George Packer

Last Best Hope
  • Last Best Hope

  • Acclaimed National Book Award-winning author George Packer diagnoses America's descent into a failed state, and envisions a path toward overcoming injustices, paralyses, and divides

    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-feared and pitied by our friends, mocked and sabotaged by our adversaries, first in the world in Covid cases and deaths, and led in recent years by an incompetent authoritarian bigot? Last Best Hope is a bracing account of our current crisis and of how a new era of civic revitalization may bring it to an end.

    Combining reportage with historical narrative, autobiography, and political analysis, Packer depicts and assesses the four inadequate narratives that dominate American public life: Libertarian America, which imagines a nation of individuals responsible for their own fate, and serves the interests of corporations and the wealthy; Cosmopolitan America, the ideology of Silicon Valley and the professional elite,which celebrates globalization and leaves many American communities behind; Diverse America, which defines citizens as members of large identity groups that have inflicted or suffered oppression; and White America, a shallow nationalism that fears the contamination of non-whites and treachery of coastal elites, and poses the greatest threat to democracy in our lifetime.

    At a time when many fear that the American experiment in self-government may collapse, or, in Abraham Lincoln's words, "die by suicide", Packer shows that none of these narratives can sustain American democracy. To point a better way forward, he looks back at previous eras of crisis to discover the resources for invigorating self-government. Combining trenchant social analysis with a vibrant and stinging essayistic voice and a deep knowledge of America's past and present, Last Best Hope is an essential contribution to the literature of national self-examination the times demand.

George Packer is a staff writer for the Atlantic and a former staff writer for the New Yorker. He is the author of The Unwinding: Thirty Years of American Decline, which was a New York Times bestseller and won a National Book Award. His other nonfiction books include The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq, Blood of the Liberals, which won the 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, which won the Los Angeles Times Biography Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. He has also written two novels, The Half Man and Central Square. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Harper's, and other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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