Glorious Causes : The Irrationality of Capitalism, War and Politics book cover
1st Edition

Glorious Causes
The Irrationality of Capitalism, War and Politics

ISBN 9780367263201
Published November 4, 2019 by Routledge
302 Pages

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Book Description

Drawing on historical cases of the American South before and after the Civil War, Europe – especially Germany – between the world wars, and the United States in Vietnam and its aftermath, this book takes a historical approach to explain the problems of capitalism and democratic leadership in western democracies today.

Capitalist democracies proclaim equality, material prosperity and comfort but produce extreme differences in wealth and power. They promise security and peace, but deliver frequent wars. The promises broken, elites often turn to other visions- partially borrowed from feudalism- to win public support. Nations turn to honor, nobility and war as a way of winning over workers and legitimating the capitalist system itself. 

Capitalism’s contradictions often have produced a cultural divide. One side, "cosmopolitans" – urban, see themselves as citizens of the world, not one region or country –  identify as secular, preach multi-culturalism, entertain state welfare systems, and are cautious about going to war. Their opponents, "traditionalists," breed among people who feel left behind, anxiousness and insecurity, often embracing community, tradition, God and family. 

The devastation of the world wars and the Third Reich led Europe to forgo visions of empire, militarism and glory and focus upon improving the quality of life for their own citizens. Although the United States does not need to experience comparable trauma, they should follow Europe’s example- forget glory and instead build a better life for the American people. The last chapter will consider how such a change could emerge in the US and who might help fight for it.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Not Such A Wonderful Life;  Chapter 1. An Irrational Cultural Divide: Cosmopolitans and Traditionalists Battling Over the Real and The Ideal;  Chapter 2. The South Shall Rise Again: Finding Glory in the Defeat of an Indefensible Cause;  Chapter 3. Stabbed in the Back: The Master Race Shall Be the Master; Chapter 4. America Becomes Exceptional But Europe Prospers;  Chapter 5: Weimar America: Vietnam, the Left, the Right & Reagan;  Chapter 6. Make America Great Again: The Reagan in Trump and the Failures of Anti-Trumpism;  Chapter 7. We Can’t Afford Glory: Turning Toward Equality and Human Survival  Index

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Yale R. Magrass is Chancellor Professor of Sociology/Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He is the author of eight books and over 60 articles, and frequently makes public appearances and presentations.

Charles Derber is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. An internationally renowned scholar and public intellectual, he has written 21 books, translated into eight languages, and more than 100 articles, including op-eds for the New York Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, Truthout, and others. He is internationally recognized, and has spoken on hundreds of television and radio shows.


"Yale Magrass and Charles Derber have done it again. Following their excellent books on the nature of American capitalism, domestic and imperial violence, and resistance: Morality Wars, Capitalism: Should You Buy It? Bully Nation, and Moving Beyond Fear, they now extend and deepen their critical analysis of our past and the crisis-ridden present with Glorious Causes. It is a powerful call to study, understand, and confront the deep-seated ills that are tearing this nation apart. In an age of profound existential crises led by climate change and the growing threat of nuclear war, we must heed their sage advice that "there is no more glory in glorious causes." - John Marciano, Professor Emeritus, SUNY and Author, The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

"Yale Magrass and Charles Derber’s study of 'glorious causes' is an in-depth discussion of why people act against their interests. They provide readers with a comprehensive, multidisciplinary analysis of a subject which has been frequently overlooked. Their chapters on the rise of the right, with popular support, and the failure of the left to come to terms with it, is particularly relevant to politics today. It is a book to be read and debated in classrooms and public meetings throughout the US and abroad."- James Petras, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Binghamton University.

"In an era of upheaval and political confusion, how can we understand the emerging world and still have hope for the future? Glorious Causes provides insightful answers. It not only explains the roots of America's deep trouble, but points to ways that we can re-imagine our country and make it once again a beacon for humanity." - Stephen Kinzer, Author of Overthrow, All the Shah's Men and Poisoner in Chief

"Another way of looking at history -- provocative, original, progressive." - Oliver Stone, Hollywood director of Platoon, JFK, and Born on the Fourth of July.

"Fascinating, provocative and very timely! I found it very hard to stop reading, and when I had to momentarily, I was eager to get back to it. On every page, there's something startling to be learned about the past that is crucial to understanding our vertigo-inducing present. Highly recommended!" - Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower and author of The Doomsday Machine