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The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  617 ratings  ·  93 reviews
In a front-page review in the Washington Post Book World, John Judis wrote: "Political analysts have been poring over exit polls and precinct-level votes to gauge the meaning of last November's election, but they would probably better employ their time reading the late Christopher Lasch's book." And in the National Review, Robert Bork says The Revolt of the Elites "ranges ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 17th 1996 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 1st 1995)
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Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is symptomatic of my own political leanings, I suspect, that I started losing interest in this a little after the half-way mark and then could barely take a note from the book for the whole of the third part. To me, this book loses its way and stops being about elites (in revolt or not) in the last section of the book. This is a pity, as I think the start was particularly interesting.

This was written in 1995 – in fact, the copy I read from my university library had a ‘due date’ sheet on the f
Oct 23, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was written right at the end of Lasch's life and it reads like it: he pulls no punches in telling the chattering classes what he thinks about them and the cultural trends they are presiding over. It is surprising this was published two decades ago since the criticisms are not only still applicable it did not seem to have made any difference for Lasch to have pointed them out so long ago. Elites of all types effectively live in their own world; the original American ideal of an educated ...more
J. Mulrooney
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When Christopher Lasch died on Valentine’s day in 1994, America lost the most profound of her critics. His final book, The Revolt of the Elites, was published a year after his death. It is a group of discrete but thematically linked essays that continue the concerns of his previous book, The True and Only Heaven: how did American democracy come to its current state?

The title of the new book reverses José Ortega y Gasset’s Revolt of the Masses. Lasch contends that the American elites -- executiv
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone Concerned About Our Society
Ok, I think I may be on to something (as a result of reading this book) as to why they hate us so much...its (not surprisingly) about religion... "They", of course, are those on the political right, especially those on the extreme and religious right; "we" are those who consider ourselves to be "liberal", "progressive", "enlightened", "modern", "well-educated" with a "healthy dose of skepticism re. matters of religion..." But what this book made me realize is that they don't hate us solely for w ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
The title of this book is a reference to Ortega y Gassets famous book "the revolt of the masses". For those of you who haven't read it Gassets thesis was that the 20th century represented a massive rise of the masses of people which resulted in a major cultural change. There were no longer any lofty ideals to be held sacred; instead technology was to serve the common man and help him enjoy the fruits of past generations labor. Laschs contribution is to take this a step further: today the elite h ...more
N Perrin
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-criticism
This is my first Lasch. I have been told he is one of the few recent writers adroit enough to sidestep the ideological bindings that tie down both the left and right. That assessment is certainly not wrong.

For Lasch, the rise of the neoliberal elite is nothing like the forms of landed gentry or robber barons of previous eras. This new generation is the landless billionaire class overseeing multinational conglomerates, NGOs, and Epstein-style hedonistic escapades. Because the new elite order of "
Sean Chick
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Of all the thinkers and intellectuals of the last 40 years, none were as piercing, original,and prophetic as Lasch. In the 1970s he predicted that the student radicals would become good Reaganites, or at least that their revolt would not upset the power structure. Here, as he stared at death, he saw progressives, radicals, capitalists, and their ilk turning away from class politics and creating a new elite that had more in common with elites in the world than their own people. Although he does n ...more
Jonathan Sargent
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
More like a collection of essays than an actual book. Unfortunately loses steam with a few chapters, but the rest are gold.
Alex O'Connor
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating study. I learned more from this book than I have in any other in a long time.
Taylor Pearson
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Revolt of the Elites, Lasch argues that the degeneration of Western Democracy has been caused by the abandonment by the wealthy and educated elites of their responsibilities to support culture, education, the building of public facilities, and other obligations in these societies.

