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Philosophical History


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Reflections on America: Tocoqueville, Weber and Adorno in the United States by Claus Offe, translated by Gareth Schott, John Thompson (Polity Press) At a time when so many cracks have emerged within the imagined community of 'the West', this important new book, by one of the leading social scientists in Europe, examines the intellectual history of comparing Europe and the United States. Claus Offe considers the perspectives adopted by three of Europe's greatest social scientists — Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber and Theodor W Adorno — in their comparative writings on Europe.

While travelling, studying and working in the USA, all three constantly looked back to their European origins, trying to decipher from their American experience what the future may hold for Europe, be it for better or worse. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat, observed the functioning of American democracy with a mix of admiration, envy and deep concerns about the fate of liberty in the 'democratic age'. The German sociologist Max Weber reported enthusiastically about the youthful energy he found in the United States, which, however, he saw as gradually succumbing to the stifling tendencies of European bureaucratization. Theodor W. Adorno, the critical theorist and refugee from Nazi Germany, observed with a sense of despair the workings of the American 'culture industry' which he equated with the totalitarian experience of Europe, only to switch to a much more favourable picture upon his return to Germany.

Europe and the USA are conventionally assumed to share the same trajectory and to develop according to some common pattern of 'occidental rationalism', with the observed differences resulting from mere lags and relative advances on one side or the other. In this insightful hook, Offe questions the relevance of this paradigm to transatlantic relations today.

Excerpt: If the differences between the USA and Europe are arranged on the temporal axis, we may say, rather schematically, that there are four possible answers to the question of how Europe and the United States relate to each other. The first answer, popular on both sides of the Atlantic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, involves one of two evidently incompatible models of the United States: either (A) an advance guard whose explorations allow Europeans to gaze into their own future, or (B) a latecomer society standing at a stage of development that Europe has already paced out, a kind of 'immature Europe'. In each case, a difference that is found to exist may be given either a positive (1) or a negative (2) interpretation. The 'positive advance guard' (Al) interpretation claims that in America a technological, democratic or other advance has an origin that we Europeans have only to reproduce, while the 'positive latecomer hypothesis' (B 1) states that in America energies and resources already exhausted among us Europeans still have a salutary effect. On the other hand, a negative evaluation leads to the claim that in America certain fateful trends have already gone so far that to look across the Atlantic is not only to see a window on the future but to stare into an abyss (A2). Finally, the fourth variant maintains that America is stuck at a developmental stage of raw, unbridled, uncivilized and destructive infantilism, which 'we Europeans', by virtue of our own experiences and achievements, have already overcome and sublimated in the form of civilization (B2). Linked to hypothesis Al is Europe's admiration for progressive democratic America, for the mentality of the New Frontier, which is always there to be redefined and conquered anew, with the moral energies of a liberal, individualist, democratic, egalitarian and anti-statist American creed. In an often quoted poem from Zahme Xenia (I 827), Goethe wrote that America 'has it better than our old continent', because 'in your lively age you are not troubled within by useless memories and futile strife'.Hypothesis B1 is associated with the theme of a vigorously youthful formation free of the sclerotic burden of tradition from which the Old World suffers; A2 with the terrifying vision of an unrestrained technological, economic and military rationality; and B2 with the collective damage due to socialization in a society without a history, trapped at the level of raw and permanent childhood. In his vehement critique of America in the Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel compares the relationship of Europe and America to that between Hamburg and Altona, a suburb of immigrant tradesmen that is nevertheless like a reborn 'expression of a foreign life'. The settlers have not yet carried America to the level of a rational state – 'the state was merely something external for the protection of property' (84), involving 'respect for law' without 'genuine probity'. As to religious life, Hegel notes the prevalence of 'unseemly varieties of caprice', 'the splitting up into so many sects, which reach the very acme of absurdity', and the 'unbounded license of imagination' resulting in a lack of the 'religious unity which has been maintained in European states'. In political life, too, the necessity for 'an organized state' has not yet made itself felt; rather, 'the community [arises] from the aggregation of individuals as atomic constituents'. Hegel's picture of Americans as depraved half-savages therefore clearly belongs to type B2 and has been an important source and referent for modern 'anti-Americanism'.

Not surprisingly, it is the first two hypotheses that form the basis of America's sense of identity vis-à-vis Europe and its missionary thrust –in the name of civic religion or, simply, religious fundamentalism – to free the world of its ills; whereas it is the last two hypotheses that are the inspiration for many variants of European anti-Americanism. In B2, a major role is still played today by the idea of the New World's 'civilizational immaturity'  and denunciations of Americans as `equality boors' (Heinrich Heine).

