First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Powers
SUNY Albany sociology professor Lachmann (Capitalists in Spite of Themselves
) supports his thesis that America’s decline is inevitable (and already underway) by examining the histories of France, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom since 1492 in this dense and technical jeremiad. While Spain and France failed to translate their colonial revenue and military power into hegemonic control, Lachmann writes, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S. benefited from stronger state apparatuses and a relative degree of unity among elites. He traces the decline of Dutch and British power to a growing separation between financial concerns and national interests, and argues that the U.S. has been moving “from consensus to paralysis” since the 1960s. Deregulation and corporate mergers, he writes, have created ultrawealthy citizens who have few reasons not to pursue profits above domestic and global stability. Meanwhile, mass membership organizations such as the American Legion, labor unions, and the U.S. government have failed to muster the political will necessary to challenge these elites. Lachmann’s copious citations and academic terminology favor readers who have a specialized knowledge of the subject matter, and those looking for a way forward won’t find it in his grim predictions about the decline in quality of life as American society becomes more polarized and unequal. Though this provocative and sobering indictment often hits its targets, nonacademic readers will find themselves adrift. (Jan.