, Michael, et al –

Re: “inklings that something was very wrong at an early age” AND Thomas Friedman

My first such inklings came when I was 10 years old and I saw and heard Richard Nixon on TV. He just exuded sleaze, and I wondered how anyone could possibly take him seriously as candidate for vice president (or a used car salesman, for that matter) – there just had to be something wrong with a lot of people for this to happen. Of course, later events vindicated that first inkling. When I first saw Thomas Friedman on TV I had the same reaction – he also exudes sleaze. All I had to do is listen to what he was saying for a few minutes to know that my first impression was correct. There has to be something wrong with the New York Times for him to be taken seriously.

David Brooks, on the other hand, doesn’t seem sleazy to me – my first impression was quite the opposite in fact. It's just that when I listen to what he says, or read what he writes I find myself saying, "Well, so what?" He'll complain that Obama doesn’t "emote" enough for the voters! Well, maybe there’s something wrong with the voters – did that ever occur to you, Boychik? Of course it does occur to him, but he can’t say or write it or he wouldn't be in the NYT or on Public TV.

There's an idea for you Dr. Berman – on the side you could write a book about Obama's failure to "emote" properly and use the money from that to finance your villa in Tuscany. That's what they call a "potboiler", isn’t it?

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...


A graphic representation of life in the bubble, although a little restricted in its aim:

And as for fascism, I strongly suggest Umberto Eco's essay on Ur-fascism:

Onward and downward,


12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least the meme is spreading in the alternative news community:

Alternet: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Enmired in wars with phantoms, Washington has been blindsided by every major trend of the last decade. We may be going deeper into the darkness than any of us dare to imagine.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look forward to reading your new book. I think you are spot on about most things, but more cynical about America than even I am, which believe me takes some doing.

I am a physician and let me tell you, the assumptions behind modern American "healthcare" are breathtaking. To physicians, their patients are always just one more pill or procedure away from becoming healthy, perfect 22 year old human beings. Depressed and this med isn't working? Take this 2nd one, and then this 3rd one. In pain? Then we need to drown you with addictive opioids. Obese and can't lose weight? Then take these 10 meds for high blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes, and then maybe a surgeon later on can shrink your stomach. Have heart trouble? Surely this stent will repair everything. Metastatic cancer? Then you need this 6th line agent which may very well cure you.

Never mind that people don't have basic health insurance. Never mind that they don't have an income. Never mind that we consume toxic food and toxic media that damages our bodies and brains. Never mind the breakdown of all family and social support.

This is the final endpoint of trying to be both a reality and fantasy based culture at the same time. We like to think we acknowledge reality, but at the same time, we think that there is always some techno fix to the human condition always around the corner.

We can't seem to decide if we actually believe reality (which says life is crap and that's that) or if we believe fantasy (which says life is crap, but if you believe in Christ you go to heaven).

Americans don't want to make this choice. They want heaven on Earth.

It's a fundamental conflict which just doesn't go away in this country, ever.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

A huge sign at a local heart specialist's office proudly proclaims, "Medicine at it's best" (but apparently not spelling). It used to be an Ethan Allen furniture store -- one commodity replaced by another?

I've been reading this blog but not posting during the past couple of weeks. Retirement has come & we're making the transition to what we hope will be more of an NMI life. It's been a busy, somewhat scary time!

I look forward to reading WAF. There's a lot to be said for the unvarnished, unblinking truth. It may be grim, but at least we know where we stand. And as Maury has pointed out, a sense of humor about it all is absolutely vital, especially inside the filter bubble.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Jimi Jones said...

Looking forward to it. I'm (happily) stunned that you got this book published.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Anon (too many Anons here!)-

I cd use some of those addictive opioids rt abt now...


12:39 PM  
Blogger Metro Thought said...

It seems that we are all on the same page regarding Thomas Friedman's role as a defender of the status quo (and an apologist for the powers that be). I definitely miss Bob Herbert's presence in the op-ed pages of the New York Times; whether championing better education standards, a withdrawal from overseas wars, or social justice at home, he seemed to defy the 'standard narrative script' espoused by the mainstream. I think Naomi Klein would make a strong addition to the paper's lineup, but she's probably too much of a non-conformist in economic matters to be taken seriously by the establishment. And (heaven forbid!) she's a Canadian. :)

BTW: Can you share any additional information on how Wiley is planning to market your book, i.e. print ads in magazines like Harper's or the production of an online 'book trailer' video?



7:07 PM  
Anonymous Mark Notzon said...

Dear MB & Dr. Anon--

Just found out there is a technical difference between "opiate" and "opioid."

The latter is a New Word for me. So I had to look it up quickly on Wikipedia.

I like the sound of it. But think it should refer to an opinion expressed and designed so as to generate a pseudo-sense of satisfaction and well-being--like the way you are supposed to feel after consuming a Happy Meal from MacDonald's, or after ingesting the
latest from Brooks, Friedman, Chopra, et al.


7:15 PM  
Anonymous shadowplay said...

Professor Berman, I'm curious what your take is on Chris Hedges. He seems to be a popular read among the DAA55 (or WAF62 or whatever we're calling ourselves this post), and of course he's also contributed a review to the book's jacket. His calls for protest and resistance, however, have touched off some reactions among those who think this smells a bit too much like 'hope'.

Elsewhere I've contrasted his perspective with your NMI model and I'm curious what you think of his proposed response to the collapsing American Empire.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman,

thanks for posting the dust jacket...awesome to see the endorsements from Chris Hedges and JHK. You were talking about this stuff long ago, and it still amazes me how mainstream "demise" articles have become (still considered an "opinion" of course; we as a culture were never good with facts). Not surprisingly, even though it seems to becoming accepted by our 'scholars' that time is running out, no one seems to give a shit...or maybe americans are just too stupid to acknowledge it. Onward and downward.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Brandon said...

Just got through the first half of 'Reenchantment,' and I gotta say, it was ridiculous.....ridiculously amazing. There aren't many things that can astonish you in your home at 5am on a weekday morning. That book is one of them.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Anon (physician)-

The serious illness in my family, which I mentioned recently, is metastatic cancer. Aside from saying "life is crap and that's that", do you recommend any alternatives to "this sixth line agent" for your patients?

10:35 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, a lot to discuss today. I just wanted to alert those of u who happen to be in Mexico City this wk, that I'm giving a lecture at UNAM at 1 pm today, and at UAM on Thurs at 1 pm. Of course, it helps if u can understand Spanish.

Anyway, leaving aside opiates and the need for Thos Friedman to have his shoes soaked in barf (along with depositing a digested Happy Meal upon David Brooks, Oprah, Chopra, et al.), thank u all for writing in. Brandon, I'm glad u enjoyed ROW, even at 5 am (yer an insomniac, like me, I guess). Shadowplay: Chris has actually come out for the NMI model, w/o explicitly using that acronym; but he has said that we need to retreat to monastic enclaves to preserve what's left of American culture. On the other hand, Chris is much more of a fighter than I am, and I get the impression that he does have a shred of hope that things can be turned around. Jerry: I was delighted that Wiley made the offer of 50 free books; they'll also be sending review copies to the usual media outlets (altho I've told them specifically, no NYT, for heaven's sake). Other than that, their philosophy seems to be Sink or Swim, as far as I can make out. They will not be paying for book tours (I'm doing the West Coast by myself) or magazine ads or etc. Which means the bk will probably Sink, but other than the effort I put in to PR (not something I enjoy), I don't think very much is going to happen. To be frank, I can't imagine WAF having much success in an American context, as at least 99% of the American public wd not want to hear this message. Prior to release of DAA, an indep journalist in Boulder, I think it was, asked me how I thought the bk wd do. I told him that it wd be vilified and ignored; wh/is of course what transpired. I'm guessing the same is true of WAF. It wd be fab if Wiley went all out in terms of PR and distribution, but my guess is that most publishers put $ into famous authors who will bring in a ton of cash, not 'midlist' authors such as myself. And of course, the famous authors are often famous because they say what the public wants to hear, not what it needs to hear. We're fucked, amigo; nothing could be more obvious.

Onward and Downward!


10:52 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


As u know, I'm no physician, so I don't know a whole lot abt 6th line agents or metastatic cancer. I do believe, however, that there is a pt in the latter where nothing can be done to save the situation (a good analogy with the US today). All I can say, and all I wd hope I wd do in that situation, is make peace with myself and my life and the people in my life, and thank the Universe for the bittersweet time I had on this planet. Buddhism without reincarnation, I guess u cd call it.

