Age_of_folly-max_221 more images image

Age of Folly: America Abandons Its Democracy

America’s leading essayist on the frantic retreat of democracy, in the fire and smoke of the war on terror
In twenty-five years of imperial adventure, America has laid waste to its principles of democracy. The self-glorifying march of folly steps off at the end of the Cold War, in an era when delusions of omnipotence allowed the market to climb to virtual heights, while society was divided between the selfish and frightened rich and the increasingly debt-ridden and angry poor. The new millennium saw the democratic election of an American president nullified by the Supreme Court, and the pretender launching a wasteful, vainglorious and never-ending war on terror, doomed to end in defeat and the loss of America’s prestige abroad.

All this culminates in the sunset swamp of the 2016 election—a farce dominated by Donald Trump, a self-glorifying photo-op bursting star-spangled bombast in air. This spectacle would be familiar to Aristotle, whose portrayal of the “prosperous fool” describes a class of people who “consider themselves worthy to hold public office, for they already have the things that give them a claim to office.”

Reviews

  • “[Illustrates] how and why our democracy has given way to a dysfunctional plutocracy of the super-rich, by the super-rich, and for the super-rich. Taken together, the book’s essays, published between 1990 and 2016 in Lapham’s Quarterly and Harper’s, serve as a powerful and alarming American history…With Age of Folly, Lapham provides the historical context needed to understand our current political moment.”
  • “Without doubt our greatest satirist—elegant, honorable, learned and fair. I love reading him.”
  • “Lewis Lapham—born of Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken—is the most provocative and engaging essayist in the country.”
  • “One of the last liberal thinkers, a man of elegant humor. Should he wander onto the premises of Fox TV, he’d surely be shot down like a dog.”
  • “Lapham’s indignation is ecumenical, his scorn spread as smoothly as butter from left to right and north to south across the face of contemporary America.”
  • “Lapham is a wonderful writer, a connoisseur of the perfect word.”
  • “The combination of Lapham’s urbane prose and lethal wit … makes for delightful reading.”
  • “To read Lapham's work, so erudite and conscientious, is to realize that saving our democracy will take bold-face truth-telling, bravery and a populace willing to change: An alchemical improbability. However, if you can read this book and not want to commit to the work necessary to save our democracy, you are already lost.”
  • “Although frequently dark, The Age of Folly comes with much humor and elegant writing…Lapham’s sharp prose pricks the self-importance of the powerful, who too often parade with claim to omniscience and omnipotency…Highly recommended.”

Blog

  • Trump and the Present Crisis

    This piece will appear in Salvage issue 4, which can be pre-ordered here



    Donald Trump’s election to the US Presidency produced shock and disbelief for liberals, progressives, and leftists around the world. Here, in the US, it has been accompanied by a collective nausea that refuses to pass. Even many who recognize the impoverished mythos of America’s democratic perfectibility and exceptionalism mourn the passing of something they never believed. That said, there is a tendency to over-read what an election means in a backward looking way. But elections do not provide us with a diagnostic of a country; they are voter mobilization projects (conducted, in the main, by elites). The interpretation of the results, their meaning and mandate, retains a character of political positioning, even score settling, after the fact. The desire to parse and explain what enabled the disastrous outcome of a Trump Presidency with Republican Party control of the US government is understandable. Most of the early analysis, however, neglects longer term accounting for how we got here, and thus contributes to our collective disorientation.

    Continue Reading

  • The Entertainer: Trump l’oeil

    This post first appeared at j-hoberman.com.



    Donald J. Trump is not the first professional entertainer or pitchman to be elected president of the United States but, however he may refuse to break character or take an adjustment, he is not Ronald Reagan.

    Reagan was 1940s Hollywood incarnate. He was the embodiment of happy endings and uncomplicated emotions, amusing anecdotes and conspicuous consumption, cornball patriotism and paranoid anti-Communism, cheerful bromides and a built-in production code designed to suppress any uncomfortable truth. He was a true believer in the magic of the movies.

    Continue Reading

  • Hostile Takeover

    Lewis Lapham on the 2016 presidential election.

    Continue Reading

Other books by Lewis H. Lapham

  • 9781859840627-max_141

    Hotel America

    Winner of the 1995 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism, this work observes the spectacle of democratic life and values in our time,...

    1 post