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The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   269
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 7, 2000
Publisher   Encounter Books
ISBN  1893554023  
EAN  9781893554023  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 02:51.
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Item Description...
A look back at the legacy of the 1960s blames the pundits of the cultural revolution for high rates of poverty and underemployment in America in the following decades.

Publishers Description
Myron Magnet's The Dream and the Nightmare argues that the radical transformation of American culture that took place in the 1960s brought today's underclass-overwhelmingly urban, dismayingly minority-into existence. Lifestyle experimentation among the white middle class produced often catastrophic changes in attitudes toward marriage and parenting, the work ethic and dependency in those at the bottom of the social ladder, and closed down their exits to the middle class.

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More About Myron Magnet

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Myron Magnet, editor-at-large of City Journal, is the author of The Dream and the Nightmare and Dickens and the Social Order. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2008. He lives in New York City.

Myron Magnet currently resides in New York City, in the state of New York.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Waking Up to the Realities  Oct 1, 2007
THE DREAM AND THE NIGHTMARE is an exceptionally important book. President George W. Bush specifically referred to it as one of the most influential books he has read and made it the cornerstone of his compassionate conservativism. In the book, Myron Magnet of the Manhattan Institute attempts to answer one of the true riddles of our time: In a society of such opportunity, why is there an underclass that seems totally entrenched in failure and that seems incapable of finding its way into the respectable mainstream of American life?

For those in the middle class, this really is a puzzle. The answers seem so obvious. Get a job; gain work experience in order to climb the ladder; do not expect something for nothing; be selective about who you have sex with and use those precautions necessary to minimize unwanted pregnancies; when you do have kids, read to them and oversee their upbringing so that they can properly interact with others; and if you do take drugs, well, just make it the occasional joint, don't get all crazy there. The answer Magnet reaches has less to do with policy and more to do with philosophy. THE DREAM AND THE NIGHTMARE is a manifesto to the concept that ideas have consequences.

Magnet points to the significant paradigm shift of the 1960s, in which many elites thought it was progressive, even compassionate, to denigrate traditional notions of morality and the American way of life. Shifting the concept from personal responsibility among the poor to the idea that the poor are victims of society entitled to handouts, racial separation among blacks, sexual liberation, permissiveness regarding drug use, and other attitudes that demonstrated an oppositional mindset to the traditional notions of how to get ahead filtered down from the upper classes who espoused them to the lower classes who adopted them.

The results have been disastrous. As Magnet points out, many members of the upper class knew that there was a limit to how far they could go before jeopardizing themselves. And even for those who did go over the edge, there was usually some safety net among one's family and social structure that softened the blow. Yet when these same ideas were adopted by those at the lower end of the ladder, without the socialization which might have provided an internal barrier to holding back before the edge and without the external social structure to soften the landing, the results were something else indeed. The destruction of the two-parent family, rampant drug use and its attendant violence, laziness and a 'I deserve something to be handed to me' attitude have combined to stop the advance of a large section of our society in its tracks.

Magnet's theory explains not only how the underclass was created but also why so many factors of urban life seemed to erode at the same time. Specific policies may have an effect on this or that issue. But significant changes in a people's philosophy, the zeitgeist in which they live and breathe, will have a far wider impact. That is what we now see and it is a deeply disturbing sight for those of us who are witness to the results.

Unfortunately, the biggest impediment to change is also philosophical. It is all but impossible for someone to even discuss these issues without those on the political Left howling about racism, blaming the victim, blah, blah, blah. And the underclass itself is now so violent and disfunctional that it is nothing short of flat-out dangerous to address its members directly. Even then, the members of the underclass are so enveloped in their thinking that it is like talking to a brick wall. It is so bad that telling it straight is simply interpreted as racism or naivity about what life on the street is really like. The underclass displays that most damaging of traits - an imperviousness to negative yet accurate feedback. The road ahead looks dark indeed.

The welfare mess  May 21, 2007
Myron Magnet's book is an excellent example of why 1960s leftists should be having second thoughts. In a nutshell, he argues that the mindset and the values of the sixties are largely responsible for America's urban underclass. The sixties counterculture and the sexual revolution both put in place a set of values and beliefs that for many turned poverty into a way of life.

The liberations promoted by the counter-culturalists - sexual, personal, political, economic - did not liberate. Instead, they enslaved people. Says Magnet, the no-fault way in which the counter-culturalist conducted his personal life was "mirrored by his no-fault social policy, all rights and entitlements without responsibilities".

