American Theocracy Hardcover – Mar 21 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The title of political analyst Phillips's latest book may overstate his case (in the text, he prefers the term "theocratic direction"), but his analysis likely will strike chords among those troubled by our current political moment. Phillips (American Dynasty) expounds upon historical parallels for each of his three subjects. In his section on "Oil and American Supremacy," for example, he points to Britain's post-WWI involvement in the Middle East as an analogy to Iraq, and in his section on radicalized religion, he warns of "the pitfalls of imperial Christian overreach from Rome to Britain." The five major measures of U.S. debt—from national to household—keep setting records, he observes in his section on "Borrowed Prosperity," and the real estate boom spurred by the Federal Reserve, he argues, cannot continue. Phillips identifies the escalating clout of the financial services industry and suggests that Americans should emulate policies in Asia that encourage savings and in Europe that encourage manufacturing. The lesson of the past, he warns, is that intractable national issues "generate weak and compromising politicians or zealous bumblers." A critic of the Bush family, Phillips sees little hope in Hillary Clinton. Expect him to make some provocative appearances on chat shows. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This former Republican strategist has written several books on the relationship between wealth and politics in this country, including the New York Times best-sellers Politics of Rich and Poor (1990) and Wealth and Democracy (2002). Phillips' abiding theme is given a workout again in his new book, with his major thesis spelled out on the first page of the preface: three demons threaten the continued well-being of the U.S. These are our "reckless dependency on shrinking oil supplies," a "milieu of radicalized (and much too influential) religion," and a "reliance on borrowed money" (domestic and international debt, that is). His stiff--no harsh--words are aimed primarily at the Republican Party for allowing these three trends to have gotten out of control, but Democrats, without offering clear and tangible alternatives, are not let off the hook. The author's investigation into these three problems is set in a historical context as he posits the undeniable fact that all previous world economic powers have ultimately failed in continued strength (each one, however, believing "they were unique and that God was on their side"). Phillips is eloquent, absorbing, and frightening, and this book will follow its predecessors onto the best-seller lists. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
His ability to extract plausible economic and political trends out of a mess of historical events and counterforces is impressive. The book is clearly-written, well-documented and convincing. Things don't look too hopeful for North America if Mr. Phillips is correct.
Unfortunately, his diagnosis of the state of the Union is more complete and seems more historically informed than any other that I have read.
He boldly states that a political movement is a political movement. Christian doctrine is broader, and Christianity more inclusive, than the narrow views and political boundaries adovcated by the religious right, the members of whom hide behind their religious beliefs when their political opinions and actions are challenged.
Books I Also Recommend:
The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman)
The Black Book of Outsourcing (Brown and Wilson)
Friedman serves up more direct observations on the offshoring trend, and Brown/Wilson bring advice on how to succeed in the new world economy not found anywhere else.
Phillips identifies three principles areas of concern - the rise of certain elements of religion into the political sphere, the problems of oil as a national addiction (to use the President's own words), and the growing crisis of deficit and economic mismanagement. Phillips is a political commentator with an eye toward history, he makes apt comparisons with empires of the past: the Dutch trading empire, the British colonial empire, and even the Roman empire provide parallels for the United States in the twenty-first century. One thing to note - the period of stability of empires has decreased over the millennia; whereas an empire like Rome might sustain itself for half a millennium, later empires were able to sustain themselves for less and less time. The United States has been the pre-eminent global superpower for less than a century, and is already looking at relative decline.
The problem with oil, according to Phillips, involves problems with both foreign and domestic policy as well as cultural issues. Rather than address growing needs, the Republicans in power have instead adopted a dangerous laissez-faire approach that threatens long-term stability, Phillips notes.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Kevin Phillips has written a thorough book that broadly compares 21st century America with other historical examples of over-reach. He notices eerie similarities. In America today we see the prosecution of wars on several fronts, a nation falling into increasing private and public debt and the rise of religious intolerance. Indeed, although this book was published in 2006, he very presciently anticipates the rise of the tea party movement.
