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Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

by

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy Cover

ISBN13: 9780307720450
ISBN10: 0307720454
Condition: Underlined
Dustjacket: Standard
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Awards

Staff Pick

Chris Hayes — the best thing to happen to political punditry in 2012 — provides an immensely readable analysis of numerous societal failings in recent times. The book is highly entertaining and thought provoking, addressing sociological, economic, and political trends in a comprehensive thesis. Although I believe it to be a work of true scholarship, I emphasize that it is also great fun to read.
Recommended by Keith M., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.

Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another — from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball — imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.

How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite — one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit — utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom — produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.

Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.

Review:

"Calling the decade of the 2000s the 'fail decade,' Hayes, editor at large of the Nation and host of MSNBC's Up w/ Chris Hayes, highlights the implosion of trusted American institutions — Enron, Wall Street, Congress, the Catholic Church, and Major League Baseball — tracing the origins of the present crisis of authority to our elite meritocracy. While the WASP establishment emphasized 'humility, prudence and lineage,' the current meritocracy celebrates raw ambition, achievement, and brains, and it's learned to embrace the alarming inequality that keeps its members near the top. The result, Hayes notes, is a society with extremely high and rising inequality, without social mobility, presided over by overachievers who enjoy tremendous financial and political clout, yet face no actual punishment for failing at their duties. The lively and well-informed Hayes warns that if we ignore our extreme inequality, those at the top become more prone to corruption, social isolation, and failure. As examples, he pinpoints the devastating effects of social distance that led to recent scandals and catastrophes: the fundamental gap between priests and the parishioners whose children were victimized; the disproportionate distance between the civilian elite and our soldiers; and during the financial crisis, the distance between those who were bailed out and those were not. Offering feasible proposals for change, this cogent social commentary urges us to reconstruct our institutions so we can once again trust them. Agent: Will Lippincott, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"In a very good new book titled Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Chris Hayes offers one of the most compelling assessments of how soaring inequality is changing American society." The Economist.com

Review:

"Let's just say that if you like politics and big ideas, you want to buy this book. It's a lot more intellectually ambitious than your typical pundit book and offers a really great blend of writing chops and social theory synthesis." Matthew Yglesias, Slate.com

Review:

"Engrossing...thoughtful critiques of what's gone wrong with America's ruling class." The Atlantic.com

Review:

"I was myself very impressed by the level of execution in this book." Tyler Cowen, Marginalrevolution.com

Review:

"Hayes's book makes for a great read....Twilight uses a wide variety of academic and journalistic work, balancing a deep, systemic critique of society with detailed and empathetic reporting about those most affected by elite failure." Mike Konczal, Dissent

Review:

"A potent articulation of a society's free-floating angst, Twilight of the Elites stakes its claim as the jeremiad by which these days will be remembered." Washington Monthly.com

Review:

"I read Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites last month and will suggest that you read it too — it's an engaging read that addresses the question of whether a meritocratic elite can really stay meritocratic over extended periods of time." Daniel W. Drezner, Foreign Policy.com

Review:

"This was a book I found so stimulating and immersive that I cannot wait to be able to discuss it with a larger audience....Even if you think you are aware of the depth of the rot plaguing the highest levels of our society, you will likely earn a new level of outrage by reading this book." Alexis Goldstein, Livetotry.com

Review:

"Make[s] you think in new ways about why we tolerate such vast and growing income inequality...an extended meditation on why the great hope and change revolution of 2008 has so far left the inequitable status quo a little bit too intact." Salon.com

Review:

"Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes may change the way you look at the world....[It] almost single-handily undermines virtually every precept we've come to accept about life in the modern age. It also may well turn out to be the seminal treatise for the so-called 'FAIL' generation, a term that loosely connotes everyone who graduated since the beginning of the 21st Century." Good Men Project.com

Review:

"Twilight of the Elites is a engaging, insightful book. I finished it in less than 24 hours, and I encourage you to pick up a copy." Forbes.com

Review:

"You should really get yourself a copy of Twilight of the Elites." Daily Kos

Review:

"[A] forcefully written debut....A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest." Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Review:

