Read Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy by Lewis H. Lapham Online


America’s leading essayist on the frantic retreat of democracy, in the fire and smoke of the war on terror In twenty-five years of imperial adventure, America has laid waste to its principles of democracy. The self-glorifying march of folly steps off at the end of the Cold War, in an era when delusions of omnipotence allowed the market to climb to virtual heights, while soAmerica’s leading essayist on the frantic retreat of democracy, in the fire and smoke of the war on terror In twenty-five years of imperial adventure, America has laid waste to its principles of democracy. The self-glorifying march of folly steps off at the end of the Cold War, in an era when delusions of omnipotence allowed the market to climb to virtual heights, while society was divided between the selfish and frightened rich and the increasingly debt-ridden and angry poor. The new millennium saw the democratic election of an American president nullified by the Supreme Court, and the pretender launching a wasteful, vainglorious and never-ending war on terror, doomed to end in defeat and the loss of America’s prestige abroad.All this culminates in the sunset swamp of the 2016 election—a farce dominated by Donald Trump, a self-glorifying photo-op bursting star-spangled bombast in air. This spectacle would be familiar to Aristotle, whose portrayal of the “prosperous fool” describes a class of people who “consider themselves worthy to hold public office, for they already have the things that give them a claim to office.”...

Title : Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy
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ISBN : 9781784787110
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy Reviews

  • Stephen
    2019-05-10 20:12

    Several years ago, maybe 2014, in March, I spent a weekend in Philadelphia. I had gone to school there, University of Pennsylvania and worked there as well. And lo and behold, my youngest son landed a job there and small world, lived on South Fawn Street, about three blocks from my apartment in graduate school, 16th and Spruce! Funny how things work out. Long story short. Hanging out at his house, waiting for something, I was sitting in his living room and picked up a Harper's Magazine, and started reading an article about the 75th anniversary of the publication of "The Yearling" by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, her 1937 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. I remember my mother saying years ago that she does not know what her favorite book was...."The Yearling" or Stegner's "Angle of Repose" I read both of them. And to this day, can be brought to tears when I recall what Rawlings wrote describing Jodie's discoverey of "the yearling." Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I took the magazine with me for the Amtrak trip back to Vermont. I realized then and there that I should subscribe to Harper's, as something connected with me; I think it is Lewis Lapham. Shortly after starting this book I realized that I was experiencing a sense of controlled outrage. Controlled, because as I was reading I did not do anything rash, or something that I would regret: like shoot someone, or OD on opioids in an act of self-medication, or insult my wife or a neighbor. You know what I mean. I just sat in my chair and read and highlighted with a neon-pink marker particularly satiric or cynical observations by the author. And it was not long into the book, perhaps 1994 when I realized where it was going. So despite the fact, and it is a fact, that the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — was disgusting and depressing and an insult to educated individuals, was long on vitriol, pussy-grabbing, and pandering; was short on serious policy ideas and honest debate — and was a disgrace to some, it was inevitable to Mr. Lapham, that Donald Trump, or sTRUMPY as I like to refer to him would win. There are other august figures who are included in that group: Michael Moore, Richard Rorty and the Los Angeles Times to name a few, and I am sure that you could google something and find out more. But that is all moot. Beginning with the greed-is-good policies of Ronald Reagan, Lapham describes America’s Age of Folly — see also: George H.W. Bush’s Excellent Persian Gulf Adventure, the hanging chads of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Mission Accomplished, enhanced interrogation techniques and tax breaks for billionaires, Heck-of-a-Job Brownie, the USA Patriot Act, the never-ending buzz of drone warfare, the Achievetrons of the Obama administration as we continued the run of neoliberal politics illustrating how and why our democracy has given way to a dysfunctional plutocracy of the super-rich, by the super-rich, and for the super-rich. Who were the Princeton University economists who published a paper that said, without a doubt, Amerika is an oligarchy? A fucking oligarchy. And perhaps a third-world oligarchy at that. It is enough to make you vomit or want to OD on Vicodin or drown yourself in Negronis. I am proud to say/admit that I was one of the 18,000 in the Green Mountain State, who wrote in the name Bernie Sanders on my ballot on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - a day, truly, that will live in infamy. What is happening with Trump would have happened with HRC as well, perhaps not as blatant, but she was in bed with Wall Street and it would have happened. She would not have gutted the EPA, or slammed the door of civil rights but still, Trump picked Gary Cohn, late of Goldman Sachs, HRC would have done the same thing. Obama did it. Bush did it. Clinton did it. It is how the world operates and how we, the one % as well as the POOR, WHITE TRASH and uneducated that elected him. And then there is the whole reality TV, celebrity, branding aspect of the American experiment. Take this quote from the Grifter/Liar-in-Chief's first campaign manager Cory Lewandowski: "This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally. The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes — when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar — you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.” This is the problem with the media. No, this is the problem with Amerika.And I do think I will subscribe to Harper's and maybe even Lapham's Quarterly. Lewis Lapham is a real treasure, an elegant and wonderful writer and as Kurt Vonnegut said "Learned and fair. I love reading him." And so do I. His scorn is like a roller-coaster. No stone left unturned. And you want to be his friend.