Big hug, amigo-


10:58 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

All DAAers –

Here’s an article from the Associated Press. It's short enough, so I'll post the whole thing.
Pa. school pulls musical 'Kismet' after complaints
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A western Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after members of the community complained about the play on the heels of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The Tribune Democrat of Johnstown reports Richland School District had planned to stage "Kismet" in February but Superintendent Thomas Fleming says it was scrapped to avoid controversy.
Fleming tells the newspaper that sensitivity is understandable in part because one of the hijacked planes crashed in nearby Shanksville.
Music director Scott Miller tells The Tribune-Democrat ( ) the district last performed "Kismet" in 1983.
Miller says the play has no inappropriate content but he and other members of the performing arts committee decided to switch to "Oklahoma!" after hearing complaints.
"Kismet" won the Tony for best musical in 1954.
What can I say except, "These are our neighbors! This is where we live! I gotta get outa here!"
And this isn't the worst of it by any means.
David Rosen

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Katharine said...

I want to thank you for your excellent and important work, which I have followed for many years.
The first two volumes of the present trilogy had the additional effect of helping me feel less crazy and alienated during the Bush years.
Thank you so much.I look forward to WAF.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Mr. Berman,
Thank you for all that you have written. I discovered your work when I was employed in a book store and I saw "The Twilight of American Culture" on the shelf. This was in early 2000, when the idea of an American decline was not at all in the public consciousness. I bought the book, read it two times, and the reality of the American situation was laid bare. I bought DAA when it came out and it deepened my conviction that I did not belong in the United States, even though I had been born there and it was home to my family and friends. Whenever I felt overwhelmed by the noise and futility of American society I would re-read your blog and books and it helped me feel sane again. The 'upshot' is that I decided to emigrate from the USA to a small European country that most Americans have never heard of and could not find on a map (thank God). Within a week I felt better. I no longer had to constantly 'scan' and compete with everyone and I found myself smiling for no reason. The difference was shocking. It was as if I had kicked a drug habit or regained my sight after years of blindness. I know you appreciate brevity from your posters so I'll end by saying thanks and keep writing. You have changed the life of at least one person. I'm looking forward to reading WAF and observing the failure from afar. The words of Robinson Jeffers come to mind when I read the headlines from America: "You making haste haste on decay..."

4:50 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank u all for your kind words. The truth is that all those other people *are* crazy, and yer not. Jason, I identify completely with that feeling of having escaped, and of things suddenly slowing down and feeling sane. That was exactly what happened to me when I crossed the border into Mexico in 2006. People ask me if I have any regrets, and I say Yes, that I didn't do it much earlier. Getting out is what a sane person does.

Dovidel: That's America! Meanwhile, 77% of public schl students in Oklahoma don't know who George Washington was.

HRIR! Onward and Downward!

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck to you and your family member.

I honestly wish there were more cures out there. Like many things in society these days, alot of the low hanging fruit has been discovered and picked. Anesthesia, surgery, control of infectious disease, etc.

The new medications and procedures, with some exceptions, are very complex and overall have less impact. Few want to admit this.

I'm a physician, so I treat disease to the best of my ability, and admit when I can't do so any longer. Every physician, for the most part, does the same, so perhaps I was too harsh in my judgment of American medicine.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some are still arguing for reform. This author has made his book available for free, so anyone who is curious can read and see if he makes believable arguments.

The End of Loser Liberalism

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Anon -- (one of you-all)

I haven’t read Dean Baker’s book, so I’ll tell you all about it (just joking, sort of). I will say this, however. (Please excuse the Marxist terminology – I use it to save precious space.) If you want to go up against a ruling class (I know, they don't actually rule.) with hundreds of years of experience 'ruling', an old Marxist would tell you that you'd better get all the allies you can. You'd then be advised to recruit among the working class. Well, that may have been good advice in the 19th or early 20th centuries, but look at what the American working class has become! Also, the Great American Middle Class is in the process of falling into the working class, if not lower – and generally not doing it at all graciously.

It therefore seems to me that this small group of liberals is trying to choose tactics to use while they waste their time and effort as the whole edifice falls apart around them. I guess it's sort of like arguing about which kind of pearls you should cast.

Don’t lose heart, Dr. Berman – if 99 percent of Americans don't want to hear (and/or are unable to read) what you have to say, the remaining one percent could still end up buying a lot of books.