If we now compare the comparisons that Tocqueville, Weber and Adorno make concerning the differences and convergences between the United States and Europe, we find a number of contrasts as well as areas of common ground. As far as the contrasts are concerned, I would like to return to the schema of diagnostic results and expectations that I presented in the introduction. These diagnoses may be constructed so that America is in a positive sense ahead of Europe (Al) or so that, in an equally positive sense, it preserves forces and inspirations that have been exhausted or submerged in the old continent (B 1). But there is also the image of America as a negative avant-garde, in which the bad future of an 'Americanized' Europe can be read (A2), as well as the negative image of America as a crude, still uncivilized, culturally and institutionally backward social structure, to which a Europe conscious of its own more valuable traditions may be contrasted (B2). It is this latter image of innate defects or evils that have not yet been overcome, this stereotype of a crude, infantile or backward American society prone to regression and driven by inordinate acquisitiveness, that constitutes the essence of modern anti-Americanism. For this stereotype, Hegel,' with his Eurocentric deprecation of America as a bourgeois society lacking state or history, provides a 'lineage' or model `operating beneath the surface' down to the present day.' Our three authors, on the other hand, for all the ambivalence of their analyses and judgements concerning the United States, fit remarkably closely the other three positions in the schema. Tocqueville's image of America unmistakably belongs to type Al: whatever his doubts and fears, he admires America as a vanguard model of society which, precisely because of its 'lack of roots', is 'a hundred times happier than our own'. Max Weber's image of America just as clearly belongs to type B 1, since he is full of admiration (though also pessimistic about the lasting viability) as he traces the sources of energy in American society represented by puritan sects and their voluntarist ethic of freedom. He praises the 'most massive originality' of life in American society, its 'youthfully fresh and confident energy for good', and – as far as 'genuine Yankeedom' is concerned – a 'superiority in the struggle for existence' that rests upon these residues. For Weber, 'the average member of an American sect .. . stands far above the "Christians" of our national church', because this 'sect man' (or else, Yankeedom) has 'still' preserved a degree of autonomy and responsibility without any parallel in Europe. Finally, Adorno's experiences in and statements about America – at least those of the 1940s – clearly belong to type A2, which might be conceived in terms of an 'advance towards our decay'. From the United States, the 'most advanced observation post', he thinks he can register the 'destructiveness of progress' in the direction of the culture industry and the `administered world' – a destructiveness already apparent in America itself and expected to spread everywhere else.

If we now consider the common ground in the three authors' otherwise so different images of America, or in the considerations on Europe that they developed in America, we are struck by their perception of the open-minded, trusting, egalitarian, cooperative and emotionally warm everyday culture of Americans. Of course, the three travellers to the United States theorize in very different ways the observation that American society – in its work life, neighbourly relations and system of clubs and associations – is liberally endowed with a 'social capital' that is lacking among Europeans. For Tocqueville, as we have seen, the proficiency of Americans in the 'art of association' and the 'habits of the heart' that serve them so well is the explanatory key, as well as the guarantee, for the fact that anomic phenomena do not destroy their society of individualist acquisitiveness and competition. He praises the robustness of a kind of 'micro-republican' ethic, which Weber was still able to observe (for example, in the Liebeskommunismus° practised by sects and associations), though at a stage of decline and deformation governed by private interests. Finally, Adorno describes the same phenomena – first in the Briefe an die Eltern, then more distinctly in the 'Kultur and Culture' lecture and his later retrospective in 'Scientific Experiences of a Scholar in America' – but he completely forgoes any historical or theoretical categorization of these social virtues and the conditions for their emergence; he simply records them, in the tone in which one takes note of a pleasant surprise.

I would like to conclude by raising the following question. Of the explanations, expectations and prognoses that our three authors made in relation to their observations in America and differences with European social conditions,

which ones no longer stand up at all in the light of the present day? This test undertaken with the privilege of hindsight, which naturally does not mean that any demonstrable defect of explanation or prognosis can be blamed on a lack of scientific effort on the author's part, should serve here merely to indicate that a change has taken place since the time of their respective observations in both parts of the world, Europe and America, and especially in the relationship between the two.

With regard to Tocqueville, the effectiveness of mechanisms in America to correct the acquisitive individualism unleashed in the name of 'equality' is today less evident than it may have been at the time of his observations. Since the Second World War there have been numerous major studies in American social science – from David Riesman through Daniel Bell to Robert Putnam – which have given substance to such doubts. And, at least since America entered the First World War, Tocqueville's point about the relative unimportance of the military has had no foundation. Weber's prevailing view that American capitalism is likely to become 'Europeanized' in its post-heroic phase, through such developments as class-based political cleavages, statist-bureaucratic political conditions and neo-feudal structures, has not been confirmed in any way. And Adorno, in the last decade of his life, thoroughly (if rather casually) revised and toned down the theory of culture industry and authoritarian personality with which he had sought to update and radicalize Tocqueville's earlier insights.