So, can America fail? Well, possibly but not in the short run. A nation of such depth and entrepreneurial spirit will not collapse overnight. But, in the longer run? Well, the jury is still out. Afghanistan looks like a morass, debt will take decades to be repaid unless inflation helps out, and this creates problems of its own. And, as far as religion is concerned, America has made a clear turn to the unenlightened. No other nation in the developed world has such belief in a supernatural god, miracles and an eventual world ending clash between good and evil. The rest of the world is far more rational. Yet, it is not just the fact that Americans are religious. This is not a problem per se. Rather, it is that religion has become so intolerant. Never in living memory has America elected a non-believing President and there are no signs that this is about to change.
Kevin Phillips has done an admirable job documenting modern America. It will not be well received. My fear is that it will be even less heeded.
The book takes the reader through a well-detailed account of how we have reached this point, and where this likely leads. The "here" that Mr. Phillips outlines is a country where the dominant political party in the country has entered into a "great alliance" with the dominant religious organizations in the country in order to maintain joint dominance. The religious organizations benefit by continuing to assure that their agenda's are met by the politicians, while the political party benefits by keeping the eye of the governed off of the rape and pillage that is going on within the political apparatus. The focus weaves this involvement of the extreme right-wing fundamentalist clerics through all aspects of government, focusing in particular on the debt that has resulted and the foreign oil dependence that continues to drive most decisions, plunging the nation further into debt, resulting in increasing profits from those few who "own" that industry.
The historical aspects of the book were excellent, helping the reader to understand how we got where we are, as well as making it clear where history would advise that all nations end up when they get on the path that we have put ourselves on. It is not a comforting picture. I have given the book 4 stars because while the message and content are excellent and timely, I do think that the writing became just a little disjointed and rambled down some alleys at times. I would still highly recommend this book.
Retired Colonel - nattybumppo
Too... much... information. That was my continuing thought as I read through Kevin Phillips thick, dense tome. At just shy of 400 pages "American Theocracy" is a long hard slog chronicling the history of religion in the United States from the 1600's to today. I have to give Mr. Phillips credit for creating a meticulously well researched book but man does it ever read like a dry history book. Along with religion, Mr. Phillips also spends considerable time discussing how mastery of fuel resources and empires coincide and how large energy companies can drive foreign policy. I suppose it all ties together but I would have hacked out the first 100 pages of the book.
A little less than half way through the book the author finally hits his stride and the reading moves from tedious to frightening. The fact is that there has been an increased merging of church and government in the past couple of decades. During the Reagan years the goal was merely to influence government but Reagan's failure to enact true changes (school prayers, ban on abortions) inspired the religious right to try a new tactic, become the government. There is a powerful Christian influence in the United States that would like to see Christianity acknowledged as the national religion and government legislating by puritanical Christian standards. The author uses graphs and figures to show how this movement initially drew its strength from Southern dissatisfaction after the civil war and a feeling of persecution.
I used to think that the religious right was the most dangerous threat to American prominence but over the last few years I've changed my opinion. The biggest threat is the unbridled greed of man and the increasing power of wealth in the United States. Mr. Phillips throws out some mind numbing figures. Household debt increased 39% in the first 4 years of the Bush II presidency. Since Bush has been president 40% of new private sector jobs created were housing related. For the first time ever the average household in the U.S. saves less than nothing per paycheck. America has become a debtor nation and the government is doing nothing about it because it serves some wealthy constituents. Of the three strands this is the one most likely to drop the United States from super power status. So how would a nuclear powered, conservative religious country behave in decline? Hopefully we will see some politicians come into government who are concerned with more than just their wealthiest constituents and the next election cycle and correct the mistakes that threaten our country.
Phillips measures up to his previous work (`American Dynasty,' `Wealth and Democracy,' etc) as a talented author and advocate. Those troubled by our lack of energy strategy, belief ascendant over science, and growing speculative financial services (debt) increasing at the expense of manufacturing and genuinely productive enterprise may find solace in this book.
My only disappointment was the dedication: "To the millions of Republicans, present and lapsed, who have opposed the Bush dynasty and the disenlightenment of the 2000 and 2004 elections." The text merits engagement of every American.
Well written and well worth reading.
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