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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 December 2010
This is a seminal work which "tells it like it is" concerning the current power arrangements in the American political system, as well as the political leadership's aspirations towards global empire. Prof. Wolin sets the tone of his work on page 1, with the juxtaposition of the imagery of Adolph Hitler landing in a small plane at the 1934 rally at Nuremberg, as shown in Leni Reifenstahl's "Triumph of the Will," and George Bush landing on the aircraft carrier "Abraham Lincoln" in 2003. Certainly one of the dominant themes of the book is comparing the operating power structure in the United States with various totalitarian regimes of the past: Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Prof Wolin emphasizes the differences between these totalitarian powers, and the softer concentration of power in the United States, which he dubs "inverted totalitarianism."

The book is rich with insights - the best way to savor Prof. Wolin's erudition is in small chunks. He shows the influence of the ancient Greeks, both Plato, as well as the Athenian political operative, Alcibiades, on the neo-cons "founding father," Leo Strauss. He examines in detail the efforts of some of America's own "founding fathers," particularly Madison and Hamilton, on how democracy should be contained and managed. He quotes at length an amazingly prescient passage from Tocqueville predicting one possible scenario for the future of the American democracy, which ends with "...and finally reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd" (p79-80). He also discusses the profound impact of the "National Security Strategy of the United States" document of 2002 on the traditional vision of the values and rights expressed in the Constitution. He raises awkward questions - asking why there were massive public demonstrations in the Ukraine, in 2004, following an election deeply flawed by fraud, which ultimately lead to a new election; yet there were no popular demonstrations in the United States, a country with much stronger democratic traditions following the irregularities in the 2000 election.

He seasons his learning with nuggets of wry wit: "such a verdict after Florida would be an expression of black (sic) humor. (p102); "... to endorse a candidate or a party for reasons that typically pay only lip service to the basic need of most citizens...It speciousness is the political counterpart to products that promise beauty, health, relief of pain, and an end to erectile dysfunction." (p231); and "No collective memory means no collective guilt; surely My Lai is the name of a rock star." (p275). He also has a knack for using the popular phrases for a given sentiment, for example: "get government off our backs."

As other observers have also noted, there is the sharpest of contrasts between FDR's maxim that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" to the current constant promotion of holding the citizenry in a constant state of fear, admirably summarized on the domestic front by: "Downsizing, reorganization, bubbles bursting, unions busted, quickly outdated skills, and transfer of jobs abroad create not just fear but an economy of fear..." (p67)

For all the above, Prof. Wolin deserves 5 and ½ stars, but I did think his presentation was marred by poor organization, redundancy, and lapses into turgid prose. For example, on p. 190, long after the issue has been thoroughly discussed, he says "The administration seized on 9/11 to declare a `war on terrorism.'" Similarly, on p. 202 he says "Historically, the legislative branch was supposed to be the power closest to the citizenry..." Numerous other examples could be cited. Also, I tried - real hard- to come to terms with the term "inverted totalitarianism" but just never could - the intrinsic meaning simply is not there, like as in "managed democracy." Perhaps something like a "hyper-concentration of power" conveys the meaning better.

Overall though, the book is an essential read for anyone interested in the current state of the world.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on June 17, 2008)
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on 23 January 2015
An excellent book presenting a view of the United States of America from the perspective of one of Americas most trusted and competent historians and philosophers. Unfortunately, his view is not perceived by most Americans who are held in check either by their corporately owned, controlled and compliant media using cognitive dissonance and brain washing to deliver a biased, deceitful but righteous message of their country's purported politics. The USA Patriot Act and the nightmarish presentation of the unremitting terrorist threats presented to the world as a treat to their nations security has allowed the US constitution to be shredded without so much as a whimper from the electorate. America has no natural enemies, but nevertheless has a more powerful military than during the cold war just doesn't make any sense. A private banking cartel that actively engineers the near collapse of the world economy and maintains its innocence. The US statistics tells the real story:Twenty active aircraft carriers, a larger level of surveillance than anywhere in the world, 2.22 million army and military reservists, 800 overseas bases, a prison population of 2,228,000, 780,000 police officers, 16 security agencies where the richest 1% of the population have the equivalent wealth of the bottom 34.6%, an admitted military budget of $640 billion and a child poverty level of 23.1% next to Romania, the lowest in the world. A new form of Democracy called 'INVERTED TOTALITARIANISM'.
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on 3 July 2010
Professor Wolin's book is a must-read for anyone who is at all concerned about the state of democracy in the world. It should be compulsory reading for all students of politics and members of parliament, with serving and aspiring prime ministers and presidents forced to study it and face public questioning on their reaction to it - though that will never happen. As Wolin writes, we "the people" - the true owners of democracy - have effectively sold our birthright for a mess of pottage by failing to challenge the theft of democratic sovereignty by the elites.