"This is the Next Big Thing that we have been waiting for. Twilight of the Elites is the fully reported, detailed, true story of a 21st century America beyond the reach of authority. It's new, and true, and beautifully told — Hayes is the young left's most erudite and urgent interpreter. Brilliant book." Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show and author of Drift

Review:

"Chris Hayes is a brilliant chronicler of the central crisis of our time — the failure of America's elites. His humane, spirited reporting and analysis capture what millions of Americans already know in their gut — the emperor has no clothes. Yet this is not a book defined by despair or cynicism. Hayes seizes this moment of crisis to offer important and unconventional ideas as to how to reconstruct and reinvent our politics and society. Twilight of the Elites is a must read book for those, across the political spectrum, who believe there is still time to cure the structural ills of our body politic." Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher, The Nation

Review:

"A provocation; a challenge; and a major contribution to the great debate over how the American dream can be restored." David Frum, contributing editor, DailyBeast/Newsweek

Review:

"Chris Hayes is a gift to this republic. The brilliance he shows us each week on MSNBC has now been complemented by this extraordinary book. Beautifully written, and powerfully argued, it will force you to rethink everything you take for granted about 'merit.' And it will show us a way to a more perfect nation." Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School and author of Republic, Lost

Review:

"Chris Hayes has given us the kind of book people don't write any more: a sweeping work of social criticism like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Michael Harrington's The Other America that take the failings of an entire society as their subject. Those books brought grand movements of reform in their wake. Would that history repeats itself with Twilight of the Elites — America ignores this prophet at their gravest peril." Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and Before the Storm

Synopsis:

A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.

 

   Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another –  from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball – imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.

 

   How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite--one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

 

   Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit – utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom – produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.

 

   Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.

About the Author

Christopher Hayes is Editor at Large of The Nation and host of Up w/ Chris Hayes on MSNBC.  From 2010 to 2011, he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.  His essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times MagazineTimeThe American ProspectThe New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and The Guardian.  He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Kate and daughter Ryan.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

rrc55, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by rrc55)
Goes a long way in explaining this country's "leadership".
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Salvaje, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by Salvaje)
I absolutely loved this detailed account of the state of American meritocracy and its influence in many aspects of our life from education, to the war in Iraq, and the widening gap between the 1% and the 99%. I also appreciated Hayes description of American elitism in its many forms and literally could not put this book down once I started. I am going to make sure my friends and colleagues read this work!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
ordinarycitizen, June 12, 2012 (view all comments by ordinarycitizen)
As a historian I view recent events through the lens of time. Throughout history countries, empires and kingdoms have been ruled by an out of touch elite. Now we have joined them. The real question is "Is it too late to save America's experiment in a land of equality?" Recent events indicate the time is fast approaching in which the answer will be affirmative. Just remember, all previous elite dominated societies ended in ugly violence.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 6 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307720450
Author:
Hayes, Christopher
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Author:
Hayes, Christopher L.
Subject:
Business - General
Subject:
politics;meritocracy;economics;non-fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20120631
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9 x 6 x 1 in 1 lb

