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The Devil's Pleasure Palace: Critical Theory and the Assault on American Culture

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  330 ratings  ·  59 reviews
In the aftermath of World War II, America stood alone as the world’s premier military power. Yet its martial confidence contrasted vividly with its sense of cultural inferiority. Still looking to a defeated and dispirited Europe for intellectual and artistic guidance, burgeoning trans-national elite in New York and Washington embraced not only the war’s refugees, but many ...more
Hardcover, First American Edition, 222 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Encounter Books
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Vagabond of Letters
Pick up some MacDonald ('The Culture of Critique') and Roger Scruton ('Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands') instead, and pick up some primary sources like Adorno and Horkheimer ('Authoritarian Personality', devastatingly critiqued by MacDonald), Marcuse ('The One-dimensional Man', which actually has some good insights), and Gramsci to go with it.

This book is a work of art criticism with no relevance to the discussion of the philosophy of the Frankfurt School of Social Research or cultural Marxism
Lawrence Elton
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Please read it. Then encourage your children and grand
children to read it--that's the challenge. I'm lucky because I'm old.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
To summarize this book, basically a crazy combination of European philosophers and cultural critics infiltrated American academia and are aligning themselves with racial and religious radicals (not Christian evangelicals, only islamists apparently) all in an effort to destroy the average American and their Ford Focus. So yeah that's it's lol. That's the big conspiracy to undermine America and causing us to fail. It's not our history of imperialism or the rise of the religious right or ...more
Douglas Sims
Apr 10, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's certainly erudite; Walsh's knowledge of Western literature is vast and encyclopedic. When he writes about literature, his words flow quickly through the pages. But when he attempts to use them support to his ill-defined political views, the comparisons become awkward and nonsensical and his criticism of Critical Theory fails for a lack of critical thinking.

Perhaps part of the problem with his analysis is in the odd and changing bag of beliefs that comprise the two political extremes of
Charles J
I read this book because it seemed like it would be an interesting companion to James Burnham’s “Suicide of the West.” Burnham’s book explains and analyzes the ideology of American liberalism, circa 1960. “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” in a sense continues that story; it explains how that liberalism discovered the Critical Theory leftism of the Frankfurt School, and like Gollum discovering the One Ring, did not benefit from the discovery. “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” is, indeed, somewhat ...more
Jason Williams
Jan 01, 2017 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Never heard of this guy until a couple days ago, suddenly I almost half done with this ridiculous book.

Firstly, all I ever learned from Critical Theory was how to analyze ideology, to understand why ideology matters within a totality of base and superstructure. Like my earlier forays into cultural anthropology, Theory made the foreign feel more common and made my boring history seem more interesting. In other words, Theory celebrates-by-studying We Humans and encourages us to take agency for
If you want to understand where the Left is coming from, in other words, if you want to understand the rise of "Cultural Marxism", this book will be an indispensable introduction. Where economic Marxism was shown to fail, cultural Marxism has stepped into the void, and is at the base of the current trend towards intolerance and a host of anti-Western sentiments.
May 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Blather. Faust, Paradise Lost, Wagner, all peppered with adjectives, Biblical pronouncements, innuendo. In sum, an erudite rant, but a rant nonetheless.
Jacob Aitken
What is the Christian Response to Cultural marxism? While everyone is morally obligated to fight a war to the death against the Frankfurt School, that doesn’t mean every effort is equally good. Most, in fact, are not. Walsh’s book is a mixed bag. He is a professional music critic and when he sticks to that topic, his analyses are always erudite and occasionally insightful. When he gets into biblical and philosophical issues, he is in trouble. I will say it another way: he has no clue what he is ...more
Jack Durish
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you enjoy living in The Devil's Pleasure Palace?
Is there any question that we're living in The Devil's Pleasure Palace? Political correctness runs amok on American campuses as students demand freedom from offense and free everything else. Sex loses all its pleasure as it becomes easier to obtain. The practice of abortion destroys human life in numbers that would make a Nazi blush. Pseudo-science is used to control behavior. Atheists have gained the legal right to demand tolerance of their
Manuel Alfonseca
ENGLISH: An expert in the history of music and literature, Michael Walsh discusses in this book the current dominant ideology of political correctness or (as he calls it) Critical Theory.

I agree with most of what is said in this book, but not so much with the way it is said, which seems to me disordered and somewhat chaotic. The lack of order is shown by the fact (which I have tested) that chapters can be read in any order without losing anything.

I was specially struck by this quotation in the
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great summary of the philosophy behind much of progressivism.
Jimmy McCoy
Sep 18, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I could tell I wasn't going to like this book 30 pages into it. I was expecting an analysis from an academic point of view rather than a religious one. Others may like it because of this fact but I just wanted to warn people what they were getting into.
Maxwell Foley
Jan 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because I wanted to understand the details and the history of critical theory better. I have tried reading the original writings of Debord, Foucault, etc. and I've decided that it's probably not worth it. Their writing is impossibly tedious and convoluted. I would like to find somewhere an outsider's history or analysis of the field. Often I find that criticism of a philosophy sheds more light on what it is than endorsement of it, so I thought this book was worth a shot.

