There is an ultimately grand Irony that the author would publish his book in 2008 in the midst of the opening salvo's of the very laissez faire capitalism's Great Recession. One of several problematic points that start to leak out of his book. Clearly if we are to believe that laissez faire capitalism won WWII, and Orwell had been wrong about it, then, uh, how are we suppose to address the issues of the Great Recession? The author is amusing to note that we do not use the term 'capitalism' any more, never mind that he had, since it would offend the chinese. While at the same time acting as if he had never been in the country where the hot new trends in Person Branding, so that people focus on commoditize themselves as fashionably co-brandable products and services!
Ah yes. The problems still left open.
The world is starting to make some recovery from the Great Recession, and we might be able to live out Amity Shlaes' re-writes of 'the forgotten man'. But I much prefer the traditional Remember My Forgotten Man -- at youtube sung by Joan Blondell in the Busby Berkley Musical. So should we be reading Lebedoff in the 20's context of Vile Bodies or should we be viewing it in the frame of The Road to Wigan Pier"? Or are we suppose to make the leap of faith with waugh and support Mussolini's Liberation of Ethiopia?
Or were we not suppose to pick up the notice that Waugh was trying to influence the papacy to get them to annul his marriage to 'She-Evelyn' so that he could keep both his new found Roman Catholicism, while also continuing his social climbing up the old order's appropriately eligible daughters.? Which is to say, yes, the author is willing to note the problems of Hitler and Stalin as a simplified dialectic, but hopes no one noted his comments about Waugh and Mussolini, or the problems of 'taking the catholic position' a problem that the author never really works out. ( would this be a bad time to remind folks about when being a papist was UnAmerican? )
The author would have been well served to have taken the time to first read at least The Review of the Day: Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism, or gone ahead and ordered a copy of it, read it and then started working on the deep seated issues of being a writer who is not sure he feels at home with being an intellectual. It would have helped his effort to try to wedge Orwell into the same thought space as Waugh. Or at least helped him try to sort out what he might have been upset about in the differences between Authoritarians and Fascists. Unless that too was a root cause problem we were not suppose to notice.
I can and do appreciate that these STILL are tough times to work out how does one really want to deal with the actual facts of actual class warfare in the USofA, and else where. Should we address it in a fact based approach, where we deal with the actual numbers about inter-generational movement? Or should we appeal to the fact that it should be held as a matter of faith, and patriotism, and therefore it must be true. Since if we are not willing to address the questions of 'social mobility' as it really occurs, we are not really in a good place to talk about whether or not we should be trying to be the snotty social climbing bully like waugh? Or the Anti-Fascist/Anti-Stalinist/Anti-Bully like George Orwell. The short skids, for the last 30+ years we have watched a decay in the social mobility in america in real numbers. The spread between the wealthy and the rest of the working stiff, married as it is to the hollowing out of the Middle Class in America, has restored one part of the desire to return to brideshead revisited with the correct remains of the days; the hope that they are still hiring help.
But what would it mean in america if we were to have an american reconsideration of the same issues?
I can and do appreciate that with the new sorting algorithms the papist authoritarians have been able to toss in their lot with the Protestant and Secular Authoritarians, as both of those groups embrace the general notion that that plebeian masses will probably get theirs in the next life. But clearly GOD has elected those of us who were special enough.
One has to wonder why not address the reality of George Orwell, and not try to turn him into some sort of would have been waugh sort? Why not deal with the creation of a morality in the here and now? Why not look at folks like RIchard Rorty, and others, to look at grounding ethics in the very pragmatism that we all use. The very ground of the 'common sense' that Orwell actually, and the author alleges that he supports.
That would also mean the awkward separation of the intellectuals from the merely certified to have attended the correct set of schools. The author showed some awareness that the old school system was really never about the clever ones. But then promptly forgets that part of his book when trying to sort out some way to attack all of those liberals and intellectuals and their meritocracy! He never does resolve this problem of which parts of the Modern Era are the enemy that must be defeated. Nor how one would think about restoring the correct Moral Absolutes which will some how save the day.
In the real world americans no longer hold the moral high ground. By their own conviction rates in their own military courts of their own military personnel we might notice that the "Spiritual Fitness" has not been the value add to offer up the correct Moral Absolutes. ( We of course exclude the mercs and contractors, since it appears that we are not going to hold them to be actual members of the american armed forces under Military Law in a combat zone, but as, well, persons allowed to live beyond the law. You know. this time it is different! )
One of the tragedy of the InterNets is that one of the first look ups on the other book that the author wrote took me into FreeperVille where his champions made it so clear that the problem is all of them thar intellectuals and folks who do not understand that this time is different. Why gosh.
It seems to be an interesting head space, since these are not the 'intellectuals' who are arguing that we need to be abandoning prior standards. It is again the same followers of the very authoritarian trends in american culture. Why gosh, the ones who just happen to also support the corporate welfare support of the right sorts, you know, so that our kinds can get the right types of annulments....
I agree that there are many critical and important arguments that need to be raised about the rise of both Authoritarian and Proto-Fascist strains in the Paranoid Style of Politics. But The Paranoid Style In American Politics along with Anti-Intellectualism in American Life and Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860–1915 (1944); were all written by Richard Hofstadter and should already have been covered by the reader, since the author opted to duck out on the heavy work.
On the somewhat credit side, the author offers the dialectic that Orwell's 1984 would have been the case if the Russians had won the cold war. ( We of course are all suppose to intellectually nod off about the question of China and the Capitalist Roaders... ) Whereas Huxley's Brave New World is about the horror of what happens if the americans win.
Oh dear.... that must have been some dangerously inconvenient truth for Lebedoff to stumble upon. Since it should have lead him to wonder how it was we went from the successful society that Won WWII to the sort of moral cesspool of our modern era. But to go there would mean being impolite and raising the sort of hard hearted economic analysis of the failure of 'deregulation' and the myths of the 'efficient market' theories that have been the very champions of making everything everywhere for sale.
These are the hard times that Orwell lived through that would take him from down and out in paris and london, down the road to wigan pier, then through the Homage to Catalonia, not to mention Second Thought On James Burnham since there might be more in the problems of worshipping power than merely the problem of idolatry might not get one into heaven any more.
So what if we as american opt out of the silly anti-intellectual games of pretending that the American Exceptionalism means we are all going to be above average, as soon as we all support the right type of pigs who are the ones who know how to really run things. Who knows it might make being an actual intellectual worth the time.
Other than the minor detail that the Author has not resolved the author's own self loathing issues about the dangers of intellectuals. Or that the Author was unable or unwilling to deal with the realpolitik of people who are willing to actually live their life by the ethical obligations that they held to, and that this might not require a magical imaginary friend, or supporting actual fascist dictatorships that engage in chem warfare against the wogs in far off lands to help grease the skids of getting an annulment to go social climbing...
Well let's just say that there are issues as the author tried to resolve his unresolved issues.