THE CHARACTER OF NATIONS by Angelo M. Codevilla

THE CHARACTER OF NATIONS

How Politics Makes and Breaks Prosperity, Family, and Civility
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Proof that even the most promising topic can be drained of meaning by a heavy-handed ideological analysis. Codevilla (International Relations/Boston Univ.; Informing Statecraft, 1992) aspires to join the great tradition of thinkers who have explored the relationship between political regimes and the character of the governed. Unfortunately, he seeks to buttress convictions, rather than acquire knowledge. Having assumed, for example, the superiority of the two-parent, patriarchal family, he sets out to selectively mine human experience for anecdotes supporting his predetermined conclusions. While this effort degenerates into predictable rantings about contemporary American politics and culture, there is a sense in which Codevilla has succeeded in this volume. The problem confronting culture warriors is that their basic themes are so familiar, it is difficult to say anything new. But if each contribution to the attack on the hated liberal establishment is read as an entry in a contest to see who can construct the most outlandish straw man, then Codevilla is both competitive and entertaining. In his view, ``modern Western regimes are inherently enemies of families,'' perpetrating outrages such as eliminating ``laws that give married men advantages in competing for jobs.'' According to him, the US government has made abortion ``the most absolute right in the land'' and is ``responsible for the universities' uniform hostility to religion, to Western culture, and to America in general''--trends furthered by the fact that, with few exceptions outside the hard sciences, universities ``have hired only political leftists.'' His tendency to condemn absolutely, eliminating all nuance or complexity from social analysis, gives Codevilla an edge in the competition and should amuse readers who can appreciate his willingness to set reality aside in pursuit of seductive generalizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1997
ISBN: 0-465-08220-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997