America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire / Edition 1

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Overview

Urged on by a powerful ideological and political movement, George W. Bush committed the United States to a quest for empire. American values and principles were universal, he asserted, and should guide the transformation of the world. Claes Ryn sees this drive for virtuous empire as the triumph of forces that in the last several decades acquired decisive influence in both the American parties, the foreign policy establishment, and the media.

Public intellectuals like William Bennett, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Michael Novak, Richard Perle, and Norman Podhoretz argued that the United States was an exceptional nation and should bring "democracy," "freedom," and "capitalism" to countries not yet enjoying them. Ryn finds the ideology of American empire strongly reminiscent of the French Jacobinism of the eighteenth century. He describes the drive for armed world hegemony as part of a larger ideological whole that both expresses and aggravates a crisis of democracy and, more generally, of American and Western civilization.

America the Virtuous sees the new Jacobinism as symptomatic of America shedding an older sense of the need for restraints on power. Checks provided by the US Constitution have been greatly weakened with the erosion of traditional moral and other culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Ryn (Catholic Univ.) does not like neoconservatives. He does not even like the term. Instead, he refers to the conservative intellectuals who have secured prominent positions in the media and in the Pentagon as the "new Jacobins." Like the Jacobins of old, they possess a dangerous arrogance that will lead their nation to disaster… Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.”

—R. A. Strong, Choice

“An important contribution for those interested in the intense post 9/11 debate on US foreign policy.”

—David C. Jordan, University of Virginia

“Claes Ryn paints a truly alarming portrait of the new Jacobinism that now constitutes a powerful ideological force among our nation’s elites. . . . Ryn’s splendid book is a warning of things to come if we fail to recognize the dangers.”

—George W. Carey, Georgetown University

“There is much wisdom in Ryn’s book, and the moral realism he calls for and explicates commands respect. . . . Ryn is onto deep truths about the nature of politics.”

—David C. Henderickson, World Policy Journal

America the Virtuous diagnosed our contemporary maladies in both foreign policy and domestic life. . . . We Americans pretend we’re a peace-loving people and that our wars have all been foisted upon us. But the United States, as Ryn explains, is an Enlightened or Ideological Republic that has slipped its constitutional moorings, and become a Fighting Faith.”

—Walter A. McDougall, Huminatas

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765802194
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 221
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Claes G. Ryn is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America where he was chairman of his department. He has taught also at the University of Virginia and Georgetown University. He is chairman of the National Humanities Institute and editor of the journal Humanitas. In 2000 he gave the Distinguished Foreign Scholar Lectures at Beijing University His many books include A Common Human Ground, Will, Imagination, and Reason (2nd., exp. ed. published by Transaction), and Democracy and the Ethical Life.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Preface

Author’s Note

Prologue: War without End

1. The Crisis of Western Civilization and the Rise of Jacobinism

2. The New Jacobinism

3. Creative Traditionalism or Radicalism?

4. Democracy: Plebiscitary or Constitutional?

5. Contrasting Forms of Morality and Society

6. Aristocratic and Anti-Aristocratic Democracy

7. The Father of Democratism

8. Love of One’s Own and Love of the Common

9. Moral Universality: A Philosophical Interlude

10. Pluralistic Political Morality

11. Democracy in Peril

12. The New Jacobins and American Democracy

13. Democracy for the World

14. Jacobin Capitalism

15. Equality

16. A Center that Cannot Hold

17. Responsible Nationhood

18. Needed: A New Moral Realism

Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2004

    NATIONAL ALERT: READ THIS BOOK!

    How come this book is not a national bestseller? Why is it not on the New York Times bestseller list? Why is it not being discussed from coas to coast? It certainly ought to be! This is THE book to read on what is going wrong with America and on why we are in Iraq and aspiring to dominating the world. Our constitutional tradition and other best traditions are being turned inside out. I know of no other book that explains our situation in such depth and so persuasively. It is not a pretty story, but I feel much better knowing what is what. I can think of only one reason why this book is not being read everywhere, that no mention of it is allowed in the big media. Those who are very effectively criticized in the book are also very well represented in those same media. The silence in the media makes sense in a way. This book could blow the lid off. I wish it would.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2004

    The Ideology of Intolerance

    Although this book paints a rather pessimistic picture of where we are as a society and civilization,I was cheered by it. Finally someone who is able to explain the situation and how it came about! Being able to define what is wrong is the first step toward dealing with it. Since I am connected to a think-tank that leans heavily in the neojacobin direction I write this comment anonymously. The neojacbins are, as Ryn argues in America the Virtuous,intolerant of dissent. Having read the book I can understand just why they are so partisan and insistent on conformity. These people are strongly power oriented. Their ideas promote the desire to control others. What I like particularly about this book is that it explains the neojacobin phenomena as a symptom of a badly eroded American and Western culture. In that environment utopian and unrealistic ideas like these can look plausible. Ryn's book shows that the consequences of neojacobin propaganda can be disastrous. The war against Iraq is an example. Whose interest is being served? I will be spreading the word about this excellent study,although I will have to be cautious about it. As I said,the neojacobins do not like dissent. I expect them to be silent about this book. Don't give any attention to books and articles that question their assumptions,only discuss approved ideas, that's their idea of debate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2004

    Origins of the Neoconservative Fraud

    Professor Ryn¿s focus of this book is the theoretical political underpinnings of the neoconservatives who have urged President George W. Bush to use preemptive strikes against other countries to impose a new virtuous empire of universal (or American, from the view of opponents) values on the world. He documented how the neoconservative worldviews are contrary to the worldviews of America¿s founders and of conservatives. By careful examination of the neoconservative¿s use of terms such as democracy and capitalism, Professor Ryn has shown how it is possible for ideologues with Trotsky origins to take control of some key positions in a Republican Party administration. Some examples from Professor Ryn¿s book are: 1. The French Revolution origins of the neoconservative worldview. While neoconservatives trace their origins to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and to Leon Trotsky, Professor Ryn has chosen to extend the genealogy further back to the French Revolution, started in 1789 and ended with the Reign of Terror of 1793 ¿ 1794. Professor Ryn has documented well that the worldviews of neoconservatives are contrary to the worldviews of America¿s founders and of conservatives. Throughout the book, Professor Ryn used the terms Jacobin and neo-Jacobin more than neoconservative to trace the origins of their views. Unfortunately, Professor Ryn¿s book did not include extensive critical evaluations of neoconservative individuals, institutes, and media. Professor Ryn mentioned some of the names. Some of the neoconservative individuals he mentioned included: Vice President Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz (Department of Defense), Irving Kristol, William Kristol (Weekly Standard, a magazine financed by Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Fox News Channel and of many newspapers in the world), Norman Podhoretz (Commentary), Richard Perle, William Bennett (The Book of Virtues), Ben Wattenberg, Michael Novak, Elliot Abrams, and Charles Krauthammer. Neoconservatives do not describe themselves as neo-Jacobin in television interviews or in their writings. Neoconservatives claim to be conservatives. Professor Ryn¿s approach might appeal to political science scholars but does not go far enough in helping typical voters detect fraudulent conservatives. 2. Communist capitalists. In a chapter on Jacobin Capitalism, Professor Ryn made an excellent contribution by showing how neoconservatives have concealed left-wing views in seemingly right-wing labels. Professor Ryn noted (page 145), for example, that Michael Novak used ¿democratic capitalism¿. If you think that Novak is talking about Milton Friedman¿s Capitalism and Freedom, you are dead wrong. Professor Ryn quoted Karl Marx and Frederick Engels¿ The Communist Manifesto (1848): `The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization.¿ Unfortunately, Professor Ryn did not even mention that the neoconservatives have political ties to Trotsky and Trotsky¿s support for immediate worldwide revolutions. Trotskyites are unwilling to wait for any gradual evolutions to socialism and to communism. Professor Ryn¿s Prologue, ¿War without End¿, or even his book does not even mention Trotsky.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2004

    This book stays with you

    I don't think I had seen the author's name before reading the review of the book in Times Literary Supplement. The reason may be that I am not a social scientist. But America the Virtuous crosses disciplinary boundaries. It speaks to me, a specialist in literarture. It is the opposite of a narrow political science tract. It deals with moral as well as political issues. I learnt a lot about American constitutionalism and how it is being transformed today. The book explains disturbing large currents in American society, not least in foreign policy. The book is so lucidly written that even its more philosophical sections should be intelligible to educated readers. The book is full of interesting ideas. Even when I found myself disagreeing, the book made me examine my own views. This is the kind of book that stays with you. It takes a while to absorb it. It is the kind of book you will eventually want to reread. I thought about giving it four stars, but I realized I would be holding a star back because I do not agree with the book completely and was a little irritated by it in places. I feel inclined to be generous. By the way, the TLS review does not convey the scope of the book. It deals with far more than issues of American empire.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2003

    America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire

    In a way I wish I had never read this book. It made me see some pretty disturbing things about the making of U.S. foreign policy and how America is changing. But to be able to act to change this situation you have to know the facts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2003

    About time

    America the Virtuous has been needed for a long time. It explains why I have felt so frustrated for such a long trying to figure out what is happening to America. I can see now why we are in such bad shape and that we may go down the drain unless we change direction pretty drastically. I didn't understand all of these connections before. Now at least I can see what needs to happen if America is to return to some kind of sanity. I hope lots of people read this book. It will help us turn around. I felt invigorated by this book, and I think others others will too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2003

    America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire

    This brand new book is an in-depth, highly provocative study of the transformation of American politics and society and the gradual erosion of constitutional and other restraints on power. It shows the quest for American empire to be symptomatic of a profound crisis of civilization that will be very difficult to overcome. This is a somber study but somehow constructive and cheerful at the same time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire

    This is the most illuminating study I have seen of how the push for empire came about. The book demonstrates that it didn't come out of nowhere but has been in preparation for a long time and been helped along by a weakening of the Constitution and a moral decline of American society. Does the president understand any of this?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2003

    America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire

    A nationally syndicated columnist just called this book a 'blockbuster.' But you get even more for your money than you might think from reading the ad. This book has 221 pages, not 156.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2003

    America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire

    This book you have to read. It is a real eye-opener. You will understand what is happening in America so much better. You may not agree with all of it, but it gives you a fresh perspective you will spend a long time thinking about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2003

    America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire

    This book explains a lot of what is behind today's U.S. foreign policy, most of it not known at all to the American public. The book connects the push for empire to a general decline of American society and constitutional government. It is a sobering, even upsetting, book, but there is something invigorating about understanding what is really going on. The book has a really fresh point of view. At least I haven't run into it anywhere else.

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