Though his focus is exclusively on America, much of what he writes also applies - if in less crass and stark form - to most other modern so-called liberal democracies.

He thoroughly exposes the sham that is modern democracy, revealing the emergence of a new form of totalitarianism - one he labels "inverted totalitarianism" to distinguish it from the classic totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Stalinist Russia. Its major characteristic is the unholy alliance of government and big business which has resulted in the politicisation of the corporations and the corporatisation of the political establishment - both now serving the interests of global capitalism.

My sole criticism of this superb book is that Professor Wolin appears to believe in the myth of large-scale Islamic terrorism (9/11 etc.) - for which there is simply no evidence that would hold water if there were ever genuinely independent investigations into those crimes - the bogus basis for two illegal, genocidal wars and for the entirely phoney 'war on terror'. Wolin deals in some detail with the way that 9/11 was exploited to shred much of what was left of democratic and constitutional rights, but - without explicitly saying so - he appears to accept the preposterous official story (even Noam Chomsky seems to leave his brain behind when it comes to 9/11, clinging to the vaguely plausible but entirely factually unsupported "blowback" theory).

But Wolin's thesis does not depend on 9/11 and its after-effects. In fact he shows that America was never a democracy - that the Founding Fathers specifically intended to prevent popular control of decision-making. What is relatively new to the anti-democratic mix is America's recent dreams of empire (in reality only spearheaded by the US - the devil's brew of military/corporate/banking and finance/political and media interests is now global, with no special loyalty to any country), pursued through currently overwhelming financial and military might. But the Empire has its opponents and perhaps no-one can predict how or when the dangerous game of power politics will play itself out - though there is some comfort in the knowledge that all past empires have failed.

When the inevitable crash comes (it would be sooner rather than later if enough people would only study the facts of 9/11 and demand justice, not only for the thousands who died in the acts of state-sponsored terrorism, but also for the millions of dead and mutilated in Afghanistan and Iraq) and the dust of the ensuing chaos has settled, Wolin's book could serve as the 'bible' of what must be avoided if true democracy is ever to be established on this suffering earth.
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on 23 June 2016
The concept of Inverted Totalitarianism is, to me, new and rather clever. There is a lot of evidence to support the idea and it seems true in many parts of the world. But I feel he overlooks the possibility that much of it has happened for many different reasons rather than his tendency to see it as a deliberate Machievellian plot by modern "dictators" such as George W Bush and corporate business. He could almost be accused of producing a good and interesting political theory,which is believable, but then looking for copious facts to support it. This devalues a theory which can stand on its own. Inverted Totalitarianism exists and does not need to be proved by "evidence" that "they" are manipulating us.

Suggestions that modern culture and education is being manipulated, rather than just happening for many different reasons, is highly questionable or just wrong. But the common interests of government, politicians and big business is a fact and the recent referendum campaign in the UK is a clear example.

The book first appeared in 2008 and the world has changed somewhat since then, but to suggest that the USA has no external enemies is risible. The same applies to Europe. The reasons for this are many, but irrelevant.

Finally, his style is leaden and repetitive, which is surprising for a professor. The book could be cut by a third.
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on 13 January 2016
Good book.
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on 3 November 2014
Excellent product at an excellent price with an excellent service
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