This brings us to what I see as the decisive need for revision and updating in relation to trends in the second half of the twentieth century. All three of our authors implicitly start from the assumption that the civilized world of 'the West' is subject to the same evolutionary laws, and therefore to an ideal type of development constituted by common structural conditions; an understanding of these is then meant to help us identify deviations, advances, setbacks and breaks, but also, and especially, common features of a general process of Atlantic modernization. Among the things shared on both sides of the North Atlantic are the dominant role of Christianity, the experiences and consequences of revolutionary change in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the interconnection of science, technology, industry and prosperity, and the fact that at least the first waves of migration to the United States came from Europe. Of course, these common features – which also include the American special relationship with Britain and the military role of the United States in deciding the outcome of two world wars – need to be set against important differences, such as the sheer size of America and its distance from Europe; its special interests and alliances in Latin America and the Pacific; its qualities as a multi-ethnic settler society that forced back and decimated the indigenous population; the ever-present past of Afro-American slaves; the much greater heterogeneity of the population and the inequality of their life chances; the extreme fragmentation of the federal political system, which is unknown anywhere in Europe; the lack of political parties in a European sense; the markedly 'non-European' structure and extent of American cities; the absence of wars in the twentieth century with neighbouring countries (if one leaves aside the military expeditions against Cuba, Grenada, Panama and Nicaragua); the lack of experience of fascist or Stalinist regimes or mass movements; and the role of the United States, in the second half of the twentieth century, as the military and economic leader of 'the West'. I leave it open here whether the family resemblances or the structural differences carry more weight in this profile of attributes. But the idea that similar evolutionary forces are at work in European countries and the United States – an idea shared with different emphases by all three of our authors – loses much of its plausibility in view of the differences I have just enumerated. It therefore seems advisable to make a sceptical examination – and, if necessary, a consistent deconstruction –of the inclusive transatlantic concept of 'the West' and a Western community of values and trajectories of social and political development.

America's main difference today from Europe – and a fortiori with individual European countries – is that it is the architect and practically uncontrollable centre of an established global system of military, political, economic and ideological-cultural control. This means that any comparative investigation which assumes its objects to be separate entities belonging to a common category will inevitably rebound as an inadequate or naive undertaking, since it fails to grasp what is distinctive about them. The peculiarity of the United States is that, because of its global presence and power, it is able to demand a kind of external sovereignty and monopoly of decision-making, which, in cases of conflict, are not seriously hampered by the restrictions and supranational regulations and factual constraints that apply to all other states. This novel position of the United States in the world system lies completely outside the theoretical and experiential horizon of the authors we have discussed. Since the time when they were writing, the United States has become 'distinctive': it is no longer meaningful to analyse and compare it as if it were simply one state or social system among others.

Trips to, or stays in, the United States have ceased to offer the kind of special cognitive opportunities or comparative perspectives that our three travellers rightly assumed to exist in their own time. One reason for this is that, quite apart from mass tourism, regular visits to the United States have today become a routine activity for members of many professional groups; another is that one no longer needs to travel there to learn about the nature of American values, interests and cultural patterns. For nearly all participants in the global system, and certainly for Europeans, the United States is no longer a spatially distant entity but a military, commercial and cultural presence, here and now, in a common space. American realities have in part become our reality 'on the spot'. The dollar exchange-rate, US government decisions and military operations have immediate global effects and global news value. Our daily work materials rest upon technical inventions and developments in the United States, and the distinctively 'American' arts of cinema and music dominate the world market in the entertainment industry. I know of no academic discipline in which other than American research results and publications provide the intellectual premisses and paradigmatic yardsticks for research and teaching." One might even reverse Hegel's Hamburg–Altona metaphor for the relationship between Europe and America and see Europe today in the role of Altona' .

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has had a largely free hand in selecting these `evil' enemies, who have to face a rich panoply of commercial and military sanctions. These enemies are defined by one or more of three attributes: they support, harbour or assist (actively or by default) people engaged in `terrorism'; they dispose of, or are seeking to acquire, weapons of mass destruction; and they operate a violently repressive regime against all or part of their own population. However, `rogue state' and `terrorist' are highly flexible labels, both theoretically and practically. If necessary, lies and deception can be used to suggest that a country possesses or has the potential to develop weapons of mass destruction (Iraq, Cuba), and in other cases real evidence of the same can be opportunistically ignored (Pakistan). States that only allegedly have a WMD potential then become the target for preventive (or, in a logically monstrous intensification, 'pre-emptively preventive') intervention. Similarly, the criterion of `terror-ism', or state sponsorship and support for terrorism, is wide open to interested definitions and can also be disregarded for opportunistic reasons – quite apart from the fact that the emergence of violent non-state actors seeking to gain power (`terrorists') is often not so much a legitimating cause as a factual consequence of military intervention that leads to the destruction of existing state structures (Iraq). The repressiveness of a state appears to be the most plausible criterion of its 'evil' character, but this clearly plays the least significant role in American policy; one thinks here of that 'other' 11 September (in Chile, 1973), when a regime bent on large-scale killing of its own population was not brought down by US foreign policy but helped to power and given favourable support. Yet the superpower has a completely free hand in defining the 'evil enemy' only if it can successfully bypass the authority of others (e.g. the UN Security Council) to construct such definitions and manipulate the national and international public with false claims to certainty.

The end of the Cold War in November 1989 brought the surprising and definitive self-liquidation of the enemy of the time – a system which, at least in one dominant reading, had reliably qualified as an enemy in the postwar decades according to two of the three criteria mentioned above (internal repression and assumed external aggressiveness). There is little dispute about the repressive and aggressive character of the Iraqi regime that was bombed out of existence in 2003.

