National Book Award-winning author George Packer diagnoses America’s descent into a failed state, and envisions a path toward overcoming injustices, paralyses, and divides.
How, in a few decades, did the United States transform from a broadly prosperous middle-class country, with relatively healthy institutions and competent leaders, to a nation defined by discredited elites, hollowed-out institutions, and blatant inequalities?
Legendary journalist George Packer joins us with a bracing account of our current crisis and of how a new era of civic revitalisation may bring it to an end.
In conversation with Matthew d’Ancona, Packer will assess the four inadequate narratives that dominate American public life: Libertarian America, serves the interests of corporations and the wealthy; Cosmopolitan America, the ideology of Silicon Valley and the professional elite; Diverse America, which defines citizens as members of large identity groups that have inflicted or suffered oppression; and White America, a shallow nationalism poses the greatest threat to democracy in our lifetime.
At a time when many fear that the American experiment in self-government may collapse, or, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “die by suicide”, Packer will show that none of these narratives can sustain American democracy. To point a better way forward, he looks back at previous eras of crisis to discover the resources for invigorating self-government.
Praise for George Packer’s Last Best Hope:
‘In Last Best Hope, George Packer retells the story of 2020, offering an original account of the fracturing of [America’s] mind and suggesting how we might restore unity. Ranging from Tocqueville to Trump, this extended essay will provoke you to think harder about America’s past as well as America’s future.’ Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy and Gulag
‘In the summer of 2020, America seemed to divide into two different nations. Anyone who observed the crack-up will cherish this flinty analysis, which offers new insights into how Americans from Frances Perkins to Bayard Rustin to those who stormed the U.S. Capitol have understood and defined freedom. The result is a clear-eyed explanation of how a progressive nation can be a unified one.’ John H. McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, contributing editor at The Atlantic, and host of Slate’s Lexicon Valley