Book Review: Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985)

Public discourse in the age of show business
by Neil Postman

AmusingIf humanity makes the grade in the next few years, a good share of the credit will be due to Professor Neil Postman and his timely insights into the decline of language (esp. with respect to reading and writing), logic, conceptual development, and common sense. In other words, thanks to his framework of astute observations, others may be able to (re)construct the building of our reasoning minds… without which we shall surely go the way of the dodo bird. Amusing Ourselves to Death is arguably the magnum opus of this cultural critic, writer, and communications theorist who was chair of the New York University department of communication arts.

Two of his other better known books I have reviewed are Technopoly (1991) and Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (1999)—which was his final, comprehensive, and most heartfelt appeal to the ‘better angels of our nature’… particularly the angels who want liberty and literate, benevolent civilization.  [A deeply personal note, Building a Bridge was the prize of all the books my dear mother, the accomplished Phyllis Anderson-Barlow-Wright, referred to me—the first to knock me off the ledge of ego where I liked to think “how could Mom know anything really important?”] Continue reading