Daniel J. Boorstin Writing Styles in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America

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Daniel Boorstin has written extensively on politics with a particular focus on democracy and politics in America. He is a historian and seeks to understand current social and political dynamics through historical events. He suggests in this book that there are some negatives to the rapid development of technology and commerce, even though he received strong criticism for doing so and his work has been described as a "slander on the United States". Boorstin states that despite the views of his detractors, he wrote this book out of "affection for America".

Boorstin suggests that his task in the book is mainly to help point out some of the ways that Americans have come to deceive themselves. In the course of his studies, he has been less "impressed" by stated responsibility of various figures for our current problems and suggests that they are more a result of our successes and technological improvements that lead to complexity. His task in writing this book is to help fellow Americans discover their own illusions and perhaps help them to be able to find different "roads" to choose from.

Due to his background, Boorstin writes in a historical style, cataloguing major events in chronological fashion in order to give the reader a sense of development towards particular issues. He also writes with a certain amount of force, presumably to penetrate the fog of the illusions his reader is holding. In particular Boorstin focuses on certain developments such as the "Graphic Revolution" as a touchstone and ties various other historical, political, and sociological changes to it.


Boorstin is influenced greatly by his work studying American and European history and political development, and thus he lends a great deal of authority to his writing. He spends a good deal of time talking about the chronology of events leading up to a particular shift in the culture. This effort and authority makes his arguments compelling even in the face of strong criticism. Boorstin states in the introduction that he wrote this book as a result of his own discoveries of illusion. Thus he is often speaking from his own personal experience, which adds another layer of authority to his writing.

Boorstin's intention is to give enough history and examples of what he is pointing to that the reader is able to take their own journey into personal and cultural illusions. Through this effort, he is able to maintain a fairly neutral tone and tends to let the "facts" speak for themselves and let the reader come to their own conclusions about their veracity. However, he does reveal the extent of his belief and passion towards the end of the book, in particular when he refers to the collective narcissism of America in the sense that we have "fallen in love with our image".

Finally, Boorstin's tone conveys the loving acceptance and patience that can only come from somebody that has been through the disillusionment experience. It may be like giving up a drug or some other kind of valued possession - one needs compassionate care to move through the pain.


The book is divided into six chapters, each of them describing a particular shift towards pseudo-events that occur in particular spheres of life. The first chapter outlines the beginning of pseudo-events in the news. Boorstin suggests that the culture moved from "news gathering to news making". The second chapter explores the human realm of pseudo-events and how the making of celebrities has helped to bring about the downfall of "heroes".

The third chapter focuses on the transition from traveling to "tourism" and how people are no longer actively engaged in adventuring. In chapter four, Boorstin discusses the loss of form in relation to artwork. In particular, the ability to make so many reproductions of a particular work led to the devaluation of the original. The fifth chapter describes the movement from "ideals" to "images". Boorstin discusses the political costs of trying to communicate with our images instead of our ideals. Finally, Boorstin concludes by describing the movement from the "American Dream" to the "American Illusion" and the personal and cultural losses that stem from that movement.

This section contains 692 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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