Sep 27, George Kleinman rated it did not like it In "Why America Failed" Morris Berman posits that the current angst and volatility of US is the direct result of an ingrained tradition of swindling or hustling which he believes was established with the colonization of North America. The financial collapse in provides him with abundant ammunition for this argument, and clearly, some criminal intent was present in the credit default swaps and other swindles perpetrated by Goldman-Sachs and other financial institutions. Even beforeho In "Why America Failed" Morris Berman posits that the current angst and volatility of US is the direct result of an ingrained tradition of swindling or hustling which he believes was established with the colonization of North America.
Donate Why America Failedwhich this book is not about, is nonetheless a devastating and eviscerating critique proving convincingly that America has failed, and abominably, even tragically.
That makes it a very important book that I hope will find an attentive audience, particularly among those of the media and intelligentsia who need to understand its truths and rid themselves of the increasingly common idea that there is some kind of palliative that will reform and restore American government to some imagined efficient and democratic past.
I cannot overemphasize how essential this wisdom is to any comprehension of America today, or tomorrow, or how powerfully Morris Berman an academic historian who has emigrated to Mexico makes his case. It is not a long book pages, plus backmatterbut it is replete with overwhelming evidence to support the thesis, as he puts it on his first page: The principal goal of North American civilization, and of its inhabitants, is and always has been an ever-expanding economy — affluence — and endless technological innovation — "progress.
From the very start, from the Puritans' shining "city on a hill" and the Jamestown settlement's conquest and exploitation of Indian lands, this country has been about making and taking, a business culture with a commercial orientation, devoted to growth and power, wealth and property, private advancement and profit, militarism and materialism, expansion and empire.
John Adams saw it at the beginning: But what Berman shows, in fascinating detail, is that with all that concentration on hustling, which makes up our entire lives for our lives, is that we have lost a sense of the public good in the face of private interest, an understanding of community in the face of aggravated individualism, a sense of spiritual well-being in the face of material pressure and stress, an appreciation of the simple life in the face of technological complexity, even a true sense of republicanism and the political commonwealth in the face of manipulative and intrusive oligarchy and political individual wealth.
Much of what we still think of as in some way valuable — stability rather than progress, face-to-face instead of on-line, family and friends instead of networks and "friends," craftsmanship instead of mass production, virtue and tradition and honor and simplicity rather than egotism and modernity and self-interest and multi-tasking, gemeinschaft instead of gesellshaft — much of that has been quite lost in the dominant hustling culture.
Not only that, but we have acquired a host of evils and sorrows along with material prosperity. Berman compiles a whole raft of rather depressing facts that show what the downside of the technocommerial society is: Or, as Berman puts it at one point: The culmination of a hustling, laissez-faire capitalist culture is that everything gets dumbed down, that all significant questions are ignored, and that every human activity is turned into a commodity, and anything goes if it sells.
What we have is domination by corporate media, politics via poll-driven sound bites, a foreign policy based on unilateralism and preemptive strikes, a failing newspaper industry, a poorly informed citizenry, the unemployed winding up destitute, weak or no mass transit systems, and a health care system that ranks thirty-seventh in the world.
The emperor, and the empire, have no clothes. Berman spends a good deal of time talking about the "alternative culture" to all this, including "a commitment to craft, community, the public good, the natural environment, spiritual practice, and the "simple life," and he shows that its adherents and champions have existed all along, though of course overwhelmed by the dominant culture.
This is a distinguished bunch, and they are known today because the work they did was careful and trenchant and exposed powerfully the ills of a material society, but, as Berman notes when talking about Mumford, in the end "you can't get taken seriously if you point this out.
And so the alternative culture, though it has always existed on the fringe, and still does even now, has never seriously derailed the steamengine of the hustler civilization nor in fact even slowed it down perceptively. In fact that civilization will always take steps to marginalize it, even destroy it if necessary, a fact that Berman illustrates in a chapter on the antebellum South.
He shows how the South was "the one example we have of an opponent of [the dominant] ideology that had real political teeth," and blatantly opted for a life premodern indeed "neofeudal"agrarian, slow, conservative, and honoring tradition, honor, chivalry, and hospitality more than making a buck or inventing a gadget.
This ultimately the increasingly industrial and expansive North could not stand and so began a war to destroy it.
Which is why in the end Berman concludes that nothing will ever change our hustling civilization and all attempts at trying to replace it are fruitless: He quotes a U. At the present time, he says, "this project doesn't have a hope in hell," but "in thirty or forty years, it may not seem so far-fetched.
The collapse will come sooner than we realize — I have predicted within a decade — and it will open up secession or some equivalent such as city-states or medieval walled cities as the only possible opportunity for a new society with new human-scale alternatives. I'm not predicting it, mind you, I'm just saying it's the only way to go.
The Best of Kirkpatrick Sale Tags: Kirkpatrick Sale [ send him mail ] who lives in Mt.In "Why America Failed" Morris Berman posits that the current angst and volatility of US is the direct result of an ingrained tradition of swindling or hustling which he believes was established with the colonization of North America/5.
Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic.
He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University/5().
Morris Berman is an American historian and social critic. He earned a BA in mathematics at Cornell University in and a PhD in the history of science at The Johns Hopkins University in As an academic humanist cultural critic, Berman specializes in Western cultural and intellectual historyNotable works: The Reenchantment of the World, The Twilight of American Culture.
The principal goal of North American civilization, and of its inhabitants, is and always has been an ever-expanding economy — affluence — and endless technological innovation — "progress." A nation of hustlers, writes [Walter] McDougall, a people relentlessly on the make.
North American Civilization Elizabeth Smith HIS North American civilization began about 35, years ago in the time of the last ice age. A large land mass connecting Eurasia and Alaska brought the first Native American ancestors into North America. I understand the feeling that this is African American history to be discovered and told by African Americans, and I share that view to a large extent.
I would not think, for example, that I should be vying to express the leading viewpoint on the hottest race-related topics of the day.