In this short book (less than 150 pages including notes and index) Henry A. Giroux decries, rather indignantly, the erosion of the social state and what is replacing it.
The social safety net, which has been a feature of American life since the New Deal, is being replaced, he says, by a "culture of cruelty" in which the institutions of capital, wealth, and power merge to "inflict immense amounts of pain and suffering upon the lives of the poor, working people, the middle class, the elderly, immigrants, and young people." But, even more disturbing are signs that U. S. society is moving towards an authoritarian state controlled by corporations and a financial elite which is largely a criminal enterprise.
Neoliberalism, or what might be called casino capitalism, is "unabashed in its claim to financial power, its survival of the fittest value system, and is contemptuous of any regulation by government. It promotes the view that government has no responsibility to provide safety nets for the poor, disabled, sick and elderly and there is a full scale attack on the social contract, the welfare state, economic equality, and any viable vestige of moral and social responsibility." This appropriation of Ayn Rand's ode to selfishness offers a glimpse of a ruthless form of extreme capitalism in which the poor are considered "moochers" and viewed with contempt.
Although it has always existed in rudimentary form, this "survival of the fittest" social order took firm hold in America with the rise to power of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Ever since his infamous claim that government is the problem not the solution, it has taken on the status of a low intensity war.
The collapse of the social state with its state protections, public values, and democratic governance can be seen in how the Bush and Obama administrations "embraced the logic of the market and farmed out government responsibilities to private contractors who undercut the power of the welfare state while waging a war on human dignity, moral compassion, social responsibility, and life itself." Everything is up for sale in this government of the greedy and the mega rich.
As we move into a second Gilded Age the American public has lost its ability, perhaps even its will, to talk about public values such as sharing, caring and preserving and it can no longer distinguish between a market driven society and a democratic society. This brutal and ruthless form of social Darwinism shreds the social fabric of the state, eviscerates the importance of the social question and creates the conditions for a society resembling Thomas Hobbes's "war of all against all."
Despite its brevity, this book offers a veritable gold mine of quotable quotes for the liberal progressive.