These counterculture values had a very real bearing on the issue of poverty. The traditional values that either prevented poverty or helped one escape from poverty - thrift, hard work, responsibility, deferral of gratification, sobriety - were eschewed. In their place were enshrined the values of hedonism, sensualism and selfishness. These values can only entrap, not liberate. As Irving Kristol put it, "It's hard to rise above poverty if society keeps deriding the human qualities that allow you to escape from it."

Take the sexual revolution for example. The reshaped values of the sexual revolution were directly responsible for the breakdown of families, for easy divorce, for illegitimacy, for sole-parent households. Not that these problems didn't exist before the onset of the sexual revolution, but they were certainly exacerbated and compounded by it.

The new culture, as Magnet explains, "permitted, even celebrated, behavior that, when poor people practice it, will imprison them inextricably in poverty. It's hard to persuade ghetto fifteen-year-olds not to get pregnant, for instance, when the entire culture, from rock music to upscale perfume commercials to highbrow books, is intoxicated with the joy of what before AIDS was called `recreational' sex."

Moreover, the new culture "held the poor back from advancement by robbing them of responsibility for their fate and thus further squelching their initiative and energy. Instead of telling them to take wholehearted advantage of opportunities that were rapidly opening, the new culture told the Have-Nots that they were victims of an unjust society and, if they were black, that they were entitled to restitution, including advancement on the basis of racial preference rather than mere personal striving and merit."

Viewing poverty primarily in terms of a poverty of values is not a new thesis: Other social commentators, like George Gilder and Thomas Sowell, have argued this thesis. Moreover, earlier commentators like Max Weber have pointed out the connection between values and socio-economic development. Historical examples can be cited. For example, many historians now agree that the spread of Methodism in England in the 18th Century helped spare England the bloody revolutions taking place around it. John Wesley's preaching imbued the English people with a conservative orderliness that helped to avert revolutionary violence and upheaval.

Magnet's book confirms the thesis that the major operatives in a society are not just economic ones. Moral, religious and cultural values even more strongly determine how a society will fare - politically and economically. The question of crime also must be seen in terms of values. The use of force and threat - police, courts, prisons - is one way to restrain aggression and crime. However, "The most powerful curb isn't force at all: it is the internal inhibition that society builds into each person's character, the inner voice".

Instead of worrying about lenient sentencing or cumbersome legal procedures - as important as they are - of more value is ensuring that "inner barriers to violence and aggression are strongly in place. This is a cultural matter, a matter of how people bring up their children, a matter of the messages that get passed from the community to the parents and thence to the children.

The object is both to transmit the necessary prohibitions against aggression to each individual and to win each individual's inner, positive assent to the social endeavor."

And that of course is what is not happening in black urban America. Sixty-eight per cent of all black children are born without a father at home. Thus it is much harder for positive values to be transmitted. But the tragedy of broken black families is perpetuated by counterculture values: love'em and leave'em is the natural expression of the sexual revolution, and the economic reinforcement of illegitimacy is the logical outcome of welfarism. As Charles Murray noted, a welfare mother's child "provides her with the economic insurance that a husband used to represent."

Thus counterculture values reinforce and perpetuate the crime, poverty and despair of the ghetto. The poverty of values that emanated from the 1960s counterculture have left their mark. And welfarism simply ingrained the problems. Best of intentions, we have learned, unfortunately are not enough. Reformist zeal needs to be backed up by hard thinking and common sense. Simply throwing money at a problem will usually not suffice. The less politically tangible route of changing values and belief systems is generally more effective.
Victims of the 1960s' liberal fantasies  Jul 13, 2006
I was particularly interested in the sections on the 'homeless'. I spent some five years working in this field. As with Dalrympole's Life at the Bottom, and Bartholomew's The Welfare State We're In, Magnet applies a for too long dismissed common sense viewpoint. For too long the chattering classes have gotten away with arguing that social issues such as homelessness are the result of poverty, class, gender and race discrimination -(yawn!). The reality, as Magnet concurs, is a breakdown in Christian values (there is no alternative to the ten commandments),the family, and morality. Sadly, the resultant social policies stemming from the muddleheaded, liberal mindset of the 1960s has left in their wake, 'sink estate' victims. They have been the unwitting fall out from the failed experimental social fantasies of the 1960s' academics. The authors of these policies can escape along with their Chardonnay drinking cronnies to the comfort of their rural havens, but not so the many lives that their alternate social ideas broke. The homeless sections in Magnet's book complement Daibhidh Macadhaimh's Unlocking Carol's Smile (Trafford Publishing. isbn 141205550-4) a gripping novel set in the world of social exclusion. It is written from the writer's experience working in this field and tells it like it is. The emotional and social conflict involving the two central characters challenges a particular taboo within care in the community services: they develop an unlikely relationship. The book could sit comfortably on a social science shelf, not least because of its contrary ideological approach to the subject of the causes of social exclusion.
Beware of simple (and simple-witted) answers to complex questions  Jun 16, 2006
This would have been an interesting and original view of the problem of persistent poverty in the U.S. had it been published, oh, about thirty or thirty-five years ago. As it is, it grossly oversimplifies a complex problem, and worse, plays to the cherished superstitions of neoconservative intellectuals and their `lumpen' readers alike. It will probably come as a great surprise to the author, but I doubt poor black, Hispanic, and hell, even poor white kids have ever even heard of Norman Mailer, much less studied his essays in school. It may also have escaped the author's attention that inflation whittled the value of payments from programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children down to a fraction of 1960's levels, even factoring in occasional cost-of-living increases-which had all but ceased starting in the 1980's. Finally, under the impetus of a conservative Congress, the Clinton administration undertook reform of "welfare" in 1996 which included drastically tightening eligibility requirements, placing strict time limits on receipt of benefits, and actively directing recipients into jobs. Yet poverty seems to persist despite the implementation of conservative nostrums and even more amazingly, despite a near-full employment economy at the end of the 1990's. In other words, trying to blame everything on kids who grew their hair long in the 1960's, and vapid socialites hobnobbing with Bobby Seale at Leonard Bernstein's soirees forty years ago is not only not right-it isn't even wrong

Meanwhile, since the Nixon administration we have conducted a "War on Drugs" that has stuffed prisons full to bursting with (mostly low level) drug dealers and users-nearly all of them minorities--but accomplished very little else. Although crime rates have in fact dropped to historically low levels, this seems to have little if any correlation with incarceration rates, which have been relentlessly rising since the 1970's. This decrease in crime, by the way, confounded neoconservative predictions at the beginning of the 1990's that crime-allegedly inspired by our evil culture-would continue spiraling upwards without letup. Similar decreases occurred in out-of-wedlock births, but as an old saying goes, "A lady's reputation seldom improves." Especially when she is a member of a racial minority, I might add. It would seem that the underclass owes very little to the 1960's counterculture, although Encounter Books-once a source of urbane and intelligent works-would probably not have taken Mr. Magnet's manuscript had he concluded as much.

Neoconservatives, it turns out, are as rigidly locked into a mindless party line as the 1960's leftists they criticize. For example, black social scientists such as Glen Loury and William Julius Wilson were clutched to neoconservative bosoms when their research found that blacks suffered relatively little racial discrimination in hiring compared to past decades. They were dropped like hot potatoes however when their continued investigations showed that minority unemployment had a lot more to do with factors such as the virtual disappearance of even low-skilled work from most urban areas, and the lack of transportation to exurban areas where most job growth was. Kind of makes blaming the 1969 Woodstock festival look silly, to say the least.

There is no doubt that there is something that was once called "the culture of poverty" that inculcates some of the poor with self-defeating attitudes and behaviors. This was already old hat by the time "London Labor and London Poor" was published during the Victorian age. Presumably, the Victorian poor did not become or remain so because of Janet Jackson displaying her bosom on television a century later.

There are innumerable other criticisms to be made of this book starting with its confusion of drug-taking behavior among the poor (which tends to seek oblivion from hopelessness) with middle-class drug taking behavior (which is usually risk-seeking or thrill-seeking), but a complete enumeration of its mistakes, misconceptions, and half-truths would take an essay nearly as long as the book itself. Suffice it to say that instead of being random, the errors all seem to point in a certain political direction. Readers may conclude what they will about the author's presumed good faith from this. Those looking for `just-so-stories' to confirm their darkest prejudices towards racial minorities and justify doing nothing will certainly find what they seek in this book. Those looking for nuanced discussions aimed at trying to solve problems instead of finding scapegoats will have to look elsewhere.
This is a landmark work for the ages...and to you who object...  Jul 29, 2005
This book is one of the most articulate explanations for post-1960s socio-economic trends and the damage the cultural movement left in its wake. TO THOSE NEGATIVE REVIEWERS: I wonder if any of you even read the book. The depth at which Magnet covers the connection between the ideological shift of the "haves" and failed social policies is extensive. This book is not a party-based flag waver. It is an unbias, multi-dimensional study that should give any open-minded person something to ponder. It's time to realize that the "haves" in this country aren't just big conservative blood-thirsty corporations, but that the privileged in this country often reside in the secular entertainment industry and the halls of congress itself. If you don't read this book, just know this: we live in the most privileged society ever to exist in history, even with our shortcomings, and people can only find true compassion, and create true change, if they choose to see the real problems and destructive social codes facing our communities.

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