America has always been a nation of doers, ready and mostly able to fix what needs fixing. But, why can't we now get at solving our major problems? Why are our politics so starkly split and dysfunctional? Why are we, across the political spectrum, so angry, insecure, decreasingly tolerant and increasingly dogmatic? We need to know: you can't fix what you don't understand.
We have not understood what ails democracy in modern America. We need a fresh look at how and why we have gotten here, to seek the underlying causes of the angry national malaise. That is what Difficult Times seeks to do.
Briefly, what ails modern America are the interlocking effects of the ideas, economy and culture, and politics of the modern world. There are three sets of causes which, like chemicals in a test tube, are especially combustible when mixed.
First, the dominant ideas of the modern world-view, secular materialism and contemporary individualism, have wounded the psyches and, if one can be so bold as to use the word, the souls of many Americans. Secular materialism is at odds with faith, spirituality and religion. Contemporary individualism makes it easy to avoid personal responsibility and self-reliance. These ideas have alienated and angered many traditional and religious Americans and have left holes in the hearts of many who are not. They have led to divisive changes in the old national moral code. Moreover, our economic and political thinking has been taken over by an extreme free market ideology which Adam Smith would have disdained.
The second set of causes come from the forces of modern mass society and culture. For a majority of Americans, even before the Great Crash, the American economy was not working nearly as well as advertised. Growing disparities in levels of income and wealth have created a class society in which the American dream has receded for much of the country. We feel at sea in the gales of mass culture, rapid change and lost community. Among other things, it is hard to be the active citizens the Founders considered the bedrock of the new republic when public affairs are dominated by mass media and money and the sense of local and national community have been much diminished.
The third set of causes is what has happened to American politics. We are discomfited because our democracy is working poorly; our politics polarized, angry and dysfunctional; the Republicans captured by the hard Right while liberalism alienated itself from a large part of the country, including much of its old constituency. The nation's major problems are solvable with political will and skill, but our political system seems incapable to address them. Our politics and government have become dangerously dysfunctional. The forces which have bedeviled us as people and citizens have corroded the quality and democratic nature of our government. We have been dangerously drifting quite far from Lincoln's ideal-our ideal-of "government of the people, by the people and for the people".
The book is motivated by hope and by compassion. The compassion is to grasp why people are so distressed, to be able to feel what is driving Americans, on all parts of the political spectrum, to so much anger, intolerance and fear. The hope is twofold: that, despite the depths of our difficulties, understanding can help us find our way; and that if we adjust our ideas and adopt better policies, we can redeem the American dream.
Kirkus Review (of first edition): "An insightful study of American democracy....Challenging, informative, dire and yet, in the end, hopeful; this book will open minds-and very likely change a few of them
|Publisher:||Thomas M Lemberg|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author