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American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century Hardcover – March 21, 2006
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Phillip divides this volume into three parts covering America's blundered oil grabs, her unrepentant evangelical Christianity grasping the reins of state, and tragically replacing manufacturing with finance. He shines as a historian when repeatedly comparing 21st America to 17th century Spain, the 18th century Dutch Republic, 19th and 20th century Britain as each predecessor believed themselves anointed by divinity to be a singular vehicle for restoring a dominating morality upon an errant globe. Each empire exploited a resource (stolen riches from a newly conquered continent, wind and sail and the world's fisheries, and seemingly endless veins of coal). Each empire eventually grew indolent, replacing intellectual pursuits and discourse with inflexible religion. Each empire closed its factories and opened banks instead. Each of those empires sank from envious heights to ignoble mediocrity. Each of these empires never realized their self-ordained crowning as diety's favorite adherents. America is devoutly marching down this well-worn path seemingly oblivious to the yawning cliff ahead.
Phillips' style evokes an erudite writer who is endlessly fond of clever word combinations. At first, I found his style quite quaint especially when some phrases found me baffled and necessitated another deliberate reading. His vocabulary is rich and deep, his sentences replete with nuances steep. Reader, keep that dictionary close and be mindful of sudden metaphors. Phillip aims to educate, each statement is studiously reinforced with supporting material that's copiously endnoted in over thirty pages. An inveterate number cruncher, he's overly fond of quoting statistics that after a couple of sentences invariably blur and start to become sort of mind-numbing as the intended significance inevitably becomes lost. His pacing is oft pedantic, sometimes ambulatory, but redemptively his thinking always returns to the subject at hand at chapter's and book's end.
Kevin Phillips has written a thorough book that broadly compares 21st century America with other historical examples of over-reach. He notices eerie similarities. In America today we see the prosecution of wars on several fronts, a nation falling into increasing private and public debt and the rise of religious intolerance. Indeed, although this book was published in 2006, he very presciently anticipates the rise of the tea party movement.
So, can America fail? Well, possibly but not in the short run. A nation of such depth and entrepreneurial spirit will not collapse overnight. But, in the longer run? Well, the jury is still out. Afghanistan looks like a morass, debt will take decades to be repaid unless inflation helps out, and this creates problems of its own. And, as far as religion is concerned, America has made a clear turn to the unenlightened. No other nation in the developed world has such belief in a supernatural god, miracles and an eventual world ending clash between good and evil. The rest of the world is far more rational. Yet, it is not just the fact that Americans are religious. This is not a problem per se. Rather, it is that religion has become so intolerant. Never in living memory has America elected a non-believing President and there are no signs that this is about to change.
Kevin Phillips has done an admirable job documenting modern America. It will not be well received. My fear is that it will be even less heeded.
The book takes the reader through a well-detailed account of how we have reached this point, and where this likely leads. The "here" that Mr. Phillips outlines is a country where the dominant political party in the country has entered into a "great alliance" with the dominant religious organizations in the country in order to maintain joint dominance. The religious organizations benefit by continuing to assure that their agenda's are met by the politicians, while the political party benefits by keeping the eye of the governed off of the rape and pillage that is going on within the political apparatus. The focus weaves this involvement of the extreme right-wing fundamentalist clerics through all aspects of government, focusing in particular on the debt that has resulted and the foreign oil dependence that continues to drive most decisions, plunging the nation further into debt, resulting in increasing profits from those few who "own" that industry.
The historical aspects of the book were excellent, helping the reader to understand how we got where we are, as well as making it clear where history would advise that all nations end up when they get on the path that we have put ourselves on. It is not a comforting picture. I have given the book 4 stars because while the message and content are excellent and timely, I do think that the writing became just a little disjointed and rambled down some alleys at times. I would still highly recommend this book.
Top international reviews
One exceptional factor is the authhor's breadth and depth of knowledge. Unlike many American authors, his span is world-wide (one of his earliest topics is the rise of Dutch sea power, for example) and deeply rooted in the past. On a couple of occasions I wondered whether he was giving too much emphasis to a particular issue - for example the popularity of the Left Behind series - but then I looked for myself and saw that he wasn't.
The present situation has called the best out of some of the world's best historians (I can only hope that someone's listening) but this is superlative. Plus it's extremely well-written. I can't recommend it too highly, even to those who might have a bookshelf bigger than mine.
Southern Baptist Convention（南部福音主義派協議会？）の影響力の大きさは侮れない。
He boldly states that a political movement is a political movement. Christian doctrine is broader, and Christianity more inclusive, than the narrow views and political boundaries adovcated by the religious right, the members of whom hide behind their religious beliefs when their political opinions and actions are challenged.
Books I Also Recommend:
The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman)
The Black Book of Outsourcing (Brown and Wilson)
Friedman serves up more direct observations on the offshoring trend, and Brown/Wilson bring advice on how to succeed in the new world economy not found anywhere else.