Twilight of the Elites by Christopher L. Hayes

Twilight of the Elites

A powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy.    Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another –  from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball – imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence. In the wake of the Fail Decade, Americans have his...

Details Twilight of the Elites

TitleTwilight of the Elites
Release DateJun 12th, 2012
GenrePolitics, Nonfiction, Economics, History, Sociology

Reviews Twilight of the Elites

  • Bill Kerwin
    Chris Hayes is not only the host of MSNBC's All In, a civil and intelligent political talk show. He is also the author of Twilight of the Elites, a timely and persuasive book which may--at least in part--explain the surprising victory of Donald Trump. In it, Hayes argues that the very concept of meritocracy is flawed, and that its failure is in part responsible for our growing disillusionment with society's institutions. Each meritocratic elite ...
  • Linda Robinson
    Reading this book gave me the answer why Chris Hayes is bouncing in his chair all the time. It's his brain. I thought it was caffeine. Hayes is smart, informed, intellectually curious and an analytical buzzsaw. And he's a hell of a writer, too. Having just finished Maddow's Drift about how American political power put us on a permanent warpath, reading this book finished the analysis for me with the rest of what's going on in the American economy...
  • Trish
    Were it twilight, would the glint of diamonds in the streetlight thrill us or enrage us?I don’t get MSNBC on my TV, though if I did, I wouldn’t watch it. Everyone there sounds exactly the same, no matter which program they are on. There is a sensationalist tone I abhor when they are talking about issues that concern me. Somewhere I read something about this book and thought I would take a look. Hayes had been a fellow at Harvard University’...
  • Trevor
    I decided to read this book after reading Bill’s review here - really enjoyed this book and found it really useful. A discussion of education forms a large part of the start of the book, education being, supposedly, the main entry card into the meritocracy. He talks about his own high school, one that has an entrance test to ensure the children who get to go to this school are deserving. What is interes...
  • Andy
    The main thesis of the book relies on a weird definition of meritocracy. According to Hayes, we have a problem in this country because the meritocracy system selects for incompetent people to be in charge of everything. This is not logical; if the people are incompetent, then by definition they do not deserve to be in the positions that they hold. So the issue is not that we have meritocracy; the issue is that we do NOT have a meritocracy. Or, th...
  • Adam Heffelfinger
    Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy is a critical look at one of the most basic and taken for granted aspects of American society: the meritocracy. Second-nature to most of us, meritocracy is the idea that the best and the brightest among us should rise to the top. That pulling oneself up by ones bootstraps is possible, that the elite have earned their place, and that everyone has that opportunity. Ironically, this dist...
  • Chris
    Thought experiment inspired by Chapter 2 of Chris Hayes' awesome book (which you should read, by the way): Imagine that the bookies in Las Vegas allowed gamblers to place bets every year on which 5th graders in New York City would test into Hunter College High School, one of the highest ranking public schools in the country. Getting into Hunter is particularly kick-ass because a large percentage of its graduates end up attending elite colleges an...
  • Kelly
    It took me nearly four years to finally pick this up, but it's even more relevant and easy to see in today's world than I think it would have been then. I regret reading this not at all. Review soon.
  • Brad Lyerla
    In the first decades of the 20th century preceding the Great War, a profound change took place in Europe. People lost faith in the ability of their governments to solve the complicated problems presented by the industrial revolution, burgeoning urbanization and the increasing internationalization of commerce. In the decades following this crisis, Europeans embraced a number of extremist philosophies including fascism, Bolshevism and existentialis...
  • Donna
    I plan my week around watching Up with Chris Hayes on Saturdays and Sundays, taping the morning show on MSNBC and watching segments of it all day long. In smart, lively discussions with knowledgeable people of differing persuasions, Chris provides depth and meaning to headlines of the week. His ability to analyze and articulate difficult concepts in simple, comprehensible language--and to have fun doing it--is a great gift to those of us who want...
  • aPriL does feral sometimes
    I love Chris. I love that he is intelligent and that he has a forum. I love that he does excellent and accurate research.But I dislike books like this. He is making an argument either without the 'deep history' he is claiming to know, or this is truly how he sees things: unique to the present time, the elite lately are so corrupt and separated from the rest of us, and feel so superior to us, that we common people are waking up to their power ...
  • Rick
    I wish this book was written at a fifth grade level. As it is, it's comically, absurdly well written, with a staggeringly glorious diction. If you watch Hayes' show, you know that diction isn't affected - it rolls off his tongue in the expository segments of his show as easily as it does in this book. Which I love, and I find very satisfying. And yet, that selfsame diction makes his very important points less accessible to precisely the people wh...
  • Gregg
    I've never seen Hayes on MSNBC, but I did see him speak on this subject in Chicago last summer, and immediately picked up his book. Hayes argues that America's meritocracy is flawed because it results in a new brand of elites who then proceed to create/maintain a system that guarantees the benefits of being in the elite to their own kith and kin. For example, parents concerned about getting their kids into elite schools in New York City spend tho...
  • Nick Pageant
    Highly enjoyable and very well-written. Chris Hayes hits the nail on the head with where we have been as a society and where we might be going. This is great post-election reading.
  • Sheri
    This is oddly an interesting book to read with/after Reality is Broken. A lot of the systemic societal problems discussed are the same in both books. Hayes and McGonigal are coming at the same problem from very different perspectives.There's a sort of parallel between Hayes' idea of fractal inequality and the progression through difficulty levels in video games that I find fascinating. The system Hayes describes, of endless social climbing with n...
