This review of Thomas Adair Rossman's book The Synthesis Revolution: New Thinking For A New Era Of Prosperity was written by Andrew P. Clunn and published in Volume X, Issue 4 (2014) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
The Synthesis Revolution: New Thinking For A New Era Of Prosperity
Author: Thomas Adair Rossman
Publisher: Eudaimonia Publishing, LLC
The Synthesis Revolution: New Thinking For A New Era Of Prosperity by Thomas Adair Rossman falls firmly into the genre of political manifestos. At just over fifty pages it's a quick enough read, which is perhaps its greatest weakness. It reads as a text that would have been profoundly insightful during the early Renaissance, but seems an introduction more than a real road map for revolutionary thinking. Where detailed explanation was called for, only summary was found. The greatest weakness of this book is not what the manifesto says, but rather what it does not.
The text is broken up into four parts. The first seeks to make clear that ideas have a profound impact on societies and nations, and that some ideas lead to better outcomes and greater economic prosperity for citizens of those nations when compared to others. A fairly non-controversial point to be sure, though the text does strongly imply that the purpose of political philosophy is to maximize prosperity among citizens (a point that certain pro-undocumented immigrant activists, animal rights advocates, and others may disagree with). Leaving that aside, many political manifestos make this assumed assertion about this goal, so simply put The Synthesis Revolution in with all other collective nationalistic political philosophies.
The book then attempts to show why a reform is needed (specifically in the United States, as this is a very American-centric text). It outlines various failures of modern political action, and claims that America has faltered from the original values instilled in it by its founding fathers (so make that collective nationalistic originalism). It points to tribalism and uncritical dogmatic thinking as the main sources of our failure as individuals, and corruption and special interest influences as the main detractors at an institutional level. As it outlines these weaknesses in human thought and our current political system, the text proclaims that, "...the Synthesis Revolution is the engine for propelling this fundamental change." A bold claim, but half way through the text I still had no clue what the Synthesis Revolution is supposed to be. The book consistently says that it's "reasonable" and "objective," but these words mean nothing without examples or details.
It is in the third section that Rossman begins to delve into contemporary policy, beginning with a brief summary of his views on the divide between the left and right in modern American political thought. He describes the left as being "top-down" and the right "bottom-up", with President Reagan serving as the great example of a uniting force between the two. He points to statistics concerning regional landslide political victories as evidence of how much more polarized America now is. He also points to the 2008 financial collapse, which he claims was caused by deregulation of the banking industry, as an example of ideology effectively undermining a lesson that was learned back during the Great Depression.
And so finally we are given a glimpse of what the Synthesis Revolution is supposed to be, though not directly, but rather only through inference by assuming his positions serve as an example thereof. Landslide elections at local levels have more to do with gerrymandering than political division among the people, as evidenced by the much greater number of registered independents. People can have their opinions about the legacy and presidency of Reagan, but to say he united people across the aisles requires an ignorance of history. Also, his analysis of the financial collapse is so sparse and summarized, that were it submitted for a high school report, the teacher would likely mark, "Give more details," on the side. Apparently the Synthesis Revolution is a view that accepts the single axis approach to classifying political thoughts, views history through rose colored glasses, and over simplifies issues. While claiming to rise above political rhetoric, it fully embraces political narratives repeated by party establishment figures and media talking heads. I can only assume this is done uncritically because no in depth analysis of any issue is actually done in this book.
The last section attempts (and I stress the word attempts) to answer the question of how to implement this Synthesis Revolution. Within three paragraphs, Rossman glosses over the difficulty of controlling for variables in the social sciences by stating that we need to break down our observations of society and political policy to their most basic core. Oh if only it were that simple. The Synthesis Revolution continually calls for "reasonable" and "common sense" policy making, as though critical thinkers are unaware that those are just buzz words used to emotionally manipulate people who can't be bothered with asking for specifics. When the entire point of your political philosophy is supposed to be that we need to rise above ideology and think critically and objectively about issues, then the details are non-optional.