But it was not unimportant whether this verdict on the regime remained a matter for the American government and sections of international public opinion, or whether it was validated in a UN Security Council resolution that explicitly made it the basis for certain sanctions. Today there is scarcely any realistic prospect of successful nation-building in Iraq. Rather, American action there has created the ideal conditions for the new 'terrorist' enemy, who is known to flourish as nowhere else in the kind of state ruins to which American bombing reduced the country both physically and metaphorically. It is true that, at least in the eyes of the public in the liberal democracies, the criterion regarding the morally reprehensible nature of the new enemy is satisfied in Iraq more clearly than in any other case since the American war against Hitler's Germany and its allies. But in the 'new wars', in which a state or alliance of states is directly opposed to a network of non-state actors, one is literally talking of 'perennial' war that cannot be won by military means. Nor, given the lack of anyone empowered to sign the terms of surrender, can we imagine how it would be securely established that the war had actually come to an end.

Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America by Jean-Michel Palmier, translated by David Fernbach (Verso) In 1933 thousands of intellectuals, artists, writers, militants and other opponents of the Nazi regime fled Germany. They were, in the words of Heinrich Mann, "the best of Germany," refusing to remain citizens in this new state that legalized terror and brutality. One of the many sobering lessons of the Third Reich was the failure of Germany's intellectual elite to stop the rise of Hitler. Starting in 1933, with Hitler's assumption of power, German poets, philosophers, playwrights, artists and scientists—including Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin, Stefan Zweig and thousands of others—seeing the writing on the wall, packed up and found new homes.
They emigrated to Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Oslo, Vienna, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Mexico, Jerusalem, Moscow. Throughout their exile they strove to give expression to the fight against Nazism through their work, in prose, poetry and painting, architecture, film and theater. Weimar in Exile follows these lives, from the rise of national socialism to the return to their ruined homeland, retracing their stories, struggles, setbacks and rare victories.
This absorbing history covers the lives of Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Döblin, Hans Eisler, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Anna Seghers, Ernst Toller, Stefan Zweig and many others, whose dignity in exile is a moving counterpoint to the story of Germany under the Nazis.

French scholar Palmier has written a well-nigh exhaustive work on this cultural diaspora. His staggering achievement is to portray the exquisite poignancy of these exiles' situation: powerless Germans forced to watch their country implode from abroad. Palmier's deceptively straightforward structure cloaks a far more cunning and generous approach. "Europe" ends in Barcelona, while the American phase ends with McCarthy; thus, he shows, these cultural stalwarts were learning new forms of political disappointment with each passing day. Palmier's command of this vast subject is truly breathtaking; he finds space to address exiles in Turkey, China and Latin America; exiles in American academia; and the legal problems they faced. And all the while, the story of these exiles is really, by indirection, the story of the Third Reich itself constantly agitating against them.
If historians differ in their analysis of the causes for the defeat of the émigrés anti-fascist struggle as reflected in Walter Benjamin's Letters to Germans where “he cradled the illusion that intelligence and cunning could put an end to a power that granted the spirit no autonomy, considering it a mere means with which no confrontation need be feared,” to quote Adorno.  The return of the émigrés to their homeland is marked with ambivalence.  Their writings eventually being published in Germany and their lives and martyrdom now almost sacrosanct, when only a couple of decades ago their rehabilitation was suspect.  Walter Benjamin proposed a critique by writing that there is no culture that is not also a document of barbarism.  The questions that any investigation of the anti-fascist emigration raise are inseparable from those concerning its origin.  They invite us to retrace the history of the Weimar Republic, understand its weaknesses and why it was incapable of establishing a genuine democracy in Germany.

Christa Wolf, an important postwar German writer, often quotes a significant passage from Goethe: “this dark race is beyond help; for the most part you had to remain silent so as not to be considered mad like Cassandra, when you prophecy what already lies outside the gate.”  So the ambivalent pronouncements of the émigrés have often found a public unwilling to hear or to learn from this experience.  Perhaps unfortunately, this barbarism will be revisited to another generation much like the cycle of the seasons. Then perhaps, not.


A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America by Lizabeth Cohen (Knopf) The three decades after World War II are often heralded as a “Golden Era” of American affluence. But as Lizabeth Cohen makes clear, the pursuit of prosperity defined much more than the nation’s economy; it also became a basic component of American citizenship. Consumers were encouraged to buy not just for themselves, but for the good of the nation.
After a decade and a half of hard times resulting from the Great Depression and the war, the embrace of mass consumption, with its supposed far-reaching benefits—greater freedom, democracy, and equality—transformed American life. The extensive suburbanization of metropolitan areas (propelled by such government policies as the GI Bill), the shift from downtowns to shopping centers, and the advent of targeted marketing all fueled the consumer economy, but also sharpened divisions among Americans along gender, class, and racial lines. At the same time, mass consumption changed American politics, inspiring new forms of political activism through the civil rights and consumer movements and prompting politicians to apply the latest marketing strategies to their political campaigns.
Cohen traces the legacy of the “Consumers’ Republic” into our time, demonstrating how it has reshaped our relationship to government itself, with Americans increasingly judging public services—as if one more purchased good—by the personal benefits they derive from them.
Brilliantly researched and reasoned, A Consumers' Republic is a starkly illuminating social and political history.