David Rosen

1:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


True, but in order to buy or read the damn thing, they hafta know abt it; and I have no way of generating much visibility. When my mother was alive, I always knew I'd sell at least 2 copies.


3:39 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Anon,

Thank you both for your thoughts and kind regards.

Dr. Berman,
As you have noted, the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi, while dying of cancer, said: "I don't want to die". Buddhism or no, a certain greed for more life seems to be a part of human nature. (Especially, perhaps, when motivated by a desire to stick around in order to take care of a loved one). Of course, it also depends on an individual's age, level of pain, etc. Hard to know when to keep going, and when to let it go.

Please be as harsh as you like about American medicine. Its motto, in treating chronic illness anyway, should be changed to: "First, do significant harm while fighting disease; yet ignore any non-invasive practice that may restore health." Will conventional medicine ever concentrate on enhancing life?

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Zosima said...

It should be interesting to read your take on the civil war in WAF. Especially with right-wing secessionist talk in the air, by Perry and others. I remember seeing Gore Vidal on TV way back in the 70’s say he thought the country might be better off if it broke up. He got a laugh when he said parts of the South would probably bring back slavery. Considering the fact that right-wingers want to get rid of the minimum wage, the new slavery would be something all races could enjoy. I keep thinking who would fight and possibly die to keep a place like Texas in the union? How many people believe today that America represents Earth’s “last best hope”?

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BBC: Could world social unrest hit America's streets?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested the unrest that rocked the streets of Cairo and Madrid this year could spread to the US. Is he right?


In the past century, the US has experienced its share of political tumult and unrest, from the destitute "Bonus Army" veterans of World War I who clashed with federal troops in Washington in 1932, to the urban race riots in the 1960s and the Rodney King riots in 1992.

And in interviews with the BBC, analysts, writers and historians feared the US was ripe for some sort of social upheaval, but said a lack of social organisation and a sense of despair had prevented social movements from coalescing.


Gary Bailey, a professor of social work practice at the Simmons College School of Social Work in Boston said "draconian" austerity cuts contemplated in the US Congress could eventually spark unrest if young Americans felt their future was being taken from them through cuts to education and jobs programmes.

"We are inevitably at risk," he said. "We're not immune to what's happening in the world. The bigger the city and the larger the youth population, the greater the risk.

"What Mayor Bloomberg was warning of was that this disenfranchisement, for lack of a better word, leads to despair and unrest.


Rick Perlstein, a historian and author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, said Americans suffer from a "profound sense of learned helplessness".

"The fact is the American population - even if they rose to that level of anger - they don't feel that they have anybody to address that anger to, any responsive bodies," he said. "That's a function of the breakdown in trust in government. It's a function of anomie and frustration."

10:29 PM  
Blogger kate59 said...

I'm really looking forward to the new book, and it was great fun reading the jacket blurbs. I was sorry Gopnik didn't include you in his New Yorker essay, but it was generally critical in tone and the idea seemed to be that all the doomers were exaggerating or not "getting" the real situation.
Now, has ANYONE here read the novel "Super Sad True Love Story" by Gary Shteyngart, his newest. It is AMAZINGLY prescient and he must be a fan of Morris Berman! While it's sad and depressing, it's also a real bonk over the head. I'd love to hear what others think of the novel.

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman,

Congrats on your new book, I look forward to reading it. I'm reading the article you recommended by John Atcheson, "The Fall of the United States".

Excellent article. America, in my experience, has always been anti-intellectual at its core. We only care about "winning", "being the best", "kicking ass", etc. HOW this happens is largely irrelevant, and can be attested to by the rash of cheating scandals at all our supposed top institutions.

I was a "smart kid" in school and as all smart kids know, you either hide it or you get tortured viciously. Since I was also a fat kid (now days, I would've fit right in with my physique, but this was the 60's and a fat kid stood out like a sort thumb), I played the smart kid role and, unfortunately, suffered for being smart AND fat. But I digress. The point being is that Americans are a marketed, BS society.

If you aren't into plastic naked women, big money sports, and, most important, MAKING MONEY, you are a ZERO in America. Geeks, nerds, intellectuals, anyone different, are hated in America. The only reason computer people are making money at the moment is because they help to feed America's insatiable need for toys and gadgets. Most Americans who play with smart phones would absolutely HATE the people who code their phones.

