Pathology of The Elites: How the Arrogant Classes Plan to Run Your Life

Overview

In this bracing collection of provocative essays, Michael Knox Beran examines the false benevolence that characterizes the power classes in contemporary America. Their enlightened pity for their fellow citizens, he charges, conceals an instinct for power rather than compassion. Mr. Beran argues that today's elites have come to rely on a social philosophy that reduces people to a mass of social groups and types, obscures their individual humanity, and makes them easier to manipulate. While they tragically conceive...
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Overview

In this bracing collection of provocative essays, Michael Knox Beran examines the false benevolence that characterizes the power classes in contemporary America. Their enlightened pity for their fellow citizens, he charges, conceals an instinct for power rather than compassion. Mr. Beran argues that today's elites have come to rely on a social philosophy that reduces people to a mass of social groups and types, obscures their individual humanity, and makes them easier to manipulate. While they tragically conceive their desire for authority as a form of virtue, the elite classes have set about remaking schools, rewriting the U.S. Constitution, dehumanizing charity, and making war on tradition in the name of a crude form of Social Darwinism. Through readings of such inspired critics of the social imagination as Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Beran exposes the romance of dominion that underlies the philosophy of social benevolence, a philosophy that has steadily undermined the older and more valuable tradition that Edmund Burke associated with the moral imagination. In seeking to depose this moral impulse in the pantheon of culture, and enshrine the social imagination in its place, today's elites have weakened not only liberalism but also conservatism-indeed society as a whole. Where the moral imagination is not regularly and habitually cultivated, Mr. Beran observes, where it ceases to have a place in education and art, in schools and in the town square, it becomes more difficult even for the best-intentioned among us to resist the allure of a narrow and obtuse self-righteousness. Pathology of the Elites features a fresh voice of social criticism that is likely to raise hackles on both sides of the aisle.
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Editorial Reviews

Rich Lowry
Michael Knox Beran is one of the most eloquent and deeply humane writers in America. It's not just that he dazzles with the breadth of his knowledge of Western literature and American history; he genuinely enlightens. Read this book—and profit.
Steven Hayward
Michael Knox Beran makes here a bid to revive a lost art—that of the erudite general critic, ranging widely across history, literature, and philosophy in service of a grand critique of our current political scene. The result is a package of edifying essays, leagues removed from the repetitive dreariness and mendacity of what passes for commentary and analysis in much of the mass media today.
Theodore Dalrymple
Beran demonstrates that literary grace, erudition, and common sense are not contraries. He embodies them.
Carolina Journal
Michael Knox Beran examines the false benevolence that characterizes the power classes in contemporary America. Their enlightened pity for their fellow citizens, he charges, conceals an instinct for power rather than compassion. Beran argues that today's elites have come to rely on a social philosophy that reduces people to a mass of social groups and types, obscures their individual humanity, and makes them easier to manipulate.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566638746
  • Publisher: Ivan R Dee
  • Publication date: 10/16/2010
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Knox Beran's previous books include Forge of Empires, 1861-1871 and The Last Patrician, a study of Robert Kennedy that was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Most of the pieces in Pathology of the Elites first appeared in City Journal, where Mr. Beran is a contributing editor. His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and the National Review.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Elements That Are Wanted: Lionel Trilling's Critique of Vulgar Progressivism 3

The Secret Heresies of Isaiah Berlin 23

The Trivialization of Emerson: How the Philosopher of Self-Reliance Became a Prophet of Self-Esteem 49

Hannah Arendt in the Public Square: The Tyranny of the Social Imagination 67

In Defense of Rhyme-Time 83

Conservative Compassion versus Social Pity 96

Obama, Shaman 112

Blood and Iron or the Mending of Nature? The Case of Lincoln, Bismarck, and Darwin 127

Hearts of Darkness: Exporting the Welfare State 139

Lincoln as a Savior of Liberty 152

Dukedom Large Enough: Jefferson in His Library 162

Lincoln, Macbeth, and the Moral Imagination 169

The Virtues and Vices of Messianism: What's Right and Wrong in America's Freedom Crusade 191

Obama's Lincoln 207

Free to Choose: John McCain's Cult of Teddy Roosevelt versus Sarah Palin's Reprise of Lionel Trilling 211

Behind Jefferson's Wall: The Truth about the Establishment Clause 221

Revenge of the Castle People: Reflections on the Death of the Agora 243

Acknowledgments 271

Index 273

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