American Stew: Hope in a Toxic Culture by Stephen James Non-Fiction - Social Issues 348 Pages 12/04/2015 Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite
Stephen James builds a strong case for his contention that the American mentality is toxic, causing its citizens to be anxious, driven and unhappy. His exploration of the individual unconscious processes and resulting human behavior is based on the works of Ernest Becker, author of The Denial of Death. Mr. James theorizes that the individual drive for achievement, financial wealth and power creates the illusion of control, warding off one’s demise. These individual actions have led to the development of a dominant, world-power culture. Numerous areas, such as 9/11 and its aftermath, propensity towards frequent and unwarranted wars, the two-party political system, racism, and the downfall of religious institutions are thoroughly examined.
A great strength of Stephen James’ theories proposed in American Stew: Hope in a Toxic Culture is his recurrent use of theories, statistics and quotations from other prominent thinkers. There is much useful information presented in this extensive study of today’s American culture. Mr. James presents his case in a coherent and comprehensive fashion. While some conjectures are more philosophical in nature, his writing style makes these abstract concepts easy to understand and integrate into one’s understanding of cultural concepts. While some solutions are given throughout, the pinnacle of the book is the last chapter entitled Hope. Valuable ideas regarding how to change the American culture to support individual lives and cultural mores are outlined. While other treatises on this subject often suggest the demise of this nation, Mr. James suggests realistic ways to heal the culture. A must-read!