Saturday, April 29, 2017

William M. Epstein's "The Masses are the Ruling Classes"

William M. Epstein is a Professor in the School of Social Work at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and author of scores of books, articles, reviews, and research monographs.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Masses are the Ruling Classes: Policy Romanticism, Democratic Populism, and Social Welfare in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 discusses the romantic content in pop psychology – the triumph of emotion over reason, an extreme sense of personal agency, and the notion of chosenness. More broadly, these elements define the American ethos and have for centuries. The nation is open; there is little coercion; conspiracies of power and wealth are unlikely although very popular since political careers are not nourished by confronting Americans with the idea that social problems persist as a reflection of embedded preferences -- policy romanticism at the heart of democratic populism. The book illustrates its argument through characteristic social welfare programs – Year Up, Communities in Schools, Generations of Hope Communities in the private sector and the food stamp program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in the public sector. Each of these popular programs fails to achieve its goals but each incorporates the romantic elements of the American ethos. Indeed, the programs persist as ceremonies of national values rather than as pragmatic responses to social problems.

Quoting from the Conclusion:
There may be some truth in the comment that “America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the customary interval of civilization.” Underdeveloped, nostalgic, and often inattentive to the needs of its citizens, the society is stunted in adolescence by policy romanticism – a chosen people’s delusion of Divine entitlement with an exaggerated sense of personal agency. Policy romanticism persists in spite of enormous social and economic inequality, but along with the apparent failure of 100 years of free, compulsory, universal public education, which fancies itself as objective, worldly, informed, practical, and humane.
Without ever mentioning President Trump it goes far to explain his victory, the conservative ascendancy, and the refusal of this wealthy nation to share its bounty.
Learn more about The Masses are the Ruling Classes at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue