American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation by Robert Wuthnow

By Robert Wuthnow

The USA used to be 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 e-book, well known sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those so much American of stories--narratives approximately individualism, immigration, luck, faith, and ethnicity--through the eyes of modern immigrants. In doing so, he demonstrates how the "American mythos" has either legitimized American society and avoided it from totally knowing its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide awareness. It info how american citizens have routinely depended on narratives to handle what it capacity to be powerful, morally in charge participants and to give an explanation for why a few everyone is extra profitable than others--in brief, to aid 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 belief of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken by way of the problems immigration provides. We champion prosperity for all, yet stay 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. analyzing how cultural narratives won't, and infrequently don't, mirror the truth of cutting-edge society, it demanding situations readers to develop into extra reflective approximately what it capacity to reside as much as the yankee excellent.

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The examples from antebellum America and from the World War II era suggest that cultural change runs deepest when it influences our ideas about the rights and responsibilities of individuals. How much or how little to focus on the individual, though, is a contested question. Some theorists argue that we have become obsessed with the person and need to pay less attention to individuals, while others argue just the opposite. These arguments are part of a long debate, but the terms of debate have altered greatly since the mid– twentieth century.

46 A new national culture of conformity to bureaucratic and organizational hierarchies, identified by such observers as social critics William H. Whyte Jr. and C. Wright Mills, was related to business’s borrowing leadership styles from the military and corporations’ simply being organized on a larger scale. “The twentieth-century white-collar man has never been independent as the farmer used to be, nor as hopeful of the main chance as the businessman,” Mills wrote. ”47 A service ethic, too, seemed to have carried over from wartime to peacetime as America became known as a nation of joiners.

From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of World War II, the United States experienced an almost steady move toward greater national integration and a more distinct sense of its national identity. 37 At the start of World War II, the nation nevertheless had relatively little of the cultural integration that actually linked individual citizens with the federal government and with other national organizations of the kind that would be present by the early 1950s. Day-to-day life could still be lived in local settings, and moral obligations could be defined largely within those settings.

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