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The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class

Overview


This short book rewrites the history of modern American liberalism. It shows that what we think of liberalism today – the top and bottom coalition we associate with President Obama - began not with Progressivism or the New Deal but rather in the wake of the post-WWI disillusionment with American society. In the twenties, the first writers and thinkers to call themselves liberals adopted the hostility to bourgeois life that had long characterized European intellectuals of both the left and the right. The aim of ...
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The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class

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Overview


This short book rewrites the history of modern American liberalism. It shows that what we think of liberalism today – the top and bottom coalition we associate with President Obama - began not with Progressivism or the New Deal but rather in the wake of the post-WWI disillusionment with American society. In the twenties, the first writers and thinkers to call themselves liberals adopted the hostility to bourgeois life that had long characterized European intellectuals of both the left and the right. The aim of liberalism’s foundational writers and thinkers such as Herbert Croly, Randolph Bourne, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis and H.L Mencken was to create an American aristocracy of sorts, to provide a sense of hierarchy and order associated with European statism.

Like communism, Fabianism, and fascism, modern liberalism, critical of both capitalism and democracy, was born of a new class of politically self-conscious intellectuals. They despised both the individual businessman's pursuit of profit and the conventional individual's pursuit of pleasure, both of which were made possible by the lineaments of the limited nineteenth-century state.

Temporarily waylaid by the heroism of the WWII generation, in the 1950s liberalism expressed itself as a critique of popular culture. It was precisely the success of elevating middle class culture that frightened foppish characters like Dwight Macdonald and Aldous Huxley, crucial influences on what was mistakenly called the New Left. There was no New Left in the 1960s, but there was a New Class which in the midst of Vietnam and race riots took up the priestly task of de-democratizing America in the name of administering newly developed rights

The neo-Mathusianism which emerged from the 60s was, unlike its eugenicist precursors, aimed not at the breeding habits of the lower classes but rather the buying habits of the middle class.

Today’s Barack Obama liberalism has displaced the old Main Street private sector middle class with a new middle class composed of public sector workers allied with crony capitalists and the country’s arbiters of style and taste.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The roots of American liberalism are not compassion but snobbery. So argues historian Fred Siegel in The Revolt Against the Masses. Siegel traces the development of liberalism from the cultural critics of the post WWI years to the gentry liberals today, and he shows how the common thread is scorn for middle-class Americans and for America itself. This is a stunningly original—and convincing—book.”

Michael Barone, senior political analyst at the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics

“Fred Siegel’s superb The Revolt Against the Masses should be required reading for those who wonder how liberal elites came to dominate our culture, overriding the will of the people. Siegel’s book is history at its best and most relevant.”

Roger L. Simon, Academy Award–nominated screenwriter, author, and founder of PJ Media

“In The Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel reveals the intellectual underpinnings of today’s ascendant gentry liberalism, which leaves old-fashioned liberals, including, I suspect, Siegel himself, politically homeless. The increasingly anti-democratic character of liberalism also undermines much of the reason we became progressives in the first place, which was to help the middle and working classes. The gentry’s stridency and hypocrisy—what’s OK for them is not for everyone else—is utterly transforming liberalism today. The progressives portrayed in this book are not so much the heirs of Jefferson or Jackson or even Roosevelt, as they are the American heirs of the worst high-toned Tories.”

Joel Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594036989
  • Publisher: Encounter Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 158,589
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Fred Siegel is the author most recently of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life (2005), which received the cover review in the NY Times Book Review.

His previous book The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A. and the Fate of America’s Big Cities was named by Peter Jennings as one of the 100 most important books about the United States in the 20th century.

Mr. Siegel, who has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and has taught at the Sorbonne, is also a former Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington. A professor at The Cooper Union for Science and Art from 1983-2009, he is currently both a scholar in residence at St Francis College in Brooklyn and a senior fellow at The Manhattan Institute.

The former editor of The City Journal, he has written for The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Public Interest, Commentary, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Dissent, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post’s Outlook section and The Times Literary Supplement as well as numerous academic publications. He also appeared widely on television and radio including the PBS News Hour, the CBS and ABC Evening News, CNN, MSNBC and The O’Reilly Factor.

Mr. Siegel, who was a senior advisor to Rudy Giuliani’s 1993 mayoral campaign and wrote the candidate’s path breaking quality of life speech, gave the 2000 and 2011 Bradley Lectures at the American Enterprise Institute., In addition to three earlier books, he has written widely on American and European politics and was described as “the historian of the American City” in a November 2011 profile in The Wall Street Journal.

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