Empire of Illusion

The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Publisher: Vintage Canada
Pulitzer prize–winner Chris Hedges charts the dramatic and disturbing rise of a post-literate society that craves fantasy, ecstasy and illusion.

Chris Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins.

In the tradition of Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism and Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Hedges navigates this culture — attending WWF contests as well as Ivy League graduation ceremonies — exposing an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion.

From the Hardcover edition.


I / The Illusion of Literacy

Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation. We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And that image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly...
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"Remarkable, bracing and highly moral, Empire of Illusion is Hedges' lament for his nation."

"Each chapter of Empire of Illusion makes a strong case for how different illusions — of literacy, love, wisdom, happiness — taken together are destroying the American mind, culture and the nation itself."
National Post

"Each chapter torches one of our cultural illusions."
The Globe and Mail

"Hedges is a fan of big ideas, and in Empire of Illusion, he draws upon the culture of professional wrestling and pornography, the elite university, positive psychology and the financial crisis to fashion a social theory of everything."
Winnipeg Free Press

From the Hardcover edition.