Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline
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Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline (Decline of the American Empire #3)

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  137 ratings  ·  29 reviews
"Why America Failed" shows how, from its birth as a nation of "hustlers" to its collapse as an empire, the tools of the country's expansion proved to be the instruments of its demise"Why America Failed" is the third and most engaging volume of Morris Berman's trilogy on the decline of the American empire. In "The Twilight of American Culture, " Berman examined the internal...more
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by John Wiley & Sons (first published January 1st 2011)
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"Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline" is Morris Berman's latest installment in a trilogy of books by one of our most prescient and important social and cultural critics. As he's been doing for over a decade, Dr. Berman looks at America at this particular juncture and offers a diagnosis that isn't a pretty one. Believers in the American myth of never-ending progress and technology's capacity to save us will be sorely disappointed, if not downright angry. They'll dismiss Berman as a...more
Bill Bridges
The first thing the reader has to deal with is the book’s provocative title. Berman has said that his original title was “Capitalism and its Discontents” with emphasis on the discontents; the publisher made him change it to something they felt would sell better. I feel both titles are unfortunate, because they might serve to drive away those who would best benefit from this book, while attracting those who are probably already aware of the gist of the argument – although the latter could certain...more
This is the third book of Berman's trilogy concluding what he started in the early post 9-11 years. "The Twilight of American Culture," followed by "Dark Ages America" and now "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline." Why Amerika failed can be summed up in three words, "Character is destiny." I will stop being so disparagingly critical of AmeriKa because it was willed by the almighty God we are trying so hard to foist upon our citizens. We can't help it; there is nothing we can do to...more
If nothing else, this book will make you think. Oh, brother, will it make you think. You may catch the flavor of the book from its title: notice that the past tense is used. This is not a book of strategies for how to extricate ourselves from the mess in which we seem to sink further and further by the year. It is simply an explanation of why we are at this low point, and why it was inevitable from the start. You certainly do not have to agree with all Mr. Berman says to find his ideas fascinati...more
Thom Foolery
3.5 stars

Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline, the third installment in his trilogy on the collapse of the USAmerican empire (beginning with The Twilight of American Culture and continuing with Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire ) is vintage Berman. His highly readable rants against the many failings of contemporary USAmerican society locate the deep cause of our nihilism and ennui in a tradition of "hustling," of seeking nothing but commercial and financial success, that...more
Richard Kearney
With book titles like The Twilight of American Culture (2000), Dark Ages America (2006), and - most recently - Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline (2012), one might be forgiven for thinking Morris Berman an apostle of doom and gloom. In fact, Berman is nothing of the sort. His work belongs to a noble tradition of social criticism that draws heavily upon the historical record, some of the best contemporary research, and a multitude of other sources to challenge us with a sobering po...more
I admire Morris Berman a great deal; I'm currently working my way through Dark Ages America and already I find it a great deal more insightful than Why America Failed. This one strikes me as basically a lot of padding and repetition of previous statements, with some genuinely interesting stuff sprinkled throughout. Namely, I found the controversial chapter on the South and the Civil War quite interesting, regardless of its more dubious points (if nothing else, it's certainly an argument I've bar...more
Mike Moskos
Because I'm familiar with the themes of this book, the writing here didn't feel very heartfelt: it seemed more like an academic survey rather than something deeply experienced.

For those who read the book and want to answer the question of why slavery in America, see
"1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created" by Charles Mann. Immunity to one type of malaria had a lot to do with it. The Africans' immunity to it--which wiped out those of other ancestries en masse--meant they were the only o...more
I own all three books of this "trilogy" and find Berman's work to be prescient, refreshingly candid, but frustrating. This book is no exception. Throughout, Berman makes a number of extremely valid points about the reasons for the decline of the American system, which in this book focuses on what he calls the "hustler culture". However, Berman's problem is that the dominant thesis in his books is itself immune to contradictory evidence - Berman is convinced that America is a failed state, so he...more
Why America Failed: the use of the past tense may cause confusion in some. If you feel curious instead of indignant, then I can't recommend this book highly enough (if you feel indignant, you should probably at least be curious about why you could possible feel indignant about something that is in no way intended to be insulting. Berman can help you with that, too). For as long as I can remember, I felt there was something wrong with this country, and I wanted to help fix it. American political...more
Harry Allagree
This third and final book (2012) of Morris Berman’s trilogy on the failure of America through imperial decline is really, more or less, a concentrated summary of major themes he’s mentioned in his previous books: “The Twilight of American Culture” (2000) & “Dark Ages America” (2006). There are only 5 chapters, the first four of which point to the factors by which the “hustling life” of the U.S. is leading us into collapse.

Berman opens by saying “America was from the o...more
Seth Wilpan
I’m 60% through “Why America Failed” at the same time that I’m listening to a set of Teaching Company lectures entitled “Thinking About Capitalism”. Morris Berman frames the American Gestalt in what he terms a nation of hustlers and an ethos based on the hustling mentality. The lectures are congruent with this perspective, though the lecturer, Jerry Z. Muller, spends time tracing the evolution of the mindset of this mercantilism or industrialism. For as long as people have thought about it they...more
As the book I implies, American isn't failing, it has failed. This book does not offer hope for change if only we do certain prescribed things, and that is refreshing. Several of the books I have read recently have had all these scenarios on how we can turn things around and frankly, I think that is wishful thinking. This may seem pessimistic, but at this point I prefer honesty. If we all need to do one thing right now it is take an honest look at our culture and our country, without the scapego...more
Kingsley L. Dennis
Morris Berman is more eloquent than ever in his final book in the trilogy examining the collapse of the American empire. In this book, he pulls no punches. His observations would be witty if they were not so poignant, and thus indicative of an absurd state of cultural affairs. In this short book Berman takes an historical look at the roots of North America's problems...saying that it all goes back to the ethos & attitude that first formed this union of states. In this Berman is very US-centr...more
Jeff Bull
This book gave me some measure of peace in terms of my politics, which, to attach adjectives to it, includes such words as "fatalistic" and "passive."