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Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$12.50 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Crown Publishing Group (NY) - English 9780307720450 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Chris Hayes — the best thing to happen to political punditry in 2012 — provides an immensely readable analysis of numerous societal failings in recent times. The book is highly entertaining and thought provoking, addressing sociological, economic, and political trends in a comprehensive thesis. Although I believe it to be a work of true scholarship, I emphasize that it is also great fun to read.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Calling the decade of the 2000s the 'fail decade,' Hayes, editor at large of the Nation and host of MSNBC's Up w/ Chris Hayes, highlights the implosion of trusted American institutions — Enron, Wall Street, Congress, the Catholic Church, and Major League Baseball — tracing the origins of the present crisis of authority to our elite meritocracy. While the WASP establishment emphasized 'humility, prudence and lineage,' the current meritocracy celebrates raw ambition, achievement, and brains, and it's learned to embrace the alarming inequality that keeps its members near the top. The result, Hayes notes, is a society with extremely high and rising inequality, without social mobility, presided over by overachievers who enjoy tremendous financial and political clout, yet face no actual punishment for failing at their duties. The lively and well-informed Hayes warns that if we ignore our extreme inequality, those at the top become more prone to corruption, social isolation, and failure. As examples, he pinpoints the devastating effects of social distance that led to recent scandals and catastrophes: the fundamental gap between priests and the parishioners whose children were victimized; the disproportionate distance between the civilian elite and our soldiers; and during the financial crisis, the distance between those who were bailed out and those were not. Offering feasible proposals for change, this cogent social commentary urges us to reconstruct our institutions so we can once again trust them. Agent: Will Lippincott, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "In a very good new book titled Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, Chris Hayes offers one of the most compelling assessments of how soaring inequality is changing American society."
"Review" by , "Let's just say that if you like politics and big ideas, you want to buy this book. It's a lot more intellectually ambitious than your typical pundit book and offers a really great blend of writing chops and social theory synthesis."
"Review" by , "Engrossing...thoughtful critiques of what's gone wrong with America's ruling class."
"Review" by , "I was myself very impressed by the level of execution in this book."
"Review" by , "Hayes's book makes for a great read....Twilight uses a wide variety of academic and journalistic work, balancing a deep, systemic critique of society with detailed and empathetic reporting about those most affected by elite failure."
"Review" by , "A potent articulation of a society's free-floating angst, Twilight of the Elites stakes its claim as the jeremiad by which these days will be remembered."
"Review" by , "I read Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites last month and will suggest that you read it too — it's an engaging read that addresses the question of whether a meritocratic elite can really stay meritocratic over extended periods of time."
"Review" by , "This was a book I found so stimulating and immersive that I cannot wait to be able to discuss it with a larger audience....Even if you think you are aware of the depth of the rot plaguing the highest levels of our society, you will likely earn a new level of outrage by reading this book."
"Review" by , "Make[s] you think in new ways about why we tolerate such vast and growing income inequality...an extended meditation on why the great hope and change revolution of 2008 has so far left the inequitable status quo a little bit too intact."
"Review" by , "Twilight of the Elites by Chris Hayes may change the way you look at the world....[It] almost single-handily undermines virtually every precept we've come to accept about life in the modern age. It also may well turn out to be the seminal treatise for the so-called 'FAIL' generation, a term that loosely connotes everyone who graduated since the beginning of the 21st Century."
"Review" by , "Twilight of the Elites is a engaging, insightful book. I finished it in less than 24 hours, and I encourage you to pick up a copy."
"Review" by , "You should really get yourself a copy of Twilight of the Elites."
"Review" by , "[A] forcefully written debut....A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest."
"Review" by , "This is the Next Big Thing that we have been waiting for. Twilight of the Elites is the fully reported, detailed, true story of a 21st century America beyond the reach of authority. It's new, and true, and beautifully told — Hayes is the young left's most erudite and urgent interpreter. Brilliant book."
"Review" by , "Chris Hayes is a brilliant chronicler of the central crisis of our time — the failure of America's elites. His humane, spirited reporting and analysis capture what millions of Americans already know in their gut — the emperor has no clothes. Yet this is not a book defined by despair or cynicism. Hayes seizes this moment of crisis to offer important and unconventional ideas as to how to reconstruct and reinvent our politics and society. Twilight of the Elites is a must read book for those, across the political spectrum, who believe there is still time to cure the structural ills of our body politic."
"Review" by , "A provocation; a challenge; and a major contribution to the great debate over how the American dream can be restored."
"Review" by , "Chris Hayes is a gift to this republic. The brilliance he shows us each week on MSNBC has now been complemented by this extraordinary book. Beautifully written, and powerfully argued, it will force you to rethink everything you take for granted about 'merit.' And it will show us a way to a more perfect nation." Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School and author of Republic, Lost
"Review" by , "Chris Hayes has given us the kind of book people don't write any more: a sweeping work of social criticism like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Michael Harrington's The Other America that take the failings of an entire society as their subject. Those books brought grand movements of reform in their wake. Would that history repeats itself with Twilight of the Elites — America ignores this prophet at their gravest peril."
"Synopsis" by , A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.

 

   Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another –  from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball – imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.

 

   How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite--one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

 

   Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit – utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom – produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.

 

   Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.

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