The Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent and author offers a deep and troubling examination of the dark corners of working-class America, where unemployment and the loss of traditional jobs have produced an epidemic of drug abuse, bigotry, and even suicide, coupled with an urgent plea to rearrange our priorities before the nation collapses.
While he presents the election of Donald Trump as a symptom of the country’s troubles, he places blame equally on both parties, claiming that the Democrats have betrayed the working and middle classes. Convinced that without radical change, the U.S. will only last one to two decades before a complete collapse, he lays out a revolutionary solution that some will decry as socialism while others will endorse for its commitment to justice. This is an exceedingly dark, passionate, and provocative book, certain to arouse controversy but offering a point of view that needs to be heard.
In his current book, Hedges raises provocative questions. Has the destructive aspect of capitalism reached a tipping point? ... Hedges’ answer consists of a grim doubling down ... Traditional institutions of liberalism, including the Democratic Party, are, in Hedges’ view, hopelessly corrupted ... Insofar as Hedges holds out any hope, it is through local community organizing and groups like Black Lives Matter. For the most part, however, the prospects for the country are bleak ... Both righteous and self-righteous, Hedges is addicted to fire and brimstone. A Jeremiah preaching eternal damnation, he is adding to the already crowded shelf of American narratives of decline.
Hedges portrays this nightmarish situation as the fulfillment of Karl Marx’s prediction of the eventual end of capitalism. This vision of capitalism’s demise is slightly puzzling, given that in his account, capitalism seems to be steamrollering everything in its path. But he argues that all this winning is only serving to make clear capitalism’s fundamental hollowness and deceit, which represent the seeds of its ultimate destruction ... The most engaging parts of the book are the searing portraits he presents of individuals victimized in six arenas that he explores in detail: drug addiction, pornography, gambling, the criminal justice system, extremist groups and the search for meaningful, well-paid work. He takes the reader inside these issues in ways that are often telling and memorable, and sheds light on a variety of troubled U.S. cities ... Yet this exploration of American society is unrelieved in its negativism ... he demonizes his political opponents and invokes black-and-white dichotomies with a cringe-worthy lack of self-reflection ... He evinces a relatively simplistic vision for economic revival ... the reader is left not just reeling from the unrelieved darkness of the verdict against capitalism but wondering about some basic questions.