  • Kristen
    I read most of the first and last chapters last night - easy reading, but with a lot of memorable information.Hayes, who is editor of The Nation and a friend of my hero Ezra Klein, is concerned with the worrying decline in trust in our society, specifically trust in the maligned elites who, in a meritocracy, are the folks who supposedly are the cream of the crop. We've all heard the sneering references to the elites from the right-wing, an ironic...
  • Colleen Clark
    This is an excellent and thought-provoking book. It's a sociological/philosophical description of our modern political and financial dilemmas. In his book talk in Cambridge MA 10 days ago, Hayes pointed out that "meritocracy" started out as a pejorative word. Indeed, it's a modern word, not even listed in my 1945 unabridged Webster's. So I tried Wikipedia.Here's the entire part of the Wikipedia entry under "Etymology.""Although the concept has ex...
  • David Lentz
    This book with its Nietzschean sounding title ("Twilight of the Idols") is an intriguing read and goes on to deliver a better understanding as to the essence of the great divide between classes on the American political landscape. Hayes is articulate and ties together many observations that he has gathered from other intellects. At times, I wanted more of his original thinking and less of what others had said. There's quite a bit of recent histor...
  • Franz
    Hayes's book brilliantly shows how seemingly separate strands of society are united in the way they depend on meritocracy--that the best and brightest, the elite, ought to run the country, the economy, education, religious life, and more. A meritocracy depends on two principles, according to Hayes: the Principle of Difference, the fact that there are differences in ability, and that we should allow a natural hierarchy to emerge in which the harde...
  • Ryan
    I'm a humble book blogger who happens to be addicted to politics and public policy almost as much as I am to reading. I will never claim to be a policy wonk or to know everything there is to know about the way our government works, but I think I stay abreast more than most. I wish I had the time or made a different career choice when I was in college, but I learn what I can, pay attention to what is being debated, and really try to analyze the wa...
  • Kristin Shafel
    4.5 stars! I won Christopher Hayes' Twilight of the Elites as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway a few weeks before its publication on June 12. My copy has about forty pages less than the official hardcover copies are advertised to have. The "acknowledgements" section is blank, so hopefully that's all I'm missing! Hayes begins Twilight of the Elites with the example of his own alma mater, Hunter High School in New York, and how admission to the sch...
  • Fred R
    Read on the recommendation of a fellow "goodreader".It's written in journalese so it isn't exactly my style, but there were some interesting things in here. Like Murray's Coming Apart, this is a book about the negative long-term problems of our psychometric-industrial complex. Unlike Murray, Hayes attempts to link a series of policy blunders over the past ten years (Iraq, Katrina, the financial crisis) to this increasing social distance of our el...
  • Conor
    I like Mr. Hayes. This book, though his first, seemed to be apter fare than his more recent book about race--A Colony in a Nation--which rarely felt additive and, though coming from a good place, mostly felt like "So what?" Not much contained therein that you couldn't cull from a far shorter and more poetic Coates or Alexander extract. But perhaps he was writing for a different audience? Oh well. This is more his bailiwick, it seems. A drum that ...
  • Daniel
    TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES is a reaction to the collapse in American institutions, and in American faith in their own institutions. Hayes cites a number of examples in his book: the bipartisan failure that was the war in Iraq, the subprime loan crisis that crashed the world economy, the decades-long global coverup of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the steroids scandal in Major League Baseball, and the Enron scandal. Since this was published, ot...
  • nostalgebraist
    A good, brief, easy-to-read survey of the ways in which the pathologies of our current elite have helped produce the various disasters of the past decade (financial, military, etc.)Hayes' big idea is that an overzealous, ideological application of the idea of "meritocracy" is responsible for all this. Meritocracy -- using supposedly objective criteria to pick out the best people and then giving them the reins of power -- isn't a bad idea, exactly...
  • Matt
    Good book detailing the consequences of the adherence to an ideology of meritocracy. The message of the book is this: a meritocratic system is far from perfect but it's the best we have. But an unequal society will make that meritocracy untenable by rendering the elite out of touch. The solution to this is to strive for a more equal society.Here are my notes:# MeritocracyIn a world where there is a lot of information the people do not have the ti...
  • Todd N
    Been stalking this book for a while since I read a review of it. Then I heard the author on Rachel Maddow's podcast and bought it on an impulse the next time I was at Books, Inc.I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did because it seems right up my alley -- discussing class, meritocracy, education, decline of everything, and why the first decade of the 21st century was so all around sucky.Reading through a list of went wrong between 2000-2...
  • Harold
    This is a very good book, if somewhat mis-titled. In one sense, Hayes doesn't believe we have ever had a meritocracy. Those with the most merit don't necessarily rise to the top, as studies of American class mobility have demonstrated. In another sense, to the extent that we currently have elites, people of wealth and power, it is not clear that it is their Twilight. To Hayes frustration, they seem as ensconced in power as ever.But what Hayes doe...
  • Kitty
    Christopher Hayes gives his take on why so many Americans have lost faith in what were once trusted institutions. He doesn't limit his analysis to government, but also includes banking, professional sports, media - any institution with a concentration of people with power, platform and/or money. While the author was good at identifying problems, solutions were a bit thin. An interesting read nonetheless.
  • Carolyn
    Know your enemy. That's the only reason to read this book. The author wants higher taxes, more redistribution, more political movements like Occupy Wall Street, and more money spent to combat climate change. Certainly he's correct that there's a lot of corruption at the top, in Washington and Wall Street and the Fed. But he offers no viable solution, and has no substitute for meritocracy.