 The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self by John C. Shields (University of Tennessee Press) AT FIRST GLANCE, THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK MAY SUGGEST THAT MY AIM IS TO RESURRECT AN ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN CULTURAL GRID AND THEN impose it on American thought and culture. In fact, I intend no such resurrection. Nor do I wish to burden the idea of America with some new cultural construct, external or otherwise. Instead, what I propose in this volume is the recovery of a heretofore lost key which unlocks the American self.

Few would dispute that the two modes of discourse which govern the cultures of Europe are the classical and the Judaeo‑Christian. Yet conventional wisdom holds that, when Anglo­Europeans, excluding other races and/or ethnicities, colonized the Atlantic shores of what would become the United States of America, these colonizers brought with them only the strand of Judaeo‑Christianity. Somehow the classical strand jumped ship on the way over. Many claim that true Americanness resides exclusively within the myth` of Adam.' At present these claimants, in a latter‑day jeremiad, energetically urge the American public to "return" to what is alleged to have been the founding fathers' Christian values. However, I have found the tenets of the Adamic myth (the Judaeo­Christian mythos) insufficient to explain the obvious secularity of the American people.

This book argues that both the largely spiritual Adamic discourse and the largely secular classical discourse crossed over from Europe. These two modes have intermingled dynamically in such a way that both have become rearticulated, in a manner distinct from that of Europe, in order to meet the demands of the American adventure in freedom. This peculiar blending of classical and biblical mythoi on the American strand constitutes the American cultural self. Recovery of this combination can mitigate what some have called America's fear of pastlessness, and perhaps allay that anxiety altogether.

Much of this fear of pastlessness may be attributed to the hegemonic effects of the  Adamic myth. This hegemony has concealed the Aeneas myth, or the classical half of the American self, for so long a time that nothing less than a full‑scale reclamation of the American Aeneas can address this loss satisfactorily. Recuperation of the forgotten classical half of the American cultural self, then, is this study's central concern. At the same time, this project interrogates the interconnectedness of the Adamic and the classical discourses. Such a recovery greatly strengthens arguments for an American exceptionalism. such as that made recently by Jack P Greene in Intellectual Construction of America.

For a considerable time I resisted the notion of a classical half of Americanness. So stubborn and so long has been the denigration of the Aeneas myth that an extensive archaeology was required before I could accept this classical half. Eventually, as I recovered a huge quantity of startling evidence that classical thought and culture had contributed mightily to shaping the American self, my skepticism diminished. This previously unseen classical half did and does exist, and recuperation of that half explains much about how and why Americans have acted and thought as they have, and continue to act and to think as they do.

For example, in writing entries for Levemier and Wilmes, American Writers Before 1800, I found that two of my subjects, Joseph Green and Joseph Seccombe, were authors of pastoral elegies, an unrecovered genre of Early American poetry. This form allowed its practitioners to record in poetic mode a tradition. After further investigation, I concluded that neither of these writers sought out Milton's Lycidas as a paradigm for imitation; rather, each (like Miltc­before them) went directly to Vergil for instruction in this form. Looking farther I determined that Green, writing later than Seccombe, had read Seccombe and borrowed some ideas from him. Green also borrowed from Jeremy Belknap, a consummate classicist and another Early American writer of pastoral elegy. Green, then, was writing as an Early American, not as an imitator of the British Milton, despite the undeniable fact that all of these writers (and virtually all Early American writers, from Cotton Mather to Phillis Wheatley) knew Milton, as well as many other British and Continental authors of this period.

This study advances a subordinate argument, too. When the tenets of the Aeneas myth are allowed to come into play along with those of the Adamic myth while reading the works of Early American writers, their writings (excluding those by Loyalists) do not display a dependence upon British authors. Rather, they demonstrate an originality and independence whose temper predicts the struggle for political and economic independence.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Early American writers were original thinkers, discovering for themselves an original identity. Recovery of the American Aeneas and its interaction with the Adamic myth necessitates a reevaluation of the whole of American literature created before 1800. While this volume initiates such a reevaluation, in no way does it exhaust this undertaking.

But this combination of classical and Adamic myths is not merely a phenomenon of pre‑Revolutionary America; indeed, it persists in a dialectical relationship even today. The chapters on Hawthorne and Melville demonstrate this persistence. Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineaux" and Melville's Billy Budd, rather than other texts, have been selected because practically every person who has taught or taken a survey course in nineteenth century American literature knows them. While the classical half of the American self persists in virtually all American authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, from James Fenimore Cooper to Willa Cather and beyond, here I have attempted only to establish the presence and persistence of the Aeneas myth.

It would be impossible to treat, in this limited space, the full compass and consequence of the persistence of the Aeneas myth. Nevertheless, I shall suggest some plausible directions that such a reassessment may take. What The American Aeneas sets out to accomplish, then, is to restore America's missing classical half. Doing so will provide a more precise and accurate paradeictic (model used as argument) for the American self, one against which we, without anxiety, may productively and usefully interrogate our self/selves.

