Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: Death of the Liberal Class

This book, authored by Chris Hedges, starts off with a rousing and damning indictment of liberalism in society.  Apparently there was a role for liberalism to play and it has been left undone.

We are told of the policies and practices that eradicated leftist views and the effects of those activities. An environment of perpetual war combined with a corporate assault on government and educational institutions has gutted our collective voice. The discussion of historic tactics employed and how the liberal class rolled over is fascinating and shines a light on the state of affairs today. In particular, the state of journalism and its manipulation are sore points.

It's refreshing to hear such a different point of view and a condemnation of so many sacrosanct parties.

Other parts of the book attempt to discuss what was lost or what types of things are missing from society. In once sense it is the authors handbook for those wishing to find ways to inject views outside of the mainstream back into society.

Frankly, the discussion of far left influences, such as communism, are likely to turn off many readers. The appetite to hear that ideas can come from somewhere so far to the left and still be valuable (even while not promoting communism itself) has all but been expunged today.

Additionally, the lamentation of the state of religion is going to frustrate some. Obviously the author feels that religion was a large part of liberalism throughout the course of history. However, those who are not deeply religious may find this discussion drives them away. It is perfectly possible to be left, or right, without requiring motivations centered around religion. Those who are deeply religious are likely to have their own interpretations  and disagree with the author.

My recommendation, buy the book for the discussion of tactics and real world examples. The playbook of authority, the revelation of how dissent has systematically been driven out, these things are worth the price of admission. Liberals looking for ways to regenerate liberalism in some way may find value in later parts of the book also -- though I suspect most would need to modernize these ideas as there is a lot of historic review that will predate many readers.

Readers on the right might find that authority and abuse of power have in fact gone too far. They may also find that the author does not differentiate very much between democrat and conservative -- instead noting that government and authority of either stripe are basically suffering the same corruption.  If the left and the right would call for the same removal of corruption and influence, the same limitation of the actions of power, things would be much improved though they would continue to disagree about everything else.

In summary, perhaps the value of this book can be expressed in terms of the readers ability to perceive the tactics used to squelch dissent. Whatever your political persuasion it is your duty to understand how power is being abused and to resist it even if it is being abused in your favor, for now. Democracy and freedom of speech suggest that varied viewpoints are valuable but authority routinely works against these ideals.

Buy it. Some parts are a hard slog of a read and some parts will offend the sensibilities of many readers depending on their own sacred cows. However, there is much meat available for thought whether or not you agree with the authors views.

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