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About this book

This book explores the social and political implications of what the authors identify as the decline of the social contract in America and the rise of a citizenry that has become self-centered, entitled, and independent. For nearly two decades, America has been in a “cultural war” over moral values and social issues, becoming a divided nation geographically, politically, socially, and morally. We are witnessing the decline of American Democracy, the authors argue, resulting from the erosion of the idea of the social contract. Especially since the “baby boomers,” each successive generation has emphasized personal license to the exclusion of service, social integration, and the common good. With the social contact, the larger general will becomes the means of establishing reciprocal rights and duties, privileges, and responsibilities as a basis of the state. The balkanization of America has changed the role of government from one of oversight to one of dependency, where individual freedom and responsibility are sacrificed for group equality. This book examines the conditions of this social fragmentation, and offers ideas of an American Renaissance predicated on communicative idealism.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. A Divided and Selfish Nation: A United States of America No More

This chapter discusses the social fragmentation and political polarization in America. Public cynicism and distrust toward government and politics continues to grow with concerns about the coarseness, rudeness, and decline in ethics in society. Today’s postmodern and narcissistic culture has social, cultural, and political implications. We have lost the notion of the social contract, an essential element of democracy and self-rule. Its demise leads to the loss of individual freedom and security and rise of inequality. Our culture is dominated by psychological egoism where all interest is self-interest, contributing to the decline of civility and the erosion of trust and support in government and politicians.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 2. Democracy and the “Social Contract”: Prescription for Freedom and Equality

This chapter explores social contract theory based on the works of theorists Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Entering the social contract we forgo some self-interests in exchange for relative security, safety, and efficiency of organized social life. As individuals, we come together and give individual power to a public power subject to the collective “common good.” Submission provides equality in terms of participation in creating rules of governance but implies self-constraint. Elements of the theory are reflected in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Today we are witnessing erosion of our freedom and equality by the breaking of social contracts. Our social behaviors are motivated by psychological egoism where all interest is self-interest. As a result, government’s rules and regulations continue to increase.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 3. Generational Change and Social Values

This chapter explores defining beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of the current generational cohorts of the “Silent Generation,” “Baby Boomers,” “Generation X,” and “Millennials.” The Millennial generation is now the largest generational cohort in America. This generation is having major influence on the social, cultural, and political life of the nation. There is some alarming evidence that the current generation of American youth for the first time in our history may well do worse psychologically, socially, and economically than their parents. It is a generation marked by increasing rates of educational failure, delinquency, suicide, homicide, and psychological unease. They do not hold the same political or national values of previous generations. The postmodern culture is contributing to the erosion of personal values and individual freedom.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 4. The Postmodern Culture and Political Implications

This chapter explores today’s postmodern culture that reflects a wide range of anti-Western, anti-American views and positions that reject notions of science, rationality, belief in reason, and common values. Postmodern philosophies have impacted political partisanship and voting, have ushered in identity and victim politics, favor group rights over individual rights and group interests ahead of common interests, encourage social polarization rather than unity, and limit freedom of speech. America has become a social relativistic and narcissistic society where morals and behaviors have become subjective and individual, resulting in political and social fragmentation. We are a nation of “hyphenated” Americans where group identity is more important than national affiliation, where self-concerns are more important than communal needs, and where social responsibility is a matter for government to address.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 5. The Epistemological Poisoning of America

This chapter analyzes the corruption of the epistemological organs of higher education, the journalistic press, the church, Hollywood, and the federal government. These five epistemological organs of the USA provide the context, facts, and truth of our lives to compose a grand narrative about our expectations. The weakening of these organs is reducing our experience collectively to one more akin to a state of propaganda. Despite these dire circumstances that contribute to a measurable and salient sense of public outrage, it is entirely possible to overcome and defeat these forces. It is possible to recover the idealistic components of an American dream. Our nation has endured far worse epistemological poisonings than the one presently observed. It is nonetheless serious and requires careful attention.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 6. De-mock-racy: Comic Framing as Political Wrecking Ball

This chapter shows how humor, more specifically ridicule, is used to damage national idealism and destroy individuals. Political advocates of the twenty-first-century America square off against a public sphere equipped for instantaneous and voluminous attacks of ridicule organized and orchestrated from the internet via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and an array of social media-driven communication platforms. The case study of Governor Sarah Palin is instructive as to how the process works presently. The problems of comedic annihilation remain with us during the 2016 presidential campaign. The decline of civility is observable everywhere, and most Americans would like to see our political sphere move away from its cynical assumptions and toward civility. Public mockery does not contribute to public debate, deliberations, or knowledge.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 7. Making Black Lives Matter Today

This chapter establishes a clear lacuna in our dialog on race that has diminished and forgotten the arguable architect of American civil rights: James Farmer Jr. More recently, we are experiencing a regression on the question of race that is rooted in a false and pathological history of civil rights that reifies the militancy and not the tenets of Farmer or Martin Luther King. The Black Lives Matter movement is infused with a reified and romanticized notion of the early Malcolm X with calls for more militancy and separatism. Our young people are actively misled in the education about racial history in America about what worked and what did not work; about what hurt and what helped; and about what the difference between love and hate really is.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 8. What Can We Do? An American Renaissance Predicated on Communicative Idealism

This chapter suggests that despite the adverse and severe attacks on our civic foundations, an era of renewal and political renaissance is possible. Historically, America has overcome worse instances of incivility, and all past predictions of imminent demise have proven false thus far. An ethic of communication idealism can take hold and reverse the spiral of cynicism dominating our politics. Communicative idealism is the practical ability of human beings to end strategic silences that enable and encourage human harm. Discursive complexity is the capacity of an individual, group, or society to consider and entertain multiple points of view. Open-mindedness allows us to be creative and consider alternatives and can lift humanity out of despair and harm. Cynicism is its own worst enemy.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth

Chapter 9. The Practice of Politics Today and the Greater Tomorrow

This chapter examines the practice of politics in America. The “hyperpartisan” nature of politics today has resulted in an erosion of people’s trust and respect for government and each other. We find political polarization and social fragmentation between classes, races, ideologies, generations, and even regions of the nation. We call for the restoration of the social contract. By breaking the social contract, the prerequisites of democracy are violated, and government intervenes in daily life, thus imposing upon the liberty and equality of others. We need a national recommitment to the core principles that created and defined America. We need dynamic citizen engagement to cultivate an active, democratic citizenry. Civic responsibility, accountability, and initiative should once again become a keystone of social life.
Robert E. Denton, Benjamin Voth


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