Morris Berman is a cultural historian and the author of The Twilight of American Culture. He has held a number of university appointments, most recently as Visiting Professor of Sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
Freedom of choice? It's Wendy's vs. Burger King, according to Berman in this critique of the U.S. economy-a nice follow-up to The Twilight of American Culture, which condemned the country's corporate, consumerist culture. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Berman assembles with uncommon clarity a vast amount of scholarship, data, and commentary in support of conclusions that most readers will resist." -- Gresham Riley, Philadelphia Inquirer
In this provocative, scattershot jeremiad, cultural historian Berman (The Twilight of American Culture) likens America to ancient Rome on the brink. On the geopolitical plane, he contends, the United States is a belligerent, overstretched empire, saddled with huge deficits and a hollowed-out economy, vulnerable to terrorist blowback and, worse, collapse if foreign creditors finally pull the plug. The rot is cultural and spiritual, too: Americans are cold, alienated shopaholics immured in suburban anomie, each encased in a private bubble of iTunes and media noise and indifferent to the public good. Culprits include globalization, technology and, more fundamentally, the individualism and commercialism that is the bedrock of American identity. Because American civilization is a "package deal," the author considers it impervious to piecemeal reform and, given Americans' ingrained "stupidity" and willful blindness, unsalvageable. Berman's attempts to tie every American dysfunction to an all-encompassing sickness of soul overreaches, leading him to lump together serious issues like poverty and the Abu Ghraib outrages with trivialities like annoying cell phone yakkers or the "freedom fries" phenomenon, which he bemoans as "symbolic of an emptiness at the core." Often stimulating and insightful in its particulars, his indictment, like the jingoism it abhors, is too sweeping and essentialist to fully capture American reality. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.