John Gray in New Statesman:
The unmasking of the bourgeois belief in objective reality has been so fully accomplished in America that any meaningful struggle against reality has become absurd.” Anyone reading this might think it a criticism of America. The lack of a sense of reality is a dangerous weakness in any country. Before the revolutions of 1917, Tsarist Russia was ruled by a class oblivious to existential threats within its own society. An atmosphere of unreality surrounded the rise of Nazism in Germany – a deadly threat that Britain and other countries failed to perceive until it was almost too late.
For the Portuguese former diplomat Bruno Maçães, however, the decoupling of American culture from the objective world is a portent of great things to come. Finally shedding its European inheritance, America is creating a truly new world, “a new, indigenous American society, separate from modern Western civilisation, rooted in new feelings and thoughts”. The result, Maçães suggests, is that American politics has become a reality show. The country of Roosevelt and Eisenhower was one in which, however lofty the aspiration, there was always a sense that reality could prove refractory. The new America is built on the premise that the world can be transformed by reimagining it. Liberals and wokeists, conservatives and Trumpists are at one in treating media confabulations as more real than any facts that may lie beyond them. Maçães welcomes this situation, since it shows that American history has finally begun. As he puts it at the end of this refreshingly bold and deeply thought-stirring book, “For America the age of nation-building is over. The age of world-building has begun.” The truth is America cannot help thinking of itself as a world apart. At an academic meeting in the US years ago, I smiled when a speaker declared that the cause of America’s declining power and influence was its deplorable system of campaign financing. As heads nodded sagely around the table, no one seemed to have considered the possibility that, say, the rise of China might have something to do with events originating in China.