Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt.

Author:Niose, David
Position:Book review

Wages of rebellion: the moral imperative of revolt

by Chris Hedges

304 pp.; $26.99 (hardcover), $9.45 (Kindle)

As the U.S. political scene has evolved, more and more Americans have begun to realize that the nation suffers from deep, systemic problems. The sad truth is that American democracy is dysfunctional, with government (and to a large degree all of society) firmly under the control of corporate interests. To the extent there is public discourse, it is typically some combination of superficial, combative, and anti-intellectual. As such, those who strive for progressive, human-centered public policy increasingly face the realization that true, long-lasting reform seems unlikely.

Few public intellectuals in recent years have articulated this dire situation more passionately and consistently than Chris Hedges. Author of the bestselling Death of the Liberal Class and other acclaimed books, Hedges is an esteemed voice from the left whose articles circulate widely throughout social media and elsewhere. For this reason his latest work, Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, is particularly intriguing. Here we have an important thinker and activist taking a position on the age-old question in radical politics: reform or revolution? As the book's title suggests, Hedges comes down on the side of revolution.

Well, sort of. As the book's subtitle tells us, Hedges is trying to lay out the moral justification for revolution, which he sees as forthcoming, desirable, and necessary. He addresses the moral imperative of revolt at length, sometimes with convincing authority and sometimes not, but the most noteworthy aspect of this revolutionary book is perhaps what it omits. That is, aside from allusions to general goals--he would "shut down the engine of global capitalism" and build "communitarian structures"--Hedges articulates not even an outline of his envisioned revolution or of the new and improved social-political environment it presumably would deliver. In this sense the book will disappoint those who were looking for Hedges to utilize his stature and intellect to lead in a substantive way in the revolution that he imagines.

What Hedges offers instead in Wages of Rebellion is a somewhat unambitious work that delivers heaps of moral indignation--which has long been one of his specialties--but little else. The great bulk of the book is dedicated to random discussion of various rebellious figures, some historical and some...

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