The Secret Lives of Citizens: Pursuing the Promise of American Life

Thomas Geoghegan, Author Pantheon Books $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-679-42153-5
Geoghegan's politics are anything but politic. In Which Side Are You On, he mounted a spirited defense of American labor unions, heaping opprobrium not only on union-busting politicos and captains of industry but also on incompetent and corrupt labor leadership. His new book is a personal memoir written in a vinegary, colloquial style that sounds spoken from a squeaky bar stool in one of the author's beloved Chicago dives where pictures of dead aldermen adorn the walls. Geoghegan recalls working for Harold Washington's mayoral campaign, explains what it was like to work for the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., and muses on how, in a thousand ways, the old Chicago of machine patronage and smoke-filled rooms was more democratic than the new Chicago of faceless managers and yuppie noodle parlors. He is by turns disgusted and flabbergasted at the extent to which, in his view, the country has abandoned government for the precarious shelter of the market. The subtitle is a nod to a book by Herbert Croly, the founder of the New Republic, who believed that the purpose of government is to raise the standard of living, not just the GNP. ""Now,"" Geoghegan laments, ""even Democrats... have trouble saying it. Now we say, equal opportunity. College loans. Clinton begs people, `Don't give up hope.' How dreadful. A Democrat, begging like that. `Don't give up! Maybe your child will do well on his SATs!'"" Funny and informed, with a proudly bleeding heart, Geoghegan is one of the most passionate and persuasive throwbacks to New Deal liberalism. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 251 pages - 978-0-226-28764-5
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