Is the English language in decline? Is contemporary music a pale imitation of the musical riches of the past? John McWhorter argues in this provocative, controversial book that the legacy of the 1960's has caused us to value the verbal and the oral over the written forms of language and music, impoverishing our culture. Once languages become written, they change. Only in writing does language develop the artfulness and richness that we associate with a Shakespeare, a Proust or a Whitman. Yet over the last forty years, the English-language has effectively gone into reverse - taking our lead from America and the legacy of the 1960s, our culture increasingly privileges the oral over the written, spurning the art of elaborated, 'written'-style language in favour of returning to the state of a spoken culture. Parallel developments have occurred in music.
In this controversial and thought-provoking book, Jon McWhorter argues that the 1960's rejection of cultural traits associated with the Establishment, as well as a democratic celebration of what anyone can do over what requires training or talent, has led to our culture being increasingly impoverished, both intellectually and artistically, a culture that hates itself.
John McWhorter is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an associate Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley. He is the author of The Power of Babel- A Natural History of Language, as well as a book about black English, The Word on the Street.