• Our Own Worst Enemy

  • The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy
  • By: Tom Nichols
  • Narrated by: Tom Nichols
  • Length: 7 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (300 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Over the past three decades, citizens of democracies who claim to value freedom, tolerance, and the rule of law have increasingly embraced illiberal politicians and platforms. Democracy is in trouble - but who is really to blame?

In Our Own Worst Enemy, Tom Nichols challenges the current depictions of the rise of illiberal and antidemocratic movements in the United States and elsewhere as the result of the deprivations of globalization or the malign decisions of elites. Rather, he places the blame for the rise of illiberalism on the people themselves. Nichols traces the illiberalism of the 21st century to the growth of unchecked narcissism, rising standards of living, global peace, and a resistance to change. Ordinary citizens, laden with grievances, have joined forces with political entrepreneurs who thrive on the creation of rage rather than on the encouragement of civic virtue and democratic cooperation. While it will be difficult, Nichols argues that we need to defend democracy by resurrecting the virtues of altruism, compromise, stoicism, and cooperation - and by recognizing how good we've actually had it in the modern world.

©2021 Oxford University Press (P)2021 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

What listeners say about Our Own Worst Enemy

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Interesting but shallow

The author points to the weaknesses of the US electorate as a source of many of our current evils, which is certainly true enough. But the fickleness of voters is a recurring problem in of democracies, and has been a critical issue at multiple moments in history. It deserves a more thorough treatment than is given in this book. The tone of the book is polemical, going so far as to call the citizenry of the US toddlers. This is certainly a well-deserved insult, but he asserts that it is simply because we are well off. We have been well off for quite a while now, and there are many other causal factors at work, which the author skims over or dismisses without really explainng why in a satisfactory way. This and many other arguments in the book were not persuasive. I would recommend other analyses of current US political pathologies over this one.

5 people found this helpful

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For the right person, a great read.

For some people, this will aid in affirming their thoughts and feelings about America and more specifically Americans (and the "Republican" party of our day) are dead on. For others, they may have a hard time grasping what the author is talking about. This is NOT an "easy" read. Knowledge of actual history is required. Although I would have to make the assumption that it's readers already have the vocabulary necessary to understand and interpret it's contents.

All that being said, this is NOT a giant circle jerk, where intellectuals pat it's respective members on the back (as well as themselves). The author provides enough introspection into his views (and how they were formed) to hopefully persuade even a casual reader to his ideas of how America came to be where it is (or at least inform them).

These things are most specifically defined in this writing as the cheap access to leisure and vice being the contributing factors to the continued lack of civic understanding or involvement since the 1970's as well as the rise of rampant narcissism that has and continues to dominate political discussion (or lack thereof) in the politics of today.

An excellent book, for the right person.

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Blah, handwringing story from paid pundit land 1/5

I like Tom Nichols, I've read other things by him and heard lecture and talks
by and with him. He's a smart guy and his values are more or less correct,
but all we get from paid pundit land are more books with the same stuff
in them and the same non-answers. These people are part of the problem
since they are symbionts to this broken system.

I'd like to go through every line I highlighted on my Kindle ( I buy the Audible
and Kindle versions of most books ) and thought I had, but I just don't have
the time or inclination. The critics of our society are not doing right by us all
writing the same book, saying the same thing.

Basically all they end up doing is preparing us for the worst ... thanks a lot.

1/5

1 person found this helpful

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  • MC
  • 12-25-21

The American people are unworthy

Summary: The American people are too disinterested, narcissistic, lazy, ungrateful, envious, distracted, shallow, uninformed, childish, and unserious to sustain a democracy.

But the meager policies he offers do not address the problems he identifies and don't even pretend to. In the end, it is a 200-page scold in tone and substance directed at the people (readers) least likely to need it.

1 person found this helpful

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Much Needed Analysis of The Current State of America

I am a great admirer of Nichols’ earlier book, The Death of Expertise. His take on the political mind of the electorate is spot on and his understanding of the suspicion of the masses for all institutions, whether religious, political or social was equally insightful.

He takes up similar issues here, laying the blame for the awful state of American “Democracy” firmly at the feet of us! The Society we’ve become, not because some foreign power has turned us into greedy, ignorant, wage slaves shackled to our Smartphones and TV’s, but because we have the Society we want, ruled by the Government we deserve.

Nichols’ diagnoses are correct. Unfortunately, his prescription is basically Hope & Prayer. I fear it’s not going to be sufficient. His book is worth reading but this reader was not comforted. Four Stars.

1 person found this helpful

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An alarming but important book

Generally accessible and nicely read, this can be a bit chewy in places. I often use audible books as background while I'm doing something else. You can't do that with this book otherwise you will miss things, but that's OK. I kept rewinding and listening to make sure that I heard all of the details and got all of the concepts, especially in the final chapters. It was worth it. The pop culture references can seem a bit of a stretch at times (I don't remember the 70's and 80's quite so bleakly and I'm the same age as the author) but I DID enjoy the references to 1984 - which seemed fairly spot on. Won't cheer you up but it's important medicine.

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A Hard Look in the Mirror

This book is a hard look in the mirror of our current society and priorities. Fascinating analysis of how we got here and where we may end up if we don’t do a critical course correction.

1 person found this helpful

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TRASH. Follows every liberal lie.

In the first 20 minutes the author blamed Trump for every ailment in the world. I was hoping to learn something from an unbiased perspective but this so-called “intellectual” author just spewed liberal propaganda of the Biden/Harris 2020 election lies. I want a refund!!

1 person found this helpful

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A Must Read

we're in this, sort of, existential crisis in this country now. For those that say BS, I urge you to read Death of Expertise and then Our Own Worst Enemy.

1 person found this helpful

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We are so screwed.

Tom Nichols offers a deep study on how our democracy is sick. If we have the means to assume the mantle of good citizens once again in sufficient numbers remains to be seen and is independent of party or affiliation.

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  • C. Doyle
  • 09-21-21

Yes We Are!

insightful, clearly argued and read by the author ... loved it! what impresses me with Tom Nichols work (The Death of Expertise is excellent!) is his ability to capture the central elements of his themes and make them both informative and entertaining. The central hypotheses of this book is something I've meditated upon a lot over the past 3 years and to hear it being made public by such a talented and thought-provoking writer is both comforting and scary.
The future is ours to shape ... let's try and make it better for everybody ...

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  • Missamity
  • 08-26-21

Harsh truth

Stimulating, thought-provoking and to some extent depressing but truthful. We need more books like this.