Encyclopedia of American Cultural & Intellectual History: From the Puritans to Postmodernism 3 volume set  edited by Mary Kupiec Cayton and Peter Williams (0684805618) (Charles Scribners’ Sons: The Gale Group) [volume 1:0684805588 Volume 2: 0684805596 Volume 3: 06848060X] surveys the richly layered dimensions of American life in a format that clarifies the many issues, ideas, movements and places that constitute the American experience. How is the West defined as a cultural region? What did the notions of "secession" and "union" mean to Americans living in the 1860s? How does Disney pervade and influence perceptions about America today? In more than 200 articles written by scholars and enriched with illustrations, boxed biographies and documentary excerpts from primary sources, American thought and culture is thoroughly explored. The Encyclopedia covers not only historic periods such as the Colonial era and the Reagan era, but also looks at cultural groups such as the working class and cultural institutions and forms such as the university and cinema.

  presents a comprehensive survey of the shared beliefs, social constructs and material forms of American society and its underpinnings of rational thought, throughout its history. The muiltdisciplinary articles cover a range of subjects ‑ from art; education and science, to social class, race, geography and more. An introductory survey addresses the key ideas of each period of American history, such as Puritanism; Federalism and Transcendentalism. Essays are written around essential themes to ensure that the context of concepts is fully appreciated and understood by both the novice and the experienced scholar. Nor high school and college students, this set is an unparalleled resource for exploring ideas and movements that have shaped American history.

  • Multidisciplinary coverage supports the curriculum 

  • High school students writing papers in American history, civics, multicultural studies, geography

  • College students taking courses in anthropology, women's studies, political science, philosophy, religious and cultural studies

  • Public library collections supporting U.S. history, American studies, philosophy and the arts


  • 230 illustrated articles organized by theme
    Alphabetical table of contents

  • Boxed biographies and documentary excerpts from primary sources in each article

  • Chronology, bibliographies, index

Excerpt from Editors Introduction: 

Since the arrival of Europeans on New World soil over a half a millennium ago, "Americans" have been reflecting on human existence and expressing their thoughts and emotions in an extraordinary variety of ways. The encounter of native peoples with European newcomers initially led to mutual puzzlement and speculation on the nature of these reciprocal strangers. The importation of Africans as slaves generated further speculation on the part of Euro­-Americans as to the essential character of humanity, its oneness or its manyness. Subsequent waves of voluntary immigrants, eventually from the entire world, further complicated and enriched the process, rendering the new republic both a microcosm of the planet as well as a unique society, continually shifting its physical, social, and cultural accommodation to the presence of novelty. For over five hundred years, the amalgams of peoples who have comprised the American experiment have made sense of their experience through the exchange of ideas and through artistic expression.

These three volumes are an attempt to comprehend the ever‑changing character and rich variety of American thought and expression. Euro‑Americans in particular have reflected the thought patterns of their transatlantic homelands, bending those patterns to fit New World realities. Britain contributed much of the initial framework for reflection on such matters as the nature of humanity, society, and divinity, as well as the primary language of discourse. Soon, however, competing paradigms emerged. In music and religion, for example, African elements rapidly complemented and rivaled the European in providing alternate patterns of expression. The coming together of Catholic and Jew, Saxon and Slav, black and white in the urban crucibles of the late nineteenth century set the groundwork for unparalleled cultural production. The image of "mongrel Manhattan" in the 1920s, might well be extended to describe an entire nation where periodic campaigns of cultural purification proved helpless against the ceaseless tides of adaptation, accommodation, and uninhibited invention.

With this Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History, the editors were pleased to renew a collaboration begun with Scribners in the Encyclopedia of American Social History (1993). Like that set, the present work attempts to present systematically the most important scholarly insights and discussions in the field. In the manner of the earlier sets in the Scribner American Civilization series, these volumes are composed of entries in the systematic "reference essay" genre that Scribners is proud of having invented. More thoroughly than the usual encyclopedia entry and more accessibly than the typical academic journal article, each essay surveys a (limited) field of inquiry and provides an interpretation in the process.

As with the prior series, the editors have decided to arrange the contents architectonically rather than alphabetically, so that the structure of the work itself provides an overview of the entire field. The first eight sections are chronological, surveying the major periods of American history from the arrival of Europeans to the beginning of the twenty‑first century. Each section begins with an introduc­tory overview essay that provides context for the more specialized topics that follow.

Part 9 goes on to treat the thought and expression of several groups with distinctive identities derived from gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual pref­erence. In the interests of brevity, we were forced to make difficult decisions based on representativeness and distinctiveness. Similarly, in Part 10, at­tempts to choose a variety of cities and regions with distinctive or influential cultural histories without attempting to include every possibility. Part 11 includes topics relating to the natural order, the divine, and the construction of the human personality in American thought. The next three sections address discourse about the political, economic, and social orders. Part 15 surveys the various ways in which knowledge of all sorts has been categorized, institutionalized, pursued, financed, and disseminated. The next section looks serially at the most important media and genres through which ideas and cultural products have been con­veyed, addressing their distinctive characteristics and their unfolding in the American context. The final unit is theoretically oriented, and surveys a variety of major schools of thought in the interpretation of intellectual and cultural phenomena.

