34 pages 1 hour read

Chris Hedges

Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2009

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Chapter 5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 5 Summary: “The Illusion of America”

Though the United States uses the exalted language of its past to continue to describe itself, the country is greatly diminished. Corporations and the elite have stolen America from the rest of the population, who remain passive, and the government does little to help. Corporations use symbols of patriotism and liberty while remaining essentially exploitative entities.

Many cultures of the past that have been unable to discern between illusion and reality have passed away. While many Americans experience home foreclosures, and poverty destroys the working class, the government funds expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the United States, the decay of infrastructure reflects the decay of guiding moral principles, but the government continues to fund military exploits abroad.

Several thinkers have predicted the collapse of America. The political philosopher Sheldon S. Wolin, for example, describes the United States’ system of power as “inverted totalitarianism” (146). Inverted totalitarianism appears to promote democracy while actually undermining it. Political candidates, for instance, must raise funds from corporate sponsors in order compete for office. They must then in turn work on behalf of those corporate sponsors’ interests. Wolin predicts that a failure to draw down America’s imperial endeavors, paired with a financial collapse, will lead to a system of complete inverted totalitarianism.