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The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  66 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 1994)
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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
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 --
Peter Mcloughlin
Lasch seems to have a communitarian and populist critique of 1990s America. He seems to have a great deal of ire towards the chattering classes and well graduated and the poseurs of academic radical chic. He criticizes the sense of entitlement among the educated that walls itself off from the benighted mob of beer swilling proles it thinks is racist, sexist, homophobic and unenlightened. It is lost in a world of ideas that at one time was shocking and new but have ossified into shibboleths of ...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 ...more
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 ...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.
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
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
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 ...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, ...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
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.
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.
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!
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 ...more
Teddy Kupfer
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.

Lasse Birk Olesen
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was ok

Misleading title as only a small part of the book is about elites, while most of the book is about how Lasch sees a decline in other areas of society such as economic equality, knowledge equality or distribution of virtue, democratic debate, schooling, and morality. The arguments are mostly presented through quotes from earlier authors. Little evidence or data is presented.

Selected quotes:

defines the most important choice a democratic society has to make: whether to raise the general
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read, given that my politics don't exactly line up with Lasch's. I read it because Ross Douthat, another pundit I respect while not agreeing with most of the time, named it as a book liberals should read to understand the Trump movement.

I came away understanding (I think) that Lasch, who wrote this book twenty years ago (!!) was making a plea for more personal responsibility, civic involvement, respect for manual laborers, and religious affiliation. (Even though he was
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Read 3 chapters and then skimmed through. Eventually I had to drop it.

This book suffers from having a bunch of beliefs and opinions with no facts to support it or examples to bring out the context of the opinion. "A time came when the elites were disconnected from the people" - when? who were these elites? who were these ordinary people? AFAIK this has been happening since the age of kings and queens. It doesn't sound like something new. So the first thing that you would have in mind is to get
Steve Penner
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was my favorite Lasch offering yet. Of course, being his last it will likely remain my favorite. It is written for a popular audience thus has far fewer footnotes and lacks the academic tone of past works. Lasch is at least prescient, if not prophetic, when looking at the cultural and political landscape of 1990's America. His main question is whether democracy in America, such as it is, can survive the elitists in government, finance and education who continue to take power to themselves ...more
Mark Seeley
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Finished this book last night and was delighted that he quoted approvingly Jonathan Edwards' quote about true virtue being benevolence to Being in general.

Lasch was certainly ahead of his time; this book is prescient to our current cultural/political situation in America. Chapters can be read independently but they also dovetail together to form a coherent argument.

The last time I read Lasch was The Culture of Narcissism back in my graduate school days in the late 70's.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
An essay for our times: Lasch looks to the elites who lead the masses toward a divided world of two classes. A world where wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few. Meritocracy, upward mobility, the erosion of the working class and of the middle class, all come under Lasch 's purview.
This was generally excellent.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half on democracy and equality is a really good example of a communitarian position against inequality and may interest those looking for a right-of-center (this terminology doesn’t map neatly but its traditionalism and cultural choices affiliate it more to the right for me) text for equality. The second half felt like a smattering of essays thrown in for length.
Twenty years ago, Lasch predicted the social, cultural, educational, political, and religious swamp we are now in.
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-book, internet
He has a complex way of presenting his ideas, therefore makes it a bit intellectual but not on comprehensible way
Zguba Salemenska
The first few chapters are very good. After that it seems to be a collection of essays found in the back of a drawer and released by the estate.
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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
“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.” 1 likes
“Having given up the effort to raise the general level of competence—the old meaning of democracy—we are content to institutionalize competence in the caring class, which arrogates to itself the job of looking out for everybody else. Populism, as I understand it, is unambiguously committed to the” 1 likes
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