"MONEY, MURDER, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM: Wilding from Wall Street to Main Street" by Charles Derber

"MONEY, MURDER, AND THE AMERICAN DREAM: Wilding from Wall Street to Main Street"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Here, Derber (Sociology/Boston College; coauthor, Power in the Highest Degree, 1990) blames America's ethical, social, and economic collapse on ""wilding""--the same term used for the brutal 1989 attack by a gang of youths on a Central Park jogger. ""Wilding"" is an epidemic, Derber argues, ""seeping into America mainly from the top."" Why use the term ""wilding""? ""Wilding includes a vast spectrum of self-centered and self-aggrandizing behavior that harms others."" Its cause? A corruption of the American Dream. So, to Derber, ""wilders"" include not only Charles Stuart, who murdered his pregnant wife for the insurance, but ""billionaire king of junk"" Michael Milken; Ronald Reagan, who deregulated the S&Ls; and George Bush, who laid waste to Iraq in what the author calls the ""global wilding"" of the Gulf War. At the start, Derber describes the starvationengendered ""wilding culture"" of Uganda's Ik tribes, whose ""self-preservation"" without limits meant even the killing of children. He then sounds the alarm for today's ""advanced wilding crisis,"" which has arisen in ""the new age of limits and polarization."" His solution? ""Americans in the 1990's will have to rediscover and refashion a version of the moral dream that can temper the current fever of individualistic materialism and resurrect civil society."" Derber looks to the team spirit of Michael Jordan and, in a few paragraphs, to ""Confucian"" Japan and to Germany, which prosper while seeming to fulfill basic social obligations of food, housing, and education. Few will argue that America isn't in crisis--but is it really caught up in a ""wilding"" frenzy? Derber uses the term so indiscriminately--to label and link crimes, social problems, political agendas, and causes and effects--that he squanders its meaning and sensationalizes, oversimplifies, or muddies issues that cry out for deep and finely tuned thinking. Every quote from Tocqueville makes you wish that he were still here to speak for himself.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 170pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber