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More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the New Century (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America) Hardcover – 14 Mar 2004

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"In More Equal Than Others, an up-to-the-minute critique of modern American life, the British historian Godfrey Hodgson combines intelligent discussions of pressures that have shaped American society during the last quarter-century . . . With a factoid-packed jeremiad against the triumph of the suburb--the demographic zone where half the population now lives, where two-thirds of new jobs are located, whose voting strength overawes Congress. . . . Although Hodgson writes as a liberal, he levels [his] charges across party lines."--Allen D. Boyer, New York Times Book Review

"[A] wonderfully written, wide-ranging and profoundly depressing book. Hodgson's theme is that the US has changed for the worse in the past 25 years: inequality is supplanting equality, even equality of opportunity."--Kathleen Burk, Financial Times

"[Hodgson] sees a country which the postwar liberal consensus has indeed moved right, turning free-market capitalism from an economic theory into a cultural template. The result is an America in which financial segregation increasingly preserves opportunity for a wealthy elite. . . . [He] argues convincingly that American society has come to resemble old-fashioned Europe, with its strictly class-structured elites."--Michael Carlson, The Spectator

"The most thoughtful, thorough and sorrowful book imaginable on what has happened in these years."--Bernard Crick, The Independent

"Godfrey Hodgson . . . delivers a relentless indictment of an American grown . . . far too sure of itself. In More Equal Than Others, he argues that a wave of right-wing triumphalism has overtaken the country since the Soviet Union's death from exhaustion. In its train, it has brought us a sanctification of the unfettered market, an intensification of Americans' long-standing contempt for government, and--most appallingly--a complacent acceptance of unprecedented inequalities in wealth, education, and opportunity."--Matthew A. Crenson, Political Science Quarterly

About the Author

Godfrey Hodgson is an Associate Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. He is the author of six books, including "The Gentleman from New York: Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Biography, People's Century", and "America In Our Time" (1976, Princeton 2005).

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This book is an attempt to understand what has happened in the United States over the last quarter of the twentieth century. Read the first page
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
All animals are equal, but... 16 May 2004
By Celia Redmore - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There is general agreement in the United States that the last few decades have been much more profitable for the wealthiest few percent of the population than for everyone else. "More Equal Than Others" makes the point that even this understanding of inequality is greatly underestimated by most Americans. Godfrey Hodgson, who is a long time Washington correspondent for the British media and who wrote this book for The Century Foundation in New York, believes that the US media have consistently presented a picture of the country that makes it appear more economically successful and more egalitarian compared to other countries than is in fact the case. He claims that recent statistics show that the US is, by some measures, the least egalitarian of the eleven most industrialized countries.
Hodgson bases his case on a review of history from the 1970's through the first couple of years of this century. Much of what he presents will be entirely familiar to anyone who has lived in the US during that time. Indeed, the book has a tendency to present history by anecdote, rather than analysis. Nevertheless, it contains nuggets of information which should interest any close social or political observer of the country. Where he doesn't persuade, he certainly proves himself to be a worthy debating partner. Above all, he makes us think.
Godfrey Hodgson's political concern is made transparent by both the book's title and its dust jacket, which shows two photographs: One is of a man in a suit looking at the skyline from a penthouse office; the other is of a group of people seated around a table under a freeway overpass. That neither photograph needed to be staged is unarguable. By chance, I am writing this review looking out from just such a luxury high-rise overlooking an empty lot where three men are asleep on the ground. They must remember better days, because they have lined up their pieces of cardboard against a wall like beds in a dormitory. Only feet away is one of the busiest freeways in the United States.
The question is whether Hodgson's book will play only to the liberal choir, or whether he has introduced enough new facts, or presented existing facts in a sufficiently original manner, to persuade any of those freeway drivers to stop.
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. - George Orwell, Animal Farm"
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Useful survey of the USA today 14 Aug. 2004
By William Podmore - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a useful survey of the USA's society and economy by Godfrey Hodgson, a British journalist and author, who is an Associate Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University.

Chapters deal with politics and the Constitution, the economy, immigration, technology, women, slavery and race, the frontier, society, foreign policy, the world and the new century. He explodes the myth that the market, not the government or the universities, built the Internet.

What he calls the `conservative ascendancy' is really just corporate power leading to a corporate state. All the polls show that the American people have far saner views than either wing of the capitalist party. But in the USA, money talks, so much so that its courts now hold that the First Amendment's protection of free speech protects the absurdly high levels of election spending.

The ruling class has turned the USA into the most unequal of all developed countries: its great and growing inequality means that it has the least opportunity, the least social mobility and the fewest escapes from poverty. The USA is failing economically: average wages were 10% lower in 1999 than in 1973. In 2000, it had lower annual incomes per head than Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg. Between 1960 and 2000, productivity grew more slowly in the USA than in Britain, France or Italy.

Hodgson raises, but does not answer, the question why, after the Soviet Union's suicide, world peace and prosperity did not ensue. What caused the wars and slumps of the 1990s? The Soviet Union's demise proved that it was not the Soviet Union that prevented peace and prosperity, but capitalism.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Tell me something I don't know 2 Jun. 2004
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Godfrey Hodgson is a distinguished journalist whose new history of the past thirty years of American history is published with the help of The Century Foundation. There is something offsetting about the foreword written by Century Foundation president Richard Leone, which seems to apologize beforehand for being critical about the current United States and eager to remind people that Hodgson is a friend of the United States. The book itself starts off with the free market consensus and then goes on to discuss the new post-Nixon politics. And so get familiar treatments of the fall of the Democratic South, the rise of the taxpayer's rebellion, and the corruptions of party financing. We then have a chapter on the internet which makes what should be the obvious point that it did not spring from the heads of a few Titanic entrepreneurs but arose from a long history of government and public support. We then have a chapter on the new economy which points out the underside of wage stagnation and increasing inequality. In Spring 1999 average wages were actually 10% lower than in 1973. If we use market exchange rates to measure income the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland make more money than the United States. Productivity growth is lower than France or Italy. We then have a chapter each on immigrants, women and African-Americans which notes progress but also delays and residual hostility. We then have a chapter on the new society which focuses on the problems of suburbanization, mass transport, the decline of sport, the decline of community and the increased atomization of the American public. We then look at the new world order of American domination. The result of all this is there has been an "unquestioning faith in untrammeled free-market capitalism," that needs to be questioned and moderated.
All good and well, one might think, but the result is like reading a collection of special Newsweek articles. We are not learning anything new. The total is not really very deep. Although Hodgson is aware of the limits of Clinton's policies his book is not much more adventurous or radical. There is some good stuff about the blind hostility of many Americans to mass transit. Hodgson is also more interested in trade unions to be sure, and cites Nelson Licthenstein to good effect, but it would be better to read Lichtenstein than Hodgson himself. Tom Frank, whom Hodgson also mentions, would be a better critic of the cant of "free market populism." One would be better off reading Susan Faludi and Deborah Rhode on women, Stephanie Coontz and Rickie Sollinger on the family, or Mike Davis on Hispanic immigration. Raymond Garthoff would be a better guide on foreign policy in the seventies and eighties. The bibliography is anything but exhaustive. There is a whole corpus of scholarship on gender and race. Why confine oneself to the memoirs of Susan Brownmiller and Gloria Steinem on abortion, or the thoughts of Shelby Steele and Elias Cose? A certain journalist fatuousness sets in, such as when Hodgson says the Internet "may be the most important single innovation there has ever been." (At other times Hodgson is more wary, pointing out that the effect of the internet isn't clear in some cases and its impact on productivity has been overestimated in others.) In his chapter on American politics he says that ideological differences between the two parties have never been so clear, while later he says that the political differences are actually rather slight. In fact, he confuses ideology with rhetoric, just as he earlier overestimates the liberalism of Northern Republicans before Nixon. There is a tendency in the chapter on race to discuss how people feel about it than what they actually experience. And television, films, literature, music; all of the these get only fleeting mention.
Consider, as an example, the chapter on foreign affairs. We have a brief and somewhat misleading survey of foreign policy in the seventies. The Civil war of Angola appears as an act of Soviet aggression, whereas the American conspiring with South Africa and Zaire so detailed in Piero Gleijeses' Conflicting Missions goes unmentioned. The Sandinistas are falsely said to have "abandoned their claims to be considered democrats." Samuel Huntington gets treated with too much respect. The failure of Boris Yeltsin only gets a paragraph. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict gets ignored, as does genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. Environmental problems and the environment in general do not appear in the Index. There are a few doubts about globalization and about the smug chauvinism of much American foreign policy. But the overall result is superficial. What could be said about this chapter can be said for all the others: one reads and realizes that it could be so much better.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Insightful! 25 Oct. 2004
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on
Format: Hardcover
