American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century
by Kevin Phillips
(Viking Press / 0-670-03486-X / March 2006 / 480 pages / $26.95 hardcover /$5.99 Amazon)
Although American Theocracy is Kevin Phillips’ thirteenth book, it is the first one I have read. In fact, I had never even heard of Mr. Phillips until I saw him on Charlie Rose a few years ago. That interview coincided with the release of American Theocracy, and I was spellbound by what the author was saying about the state of America at the beginning of 2006. Kevin Phillips had worked in The Reagan Administration, but long before that time, he had published his first book in 1966 about the coming Republican revolution in The South. After covering similar issues from various angles throughout his eleven books in between, American Theocracy spreads the history of the relationships among politics, religion, and economics across America’s kitchen table in a manner that leaves no stone unturned.
This book leaps back into the depths of previous world empires to make its case. If there is a flaw in Mr. Phillips’ prose, it is the overwhelming multitude of details that might bore a less than enthusiastic reader. If you didn’t enjoy World History in college at least a little bit, you might prefer to use this book as a hefty boat anchor. On the other hand, if you are one of those people who have been paying attention to the drip-drip-drip demise of the U. S. as the world’s leader in every field over the span of the baby boomer generation, you will wallow in the professorial professionalism of American Theocracy. That is a mouthful, isn’t it? With our current transition between administrations and the book at a special price at Amazon, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to read Kevin Phillips’ in-depth analysis. Is it one of the most poignant, significant, timely, thought-provoking books I have ever read? Absolutely.
I have been watching the financial and housing sectors of our economy slowly implode for years. Mr. Phillips’ book was written in 2005, just months before housing bubble became a household phrase. The author speaks knowingly of the theocratic intent of the second Bush regime, a concept he saw coming back in ’66, yet even Mr. Phillips seems to have been appalled by the crushing results upon our economic position in the world. No matter how accurately Kevin Phillips has detailed the changes of the past forty years, the addition of certain recent events from the short span of American history since this book was released will send chills up the spine of any reader who takes the time to absorb this material. The author has done extensive research on the history of the oil industry, price and availability fluctuations, and the effects on the American way of life. He easily predicts the housing and credit crises, even though their big finale was yet to be exposed at the time of the book’s release. The final major component of Mr. Phillips’ thesis is the rise of evangelicalism in the Reagan and Bush eras, with particular emphasis on the theocratic point of view espoused by the current President.
If you tend to purchase your contemporary, sociological nonfiction by the pound, you will love this book. Kevin Phillips is one of the foremost experts in the field, and his history with The Reagan Administration provides an extra bit of credibility for certain parts of his presentation. If you are still an ostrich who thinks that by some strange set of circumstances originating from outer space that the free market experiment of the last thirty years has been an uncompromising, rousing success, then maybe you should seek reading material elsewhere. Kevin Phillips is probably the nation’s most prolific authority on evangelical Republicans, as presented from the point of view of a traditional, financial conservative Republican.
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