I go on about this in my home space, but Berman begs the vital question posed by any democracy: what do you do when you don't walk on the same side of the street as the mainstream?

There are a number of very glib answers to this: "get active!" or "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," but there really are honest limits to...more
Justin Powell
In reality, I'd only give this 3 stars, but I figured since he showed signs of hope near the end, I figured I'd give it an extra one. Not that I particularly agree that one should be hopeful, specifically if the future is doomed, which I think it is. I do think the things he noted on that are helping the EU should be taken into account. The line of thinking that shows it's not pure socialism, but social capitalism. This is what The United States needs, not the insane idea of laissez-faire capita...more
This probably deserved 4 stars, but it was a bit disjointed. I started it off pretty slow because I couldn't get into it, but then it started to pick up.

This is basically a book about why the American lifestyle (tech addiction, unstable economy, greed, consumerism, etc) can't be sustained and gives some fairly interesting evidence that we're already on a decline. It was cheating, maybe, because I already agreed with the book before I started reading it, but it had some interesting tidbits noneth...more
Ron Davidson
Certainly not a cheerful book, but a perceptive assessment of the failed state of American society, one with a religious devotion to the pursuit of affluence and the power of technology, at the expense of humanity and community. While I don't agree with all his conclusions (I think he tends to exaggerate the qualities of "traditional" [e.g., Southern] culture, while downplaying or even ignoring its neofeudalist and violent characteristics)the author generally presents a convincing argument again...more
This is a fascinating exploration of American decline, written in an engaing style that makes it a difficult book to set aside.

The most provocative chapter for me was Chapter 4 where Berman argues that the 'old south' was America's best hope for an alternative to the culture of 'hustling'. (He is no apologist for slavery and, as if he was terrified of being drawn into that camp, Berman declares his abhorrence of the institution on almost every page of the chapter.) In support of his argument, Be...more
Abhi Yerra
The book could be more thought of as why does capitalism a problem. It covers that aspect quite well and it would seem that the core which he covers about America is actually a small core of his overall message about capitalism.

What is wrong with capitalism? The problem seems that it encourages a fast life of never ending progress it hout ever reflecting what the overall progresses for. For what end is the progress? What's the Ed goal in mind. There is none. No spirituality no morality.

The autho...more
Debby Hallett
Hustlers, he blames it all on hustling. The author comes over as a bit of a fanatic, but still the message of the book is useful. Or, it's useful to ME. It's an easy read, and if you want more insight into why Americans believe and act the way they do, this will provide some insight and ideas to think about. I'm not sorry I took the time to read it, but when I finished it, I didn't throw it down and shout, 'This is outrageous! Someone needs to DO SOMETHING!!' (That's how I felt when I finished e...more
Along with "Dark Ages America", Morris Berman has laid out for all to plainly see why America is not long for this world. To stop this decline would take something resembling a miracle. The American public would have to experience a sea change of conscience and culture, which Mr. Berman and I both agree is not going to happen. So we will continue our competition to die with the most stuff as America becomes another extinguished empire.
A truly important book. Berman's treatment of mid-19th century southern social-politics alone makes this book mandatory reading. Tremendous economy and restraint, no small measure of humor (gallows, as it may be), and a lingering sense, despite his protestations, that life will continue in the wake of even the blackest of his premonitions... An incredible little book and, importantly, an incredible bibliographic resource. Read it.
Norman Baxter
If you can get past the title, which is a bit sensationalist, you will find a wealth of ideas concerning the social history of the United States. Dr. Berman argues that this social history is key to understanding the present situation of the United States. Supported by extensive research as reflected in the notes, this is a book that you will be thinking about for a long time after you read it.
I read this book in spanish, i rate it tree stars just because in the Sexto piso edition page 198 said "podemos considerar el Islam como alternativa, desde luego (We can consider Islam as an alternative, of course)" it was like a stone in the rice, i could not believe he write something like that.
Nathan Abels
Well articulated book focusing on the "hustling" culture of America since its inception and why our lack of consideration for others in relentless pursuit of accumulating wealth and goods is ultimately the failure of a nation.
Lynne Premo
Another thoughtful and enlightening work of cultural criticism from Berman, but I perhaps was looking for a more detailed take on anti-intellectualism (particularly in light of his commentary on the South).
I probably agree and disagree with Berman in equal measure, but his unique ideological perspective is enough to make these books rewarding and well worth reading.
Fiona Ottley
He makes some interesting points, but I am not completely convinced.
Dmetrius marked it as to-read
Aug 19, 2014
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Distinguished cultural historian and social critic Morris Berman has spent many years exploring the corrosion of American society and the decline of the American empire. He is the author of the critically acclaimed works The Twilight of American Culture, a New York Times Book Review "Notable Book," and Dark Ages America."
More about Morris Berman...
The Twilight of American Culture Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire The Reenchantment of the World Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West Wandering God

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