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? Acclaimed author George Packer joins us to discuss his latest book Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal.
Packer offers us a riveting, clear-sighted analysis of how America got here and presents four incompatible narratives that currently dominate American public life: the Free America of libertarian Reagan, the Smart America of Silicon Valley and the professional elite, the Real America of white Christian nationalism, and the Just America of #MeToo and BLM. None of these narratives, according to Packer, can sustain American democracy. Rather than despair, Packer draws on previous eras of crisis and presents a hopeful vision for how a new era of civic revitalization may bring it to an end.
By creating a fifth version of the US, the Equal America – which involves extending the New Deal to Americans in more areas of their lives, from affordable and universal health care to a living minimum wage and beyond – Americans can reinvigorate their self-government. “No one is going to save us. We are our last best hope.”
Author of The Unwinding; Thirty Years of American Decline, which won the National Book Award. His other non-fiction books include The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq; Blood of the Liberals, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; and Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, which won the Hitchens Prize and the Los Angeles Times Prize for biography and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. From 2003 to 2018 he was a staff writer for The New Yorker. He is currently a staff writer for The Atlantic.
Released by Rowohlt Buchverlag in Germany as Die letzte beste Hoffnung: Zum Zustand der Vereinigten Staaten the book will be available for purchase in both English and German, and the author will be available to sign books after the event.
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
George Packer has written a small but big book. The end of the pandemic should be pure joy, but the fact that a public health crisis deepened our divisions has weighed down our hearts. Is there anything that could glue us together as one people? Packer answers yes. And the case he makes in doing so provides the vaccine I have most wanted - hope. -- Atul Gawande, surgeon and author of Being Mortal and The Checklist Manifesto
Photo © Michael Lionstar