The Death of the Liberal Class
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The Death of the Liberal Class

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,236 ratings  ·  181 reviews
The liberal class plays a vital role in a democracy. It gives moral legitimacy to the state. It makes limited forms of dissent and incremental change possible. The liberal class posits itself as the conscience of the nation. It permits us, through its appeal to public virtues and the public good, to define ourselves as a good and noble people. Most importantly, on behalf o...more
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Nation Books (first published September 23rd 2010)
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Bakari
"Death the Liberal Class" is the first book I've read by Chris Hedges, though I've read some of his articles and heard a few of this speeches on YouTube. Though I agree with much of what he has to say, I'm very irritated by some of his analysis and approach addressing the problems he writes about.

Hedges is certainly correct that the liberal class has abandoned the historical objectives of liberalism—that of defending real, progressive democratic reform—but he greatly generalizes the differences...more
Will Byrnes
Updated - 11/8/11 - see bottom

CSI: Democracy

That piercing stench is the aroma of failure and betrayal lying in a dumpster outside a lobbyist’s condo. Chris Hedges, toting his kit, approaches the body and examines it for evidence of foul play. A uniform steps aside, giving Hedges room. He bends down and opens the surprisingly fat wallet. It is clear that the vic was once a powerful presence, as Hedges can see from the wallet’s contents, scattered about the corpse. The Social Security card is worn...more
Dave Lefevre
How can someone get 95% of a book so right and get the rest so wrong?

I really liked most of this book. It's a great work for anyone that wants to understand the outrage that has kindled movements like Occupy Wall Street. Piece by piece Hedges indites the liberal institutions that are supposed to make us think and edge progress along. He rightly points out that what we tend to call liberals today (and are yelled about on such outlets as Fox news) have basically sold out to corporate culture in or...more
Mike Sheehan
This is the longest of my reviews but it's certainly worthy of the attention. Although often times when I read nonfiction books of a similar caliber-that is, books I consider incredibly urgent and important; which include other Hedge’s books and "The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism," where almost every passage makes me want to just DO SOMETHING- I often just state it is necessary for everyone to read it and leave it at that. This time, instead of some random guy saying it must...more
Gordon A.  Long
“The Death of the Liberal Class” is a sad book. Not that we require all books to have pleasant subjects. There are plenty of unhappy things that need to be said. This book is sad for another reason; it is sad that it came to be written at all.
Chris Hodges is a radical. He is a vociferous critic of what is wrong with America and the human race, and many of his ideas strike a receptive chord in a lot of people who don’t go quite as far as he does, but still appreciate his thoughts. For the most...more
Marcus
A liberal, by Hedges' reckoning, is part classical liberalism, which insists on basic human rights such as freedom speech and civil rights, combined with many of the social and economic ideas of Marxist socialism. The free market, capitalism and corporations are, by contrast, the source of most evil, and in this utopian vision, they would not exist.

By that definition, it's easy to take most of todays politicians who claim to be liberals to the cleaners for neglecting, or outright defiling, their...more
Adam
After seeing Hedges deliver this talk: http://www.tvo.org/TVO/WebObjects/TVO... I was intrigued to hear him develop his ideas in a book. Even so, I went into Death of the Liberal Class not expecting something as groundbreaking and incredible as it turned out to be.

Hedges' thesis is that there is a set of social instutions (press, liberal churches, universities, artists, labor unions, and the Democratic Party) that have historically advocated the interests of the poor, working, and middle class...more
Michael
Hedges sees the truth of our age! Wow! Hedges is a war correspondent who has clearly seen the light and shines it blindingly on the problems we are collectively struggling with in our globalized culture. Hedges focusses on problems in the US. But we all know the US' problems are the world's problems and as you read this book you see how Canada is suffering from the same affliction. (Harperites beware.) Hedges points out how privileged interests took advantage of the new powers of propaganda in t...more
Rob Granniss
Chris Hedges lays out a rather stark case for the difficulties of putting forth any type of liberal argument in the mainstream with leaders who treat the term like it's an assignation of a disease, mainstream journalism treating it as bias, and popular culture treating it as synonymous with undermining personal liberty. Anyone interested in criticism of the New York Times would do well to read this as it lays out how difficult it is to be a liberal at an institution commonly (and mistakenly it s...more
Jacob Campbell

As I generally do, I was listening to National Public Radio (my driving companion when I'm not listing to gangster rap) and I first heard a story Hedges Laments The 'Death Of The Liberal Class'. I was struck listening to Hodges talk about his life and the liberal class. It was a soon after that that I ended up being at Barnes & Nobel and quickly bought the book when I saw it. You must understand that this is about a year (I don't know why it took me so long to read it, it was really good), a

