THE SPOILED CHILD OF THE WESTERN WORLD: The Miscarriage of the American Idea in Our Time by Henry Fairlie

THE SPOILED CHILD OF THE WESTERN WORLD: The Miscarriage of the American Idea in Our Time

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mournful but intelligent pastiche of post-WW II America by a well-known British journalist and academic. Fairlie wanders in circles, charting cultural phenomena and musing over other pundits. But the book does have a unifying theme: the myth of the affluent society and the rise of the Counterculture. The former is approached with gentle reminders of real income levels in the US, along with an appreciation of the benefits of the prosperity which does exist--Fairlie becomes downright eloquent when contrasting the variety and privacy afforded by supermarkets with the village shop whose proprietor scolds you if you buy something beyond your means from his scanty selection. The book's effort to debunk the myth of affluence remains somewhat ambivalent, especially when Fairlie claims that ""all"" machinery is now safe and remote, like a computer, as if industrial slaughter had ceased. On the subject of the Counterculture, he moves from existentialism to the general revolt against science and the specific fallacies of animal behaviorists. Indignant about the decay of humanistic education, he scores the ""self-centered smart-ass"" syndrome of youth, beginning with Holden Caulfield, but refuses to blame youth itself. He also teases older middle-class intellectuals for their fear of ""the masses."" If the book's tentative quality sometimes becomes frustrating, its lack of smugness and its positive sensibility are most welcome.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday