America the Wise: Longevity and the Culture of Compassion

America the Wise: Longevity and the Culture of Compassion

by Theodore Roszak
     
 
Theodore Roszak, the author of the international bestseller The Making of a Counterculture, returns to investigate the baby boom generation as it prepares to join the ranks of our society's rapidly growing senior population. America the Wise will ignite a nationwide debate that promises to transform our most fundamental ethical and cultural values as

Overview

Theodore Roszak, the author of the international bestseller The Making of a Counterculture, returns to investigate the baby boom generation as it prepares to join the ranks of our society's rapidly growing senior population. America the Wise will ignite a nationwide debate that promises to transform our most fundamental ethical and cultural values as well as our economic and political priorities. Roszak argues that the emergence of senior dominance (in numbers, wealth, and political power) will force Americans to rethink their basic attitudes toward death and dying, competition and compassion, wealth and well-being. He mounts a compelling defense of senior entitlements and envisions a society in which the ability to prolong productive and fulfilling lives is regarded as a paramount historic achievement rather than an inconvenient fiscal problem.

America the Wise provides an insightful look at the changes that await America in every walk of life, from the mass media and business to family life, from our obsession with the cult of youth and consumer culture to sexual and gender relations. Roszak calls upon the newly emerging ranks of our senior population to establish a society based not on the survival of the fittest but on wisdom, compassion, and the survival of the gentlest.

Editorial Reviews

Mark Levinson
The problem with America the Wise is its political naivete....This is vintage Roszak....The revolution simply awaits the graying of the New People. If only it were so simple.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cultural historian Roszak, who championed anti-establishment youth in his 1969 bestseller, The Making of a Counter Culture, now pins his hopes on the grown-up baby boomers. He argues that 'The New People,' as he awkwardly calls those entering their 50s, stand poised to become the most progressive, influential senior generation ever, blessed with unprecedented longevity, physical vitality, hungry minds and ambition. Roszak's prediction that large numbers of 'New People,' imbued with know-how and wisdom, will turn to political activism and volunteer services, triggering a 'senior populism' committed to public programs and compassionate policies, is an appealing scenario, but he never provides convincing evidence that this is happening or likely to happen. He addresses subjects that are both important and arguably banal, like the simple-minded immaturity of advertising, which he proposes should be replaced by advertising based on enduring quality rather than on novelty. He does forcefully rebut fiscally conservative critics of Social Security and Medicare entitlements, and his wide-ranging meditation offers trenchant observations on the stunted competitive male psyche, pop culture, cyberpunk fiction, the hype surrounding computers, suicide among the elderly and the risks of anti-aging pills.
Library Journal
History professor Roszak, well known for many works, including The Making of a Counter Culture and The Cult of Information (Univ. of California, 1994), examines the effect of human longevity on the future of the nation. With a scholarly but very readable style, Roszak discusses the impact of the baby boomers, who will live longer and be more numerous than any previous generation and will have to cope with past attitudes regarding the elderly from political, social, medical, and economic perspectives. He details these attitudes and current policies and offers evidence of how things are beginning to change. He also outlines points to consider when advocating change, which he believes is necessary to insure that the elderly will have "their proper place in the human story." This well-documented book brings forth controversial and thought-provoking issues that will be with us for many years. -- Steven J. Mayover, Free Library of Philadelphia
Mark Levinson
The problem with America the Wise is its political naivete....This is vintage Roszak....The revolution simply awaits the graying of the New People. If only it were so simple. -- The New York Times Book Review
Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes
A book everyone entering the 21st century should want to read. -- Polish American Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Assuming a high moral ground for his generation, and, by implication, himself, historian Roszak follows the rebellious youth whose ideals he analyzed 30 years ago (The Making of a Counter Culture) into their dawning old age, claiming for them a wisdom that could enrich American society with a vibrant new altruism. The spur to these loose-knit reflections was Roszak's encounter with an unspecified life-threatening illness, from which medical science saved him. The experience enhanced his appreciation of life, of medicine's capacity to extend life, and of the socially transformative powers of what he calls the 'New People': the aging baby boomers who will soon turn the over-85 segment of society into its fastest growing age group. What makes these folk new is the prospect that their long, relatively comfortable final years will offer an unprecedentedly secure vantage point from which to project a more humane life philosophy than has hitherto dominated America's social and ecomonic being. As though to model the new, slower-paced wisdom, the book moves leisurely and repetitively from arguments in defense of senior entitlements, to critiques of youth-oriented computer culture, to reflections on the life-enhancing limits imposed by our inevitable, if postponable, death. The central theme is that America has more than enough wealth, now misdirected toward cars, shopping malls, and software, to support its seniors, who will richly repay the investment in them with volunteer service, mentoring, and the social diffusion of kindness. The book's utopianism would comfort if it didn't seem so rooted in social privilege, expressed in the scant recognition given the elderly poor, the naiverestriction of the wisdom born of 'hard knocks, the ordeal of disease, the approach of mortality' to over-60s, and the inescapable commonality of interest between the author and his projected New People. This attempt to define a social program for the elderly reads too much like an idealized personal and generational self-portrait effectively to persuade.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395856994
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/15/1998
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Theodore Roszak is a professor of history. He has been nominated twice for a National Book Award and has been a Guggenheim Fellow. He currently lives in Berkely, California.

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