...more
Cyanemi
Another horror story from Chris Hedges. It just makes me want to buy more property wall around it and wait for the inevitable. I do believe what he is saying will come to pass but probably not in my liefetime, unless I live until 100. Certainly people in their teens and 20's at this time will be greatly compromised in the future.
The book goes through the history of the liberal class, what it's purpose was supposed to be and how that got convoluted and then dismantled entirely. Keeping us in a...more
Andy
Why use the term "liberal class" over and over and over? It's irritating because it doesn't make much sense, and so the book as a whole doesn't have a coherent thread holding it together. The ideas expressed are a hodgepodge of Chomsky, Camus and other people it would be better to read directly to find out what they think. Manufacturing Consent  The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Noam Chomsky The Rebel  An Essay on Man in Revolt by Albert Camus The whole book is too negative. He doesn't mention recent successes of the people over the corporate overlords, e.g. tobacco control. What are the differences between that...more
Elinor
I had one major problem with this book; at some (any) point a/any definition of the liberal class would prove enlightening as class as a vertical social marker is as amorphous and nebulous a quality as any other (like ethnicity and religion or gender). As David Cannadine concludes in The Undivided Past, ‘it is no longer possible to view the past [or present in this case] as a succession of gigantic Manichean encounters between rising, struggling and falling classes’, [p.128] nor is class the pre...more
Tom
Chris Hedges is an angry man (see Empire of Illusion). He is angry with what he calls the liberal class who he holds responsible for the unfettered rise of corporatism in America. In his view the liberal class sold out to corporate interests and in doing so, failed to live up to its purpose in providing a counterweight to the worst excesses of capitalism.

Quoting John Gray, classical liberalism has four principle features or perspectives: it is individualist, in that it asserts the moral primacy...more
Christopher David
Hedges' polemic about the abdication of the liberal class of its responsibility as a check between the excesses of elites and the masses is timely, incisive, and wide-reaching, and while he openly acknowledges his bias (he was fired from the New York Times for exercising the sort of liberal rebellion he advocates in this book) I was troubled by the tone of the book. Hedges could have written an academic work on this thesis, and at many, many points his history and analysis is of that sort of cal...more
0spinboson
I am of two minds when it comes to this book, even if in the end I like it. On the one hand, I do think Hedges is onto something important, and I am very sympathetic to his plight. So if you are a patient reader, who already is somewhat familiar with the sorts of problems Hedges is addressing, it is possible to figure out this book without getting lost in the text. On the other hand, Hedges is unnecessarily negative about his fellow citizens, and he does not present what I would call a coherent...more
Miroku Nemeth
Spent 5 hours reading Hedges' latest book with rapt attentiveness straight through. As anyone who has read his writing can expect, it was incomparably insightful in its biting analysis of the destruction and betrayal of the liberal class. Hedges takes one through the history of American thinkers who were once the voice for the people, but who were co-opted into the corporate state; chronicling our history up to the truly deplorable present state of affairs, where corporate image production and t...more
Ann Douglas
If you've been looking for a book that will help you to make sense of all the drastic and far-reaching changes that have occurred in North American society at the social, political, and economic level over the past 25 years or so, this book is for you.

In THE DEATH OF THE LIBERAL CLASS, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges argues that the increasing irrelevancy of the liberal class -- a class that has historically helped to champion the needs of the poor, the working class, and even th...more
Anthony
This is not a book that leaves one inspired or hopeful. It is a sad book.

In many ways, there is a lot of valuable stuff here. Hedges does provide some concrete explanations that illuminate how America’s social structure underwent a fundamental shift once the US entered the first World War and journalism morphed from a system of balanced truth into a propagandizing system that like a puppet-master, pulled on emotional strings that influence human behavior rather than provide balanced truth that f...more
VJ
I was most struck by the following, taken from my notes:

"History has shown time and again that when the liberal class ceases to function, as happened in Tsarist Russia, Weimar Germany, and the former Yugoslavia, it always opens a Pandora's Box of evils that infect the remnants of a civil society."

Mass communication technologies and propaganda killed populism.

The cultural embrace of simplification has banished complexity and pushed to the margins difficult, original, or unfamiliar ideas. (p.88)

"...more
Chris
I liked where Mr. Hedges was going with this book, but it was lacking in substantial argumentative strength. The basis of his argument is valid, but there were several weak points argued (i.e. he blasts the internet as the mechanism by which corporations will deplete liberal academics ability to earn momey from their productions, considering the fact that I bought his book online for my Kindle), and I think for the most part, his theology tends to overwhelm the cultural and politic. The best par...more
Paul
This, it seems to me, is one of the most important books published in several years. Why is corporate power on a rampage, seemingly unstoppable? Why are the voices of sanity silenced or ridiculed in the public sphere? Why is government apparently the handmaiden of the highest bidder?