Look at our heros, our music, everything. What brought HORROR to a generation of youth when they found out what was really going on in Viet Nam brings vicious chants of USAUSAUSA when photos of soldiers holding heads like hunting trophies are shown on TV's now.

It's insane.

Oh, and thanks to Mr. D for the David Graeber "heads up", I will check that book as well.

Peace to all, and I will see you on the "other side" of all of this, hopefully. Maybe we can try again and not make a fat bank account more important than just building a damned fair society?


9:54 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

From the Economist. Read it and weep:

" About one in five Americans combine a view of God as actively engaged in daily workings of the world with an economic conservative view that opposes government regulation and champions the free market as a matter of faith.

"They say the invisible hand of the free market is really God at work," says sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor Religion Survey, released today by Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

"They think the economy works because God wants it to work. It's a new religious economic idealism," with politicians "invoking God while chanting 'less government,'" he says.

"When Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann say 'God blesses us, God watches us, God helps us,' religious conservatives get the shorthand. They see 'government' as a profane object — a word that is used to signal working against God's plan for the United States. To argue against this is to argue with their religion."

How awesome is that?!

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


DAA'ers are certain to enjoy the review of Thomas Friedman's latest book which appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. You can access it easily at Arts & Letters Daily ( under Books. Aldaily introduces it as follows: "Thomas L. Friedman's optimism is terrifying, writes Andrew Ferguson. And his language? Pointless alliteration + runaway metaphor = Friedmanism..."

David Rosen

11:38 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Check out the archives on this blog: I did a review of Shteyngart several mos. ago.


5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of "God" and the imperative of the "market", and where the USA is really going this short clip says it all.

9:03 PM  
Blogger ijcd said...

Dear Prof. Berman and Dear all DAA members (soon to be WAF?),

Greetings from Miami, FL, home of probably the worst kinds of trolls roaming this condemned land. Here is another piece of evidence to show that we live in a truly psychopathic society. Last weekend, in a Miami-Dade County (Greater Miami Area) street, one driver accidentally hit a pedestrian. As a normal human being (should I say true human being?), this driver (an immigrant by the way, meaning not raised in this culture or non-culture) gets out of his car and tries to help. While he is calling 911 and talking to the operator, at least eight (8) more cars drive over this poor victim, without stopping. If you, the reader, are attracted to the morbid, you can listen to the 911 call in the link below (if you do, I'd be surprised that you are even reading this fantastic, group therapy-like blog)… I don’t think I can do that, I simply read the article. Here is the link:

12:01 AM  
Blogger ijcd said...

I am very sorry for what you and your family are going through. I wish I lived closer to you guys, in North Eastern Florida (I think), but I am stuck in Miami. If there is anything I can help with, my e-mail is:
Best wishes to you and your family.

I would like to know which small European country you moved to (or emigrated to). I have spent some miserable years as a suffering maladapted lonely individual in this “bone-crushing juggernaut”. I really want to know more about your new land, and how you completed the process. Please, e-mail me at:

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

Art –

I also am very sorry to hear about the illness in your family. Although I am not a physician, I am a medical microbiologist with a lot of experience with health and illness, hospitals, doctors, and health care in general. Over the years I have made some observations which I'll share with you.

1. Doctors sometimes (often?) continue with toxic treatments they know will not be effective simply to give the patient hope. They will sometimes admit this, and justify it by saying that the patient who gives up hope may be tempted to turn to "charlatans". In any case, don’t let the doctors forget about pain relief – they often do, even though I hear they’re getting better about it. This is always an individual decision, but the quality of time may be more important that the quantity.

2. On the subject of hope – although I'm sure they are quite rare; there are cases where patients with terminal illnesses like metastatic cancer experience what is called spontaneous remission. This is something to keep in the back of your mind.

3. Diagnosis is one thing, and prognosis is another. Even if an illness is almost certainly terminal, when doctors tell a person the end is weeks or months away, it often happens that the person lives on for years. As I said above, a lot can be done to improve the quality of that time, and this is where alternative methods are often of value. The clock is ticking for all of us, and while we can ignore it while we are young, as the years pass the ticking gets louder and louder. Here is where uncertainty can be a friend.

4. I recommend listening to a specific public radio program. If you go online to , look in the archives, and click on a program called "Listening Generously" which features Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, you may find what she has to say comforting, or at least informative. (You can download it for free.)

