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Great Expectations

"There is only one step from fanaticism to barbarism."
—Diderot

In Defense of Elitism joins what is now a spate of books documenting the madness of contemporary "political correctness." It is an amusing, readable, and journalistic work, full of the most delightful anecdotes about the absurdities of our times, unusual in that it locates the problem in the cult of egalitarianism, fed by the self-esteem movement: one of its more original observations concerns the rise of karaoke as a substitute for the art of the professional singer, of the snapshot as a substitute for art. Significantly, like many recent books on the same subject, it comes from the pen of a confessed and accredited liberal, staunchly loyal to the Democratic Party. It is now not only the right that is warning of the threat to our culture; perhaps a new consensus is emerging.

William Henry, who died last year, was a cultural critic for Time magazine. He begins his book by describing the current radical egalitarian attack on elitism, which, he postulates, springs from nostalgia for the experience of the Baby Boomers in college in the 60's, who shared an illusory and temporary condition of total equality until persistence, hard work, luck, and talent sorted out losers and winners. Henry traces the enshrinement of mediocrity through affirmative action, feminism, multiculturalism,...

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