By Robert Wuthnow
The United States was once equipped on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style alterations, self-made males, and the Protestant paintings ethic. during this new publication, well known sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those so much American of stories--narratives approximately individualism, immigration, luck, faith, and ethnicity--through the eyes of contemporary immigrants. In doing so, he demonstrates how the "American mythos" has either legitimized American society and avoided it from absolutely figuring out its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide attention. It information how american citizens have ordinarily trusted narratives to deal with what it ability to be powerful, morally in charge members and to give an explanation for why a few everyone is extra profitable than others--in brief, to assist us make feel of our lives. however it argues that those narratives have performed little to aid us confront new demanding situations. We move legislation to finish racial discrimination, but lack the get to the bottom of to create a extra equitable society. We welcome the assumption of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken by means of the problems immigration provides. We champion prosperity for all, yet reside in a rustic the place households are nonetheless homeless. American Mythos aptly records this disconnect among the tales we inform and the truth we are facing. studying how cultural narratives won't, and infrequently don't, mirror the truth of present day society, it demanding situations readers to develop into extra reflective approximately what it capacity to stay as much as the yank excellent.
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Extra info for American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short
An example from early in American history and a more recent one will show how renewal of this kind happens—how it involves deep meanings and how its strengths and limitations are conditioned by these meanings. The social transformation that took place during the half century prior to the Civil War—what historians call the democratization of American culture—provides an interesting illustration of the processes through which cultural renewal occurs, and of the limitations of these processes. Having emerged by the start of the nineteenth century as an independent, self-governing nation, the United States found itself, as Jefferson’s inaugural address suggested, in the position of needing to ensure that it could indeed govern itself and do so in a way that lived up to its founding ideals of representation and equality.
Apart from specific ideals, the deep meanings of which cultures are composed also facilitate renewal by holding forth hopefulness itself. Hopefulness is the possibility that life can be better in the future than it has been in the past. It is an assumption about the possibility of personal transformation and societal betterment. There was a time when these sorts of arguments about culture would have seemed more familiar to social scientists and their students than they do today. From the 1920s through the early 1960s, social scientists wrote books and articles in which the power of cultural assumptions was emphasized.
Democratic individuals seek to liberate human energies and thus to live more intensely. A good society therefore protects the autonomy of individuals by respecting their freedom and their right to free expression. A good society also encourages individuals to form alliances and to engage in political activity. As an initial guiding principle, there is thus a kind of both-and quality to the individual—a delicate balance between the autonomous individual who pursues individual happiness and the responsible individual who contributes to the common good.
American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short by Robert Wuthnow