A large part of this was the shift from wealth always being tied to the land (agricultural) to increasingly being more mobile. When all your wealth is in a physical place, you are incentivized to make sure that the s
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Christopher Lasch is one of those public intellectuals (a bit like Christopher Hitchens) who radically changed direction in his political leanings throughout his life; once an avowed Marxist he then became a somewhat curmudgeonly critic of the left from within the left whose thought evolved further into being a man who mostly identified with cultural conservatives but who eschewed their laissez-faire economics. A fierce critic of American capitalism, he saw the decline of American society within ...more
Mason Masters
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mandatory reading if you want an inkling of where and how it all went wrong.
Gaylord Dold
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it

Lasch, Christopher, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy

demagogue, n. 1. a person who tries to stir up the people by appeals to emotion, prejudice, etc. in order to become a leader and achieve selfish ends. 2. in ancient history, a leader of the common people.
(Webster’s New World Dictionary, Cleveland and New York, 1959)

What comes from expecting the worst out of politics is that when, on occasion, something worse than the worst happens, the blow falls lightly. Following the he
Ian S
Jul 26, 2020 added it
"Today it is the elites, however--those who control the international flow of money and information, preside over philanthropic foundations and institutions of higher learning, manage the instruments of cultural production and thus set the terms of public debate--that have lost faith in the values, or what remains of them, of the West."

"These groups constitute a new class only in the sense that their livelihoods rest not so much on the ownership of property as on the manipulation of information
Andrew Figueiredo
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a MUST-READ for those looking to ascertain why populism is on the rise in liberal democracies. Lasch's collection of essays varies in topics but hits a number of prescient and strong critiques of liberalism and postmodernism. I don't agree with everything he prescribes, but there are certain essays that really resonated with me--The Democratic Malaise, The Revolt of the Elites, Does Democracy Deserve to Survive, Racial Politics in New York, Conversation and the Civic Arts, and Academic P ...more
Michael Greco
This was more a compilation of essays about America's democratic malaise. I connected more with the beginning, where he talks about the "intensification of social divisions" more than the latter part of the book, where he goes into what he considers a spiritual crisis at the heart of Western culture. Ponderous in many parts.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, one of the house conservatives, recommended some reading in December 2016. He did not use this term (originated by George Wallace or Lester Maddox) but it the recommendations were directed to “pointy-headed liberals that can’t even park a bicycle straight” to (maybe) get insight into why Donald Trump won the Electoral College. For my penance I picked outThe Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy by Christopher Lasch. Prof. Lasch died in 1994, bu ...more
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
A brilliant late book by Christopher Lasch, building on his Magnum Opus 'True and only Heaven'. With this, we see there was an evident deepening in his understanding of U.S culture.

Furthermore, Lasch's lucidity as a writer improved over his lifetime- 'True and only Heaven..' and this work together, showing greater style alongside greater depth, readability and sharpened personalistic criticism than earlier work- ''Haven in a Heartless World..' for example.
(* on Personalism, see Nikolai Berdyaev)
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
"If Rieff is correct in his contention that culture rests on willingness to forbid, a “remissive” culture like our own cannot be expected to survive indefinitely. Sooner or later our remissive elites will have to rediscover the principle of limitation."

I'm distracted. My impression is that really there is no truth, but just different points of views.
A long kaleidoscope, many books lined up to support, to prove or disprove. Somehow I felt that there is a lack of willingness to define, to postulat
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I revisited Revolt of the Elites,after more than 10 years and find it more compelling than before. At the same time I'm not sure that his analys is as accurate that it was then. 911 changed everything. Lasch, dissects the rise and takeover of the technological and managerial classes with their lack of roots. geography,and context,but didn't foresee the post 911 proto fascist Amerika. Or maybe he did. Whatever, I think he'be depressed at our current culture of totalitarian ass kissing and liberal ...more
David Riggs
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Lasch was on the edge of a sea-change in society, and really didn't have the right words to use, or didn't really have the full summation. In short, he appears to be appalled at the alignment of the intellectual class with corporate America and the self imposed class structure among intellects. The doctor doesn't marry the secretary now, he marries another doctor. A class system which has its members looking longingly to be seperate from "those people" is to be feared.
Jan 19, 2009 added it
This is the Lasch book I have seen most referenced. It was well written (he is a great, clear writer) but less than riveting--it didn't strike me as entirely new or brain-stretching information.

Then again, my reading life is inundated with these concepts and he was assuredly a pre-cursor to what I have preferred, so my judgment is probably too harsh.

