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.
"[L]ively and well-informed.Offering feasible proposals for change, this cogent social commentary urges us to reconstruct our institutions so we can once again trust them." (Publishers Weekly)
"[A] forcefully written debut.... A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest." (Kirkus Reviews)
"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)
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When the author writes about how everyone, even the most privileged, now has a story about how they "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps", I realized he was talking about me. I had bought into this whole sick culture, and I realized that I was the one born on third base who bragged like I had hit a triple. Yeah, I worked like hell to get where I am today, but a lot of people worked just as hard or harder, and the reason I succeeded was mostly luck. I think this book taught me a little humility, and that is a really good thing.
If you are listening to audiobooks on your smartphone while tapping away on your ultrabook drinking a mochafrappuccino at Starbucks, then he's talking to you. If you think you're a brilliant entrepreneur because you wrote an iphone app that lets you share fart sounds with your 1,000 closest friends, then he's talking to you as well. What was it that Tyler said? Oh yeah, "you are not a beautiful or unique snowflake". That is what this book said to me.
- Roy D. Welch