The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno-Affluence

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In The Virtue of Prosperity, Dinesh D'Souza examines the spiritual and social crisis spawned by the new economy and new technologies of the last ten years. D'Souza questions the basic premise of the American dream that prosperity and "progress" will better the human condition. Anchored in history, rich in anecdote, and supported by state-of-the-art data, The Virtue of Prosperity is a tough-minded critique of our high-tech culture, with a surprising prescription for doing well and doing good.

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The chief problem societies have faced "since the time of the Babylonians," writes Dinesh D'Souza, has been the problem of scarcity. "But now that age has passed, and America has a new problem: coping with prosperity." It's a good problem to have, but also a serious, even debilitating, one. "The moral conundrum of success," the author continues, means that all too often, "the body is flourishing, but somehow the soul still feels malnourished." D'Souza is well known for his bestselling conservative books Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, and Ronald Reagan. On these pages, however, he seems to set politics aside to ask deep questions about the meaning of life in a world of material abundance:

What is my life for? As affluence spreads ... hundreds of millions of people will be asking just this question. That they can ask it is in and of itself a great moral achievement, because it opens up to innumerable ordinary people the avenues of human fulfillment that were previously open only to aristocrats. Yet at the same time it is a strangely disquieting question, because there is no complete answer to it within the modern techno-capitalist framework.
The Founders promised "the pursuit of happiness," but they didn't explain where happiness can be found, or even what it is. D'Souza argues that it must not be found in materialism--in both the consumerist sense of the word as well as the philosophical one. In a time of unprecedented prosperity, of course, the temptation is to find happiness exactly there, and the threat is profound: materialism may "transform our very nature as human beings and possibly introduce a new species in the world, the posthuman." D'Souza does not welcome this prospect (and consequently sounds very conservative indeed). The Virtue of Prosperity is a bold and thoroughly engrossing book. Readers won't need to agree with every one of D'Souza's points to find his many digressions fascinating. Whether he's writing about an extravagant Silicon Valley party, describing the ideas of Richard Dawkins, or making a casual reference to Marcus Aurelius, he's at once erudite and accessible. It's not always clear where he's going with his ideas until he gets there, but he makes the journey a pure joy. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Dinesh D'Souza, the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, served as senior domestic policy analyst in the White House from 1987 to 1988. He is the bestselling author of Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, and Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. He divides his time between Washington, D.C., and San Diego.

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