This is an excellent book, one of the best of the sociological
ones that I've read (many are reviewed here.) The title pretty much sums
it up: the global American culture has reached its apogee and will soon
It's a simple truth that all civilizations die eventually,
so for America it's just a matter of time. But Berman's thesis rests
on the point that it's coming soon - in the next century or two. Berman
points to clear signs, such as the growing inequality between the rich
and poor, growing cultural illiteracy, and spiritual death, which were
mirrored in the decline of the Roman Empire (the largest previous empire
for which we have coherent records), and other great civilizations.
The good news is 1) there's no exact way to predict
how this will happen, so it might not be that bad, 2) the culture will
not necessarily burn out in a great catastrophe, it's possible it will
just fade gracefully into a new culture, and 3) there are things we can
do to help this transition. Berman calls this helping the monastic option,
after the monks who preserved knowledge through the Middle Ages, and
like those monks, it's all about infusing real knowledge into our culture.
This book suffers from intellectual elitism at points,
which is probably easy to succumb to when you spend your time researching
how dumb modern Americans can be. But the saving grace of the book is
its emphasis on real solutions to promote the monastic option, and on
an overall positive outlook in the long, long run.