Parksy's Reviews > How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World by Francis Wheen
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's review
Jan 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in May, 2006 — I own a copy

Very intersting take on some of the political changes over the last 20 yrs. Main point is a death of rationalism at the knife of cultural relativism and post modernism. Very cool read.


From Publishers Weekly
British columnist and satirist Wheen presents an exhaustive but ultimately exhausting full-frontal assault on the past 25 years of "Counter-Enlightenment idiocy." His fencing dummies include Margaret Thatcher, Reaganomics, the Iranian Revolution, the Christian Coalition, Deepak Chopra, post-modernism, Francis Fukuyama, creationism, conspiracy theorists, people who believe in UFOs, astrology, the military-industrial complex, Cherie Blair and Hillary Clinton's fondness for New Age philosophy, Noam Chomsky, Enron, suicide bombers and much, much more. Wheen skewers his targets with the kind of rapier-like wit the world has come to expect and enjoy from British masters of the vituperative arts. But there's an awful lot of bloodletting here, and much of it is directed at bestselling authors, whose sales numbers Wheen bitterly notes as a way to quantitatively measure the reading public's stupidity. Worse, he burdens his book, which is best read as a series of essays, with a to-hell-in-a-handbasket hypothesis that the level of attack on Enlightenment rationality has increased dramatically in recent years, going so far as to assign a date to the inflection point: 1979, when Thatcher and the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. Some readers may bristle at Wheen's idea that right-wing economic policy is inextricably tied to anti-rational, religious fundamentalism, and the author's increasingly stretched attempts to prove this relationship begin to slip into the same realm of conspiracy theorizing he mocks in others. As an exercise in knocking down sacred cows left, right and center, this book proves that at the end of the satirical road lies nihilism.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From The New Yorker
Looking back on the last quarter-century, Wheen, a British journalist, sees a disturbing recrudescence of irrationalists, including "holy warriors, antiscientific relativists, economic fundamentalists, radical postmodernists, New Age mystics." American politicians routinely resort to "intense sentimentality" to sway voters; C.E.O.s lure investors with talk of "faith" in place of assets; Christian evangelists opine that September 11th is "probably what we deserve" for allowing feminists and the A.C.L.U. to flourish. In perhaps the silliest example, a consultant advises British civil servants to wear different colored hats for different tasks: red for developing hunches, yellow for cheering, black for questioning. It's hard to quarrel with the foolishness of some of Wheen's targets. But his larger thesis—that Ayatollah Khomeini and Margaret Thatcher spearheaded a retreat from the values of the Enlightenment back toward those of the Middle Ages—is so thinly reasoned as to seem to warrant its own entry in Wheen's encyclopedia absurdica
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