The 221 essays are supplemented by a variety of sidebars that excerpt original texts or provide other illustrative materials. In addition, many of the essays are accompanied by illustrations of works or figures dealt with in them. Each essay also includes a bibliography offering a selective guide to further reading.

Since the meanings of the terms "cultural" and "intellectual" are not self-evident, we submit the following as working definitions for our purposes. Within the realm of intellectual history we include the following:

  • Institutions involved in the creation and dissemination of knowledge
  • Public figures influential in the discourse of their times
  • Concepts, ideas, and ideologies that have played significant roles in shaping public discourse

 Within the realm of cultural history, we include these topics:

  • Artifacts and modes of expression that serve as tangible evidence of the un­derstandings and sensibilities of individuals and groups active in public discourse
  • Institutions related to the creation and dissemination of these products
  • Images or ideologies that transmit a vision of human behavior, human inter­action, or human possibility

 As a general rule, we have tried to include particular ideas or movements that had an impact on Americans in their own day; those that produced a continuing impact on American thought and expression; and those that have emerged as influential only in later times.

In 1993, our social history encyclopedia gained a certain coherence and by virtue of the pervasive Marxian or materialist strain and the determination to focus on groups of persons previously neglected historiographically. Race, class, and gender were and to a very great extent still are‑watchwords of the day. The field of social history, despite its new methodologies and subject matters, by and large maintained professional historians' faith in the existence of a re­coverable past. Absent stories of various peoples and groups could be recovered and reconsidered in the light of new knowledge, making for a more accurate and just version of the past. It was not until the social history movement was well under way that questions about the objectivity of historical practice‑first raised in a significant way in the 1930s‑were revived in new guises. Contemporary cultural and intellectual historians of the last two decades have labored inescapably in their shadow,

The questions came from a variety of directions. Skepticism about authority and power, increasing in the United States from the 1960s through the scandals and disillusionments of subsequent decades, led to questioning of the motives and good faith of institutions and persons. Knowledge, no longer a neutral ideal discovered by credentialed experts, became a political commodity subject to popular debate. Within the academy, poststructuralist and postmodernist theory aimed to unsettle all forms of certainty, providing critiques of the taken‑for-granted and the commonsensical. If, for much of the twentieth century, knowledge had been popularly seen pragmatically as a lever to move the world, by the end of the century, many feared that it was losing its fulcrum or grounding.

In the realm of theory, poststructuralism and postmodernism did not‑or have not yet‑altered in significant ways the basic practices of writing history. Most historians still see themselves reconstructing a past that really existed in some form, even if no historian will ever be able to recapture it in its entirety and without bias. At the same time, no historian has been immune to questions about the ways in which perspective colors our reconstructions of the past. Dealing with the issues raised by perspectivalism has been a particularly thought provoking business for intellectual and cultural historians. Ideas and public artistic expression, the main subjects of these volumes, never operate at the level of raw experience; they are always at one remove. To articulate an idea or communicate through a work of art, we must always construct a way of experiencing the world: What things, drawn from the vast array of human utterance and expression, are worth examining, recording, and remembering? The choice, we have discovered, is always a political question, and always a question of values. What we say, or even think to say, depends on the experience and questions we bring to our investigation.

Readers will find that the essays in this encyclopedia reflect a number of issues and trends peculiar not only to cultural and intellectual history but to much contemporary historical practice. At the outset it was not our intent as editors to showcase these issues. But as essays were drafted on a wide variety of topics, it became clear that the field we examine here is in flux and full of creative challenge and tension.

First, readers will note little general agreement among authors on essential common denominators involved in the study of ideas, intellectuals, and public expression in the American past. Current scholarship is rich and diverse; and it sprawls without apology in many different directions. In contrast to our examination of social history scholarship, where themes converged and a few major paradigms ruled the day, we found few implicitly accepted assumptions about what should count as cultural or intellectual history today and what should not‑and little debate about the question. As genres have expanded and their limits have blurred over the last generation, the boundaries defining these two categories of scholarship have become less than clear‑cut, and perhaps less important as well.

Unable to deal with, or even to define, intellectual or cultural history in every possible sense, we (along with our board of editors) have made some fairly pragmatic and arbitrary decisions about the limits of the current project. For example, although many historians today might consider a variety of ethnographic histories and popular culture studies as falling under the rubric of either intellectual or cultural history, these are already well represented in the Encyclopedia of American Social History and we do not cover them here. We direct readers interested in such topics to the earlier set. For the sake of unity and clarity, we deal here with culture primarily as it manifests itself in concrete ways in the broader public sphere, most particularly as artifacts, institutions, and approaches identified with important public figures or groups.

