REVIEWSrnFriends All Overrnthe Worldrnby Philip JenkinsrnThe Revolt of the Elitesrnand thernBetrayal of Democracyrnby Christopher LaschrnNew York: W.W. Norton;rn276 pp., $22.00rnIn this final book of his splendidrncareer, Christopher Lasch seeks tornanswer two questions, one that isrnincreasingly heard in political debate,rnthe other still too subversive for considerationrnin polite society. The first isrn”What’s wrong with America?”—an issuernnot too far removed from the “Conditionrnof England” so lengthily debatedrnbv Disraeli and many other Victorians.rnClosely related to this is the questionrn”Can democracy survive?”—a naturalrncorollary to the first topic, given the fundamentalrnrole played by democraticrnideology in every phase of the nation’srnhistory.rnLasch identifies a familiar roster ofrnAmerican problems and crises, includingrnurban decay, media sensationalism,rnthe decline of traditional communityrnloyalties, the deterioration of publicrnspaces, and the collapse of popular interestrnor involvement in the political process.rnThus far, the book might seem tornresemble a hundred other counterpartsrnover the last quarter of a century, ritualrncontrasts of the heartless and soullessrnpresent with the imagined communalrnpast, with obligatory jibes at the liberalrnelites, Spiro’s “nattering nabobs of negativism,”rnand at modern faddism. Ofrncourse, given the author, this is not at allrnwhat we find. Lasch indeed enumeratesrnthe symptoms of cultural decay, butrnthen proceeds to analyze them in arnmanner that is both novel and thoughtprovoking.rnLasch takes as his point of departurernThe Revolt of the Masses, in whichrnOrtega y Gasset argued that the rise ofrnmass politics posed a terminal threat torndemocratic practice, which had evolvedrnwithin the more stately republican modelsrnof the I8th and 19th centuries. Notrnat all, says Lasch. In fact, the real threatrnin contemporary America arises notrnfrom the masses but from the elites, whornhave so detached themselves from therncommon beliefs and mores of the widerrncommunity as to have become thoroughlyrnderacinated. They are “far morerncosmopolitan, or at least more restlessrnand migratory, than their predecessors.”rnTheir own beliefs are defined in contrastrnto a nightmare Middle America of thernspirit, an imaginary land of Babbittry,rn”technologically backward, politically reactionary,rnrepressive in its sexual morality,rnmiddlebrow in its tastes, smug andrncomplacent, dull and dowdy.” We arerneverything They are not. Though Laschrndoes not cite this particular example, therncontrast is nicely epitomized by virtuallyrnevery cartoon published in the last fivernyears on the subject of guns and privaterngun ownership. The vicious, mentallyrndefective sadist labeled “N.R.A.,” Bubbarnwith his Freudian attachment to hisrnsemiautomatic rifle, is more or less howrnour new bieoastal elites view a large majorityrnof the American population, orrnanyone with the temerity to resist thernabandonment of centuries of deeply ingrainedrntraditions when called upon torndo so at the drop of a syndrome. Thernpropaganda is savage, unrestrained, andrnmonstrously unfair, but not untypical.rnIn Lasch’s view, the new elites simplyrnhate the values and beliefs of traditionalrncommunities, to the extent that they arernno longer capable of comprehendingrnthem, and venerate instead the idealsrnof diversity and multiculturalism. Forrnthem, the future will be characterized byrna lack of borders, of restraints on thernmovement of people or money, andrnabove all by the abandonment of any restraintsrnthat they see as preventing humanrnfulfillment, namely the constrictionsrnof sexual roles and of the family.rnLife becomes as unconstrained as thernInternet or the Web, where one has nornidea whether the information one uses isrnultimately derived from Tulsa or Tibet.rnNot quoted here, but still relevant, isrnJohn Lennon’s complex manifestorn”Imagine” (“Imagine there’s no countriesrn. . . a Brotherhood of Man”). Thernmodel megalopolis of the new era is thernUtopian city of Los Angeles, with itsrn”correct” orientation toward the Pacificrnrather than to what was once the Americanrnheartland. To fulfill our destiny inrnthe Pacific century, it is first necessary tornabandon those financial and economicrnrestraints which prevent the ultimaternmerger into the nationless world federation.rnAnd someday, the final frontierrnwill be attained: “Next year in Tokyo …”rnis the ideal.rnIn domestic terms, the consequencesrnof the new internationalism are summarizedrnby the immortal words of the Englishrncomedian Tony Hancock, who inrnhis character as a radio ham pronouncedrnthat “I have friends all over the world . . .rnnone in this country, but all over thernwodd.” While the new elites move intornthe science-fiction Pacific Rim of thernsoul, they increasingly lose what vestigialrncontact remains with middle-class andrn(God forbid) poor Americans, as thernrich increasingly secure themselves onrnluxury reservations protected by securityrnguards, leaving the public schools andrnpolice and streets to a desperate andrnbrutalized plebs. The political conclusionrnof all this would presumably bernSpenglerian, and the most optimisticrnoutcome might be termed “Caesarism.”rnEven worse scenarios were foreshadowedrnby the 1992 riots in that paragon of multiculturalrnharmony, Los Angeles.rnSo much about this imaginary futurernappears familiar, even inevitable, thatrnLasch performs a major prophetic servicernby pointing out the many problemsrnthat arise when a society seeks to detachrnitself fully from its traditions and commonplaces,rnfrom family, community,rnand religion. The task might have beenrndone somewhat better by Brave NewrnWorld (written by a contemporary of Ortega),rnbut Lasch’s jeremiads gain powerrnfrom their strictly contemporary relevance.rnHis central theme can be seen asrnprofoundly un-American, nothing lessrnthan an assault on the evil consequencesrnof mobility and a celebration of the fixedrnlandmarks. Democracy, he argues, pre-rnTo order these books, (24hrs, 365 days)rnplease call (800) 962-6651 (Ext. 5200)rnMAY 1995/33rnrnrn