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The Twilight of American Culture
ISBN 0393048799 / 9780393048797 / 0-393-04879-9
Publisher W. W. Norton & Company
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"If you have finally had it with CNN and Hollywood and John Grisham and New Age 'spirituality,' then pull up a chair, unplug your phone (beeper, TV, fax machine, computer, etc.), and give me a few hours of your time. I promise to do my best not to entertain you."
A slightly forbidding introduction to a book, but indicative of its author's disgust at the homogenized McWorld in which we live, and an enticing challenge to read on. As the title The Twilight of American Culture suggests, Morris Berman's outlook is somewhat bleak. Analogizing the contemporary United States to the late Roman Empire, Berman sees a nation fat on useless consumption, saturated with corporate ideology, and politically, psychically, and culturally dulled. But he believes that this behemoth--what Thomas Frank called the "multinational entertainment oligopoly"--must buckle under its own weight. His hope for a brighter tomorrow lies in a modern monastic movement, in which keepers of the enlightenment flame resist the constant barrage of "spin and hype." Ironically, despite his disdain for "the fashionable patois of postmodernism," he approvingly quotes poststructuralist theorist Jean-François Lyotard's maxim "elitism for everybody" in describing this cadre of idiosyncratic, literate devotees, these new monks.
Berman is plainspoken and occasionally caustic. The Twilight of American Culture is an informed and thought-provoking book, a wake-up call to a nation whose powerful minority has become increasingly self-satisfied as their stock options ripen, while an underclass that vastly outnumbers the e-generation withers on the vine and cannot locate itself on any map. It is a quick and savage read that aims to get your eyes off this computer, your nose out of that self-help book, and send you back to thought and action. --J.R. [via]