The Revolt Against the Masses (Hardcover)
How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class
Encounter Books, 9781594036989, 225pp.
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
This short book rewrites the history of modern American liberalism. It shows that what we think of liberalism today - the top and bottom coalition we associate with President Obama - began not with Progressivism or the New Deal but rather in the wake of the post-WWI disillusionment with American society. In the twenties, the first writers and thinkers to call themselves liberals adopted the hostility to bourgeois life that had long characterized European intellectuals of both the left and the right. The aim of liberalism's foundational writers and thinkers such as Herbert Croly, Randolph Bourne, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis and H.L Mencken was to create an American aristocracy of sorts, to provide a sense of hierarchy and order associated with European statism. Like communism, Fabianism, and fascism, modern liberalism, critical of both capitalism and democracy, was born of a new class of politically self-conscious intellectuals. They despised both the individual businessman's pursuit of profit and the conventional individual's pursuit of pleasure, both of which were made possible by the lineaments of the limited nineteenth-century state. Temporarily waylaid by the heroism of the WWII generation, in the 1950s liberalism expressed itself as a critique of popular culture. It was precisely the success of elevating middle class culture that frightened foppish characters like Dwight Macdonald and Aldous Huxley, crucial influences on what was mistakenly called the New Left. There was no New Left in the 1960s, but there was a New Class which in the midst of Vietnam and race riots took up the priestly task of de-democratizing America in the name of administering newly developed rights The neo-Mathusianism which emerged from the 60s was, unlike its eugenicist precursors, aimed not at the breeding habits of the lower classes but rather the buying habits of the middle class. Today's Barack Obama liberalism has displaced the old Main Street private sector middle class with a new middle class composed of public sector workers allied with crony capitalists and the country's arbiters of style and taste.
About the Author
Fred Siegel is the author, most recently, of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life (2005), which received the cover review in the New York Times Book Review. His previous book, The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America's Big Cities, was named by Peter Jennings as one of the 100 most important books about the U.S. in the twentieth century. He has written widely on American and European politics and was described as "the historian of the American city" in a November 2011 profile in the Wall Street Journal. The former editor of City Journal, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Atlantic, Commentary, The New Republic, Dissent, and many other publications. He has also appeared widely on TV and radio. A former senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., Mr. Siegel is currently a scholar in residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.