  • Marysue
    2019-05-20 23:15

    A delightful book. Lewis Lapham is a writer I like to read. At the end of every chapter, if not several times during the chapter, I wished for a companion across the room to whom I could read bits aloud. Comprised of published columns (mostly for Harper's Magazine) over several years beginning in 1990, the book lays out Lapham's version of our current political history. (No wonder we have Trump.)I did not rummage around for a neon highlighter, although the impulse was strong. Almost the entire book would have been marked up.You might find yourself parsing out chapters to delay the inevitable end as I did.

  • Scriptor Ignotus
    2019-04-28 18:57

    This is a collection of essays Lapham has written between 1990 and 2015. My reasons for reading it were twofold: first, Lapham has a reputation as a brilliant social satirist; and second, the time period these essays cover happens also to be the time period in which i've been alive. I was interested in getting a running commentary on the broad trends that have changed American society during my lifetime. While Lapham is undoubtedly a talented prose stylist, the aesthetic qualities of his writing do little to mask the relative insubstantiality of his ideas. Allow me to summarize what happened in America between 1990 and 2015, according to Lewis Lapham: the rich got richer; the poor got poorer; the combative ambiguity of democratic politics was abandoned in favor of a pseudo-religious praise of the redemptive power of the free market and private capital; George W. Bush stole the 2000 presidential election and waged an illegal war on intangible ideas with little regard for the real-world consequences; Obama put a new face on the great corporate enterprise that is the U.S. government but did little to change its policies; and now Donald Trump is the personification of everything evil and corrupt in American life that has been brewing for the last quarter century. If you subtracted Lapham's clever turns of phrase, most of these essays could have been taken directly from the comments section of a New York Times article. I get the sense that Lapham is quite pleased with his wit and perceptiveness, fancying himself a latter-day Juvenal, but what exactly has he accomplished besides repeating liberal-left platitudes with a dollop of self-important humor; a humor incapable of laughing at itself? He has no sense of irony when he quotes Franklin Roosevelt on the anti-democratic corrosions of private wealth, even though Roosevelt had himself been accused of being a proto-fascist and was deflecting genuine criticism of his policies by attempting to redefine fascism as the Republican Party platform. For all of his pretend edginess, the geographical range of Lapham's faux-Ciceronian skepticism does not appear to extend to the east coast. As a New Yorker, he has come to the scientifically-objective conclusion that New York liberals are the good guys.

  • Jonathan
    2019-05-03 15:19

    A refreshing, concise and perceptive joy. Excellent collection of essays tracing the roots of how America found it's way to Trumpania.

  • Gaylord Dold
    2019-05-22 16:20

    Perspectives: Fascism Lite: The ‘Ur-fascism’ of Donald J. Trump and CompanyThings to read:“On Message” by Lewis H. Lapham: From Age of Folly: America Abandons its Democracy (Verso, London/New York, 2016).“Containing Trump” by Jonathan Rauch: From ‘The Atlantic’, March 2017.“How to Build and Autocracy” by David Frum: From ‘The Atlantic’, March 2017.“But I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, then Fascism and Communism, aided, unconsciously perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism, will grow in strength in our land.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, November 4, 1938Lewis Lapham’s new book, “Age of Folly” chronicles as a series of ‘Harper’s’ essays the demise of America’s democracy. An avalanche of political, social and cultural garbage delivers a coup against the democratic project, which was designed to be fragile at best by founding father’s whose interest was property and privilege against the mobs. In a 2005 essay, Lapham takes note of an Umberto Eco essay from the ‘New York Review of Books’ (1995) in which Eco suggests that it is a mistake to translate fascism into a figure of literary speech. Lapham writes, “By retrieving from our historical memory only the vivid and familiar images of fascist tyranny (Gestapo firing squads, Soviet labor camps, the chimneys at Treblinka), we lose sight of the faith-based initiatives that sustained the tyrant’s rise to glory.” In this regard, we can think of American initiatives in this direction as well, the glorification of endless military adventures and the adulation by mobs of returning veterans as Roman heroes against the barbarian horde, the pageants of flags, symbols and signs glorifying the Nation, glory sustained only by emotion without intellect or reason. “The several experiments with fascist government,” Lapham continues, “didn’t depend on a single portfolio of dogma, and so Eco, in search of their common ground, doesn’t look for a unifying principle or a standard text. He attempts to describe a way of thinking and a habit of mind…”Eco describes these habits of mind:The truth is revealed once and only once. Donald Trump has often announced that he possesses the truth, which will be revealed after the election.Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten because it doesn’t represent the voice of the people, which is that of the supreme leader. Donald Trump “alone” an solve America’s problems.Doctrine outpoints reason, and science is always suspect. Science—meaning climate science, environmental science not just suspect, but deviously and conspicuously in opposition to culture.Critical thought is the province of degenerate intellectuals, who betray the culture and subvert traditional values. Climate change is a Chinese hoax.The national identity is provided by the nation’s enemies. Donald Trump hates his nation’s enemies, foreigners, Muslims, Chicago thugs, the media and anyone doubting his means and ends.Argument is tantamount to treason. Donald Trump shuttles the guilty to prison without trial. (Bo Bergdahl, the Central Park Five, etc.)Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Donald Trump and his minions demonize every opponent.Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of “the people” in the grand opera that is the state. Donald Trump leads a “movement”, not a political party with ideals and goals.Lapham’s essay goes on to show how in our modern “democracy” the descent to fascist tyranny doesn’t need the standard tools. “We don’t have to disturb, terrorize, or plunder the bourgeoisie; we don’t have to gag the press or seize the radio stations; we don’t have to murder the intelligentsia. Our atomized citizens, dormant or bored, don’t have the power to resist, the press is thoroughly demonized and disregarded, social media substitutes for the “masses”, and white identity politics (racism, misogyny etc.) substitutes for marching bands and uniting symbols.Anyone concerned about fascism lite should read the essays by David Frum and Jonathan Rausch. We in the resistance need to organize, speak out, and act. The end of civil society and its long-standing institutions (newspapers, schools, unions, bowling leagues, political parties, lodges, etc.) give men like Donald Trump and open door. Now is the time to stand up.

  • Steffi
    2019-05-01 21:09

    Tracing the moment when American democracy became an oligarchy (when the 'folly' of money buying elections and policies really kicked off) starting with Reagan's entry into the White House in 1981 which then took on this particular mix of neoliberal hubris after the 'defeat' of Soviet Russia, End Of History, exporting the American model foreign policy under Bush senior, Bill Clinton's entrenchment of American oligarchy plus neoliberal reorganization of the welfare and labour market system, Bush junior's post 2001 war against terrorism madness and Obama and Hillary Clinton's continuation of neoliberal imperialism (wallstreet bailout, deportations, Libya, Syria, anti-Russia etc). It is important to put both Trump and Bernie in the context of 30 or so years of radical transformation of a democracy into an outright oligarchy, a system where a popular Socialist (Bernie) is being outmaneuvered by millionaires (Clinton establishment) and, eventually, big capital (Trump) takes over power directly to protect its interests (selective economic protectionism, tax cuts, privatization, etc). Any way forward must begin with looking back and understanding how the fuck we ended up with the orange boy king in the white house.So this is a great book to look back. The majority of the 30 or so essays are articles from 1990 to 2015 which were originally published as monthly commentary in the Harper's Magazine (a magazine I normally don't enjoy reading too much but these essays are great). What it says more than anything is that the way forward is not going back to the Obama Clinton years, they are part and parcel of how we got into this mess. The way forward is a progressive alliance, a reconfiguration of democracy beyond the liberal establishment. Bernie has shown that there is popular support for such a project.Arise ye starvlings!

  • Tony Parsons
    2019-05-08 21:04

    PS & History were 2 of my many undergrad degrees. History, politics, War & much more. Yahoo President Donald Trump & VP Mike Pence.Very long but a must read. I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. Only an honest one. A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. Wow, a very well written political informative book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great political informative movie, a PS college PP presentation, or better yet a mini TV series. There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars. Thank you for the free Goodreads; MakingConnections; Verso; Maple Press; Penguin Random House LLC.; paperback book Tony Parsons MSW (Washburn)