Some of us are old enough to remember the last wave of genuine dissidents who made a difference. Some of them were actual US Senators; Fulbright and Proxmire and Hatfield spring to mind, with others like Wellstone an...more
Azrielq
We're doomed- dooooommmmmeeeedddd!

Despite a fair amount of hyperbole, Hedges makes a fair argument that we are currently living in a corporate controlled "inverse totalitarian state" in which the progressive movement, once so strong during the early part of the the 19th century has been completely co-opted and is now impotent to make any real political changes without radical civil disobedience.

One thing that I enjoyed about this book was its vignettes of different progressive historical movemen...more
Adam
Hedges offers a fiery, depressing evisceration of the Left's feckless descent into a "lesser of two evils" state. For progressives who feel powerless to do much beyond wag fingers at their supposed allies in the Democratic Party - and take some measure of absolution from participating in that charade - this book will land a few body punches. Hedges, as always, writes particularly forcefully about the ravages of war. On the flip side, there are a few lulls, like a so-so chapter on protest art (al...more
Rick
I'm sorry I didn't like this book more. It started off really promising. But ultimately I'm disturbed by the fact that after 200 plus pages I still don't know who Chris Hedges really means when he says "The Liberal Class". He seems to cast such a wide net with that phrase... and yet most of the people he actually names are, well, either conservatives, or academics / artists whose work he fully admits he doesn't understand. (There's something tragic about the passage where he quotes some "incompr...more
Ademption
Chris Hedges writes an angry, dirge-like polemic against liberals, yet The Death of... is chiefly aimed at corporatist politicians of both stripes. His thesis is that since progressive, labour, socialist, and communist movements have been rendered irrelevant, previously sold-out by the liberal class, US liberalism is now being hallowed out and discarded. Liberals have no more support in either wing of the political spectrum. For example, when the president threatens war, as Bush did in Iraq and...more
Chris
It is an interesting, if very pessimistic read. I think it's a good expression of the discontent and fears of the Left with the Democratic party and the co-opted "liberals" who are as much a part of the system as the right wing is; the Tom Friedmans who claim left credentials somehow, but always double down and support the causes of the right when it matters most (like in Iraq).

But it's only an expression; it won't convince anyone who isn't inclined to believe this way already. I buy about a th...more
Aaron
Overall, good book, worth a read.

Some trade unionists may find Hedges' criticism of "liberal institutions" within which he includes Unions, uncomfortable. Others may find it a refreshingly honest analysis, not of what Unions have done wrong, but what they've failed to do right.

Hedges' definition of the liberal class, and its institutions, though debatable on scope, can be useful in understanding complacency and ineffectiveness of various progressive forces, organizations etc.

Aside from his co...more
Anna
Interesting premise, although it is weird how most of the folks that Hedges profiles who are supposedly SOOPER RADICAL and going against the grain and stuff are also...middle to upper class white men. Chomsky! Nader! Lanier! Yeah, ok, we get it: romanticization of the privileged white dude who speaks truth to power, with little to no acknowledgement of radicals who don't fit into that category (ie: Angela Davis, disability activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, and NUMEROUS others) but might also hav...more
Richard
All of the previous reviews have pretty much covered all of the aspects I enjoyed and disliked about this book. I'll just add that Hedges is at his best when he analyzes and interviews different individuals (Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Berrigan) who were part of the liberal class that stood for the values that have since passed out of existence in most mainstream "liberal" groups. That said, he has a tendency to veer off into random sorts of rants on various topics, including entertainment...more
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Christopher Lynn Hedges is an American journalist, author, and war correspondent, specializing in American and Middle Eastern politics and societies.
Hedges is known as the best-selling author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
Chris Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York Ci...more
More about Chris Hedges...
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“If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be impossible to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan and listen to the wails of their parents, we would not be able to repeat clichés we use to justify war. This is why war is carefully sanitized. This is why we are given war's perverse and dark thrill but are spared from seeing war's consequences. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic and entertaining…

The wounded, the crippled, and the dead are, in this great charade, swiftly carted offstage. They are war's refuse. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they tell is too painful for us to hear. We prefer to celebrate ourselves and our nation by imbibing the myths of glory, honor, patriotism, and heroism, words that in combat become empty and meaningless.”
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“We have to grasp, as Marx and Adam Smith did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill, and lie to make money. They throw poor people out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars for profit, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, plunder the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship money and power.” 52 likes
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