Christopher Blosser
Most interesting where the author actually follows through with the stated intent of evaluating the Frankfurt School and its deleterious effects on society and the campuses today. However the approach and tone is reminiscent of a snarky, trolling rant that would be entirely at home on a blog and made the reading rather plodding at times. While I admit it’s hard to reign in the snark when addressing the topic, I’d say Roger Scruton covered much of the same ground and was far more cogently in ...more
Walsh is an excellent columnist and obviously a well-read individual, but like some of his colleagues (*cough*MarkSteyn*cough*), he has not made a successful transition to full-length books. The book is readable, and there is much interesting content, but it does not hold together very well. Most importantly, it does not deliver much on what is purportedly the principal subject matter: the Frankfurt School and how it introduced critical theory into our culture. I learned much about Wagner, ...more
Steve Traves
Apr 12, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rambling, incoherent book that features very little discussion of the Frankfurt school and is packed full of political digressions. I would recommend avoiding this confused mish mash. The author is basically seeking to resurrect the Nazi conspiracy theory of Cultural Bolshevism.
Travis Timmons
Jan 07, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The most bizarre and shoddiest book I've read in a long time. A strangely-selected target by the author to boot.
Allen Bagby
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have often referenced "Critical Theory" in my comments, replies and statuses. It is the genesis of "Political Correctness," another term I've used to describe the Left and even that little still small critical voice in your head that edits to the point of making our language as bland as tofu. It's that thing that makes Obama unable to utter "Islamic Terrorism." Political Correctness is ubiquitous. It has invaded every facet of our lives. It is in the air we breathe.

In "The Devil's Pleasure
Jason Carter
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture, history
This was really an excellent book. Walsh uses several literary themes (the Bible, Faust, Paradise Lost, Wagner) to critique the German Critical Theory proponents and their idiotic, destructive leftist ideology.

I would have given it five stars, except it was a little academic in parts and somewhat slow in the middle section. It is very much worth reading, though, especially for its optimistic outlook for humanity. Liberalism is self-destructive and worthy of ridicule. "Scorn drives the Unholy
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of those rarities that every reader is in constant search of: a life-altering book. The Devil's Pleasure Palace is the most succinct, concise and devastating history of and rebuttal to The Frankfurt School that I have had the pleasure of reading. Walsh lays out why "we have, intellectually, come to the dead end of Critical Theory," political correctness, moral cowardice masquerading as morality and the other attendant dogmas of the Left that were unleashed to hollow out, corrode, corrupt and ...more
Robert J.
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Walsh's expose of the New Left's corrosive impact on the West is just astounding. Speaking from his areas of expertise, music, literature and art, Walsh frames the story in a way that is compelling and practically irrefutable. The problem with the new Left, or modern liberals, is they offer nothing in place of what they're destroying, and when you see how their march through the institutions destroys not only political debate, family and faith, but art - beautiful expressions of our common ...more
Daniel Jalbuena
When I first happened upon the title of this book, I assumed the author was referring to a resentful, malicious and nihilistically critical approach found in academic departments and university "cultural studies" programs. Alas, no, he really means it when he says "devil." It seems to me that the cultural accomplishments of the West can be more convincingly defended on positivistic grounds. If religious argument interests you, then this may be your cup of tea. However, I found it quite strange ...more
Don Incognito
Jan 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
The most disappointing book I've read in years. The problrm was that I misunderstood what to expect from the title. I thought it would explain specific critical theories of literature (and other art forms) and explain how each has contributed to the degradation of Western culture.

It is actually only an unfocused rumination and polemic on the political and social damage wrought by the critical theories, emphasizing much more their political effects.

Not recommended.
Kathleen Kenny
I feel like I now know way more about opera than I do about the history of critical theory, and that's a bummer. I would have appreciated a more straightforward intellectual history of the principles of critical theory and how they've come to define so much of our discourse today.
May 16, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Assinine! Awful! This was hopelessly one sided with a strong anti-liberal bias. He calls women from the left harpies. He refers to left wingers as the unholy left. He never bothers to disguise his disdain for liberals or the left. There was no empirical basis for his arguments.
Kamilla Ludwig
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only problem with this book is that I now have to and actually read Milton and a few others. An excellent expose of the little known (among plebeians like me) Frankfurt School and it's pervasive, malign influence.
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adulthood, 2016-100
Never before have I so disliked a book that I should have ostensibly enjoyed and agreed with.
Gordon Wells
2.5 Understanding the origins of the Culture and Science wars means learning about the lucky relocation of the Frankfurt School from Germany to Columbia University (how do you like them white privileges? They'd probably be stymied by a diversity committee today)

At times objectionable and entertaining

"Like so many after him, Rousseau was one of those liberals who loved humanity but couldn't stand people"

“whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, this is the last you are going to see of
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With five critically acclaimed novels, as well as a hit TV movie, journalist, author and screenwriter Michael Walsh has achieved the writer's trifecta: two New York Times best-sellers, a major literary award and, as co-writer, the Disney Channel's then-highest-rated show.

The 1998 publication of As Time Goes By -- his long-awaited and controversial prequel/sequel to everybody's favorite movie,
“For Satan, as for Marx, religion was an impediment to the grand design of transforming humanity from a collection of free-willed, autonomous individuals into a mass of self-corralling slaves who mistake security for liberty and try to keep the cognitive dissonance to a minimum in order to function.” 2 likes
“As Orwell predicted in 1984, sloganeering eventually must replace free inquiry if the System is to survive and prosper; there can be not even a single ray of light in the darkness, lest the people glimpse the truth.” 1 likes
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