From the American Revolution through the Civil Rights movement, Americans have long mobilized against political, social, and economic privilege. Read more...
From the American Revolution through the Civil Rights movement, Americans have long mobilized against political, social, and economic privilege. Hierarchies based on inheritance, wealth, and political preferment were treated as obnoxious and a threat to democracy. Mass movements envisioned a new world supplanting dog-eat-dog capitalism. But over the last half-century that political will and cultural imagination have vanished. Why?
THE AGE OF ACQUIESCENCE seeks to solve that mystery. Steve Fraser's account of national transformation brilliantly examines the rise of American capitalism, the visionary attempts to protect the democratic commonwealth, and the great surrender to today's delusional fables of freedom and the politics of fear. Effervescent and razorsharp, THE AGE OF ACQUIESCENCE will be one of the most provocative and talked-about books of the year.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-11-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Nowadays Americans just say yes to inequality and exploitation, argues this spirited history of anticapitalist sentiment in the United States. Historian Fraser (Every Man a Speculator) starts with an absorbing, vigorous account of class politics during the late 19th-century Gilded Age, a time of mass strikes, revolutionary agitation, utopian socialist yearnings and fierce denunciations of robber barons among workers, and violent repression and apocalyptic alarm among elites. He then contrasts that era with the post-Reagan “second Gilded Age,” when ordinary people have seen incomes erode, work hours lengthen, economic security dwindle, and corporations run riot, yet have uttered, he argues, hardly a peep of protest. Less focused than his remembrance of 19th-century resistance, Fraser’s take on modern acquiescence scolds capitalist ideologies and cultural tropes—the businessman as populist hero, consumerism as freedom itself—for imparting false consciousness. Many of his analyses, like his diagnosis of right-wing populism as a rebellion of “family capitalism,” are incisive, but he ignores important prosaic factors, like the disastrous record of 20th-century socialist economies, in the waning of utopian left-wing enthusiasm. Still, this is an excellent, very readable recreation of an authentically American form of working-class militancy and its eclipse. (Feb.)