For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Modern America and Ancient Rome
An Essay in Historical Comparison and Analogy
  • Simon Kiessling de Courcy
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Modern America and Ancient Rome. An Essay in Historical Comparison and Analogy
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Moral permissiveness, demographic changes, attitudes to war and peace: Is America really following the path of Rome? How does America relate to its "colonies" in Europe, and how did the Romans see their Greek colonies?

Seeing a striking number of parallels, Dr. Kiessling asks whether this suggests a comparable trajectory for America in the near future.


About the Author

Irish-born Simon Kiessling de Courcy earned his PhD in Modern History at the Humboldt University of Berlin, where he has worked as a research associate and Assistant Professor for more than ten years.

His earlier books, in German, include The Anti-authoritarian Revolt of '68: Post-Industrial Consumer Society and Secular Religion, A History of Modernity, and Occidental Monasticism and Modern Dynamics of Redemption.

About the Book
Mounting social inequality, the increased political polarization, and the republic’s transformation into an empire of consumption - these are just a few of the similarities between modern America and ancient Rome.

In this...
Mounting social inequality, the increased political polarization, and the republic’s transformation into an empire of consumption - these are just a few of the similarities between modern America and ancient Rome.

In this politico-philosophical discussion Dr. Kiessling draws analogies between the history of antiquity and the history of the modern world in general, and ancient Rome and modern America in particular. The book discusses the political, social, cultural and mental differences between the ancient Greeks and Romans on the one hand and compares them to relations between modern Americans and Europeans.

The subjects of analysis include the different levels of commitment to religion, the responsiveness to post-heroic values, the attitudes to war and peace, moral permissiveness, demography, the susceptibility to universalistic ideas and supra-nationalism and the different levels of belief in the political capacity of the nation and its constitutional framework. The essay also links the way in which Greeks and Romans saw each other with the way in which modern Americans perceive the Europeans and vice versa.

The core chapter of the essay discusses the socio-economic, political and intellectual challenges facing present-day America, as the social coil holding Americans together since World War II threatens to disintegrate. In this context, the analysis focuses on the mounting social inequality, the increased political polarization, the republic’s transformation into an empire of consumption, the privatization of military force, the role of organized money in politics, and the rise of irrational, apocalyptic thought in public discourse.

The author then analyzes the extent to which these trends bear structural resemblance to developments that undermined the social and political foundations of the Roman republic in the second and first century B.C., and weighs whether this constitutes a warning that modern America might suffer a destiny similar to the one once endured by ancient Rome.


Introduction
...In particular, the questions to be raised include the following:
  • What caused the rise of post-heroic values, the decline of political ambition, the focus on private aspiration and the preference for individual self-realization in the postclassical ages of ancient Greece and modern Europe respectively? Chapters 3, 4 and 5)
  • ...
...In particular, the questions to be raised include the following:
  • What caused the rise of post-heroic values, the decline of political ambition, the focus on private aspiration and the preference for individual self-realization in the postclassical ages of ancient Greece and modern Europe respectively? Chapters 3, 4 and 5)
  • Why do postclassical Greeks and postwar Europeans pin their hopes on pan-Hellenism and pan-Europeanism respectively, while the Romans and Americans remain committed to their inherited national institutions and resolutely oppose universalism or the transfer of sovereign powers to supranational levels and organizations? (Chapter 6)
  • Why did the ancient Greeks consider the Romans as vulgar, boorish and rude in a manner structurally reminiscent of how modern Europeans see the Americans, while the Romans regarded the Greeks as decadent, licentious and weak, structurally reminiscent of how present-day Americans perceive the Europeans? (Chapters 7 and 8)
  • Why do the Romans and Americans remain so ardently committed to religion, while religious indifference, atheism and agnosticism prevail in ancient Greece and modern Europe, and Roman or American prudishness and Puritanism are deplored or ridiculed by the Greeks and Europeans respectively? (Chapter 9)
  • Why do the Romans and Americans so fiercely reject the forces of radical ideology and utopian vision, which thrived and prospered in the postclassical Greek and European worlds? (Chapter 10)
  • What do the shrinking populations of postclassical Greece and Europe have to do with rising levels of geographical mobility and a loss of loyalty to the polis or nation state, whereas the Romans and Americans remain closely tied to their national institutions, ancestral lands and the spirit of the fields? (Chapter 11)
  • Why have the Romans and Americans been so reluctant to conquer and annex, refraining for long periods of time from a systematic pursuit of imperial power and the exercise of direct rule over other peoples and nations? (Chapter 12)

And finally: Does current American world supremacy show any signs of developing into imperial reign and universal rule, as Roman supremacy of the ancient world did during the second and first century B.C.? Are there any indications of America repeating the fateful trajectory of Rome or, in other words: any signs of political, economic, social and cultural developments within present-day “hegemonic” America which threaten to challenge or tear the fabric of America’s republican institutions in a way resembling the (finally lethal) crisis of the Roman republic in the late second and early first century B.C.?

As a matter of course, there have been many attempts already at comparing and analogizing the history of antiquity and the history of the modern world. Often, however, such analogies and comparisons have turned out to be ill-founded, arbitrary or misapplied such as those between Napoleon and Caesar, pax Britannica and pax Romana, Athens and America, World War II and the Second Punic War or, what became very prominent especially since 9/11/2001, between present-day America and Rome’s imperial period after the formal establishment of an empire by Augustus in the late first century B.C. ...


More . . .
Established institutions like trade unions, public schools or universities are not the only structures facing erosion in present-day America. The very edifice of the community, i.e., places where people can meet and communicate — in small churches, pubs, town centers or shops — is being replaced with the highly anonymous world of Wal-mart stores, mega churches and malls. Like it did in late republican Rome, a society of progressively isolated individuals is emerging, people who are out of...
Established institutions like trade unions, public schools or universities are not the only structures facing erosion in present-day America. The very edifice of the community, i.e., places where people can meet and communicate — in small churches, pubs, town centers or shops — is being replaced with the highly anonymous world of Wal-mart stores, mega churches and malls. Like it did in late republican Rome, a society of progressively isolated individuals is emerging, people who are out of touch with their fellow citizens and who lose the very capacity of collective political action, social cooperation and civic organization. Deprived of the civic bonds and common institutions providing room (or a framework) for rational argumentation, substantial sections of American society now seek escape from reality and have become susceptible to fundamentalist promises of security and truth.

Pages 178
Year: 2016
BISAC: HIS002020 HISTORY / Ancient / Rome
BISAC: HIS036000 HISTORY / United States / General
BISAC: HIS049000 HISTORY / Essays
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ISBN: 978-1-62894-153-1
Price: USD 19.95
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ISBN: 978-1-62894-154-8
Price: USD 29.95
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