Published on Jul 1, 2013
Death of the Liberal Class is a non-fiction book by American author and journalist Chris Hedges published in October 2010 by Nation Books. It falls into the literary genre of the jeremiad, which has a long tradition in the United States. According to Hedges, it is a book that chronicles the destruction of populist and radical movements within society, particularly in the United States. Since these movements are the principal force by which democratic societies “open up”, Death of the Liberal Class argues that social movements, which provided “all the true correctives to American democracy”, have been undercut by corporate co-opting of the traditional liberal forces of the USA, notably the labor unions, press, churches, universities and the Democratic Party. The “liberal class” consists of the people who fill the ranks of these institutions, ie., journalists, clergy, teachers, and politicians.
Death of the Liberal Class makes a number of sustained arguments. As a critique of the so-called “liberal class”, its main argument is that a breach has now occurred between the liberal class and the radical social and political movements it once supported or sympathized with. This rupture is a fatal wound from which the liberal class cannot recover because these movements are the repository of new ideas. The “death” of the liberal class follows from this dearth of new ideas, because the “liberal class” is cut-off from the sustained energy and life that new ideas provide. Hedges goes on to show in the book how, in the United States, movements such as the anti-slavery movement, the suffrage and Civil Rights movement were able to have a significant influence on the historical, political, and social landscape. This influence continues to resonate to this day.