British journalist and historian Godfrey Hodgson dissects the rise of conservatism in the U.S. during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Hodgson is an unapologetic liberal, and though he's ultimately optimistic about America, he finds much to lament in this period. Even die-hard conservatives might be given pause by his warnings about growing social stratification and inequality. Hodgson's greatest contribution to the political discussion may be his examination of this time period from so many angles, exposing myths and misconceptions about each facet of society, especially the much-ballyhooed prosperity of the '90s. The book is plagued by inadequate fact-checking on minor issues, however, which could call his larger points into question, despite 43 pages of end notes and an extensive bibliography. Despite these flaws, we find this thoughtful study useful for anyone trying to understand American politics and future trends.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Ruling Class Holiday 1 May 2004
By Panopticonman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this densely factual and amply documented explication of the conservative counterrevolution in the U.S. over the past quarter century, Godfrey Hodgson demonstrates how this brew of Christian cowboy populism and free market absolutism has undermined the United States' historically tolerant, egalitarian culture, installing in its place an unnatural system where the measure of every person, every motive and every institution is the dollar almighty.
Full of counterexamples to the works of conservative think tanks, Hodgson deftly explodes the many myths manufactured by this melange of Ayn Rand "objectivists,' neo-liberal economists and reactionary sociologists. He shows, for example, how these apparatchiki provide the justifications and tools to blame and marginalize the poor for their poverty and non-whites for their non-whiteness. He also shows how as part of these efforts the think tankerites have used the 'objectivity' credo of journalism to insert erroneous, vicious "facts" into the so-called marketplace of ideas, e.g., that the U.S. is much "freer" in terms of economic mobility between the classes, a mobility created and supported by free-market capitalism. Hodgson shows this story, often used to justify the global spread of American capitalism is a patent falsehood.
Citing a study of the top 16 industrialized nations, including, of course, Rumsfeld's "Old Europe," he notes the U.S. ranks dead last in this regard. All the right wing rhetoric is revealed as mere assertion. Hodgson shows how since mid-century the conservative ideology has replaced the liberal consensus and turned the U.S. into an increasingly brittle oligarchy whose citizens are now more polarized and class-bound than citizens in those countries America rebuilt after WWII. As Hodgson notes toward the end of MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS: "Over the twelve years of Republican occupancy of the White House, from 1981 to 1993, the median American wage earner's income fell by 5 percent in real terms. The income of the top 5 percent of taxpayers rose by 30 percent, while the income of the top 1 percent rose by 78 percent. Inequality reigned" (page 291). Hodgson further contends the polarization is evident in a two party system that once sought consensus but is divided with one party now clearly aligned with the haves against the have-nots.
Again, in Hodgson's words: "The politics of the past quarter century have been dominated by the reaction against the idea of a Great Society. There has been a racial dimension to this shift. There have been other dimensions, too: anger at American humiliations abroad; disgust at perceived moral decline, especially in sexual behavior and in the family: resentment of taxation, inflation, and economic change generally. All of this added up, a little perversely, to a rejection of government as the instrument of democracy and the elevation of unregulated free-market capitalism to share democracy's throne at the apex of the American system of belief. (Perversely, because if government failed to win all of its battles against communism in the Third World, free markets were hardly likely to have proved more successful; neither the Coca-Cola Corporation nor Disney was equipped to have won the battle of Ap Bac [in Vietnam] or rescue the Tehran hostages. Perversely, too, because the "social issues" were scarcely the fault of government: if anything, they should be blamed on the market capitalism in the shape of Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the entertainment industry" (pg. 291).
Hodgson is clearly upset at what has happened over the past few decades in the U.S. A transplanted Englishman who has spent a good deal of his life in the States, he asks us to recall the real American virtues: a relatively classless society, an optimistic and charitable national spirit. To his mind, the racialized rhetoric of the deserving and the undeserving has no place in this shining city upon the hill. In the past, he notes, the wealthy may have "dined on gold plates" and collected priceless artworks, but they also kept quiet about their luxurious lives, observing of the egalitarian credo that to do otherwise would be to ape the behavior of the royalist or aristocrat. Now millionaire populism has swept over the land and the true republican American value of classless civil interaction has been turned on its head -- quoting Rush Limbaugh in this regard: "Do you realize that if wealthy people are not secure in the enjoyment of their property rights, no one is?" (From Limbaugh's "See, I Told You So," pg. 314). Hodgson would argue that the security of a wealthy elite has been the driving force of this anti-American counterrevolution, a movement which has sought to force-feed contingency and insecurity to those citizens not fortunate enough to have been born or to have otherwise become (a rare phenomenon according to Hodgson) a member of the new ruling class.
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