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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle [Hardcover]

Chris Hedges
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 28 2009 0307398463 978-0307398468 Fifth Impression
Pulitzer prize–winner Chris Hedges charts the dramatic and disturbing rise of a post-literate society that craves fantasy, ecstasy and illusion.

Chris Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins.

In the tradition of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Hedges navigates this culture — attending WWF contests as well as Ivy League graduation ceremonies — exposing an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion.

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"Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges' lament for his nation."

"Each chapter of Empire of Illusion makes a strong case for how different illusions — of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness — taken together are destroying the American mind, culture and the nation itself."
National Post

"Each chapter torches one of our cultural illusions."
The Globe and Mail

"Hedges is a fan of big ideas, and in Empire of Illusion, he draws upon the culture of professional wrestling and pornography, the elite university, positive psychology and the financial crisis to fashion a social theory of everything."
Winnipeg Free Press

About the Author

Chris Hedges, the author of the bestselling War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, and writes for many publications including Foreign Affairs, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, Granta and Mother Jones. He is also a columnist for Truthdig.com.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking But Uneven Oct. 25 2009
This book is a collection of five 'essays', connected by the twin themes of the triumph of illusion over reality, and greed over decency. Hedges looks at different areas of American culture, ranging from acedemia to the porn industry to make his case. The book ends a discussion on how the combination of illusion and greed augur a bleak future for the US.

The first four sections are much stronger than the final. The themes are clear, the examples interesting, and his case coherent. Hedges does a good job in helping the reader understand the human costs of creating illusions. He laments the decline of critical thinking and the rise of what he terms as "pseudo-events." The numerous quotations had me flipping to the bibliography and making notes for further reading.

I found that the book stalled in the last chapter, which was largely a diatribe against corporate America. Hedges seems to lose his flow and theme. While as thought provoking as the earlier chapters, it rambled and ended weakly.

I would recommend reading the book. It asks you to reflect on difference between images and ideals.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extended metaphor Nov. 22 2010
By Rose
The over-riding theme of this collection - condemning the commodification of life - hits hard from all angles. Hedges is writing in the tradition of copia, the practice of approaching an important idea in different ways in order to reach as many readers as possible. For this reason, these essays may seem uneven from piece to piece. However, the breadth of Hedges's thesis calls for this treatment.
The final essay, The Illusion of America, must fall flat by necessity because his hope lies in a simple choice: love over commodity, the dialectic that has dominated great minds of all disciplines throughout civilization. Why make a simple, universal value more complex than it is? to cater to our contemporary craving for a stunning climax, even in non-fiction? The first essay holds possible keys to this disappointment; WWE fans aren't the only victims of commodified entertainment. We all are. It's the air we breathe.
The ideas in this book are far-reaching and immediately useful. They cry out for action, which every reader is able to employ. Democracy is a tool that we must teach ourselves to use, and this book is part of my personal toolkit.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ....the fall of the US and its empires Dec 30 2009
By Ronald W. Maron TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Every person who has had questions regarding the pupose and direction of the USA over the past decades will find that these queries have been set down in print. It is called "Empire of Illusion" and I advise that all literate persons read it and pay attention to its predictions. We no longer live in the country of our childhood and the lessons we learned from our high school civics classes can now be dismissed. The author clearly states that we are all suffering from illusions in the areas of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and our country as a whole. The illusion is that we are the most powerful and most democratic country that the world has ever known. The reality is that we have lived in a bubble of lies and deceit since the early '70s and that bubble is about to burst.

While many reviewers have difficulties with the final three pages, I feel that mountains are being made of mole hills. The author, I feel, has a natural compulsion to end his text with a bit of hope, as trite as it may be. The author did that to the best of his ability.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Causes of National Decline March 14 2010
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
In this series of critical essays on America's current and future national status, Hedges attacks all that its leaders and citizens have come to regard as the cornerstones of its existence. In clear expository fashion, he challenges an assortment of major social, moral, political and economic myths that this society has created in the name of generating wealth, fostering national pride, exploiting the weak, and dominating the world. At the end of these withering assessments, the reader should have no problem understanding Hedges's concerns about this country's dangerously shaky grasp of reality. He believes that the US, through the corporate manipulation of many of its misguided leaders and the willingness of millions of naive citizens to follow, has created the illusion of a world empire that promotes freedom for all while rewarding a select few for accepting risk. In the space of five poignant essays, Hedges employs his expository skills to expose the fallacy of such a culture. Life is not, as the utopian or liberal would have us believe, getting better over time. In fact, just the opposite can be proven. The ability to read is being replaced the desire for digital images in the form of video games; the traditional sense of love and fidelity is being corrupted by the instant gratification of pornography; the importance of renewing national values is giving way to enforcing international superiority; and the deference to wisdom and knowledge is succumbing to arrogance, intolerance and stupidity. To prevent these writings from becoming a murky rant against all that is perceived to be wrong in society, Hedges provides a lot of critical information that confirms the unmistably downward spiral of a once proud country. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Dr. Ahmad Azim
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
Chris is at it again,
Published 1 month ago by Bill Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars what IS going on?
Chris Hedges is an author that is a must read if you want to get a handle on where the world is going
Published 17 months ago by Gordon J. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocateur Extraordinaire
Chris Hedges does not get much airtime in our main stream media but consider him in the same league as Noam Chomsky. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Larry Fritz
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book
Chris Hedges offers a sombre reflection on America in the early 21st Century, which is easily applicable to my own Canadian context. Read more
Published 19 months ago by A. J. Dickinson
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ!
Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle was the best read to understanding the demise of literacy I've read for a long time. Read more
Published 21 months ago by benny
4.0 out of 5 stars We are getting dumber
This book will confirm our fears about the future of Western civilization. Overall a good commentary on our culture. Some portions are unnecessarily vulgar and graphic.
Published 22 months ago by Robert Van Tol
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and spot on
I have never read anything by this wonderful author. However, after reading this book, I will most certainly be reading more of his works. Read more
Published on April 11 2012 by EaglesIII
5.0 out of 5 stars No Illusions here!
The author has an incisive mind and strips away the baubles of society to expose the core. The illusions he presents are unpleasant and very real.
Published on April 4 2012 by Chris Banner
3.0 out of 5 stars A Leftist Lament
The book is broken down into five different essays. Hedges believes America is a country, that is living an illusion. Read more
Published on April 3 2012 by Patrick Sullivan
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