The Midnight Kingdom: A History of Power, Paranoia, and the Coming Crisis (Hardcover)
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From the author of American Rule and the host of The Muckrake Podcast, an ambitious account of how white supremacist lies, religious mythologies, and poisonous conspiracy theories built the modern world and threaten to plunge us into an authoritarian nightmare.
To fully understand these strange and dangerous times, Jared Yates Sexton takes a hard look at our nation’s history: namely, the abuses committed by those in power and the comforting stories that shaped the way the West has viewed itself up to the present. As reactionaries and authoritarians cling to myths about “Western civilization,” The Midnight Kingdom exposes how political power, religious indoctrination, and economic dominance have been repeatedly weaponized to oppress and exploit, sounding an alarm for what lies ahead as the current order frays.
Beginning with the Roman Empire and racing through centuries of colonization, war, genocide, and the recurring clashes of progress and regression, Sexton finds our modern world at a crossroads. In an echo of past crises, we have arrived at a time of historic inequality and a fading trust in our institutions. Meanwhile, authoritarianism is gaining momentum and the progress of the twentieth century is being rolled back at dizzying speed. This catastrophic moment holds terrible potential for a return to a totalitarian past or, potentially, a better, realer, more human future. The difference depends on a true reckoning with our history and the larger forces at play or hiding behind this disastrous fantasy of Western superiority.
Bracing and compulsively readable, The Midnight Kingdom takes a critical look at the forces that have shaped human civilization for centuries—and invites us to seek a radically different future.
About the Author
Jared Yates Sexton is the author of American Rule, The Man They Wanted Me to Be, and The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore. His political writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The New Republic, Politico, and Salon.com. Sexton is also the host of The Muckrake Podcast and the author of three collections of fiction.
Praise for The Midnight Kingdom
"An episodic jeremiad in the best tradition of that word, The Midnight Kingdom is warning and lament, a people’s history of apocalypse in the mind and actions of Western empire from the Great Fire of Rome to the Trumpocene. In print and by podcast, Jared Yates Sexton has been steadily expanding his deep inquiry into the ideas that informed his own fundamentalist roots and now shape today’s Christian nationalist attack on the democratic dream. This book is Sexton’s most ambitious yet, powered by cool anger but girded with the hope that even at this late hour gives his work its beautiful strength.”—Jeff Sharlet, bestselling author of The Family and The Undertow
"Jared Yates Sexton is indispensable to understanding our tumultuous political era. He does not shy away from America’s dark history, but instead delves into the shadows in order to find the light. The Midnight Kingdom is yet another vital entry in his ongoing chronicle of a West in disarray and decline."—Sarah Kendzior, author of They Knew: How A Culture of Conspiracy Keeps America Complacent
“Jared Yates Sexton is a modern day Cassandra who uses his considerable intellect, historical knowledge, and effective writing skills to illuminate, shake, warn, and wake up the majority to the looming threats attacking our fledgling democracy. In his latest book The Midnight Kingdom Sexton connects the dots, names and names, and reveals how corrupt gatekeepers of religious, political, and economic institutions have continued to abuse wealth, white supremacy, and revisionist narratives to maintain systems of inequity and oppression. With this book, however, the majority will have the knowledge and righteous fury to finally rise up and fight back.”—Wajahat Ali, author of Go Back To Where You Came From
“If power is built and sustained through storytelling—something Jared Yates Sexton argues decisively in this sweeping and empathetic history—then Sexton has proved himself a worthy adversary of those who would wish to pass off American mythology for reality. Digging deep into American stories, rife with half-truths and outright inventions, Sexton's incisive history not only offers a more accurate vision into our complex past—it just may be a first step toward a future no longer dominated by prejudice, paranoia, and fear.”—Jess McHugh, author of Americanon
"A diffuse but sharp argument against the countless dangers of too much belief in the unproven and unseen."—Kirkus
“The Midnight Kingdom is a gripping read that flirts with but never gives in to cynicism. Solid writing that dives into generous detail without ever over-explaining bolsters Sexton’s well-researched appeal.”—New York Journal of Books
“As evidenced by more than 1,000 endnotes, Sexton's research in both primary and secondary sources is prodigious. In crisp and efficient prose, he discourses on subjects as diverse as the power of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, the age of colonialism, or 20th-century American politics. His opinions will elicit enthusiastic assent from some readers and vigorous disagreement from others.”—Shelf Awareness
“Sexton, author of American Rule and cohost of The Muckrake political podcast, traces the forces roiling American politics…the context he delivers will enrich the discussion.”—Booklist