In this bracing collection of provocative essays, Michael Knox Beran examines the false benevolence that characterizes the power classes in contemporary America. Their enlightened pity for their fellow citizens, he charges, conceals an instinct for power rather than compassion. Beran argues that today's elites have come to rely on a social philosophy that reduces people to a mass of social groups and types, obscures their individual humanity, and makes them easier to manipulate. While they tragically conceive their desire for authority as a form of virtue, the elite classes have set about remaking schools, rewriting the U.S. Constitution, dehumanizing charity, and making war on tradition in the name of a crude form of Social Darwinism.
Through readings of such inspired critics of the social imagination as Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Beran exposes the romance of dominion that underlies the philosophy of social benevolence, a philosophy that has steadily undermined the older and more valuable tradition that Edmund Burke associated with the moral imagination. In seeking to depose this moral impulse in the pantheon of culture, and enshrine the social imagination in its place, today's elites have weakened not only liberalism but also conservatism—indeed, society as a whole. Where the moral imagination is not regularly and habitually cultivated, Beran observes, where it ceases to have a place in education and art, in schools and in the town square, it becomes more difficult even for the best-intentioned among us to resist the allure of a narrow and obtuse self-righteousness.
Michael Knox Beran's previous books include Forge of Empires 1861–1871 and The Last Patrician, a study of Robert Kennedy that was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Most of the pieces in Pathology of the Elites first appeared in City Journal, where Mr. Beran is a contributing editor. His writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and the National Review.
Class Conflict, American Style,
Fred Siegel, The Wall Street Journal, 12-11-10
Elite Guilt Begat Obamacare, Kathryn Lopez,
"Michael Knox Beran is one of the most eloquent and deeply humane writers in America. It's not just that he dazzles with the breadth of his knowledge of
Western literature and American history; he genuinely enlightens. Read this book—and profit."
Rich Lowry, National Review
"Beran demonstrates that literary grace, erudition, and common sense are not contraries. He embodies them."
Theodore Dalrymple, author of Our Culture, What's Left of It
"Michael Knox Beran makes here a bid to revive a lost art—that of the erudite general critic, ranging widely across history, literature, and philosophy in service
of a grand critique of our current political scene. The result is a package of edifying essays, leagues removed from the repetitive dreariness and mendacity of what
passes for commentary and analysis in much of the mass media today."
Steven F. Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan
Praise for Michael Knox Beran's Previous Books
"[Beran's Forge of Empires] deserves the close attention of every student of American affairs and of every working historian. Beran combines vast erudition and
great narrative gifts to create a mosaic that not only illuminates the stories of the statesmen he follows . . . but also provides readers with new insights into
the ways world events affected the United States. . . . Sweeping pictures emerge from short mini-narratives that function like pebbles in a mosaic—or like the
dramatic brushstrokes of the impressionist painters active in the era he so brilliantly portrays."
Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs
“an important civic act . . . . [Beran] is such a lively writer, and such a risk-taking thinker, that the sparks he promiscuously strikes from his literary
flint are, cumulatively, illuminating . . . . Beran’s slender meditation on Kennedy’s truncated life has an unusually high ratio of provocations per
page. Some readers will angrily throw [The Last Patrician] across the room. But they will retrieve it, and continue reading, avidly.”
George F. Will, New York Times Book Review