The Disinformation Age: The Collapse of Liberal Democracy in the United States (Hardback) book cover

The Disinformation Age

The Collapse of Liberal Democracy in the United States

By Eric Cheyfitz

© 2017 – Routledge

308 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780415789356
pub: 2017-02-20
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pub: 2017-02-10
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The Disinformation Age, beginning in the present and going back to the American colonial period, constructs an original historical explanation for the current political crisis and the reasons the two major political parties cannot address it effectively. Commentators inside and outside academia have described this crisis with various terms — income inequality, the disappearance of the middle-class, the collapse of the two-party system, and the emergence of a corporate oligarchy. While this book uses such terminology, it uniquely provides a unifying explanation for the current state of the union by analyzing the seismic rupture of political rhetoric from political reality used within discussion of these issues. In advancing this analysis, the book provides a term for this rupture, Disinformation, which it defines not as planned propaganda but as the inevitable failure of the language of American Exceptionalism to correspond to actual history, even as the two major political parties continue to deploy this language. Further, in its final chapter this book provides a way out of this political cul-de-sac, what it terms "the limits of capitalism’s imagination," by "thinking from a different place" that is located in the theory and practice of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.


"Eric Cheyfitz is one of the smartest, wisest, and toughest cultural critics writing today a teller of difficult but essential truths. The Disinformation Age should become a fundamental text for a new era of resistance."

– Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship: A Human History

"The Disinformation Age should be read by everyone concerned with the obscurantism that has taken hold of US politics. Cheyfitz argues convincingly that promises of the American Dream or claims to US exceptionalism have gone beyond mere ideological rhetoric to 'disinformation' which has no relationship to reality—akin to Orwell’s 'doublespeak' or more bluntly, a 'confidence game.' The study derives its power from the author’s rereading of seminal historical texts that reveal 'disinformation' as an abiding feature of US capitalism that has reached its culmination over the last few decades. If it is to be overcome, we will need to step outside the system to search for alternatives among which indigenous visions provide the most promising. An engaged and engaging study."

Arif Dirlik, independent scholar, Eugene, OR, USA

"The Disinformation Age contains the brilliance, insight and originality we've come to expect from Eric Cheyfitz. This historical analysis also sheds light on the difficulties of the present moment as well. However, Cheyfitz isn't satisfied with describing and theorizing the path of the crisis of US Capitalism and the failure of the language of American exceptionalism – he also proposes alternatives to be found in the theory and praxis of Indigenous Peoples. This is an urgent and necessary text."

Farah Jasmine Griffin, William B. Ransford Professor, English & Comparative Literature and African American Studies, Columbia University

"Eric Cheyfitz argues in this wonderful and provocative book that the fact that untruths and lies increasingly pervade U.S. political and public discourse is not due primarily to the dishonesty of any single politician or party. Disinformation, instead, results from the contemporary historical condition, in which the rhetoric of U.S. exceptionalism, although still constantly evoked, has been emptied of all its contents. By posing the problem at such a general level, Cheyfitz forces us to recognize the need for radical social transformation."

– Michael Hardt, co-author of Assembly

Table of Contents


1. Disinformation: The End of Ideology

2. Narratives of the Nation

3. The Palimpsest of History: William Apess’s Anti-Jeremiad Jeremiad

4. The End of Innocence: Jeremiah Wright’s Anti-Jeremiad Jeremiad

5. Barack Obama and the Erasure of Race

6. The Confidence State

7. Melville’s The Confidence Man: His Masquerade

8. Thinking from a Different Place: What is a Just Society? A Brief Manifesto

About the Author

Eric Cheyfitz is the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in American History

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 21st Century