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Twilight of the Elites

Twilight of the Elites

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Written by Christopher HayesAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Christopher Hayes

  • Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
  •  
  • Publisher: Crown
  • On Sale: June 12, 2012
  • Price: $26.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-72045-0 (0-307-72045-4)
about this book

A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.

Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another – from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball – imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have historically low levels of trust in their institutions; the social contract between ordinary citizens and elites lies in tatters.

How did we get here? With Twilight of the Elites, Christopher Hayes offers a radically novel answer. Since the 1960s, as the meritocracy elevated a more diverse group of men and women into power, they learned to embrace the accelerating inequality that had placed them near the very top. Their ascension heightened social distance and spawned a new American elite--one more prone to failure and corruption than any that came before it.

Mixing deft political analysis, timely social commentary, and deep historical understanding, Twilight of the Elites describes how the society we have come to inhabit – utterly forgiving at the top and relentlessly punitive at the bottom – produces leaders who are out of touch with the people they have been trusted to govern. Hayes argues that the public's failure to trust the federal government, corporate America, and the media has led to a crisis of authority that threatens to engulf not just our politics but our day-to-day lives.

Upending well-worn ideological and partisan categories, Hayes entirely reorients our perspective on our times. Twilight of the Elites is the defining work of social criticism for the post-bailout age.

"Calling the decade of the 2000s the 'fail decade,' Hayes, editor at large of the Nation and host of MSNBC's Up w/ Chris Hayes, highlights the implosion of trusted American institutions — Enron, Wall Street, Congress, the Catholic Church, and Major League Baseball — tracing the origins of the present crisis of authority to our elite meritocracy. While the WASP establishment emphasized 'humility, prudence and lineage,' the current meritocracy celebrates raw ambition, achievement, and brains, and it's learned to embrace the alarming inequality that keeps its members near the top. The result, Hayes notes, is a society with extremely high and rising inequality, without social mobility, presided over by overachievers who enjoy tremendous financial and political clout, yet face no actual punishment for failing at their duties. The lively and well-informed Hayes warns that if we ignore our extreme inequality, those at the top become more prone to corruption, social isolation, and failure. As examples, he pinpoints the devastating effects of social distance that led to recent scandals and catastrophes: the fundamental gap between priests and the parishioners whose children were victimized; the disproportionate distance between the civilian elite and our soldiers; and during the financial crisis, the distance between those who were bailed out and those were not. Offering feasible proposals for change, this cogent social commentary urges us to reconstruct our institutions so we can once again trust them." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“[A] forcefully written debut....A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“This is the Next Big Thing that we have been waiting for. Twilight of the Elites is the fully reported, detailed, true story of a 21st century America beyond the reach of authority. It’s new, and true, and beautifully told -- Hayes is the young left’s most erudite and urgent interpreter. Brilliant book.” – Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show and author of Drift

“Here is the story of the ‘fail decade’ and how it made cynicism the inescapable flavor of our times. Along the way Chris Hayes delivers countless penetrating insights as well as passages of brilliant observation. If you want to understand the world you're living in, sooner or later you will have to read this book.” – Thomas Frank, author of Pity the Billionaire

“Chris Hayes is a brilliant chronicler of the central crisis of our time – the failure of America's elites. His humane, spirited reporting and analysis capture what millions of Americans already know in their gut – the emperor has no clothes. Yet this is not a book defined by despair or cynicism. Hayes seizes this moment of crisis to offer important and unconventional ideas as to how to reconstruct and reinvent our politics and society. Twilight of the Elites is a must read book for those, across the political spectrum, who believe there is still time to cure the structural ills of our body politic.” – Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher, The Nation

“In Twilight of the Elites, Hayes shows us what links the bailout of investment bankers but not mortgage holders, the useless public conversation in the run-up to the Iraq war, and the Catholic Church's harboring of child rapists: our core institutions are no longer self-correcting, and have become committed to protection of insiders at all costs. Read this and prepare to be enraged.” – Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus

"A provocation; a challenge; and a major contribution to the great debate over how the American dream can be restored." – David Frum, contributing editor, DailyBeast/Newsweek

“Chris Hayes is a gift to this republic. The brilliance he shows us each week on MSNBC has now been complemented by this extraordinary book. Beautifully written, and powerfully argued, it will force you to rethink everything you take for granted about ‘merit.’ And it will show us a way to a more perfect nation.”
Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Harvard Law School and author of Republic, Lost

“Chris Hayes has given us the kind of book people don't write any more: a sweeping work of social criticism like Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Michael Harrington's The Other America that take the failings of an entire society as their subject. Those books brought grand movements of reform in their wake. Would that history repeats itself with Twilight of the Elites—America ignores this prophet at their gravest peril.” – Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland and Before the Storm

Twilight Of The Elites is that rare and remarkable book that actually transcends Right and Left without reveling in the weak tea of ‘both sides do it’ and false equivalence.” - Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor, The Atlantic