In any case, I agree with him!
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lasch argues that the elites of America have abandoned any pretext at equality. The emphasis upon meritocracy above all else as a selection method for success has destroyed democratic respect between classes and siphoned all the talent to the top who then monopolize power to keep the meritocratic system in place.
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: internet, audio-book
He has a complex way of presenting his ideas, therefore makes it a bit intellectual but not on comprehensible way
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and highly recommended. "In an age that fancies itself as disillusioned, this is the one illusion-the illusion of mastery-that remains as tenacious as ever." Those in a position to control the flow of money and information, manage philanthropic and educational institutions and thus 'set the terms of public' debate currently place little value on public virtue, community independent of interest groups or the natural limits of the world. Lasch argues that the distance between the upper a ...more
Quite possibly the most memorable read of the year so far. Lasch is nothing if not interesting, thought-provoking, provocative, and stirring even when you disagree with him. To that end, reading this book was an intellectually stimulating experience and mostly enjoyable (the last few chapters lost me somewhat).

My understanding of where Lasch and this book are coming from is a sense of deep disillusionment with an increasingly globalized culture where the "elites", which include your standard mil
Jurij Fedorov
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
3,5 stars. Great book but a bit too unfocused.

It will be a short review as the book has plenty of reviews already so there is not much for me to add.

This is a lot of the time a breath of fresh air. It's not only a rare soft-conservative look at the world but it's also not overly emotional and angry. With people today burning books written by white men and pulling down statues of Churchill and Washington I feel like most conservatives are a bit more angry about the conditions to stay this calm
Bill Leach
Jun 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Lasch provides a critique of modern society which he sees as having declined from the early years of the American republic. He sees the rise of a class of the managerial and professional elites detracting for the early concept of all men being equal.

Much of the book is summarization of ideas presented by others, quoting many early commentators dating back to the early 1900's. Many of his arguments are appeals to higher ideals. There is little substantiation of his arguments. The book feels like
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book kicked my ass. Christopher Lasch is an American social critic who died right before it was published, in 1996. He's an idiosyncratic thinker: Here he combines a Marxian critique of American political economy with a pronounced cultural conservatism. It makes for a good if disjointed read, occasionally a prescient one. But it all comes together at the end, where Lasch arrives at a powerful critique of, well, modernity that underpins his pessimism about the state of American politics.

Sep 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Written in the 90's - published after the Author's death - a collection of essays.

Should have been published as a book - one contiguous thought model as opposed to a series of essays. First half of the book is the strongest - late chapters are weaker - especially about Religion - opiate of the masses or not.

It would be very easy to dismiss some of his thesis - there are intelligentsia who have 'corrupted' the thoughts and morality of the culture - and this is a prime reason why we're "in the sta
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Christopher "Kit" Lasch (June 1, 1932 – February 14, 1994) was an American historian, moralist, and social critic who was a history professor at the University of Rochester.

Lasch sought to use history as a tool to awaken American society to the pervasiveness with which major institutions, public and private, were eroding the competence and independence of families and communities. He strove to cre

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“The “routine acceptance of professionals as a class apart” strikes Kaus as an ominous development. So does their own “smug contempt for the demographically inferior.” Part of the trouble, I would add, is that we have lost our respect for honest manual labor. We think of “creative” work as a series of abstract mental operations performed in an office, preferably with the aid of computers, not as the production of food, shelter, and other necessities. The thinking classes are fatally removed from the physical side of life—hence their feeble attempt to compensate by embracing a strenuous regimen of gratuitous exercise.” 8 likes
“Many young people are morally at sea. They resent the ethical demands of "society" as infringements of their personal freedom. They believe that their rights as individuals include the right to "create their own values," but they cannot explain what that means, aside from the right to do as they please. They cannot seem to grasp the idea that "values" imply some principle of moral obligation. They insist that they owe nothing to "society"--an abstraction that dominates their attempts to think about social and moral issues. If they con-form to social expectations, it is only because conformity offers the line of least resistance.” 2 likes
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