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TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES by Christopher L. Hayes Kirkus Star


America After Meritocracy

by Christopher L. Hayes

Pub Date: June 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-72045-0
Publisher: Crown

In this forcefully written debut, Nation editor at large and MSNBC host Hayes examines some of the consequences of accumulating institutional failures.

Whether discussing the dysfunctions of government, Fortune 500 companies, Catholic bishops or Major League Baseball, the author traces common features to a “broad and devastating crisis of authority” resulting from a breakdown in trust. Hayes examines the relationship between trust and authority and shows that what we actually know usually depends on others, ultimately on a source of institutional authority such as a political party. “We don’t acknowledge that our most fundamental, shared beliefs about how society should operate are deeply elitist,” writes the author. “We have accepted that there will be some class of people that will make the decisions for us, and if we just manage to find the right ones, then all will go smoothly.” Hayes uses the term elite differently than the manner employed by Fox News or Sarah Palin. He defines it as a “small, powerful and connected” group with “three main sources of power: money, platform, and networks.” Of course, money can confer power and buy the other forms of influence, so what was once trusted may no longer be considered either competent or as acting in good faith. Many policymakers put forth education as the answer. Hayes insists that it is no longer enough, arguing that equality of opportunity must be complemented with equality of outcomes, through tax reforms and other measures.

A provocative discussion of the deeper causes of our current discontent, written with verve and meriting wide interest.