Remember that I know nothing about your family's particular case, and even if I did, I am NOT a physician. Please treat what I say as what it is – free advice, which very often turns out to be worth exactly what you pay for it.

A big hug – my fellow seeker of truth.

David Rosen

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


I just posted a message and the blog seems to taken some information out. In item 4 I mentioned a radio program, and the web address seems to have been deleted. You can Google "On Being, Public Radio", and then follow the the directions I gave.

David Rosen

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

David R-

Thank you.

Previously, my Father requested that I not identify him as the cancer patient; now he says it's OK. The prognosis for liver metastases is generally not good, but now his doctor tells him that, if he does nothing, he has a couple of years left. Is this an honest, educated guess? Or could this be the doctor's way of offering hope? Chemo, at my Father's age, is not being pushed; and he's pretty much decided against it. I doubt the doctor is knowingly practicing mind/body medicine, but I like this non-toxic placebo much better!

But, I don't want to hijack this blog any further. Dr. Berman: how much time does the USA have left? (I hope the nocebo effect is not in play)

2:36 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm really sorry to hear abt this, as I'm sure all of us are. Pls don't worry abt 'hijacking' the blog.


4:17 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...


I’ve been up to my eyebrows in medicine and health care for the last forty years, but please remember that I am not a physician.

Your dad's condition sounds better than I imagined that it might be, and I think I'd just take the doctor at his word. My experience with this kind of prognosis is that when they do get the time scale wrong, they usually tend to be overly pessimistic, so you may indeed have another year or two, or more to spend with your dad.

Now, what I'd be looking for are ways to improve the quality of the time he has left. The trick with western medicine is to get as much pain relief as possible without drugging the patient out of consciousness. I have observed many people, with a wide variety of serious health conditions, receiving a variety alternative healing techniques, and I have seen many many of them made to feel and function much better. These include reiki, acupressure, acupuncture, reflexology, ‘body-talk’, etc. So, you might want to consider whatever is available in your area on an 'as-needed' basis. How much benefit your dad can get may depend on his attitude toward them in the first place, but you might be surprised. I know that many people will say that they are 'only placebo'; to which I reply, "Hey, placebo can be a LOT!" Another important thing is that alternative methods are generally risk-free and non-toxic.

You also might try spending a little time each day reading to him – prose, poetry, whatever. Normally I would recommend Dr. Berman's books to anybody, but, in this case, you may want to skip the dark-ages books; some of the poems would be nice, however.

Okay, enough with the free advice (worth every penny). I wish you and your dad well, and may your time together be rewarding for both of you.

Another big hug,

David Rosen

12:20 PM  
Blogger kate59 said...

Dr. Berman:
Not sure if my comment I just wrote came through...if so, you can delete this -- thank you for putting me onto your review of SSTLS -- it was, well, affirming :) -- and I love your adjective of "eerie" for the novel, yes, and eerily like your own non-fiction works -- that was the feeling that just overwhelmed me when reading it. Hope all your readers here who like novels will check out Shteyngart.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous shadowplay said...

Friends, I think this little drawing says it all about America:

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

Not a surprise to anybody here:


PS, I think they might be exaggerating a little bit.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Diane said...


I just checked my local library catalogue here in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney Australia and it has one of your books 'the twilight of american culture' so you are at least known outside of America.
My comment is about the fantasy of classlessness that exists in the USA and how it seems to blind the average american to their real circumstances. In Australia we are very aware of class and have historically resisted letting the disparities between the classes get too extreme, though the last 20 years have changed this somewhat, we have a saying 'if he's that rich he must be a crook' and the ruling class is always despairing of how we love to bring down 'tall poppies. This attitude seems to be almost non existent except for the most left leaning of americans.
As an analogy I see america as the eldest son in a primogeniture society, who in the past has received the greatest benefits, and is now unable to recognize the decline of the system which he benefited from at the expense of others. I have read a number of novels, particularly irish, where the eldest son, is left at home to look afer the mother, when all the others have escaped to a better life, always very bitter those books.
I don't have solutions, its just a personal observation.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for writing in. I lectured on 2 occasions at UWA in Perth, 1996 and 2003. The latter was on the Twilight book, and I almost received a standing ovation.

Just wanted to say: Best to post on the most recent post, since once we move on, no one tends to read the old ones. So if u wanna send it in again to "Zucker-Punched," I'll post it.

Thanks again...mb

10:25 PM  

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