In a wide-ranging, provocative anatomy of modern society and its origins, novelist and historian John Ralston Saul explores the reason for our deepening sense of crisis and confusion. Throughout the Western world we talk endlessly of individual freedom, yet Saul shows that there has never before been such pressure for conformity. Our business ...
In a wide-ranging, provocative anatomy of modern society and its origins, novelist and historian John Ralston Saul explores the reason for our deepening sense of crisis and confusion. Throughout the Western world we talk endlessly of individual freedom, yet Saul shows that there has never before been such pressure for conformity. Our business leaders describe themselves as capitalists, yet most are corporate employees and financial speculators. We are obsessed with competition, yet the single largest item of international trade is a subsidized market in armaments. We call our governments democracies, yet few of us participate in politics. We complain about "invasive government, " yet our legal, educational, financial, social, cultural and legislative systems are breaking down. While most observers view these problems separately, Saul demonstrates that they are largely manifestations of our blind faith in the value of reason. Over the last 400 years, our "rational elites" have gradually instituted reforms in every phase of social life. But Saul shows that they have also been responsible for most of the difficulties and violence of the same period. This paradox arises from a simple truth which our elites deny: far from being a moral force, reason is no more than an administrative method. Their denial has helped to turn the modern West into a vast, incomprehensible, directionless machine, run by process-minded experts - "Voltaire's bastards" - whose cult of scientific management is bereft of both sense and morality. Whether in politics, art, business, the military, entertainment, science, finance, academia or journalism, these experts share the same outlook and methods. The result, Saulmaintains, is a civilization of immense technological power whose peoples increasingly dwell in a world of illusion. Already known to millions of readers as the author of novels which portray the overwhelming effects of this power on the modern individual by weaving together interna
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Publishers Weekly, 1992-07-20 Known for his novels of international intrigue, Saul in his first work of nonfiction delivers a passionate jeremiad on the follies of our age. Reason, he argues, has run amok; instead of the enlightened utopia envisaged by Voltaire, the modern West is a soulless machine run by technocratic elites that promise efficiency but create disasters. The author targets the insane waste of our ``permanent war economy,'' the perils of nuclear power, the co-optation of democracy by vested interests, the news media's focus on false events and manufactured celebrities, the ``personality politics'' of presidential campaigns. He critiques the Harvard Business School's management teachings, profiles such figures as Thomas Jefferson, Robert McNamara and Charles de Gaulle, flunks our colleges for failure to reward creativity and imagination. He blames novelists from James Joyce onward for ``rendering literature inaccessible'' and divorcing fiction from social concerns. He roams freely through history, politics, theology, art and film, challenging his audience on every page. This wonderfully provocative inquiry, a work of bold sweep and originality, may nonetheless leave some readers wondering whether misplaced faith in reason underlies all the ills discussed. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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