From organizing workers to preventing war to making the economy more green, journalist Chris Hedges argues that, for decades, liberals have surrendered the good fights to corporations and ruling powers.
In his new book, Death of the Liberal Class, Hedges slams five specific groups and institutions — the Democratic Party, churches, unions, the media and academia — for failing Americans and allowing for the creation of a "permanent underclass."
Hedges says that, for motives ranging from self-preservation to careerism, the "liberal establishment" purged radicals from its own ranks and, as a result, lost its checks on capitalism and corporate power.
"For millions of Americans, including the 15 million unemployed Americans," Hedges tells NPR'S Neal Conan, "the suffering is becoming acute."
He cites a recent trip to Camden, N.J., per capita the poorest city in the nation, as an example.
"When you get up and see the human cost of what this has done — these foreclosures, these bank repossessions, the fact that one in eight Americans and one in four children depend on food stamps to survive," Hedges says, it's clear the system has failed.
But how is that the fault of, say, the universities?
Hedges describes a "kind of withering of the humanities" in which the liberal education that would normally ask broad questions and challenge structure and assumptions has become corporate. Academic departments now carry the burden of raising their own funds. "This is pretty hard to do if you're in the classics department," Hedges notes.
Hedges says he also faults the "purging within economics departments and business schools of people who challenged what I call the utopian vision of globalization — the idea that somehow the marketplace should determine human behavior and guide human activity."
He says that dynamic is to blame for turning elite, Ivy League universities into, essentially, vocational schools.
"We create classes of systems managers," Hedges says, "highly astute and intelligent in a kind of analytical way ... [who] only know how to service a particular system."