Along with the blurring of lines among genres, readers may also note a certain division in these essays between attempts to reconstruct the past as it existed and those more nearly oriented to exploring the assumptions we use to construct the past. Contemporary intellectual and cultural history includes both kinds of scholarship. Authors have sometimes chosen to approach their topics by examining how we have come to think about a particular notion or topic in history rather than by looking directly at lived experience. In the essay on "Women," for example, Louise Stevenson might have chosen to narrate a story about particular contributions that particular women or groups of women have made to intellectual and cultural life in the United States. Instead, she chooses to tell a story about women's inclusion and exclusion in intellectual history over time, underlining the ways in which the categories and the definitions we use to produce knowledge may be as important as anything we may "discover" in the fabric of the past. Elsewhere in these volumes, readers will encounter other essays where the author looks more closely at change over time in the nature of knowledge than at concrete experience and accomplishment in the past.

As with the Encyclopedia of American Social History, readers will undoubtedly notice that the identity categories of race, gender, class, sexual preference, and ethnicity have made a difference in contemporary cultural and intellectual historical scholarship, although perhaps not nearly to as great an extent as in social history. When commissioning essays, we provided potential contributors with exactly the same guidelines with regard to inclusiveness as we did for Social History. Wherever possible, consider the experiences and contributions of those with a variety of cultural affiliations and identities. The result this time has been different. Over time, we discovered some things that scholars working with the ideas and cultural expression of non‑dominant groups have probably long known. First, the notion of a "general public sphere" of discourse with which we began is problematic. Because we focus here on public discourse and expression, the intellectual and cultural expression of persons and groups excluded from the public sphere at various times is less visible than any might wish. Second, because the general "public sphere" serves the needs of some groups better than others, many delimited spheres also exist. These reflect the experiences and ideas of particular groups defined along racial, ethnic, religious, gender, sexual, or regional lines. Aspects of African American public culture that become visible to non-blacks, for example, may represent only the tip of the iceberg, as topics or forms of expression mainly of interest to African Americans never make their way into the more general discourse. To deal thoroughly with cultural and intellectual expression among Americans, we need reconstructions on their own terms of the intellectual and cultural lives of peoples who have not dominated discussion and expression in the public sphere. Any future study of American cultural and intellectual history undoubtedly will look different as more scholarly studies of this sort become available. We hope such studies will benefit from our attempt to lay the groundwork.

Finally, readers will surely notice among the present essays an increased tendency among authors to take explicit or implicit political stands regarding their topics. Many scholars have questioned the ideal of objectivity in historical writing, particularly in disciplines where postmodern theory has exercised a strong influence. They believe that absolute neutrality in treating the past is neither possible nor desirable. The editors believe that a project such as this one should reflect the state of the art, and we have not insisted that authors attempt to conceal political biases. At the same time, we believe that in a comprehensive work, even essays with strong points of view need to present different sides of an issue fairly and accurately. Where an essay takes a perspective critical of existing institutions and practices, for example, we think that the author has an obligation to represent what may be at stake from a more conservative point of view as well. Conversely, an author who is critical of particular efforts to reform or change still has an obligation to represent them fairly. Our rule of thumb has been that even when all sides cannot be presented, the approach should be fair and complete enough so that a person holding an opposing point of view would acknowledge the representation to be accurate. Readers will note a fair number of essays in this set where the authors have not been shy about staking out positions on controversial topics.

Selection of topic from Index: Abolitionism Academic disciplines ACT‑UP Adult education Advertising Affirmative action AIDS Alien and Sedition act Alien Land Act Amana, Iowa American Acad. Arts/Letters American Bar Association American Broadcasting Co. American Football League American Library Assoc. Amusements parks Antebellum era Anticommunism Anti‑Semitism Antislavery Antiwar movement Architecture Armory Show (NYC, 1913) Art Automobile industry Avant‑garde Baptists Beat writers Bible Black church Boston Buildings Capitalism Censorship Chicago Childhood Churches Citizenship Civil rights movement Colleges and universities Communications Community Conservatism Consumerism Cooperatives Counterculture Crafts Dance Dance halls Decorative arts Democracy Democratic Party Demographics Deregulation Design Discrimination Divorce Domesticity, ideology Drama Dreams Dutch Early America Early republic Economics Education Elections Elitism Engineering Enlightenment Entertainment Environmentalism Ethnicity Evangelicalism Evolution Exhibits, art Expansion Expatriate artists Factories Family Farming Fashion Federalism Federalists Feminism Festivals Fiction Film industry Films Folklore Ford Motor Company Foreign policy Freedom Friendship Furniture Fur trade Gay rights movement Gays and lesbians Gender Gender roles Gentility and manners German Americans Government Great Awakening Great Depression Greenwich Village Harlem Renaissance Harvard University Health Heroes Higher education Hispanics Hollywood Homes Hospitals Housing Identity Ideologies Immigrants and immigration Individualism Industrialists Industrialization Institutions Intellectuals Intelligence Irish Americans Italian Americans Jazz Jews Journalism Journals Judaism Knowledge Labor Labor movement Labor organization Landscapes Language Law Lawyers Learned societies Lectures Leisure Liberalism Libraries Library of Congress Library science, school of Life (magazine) Lutherans Lynching Literature Lithographs Magazines Management Manhood Manifest Destiny Maps Marches Market economy Marketing Marriage Masculinity Mass media Mass production Material life Mathematics Medicine Membership libraries Methodism Methodology Middle class Mills Minimalism Mining Missionary societies Missions Modernism Monopolies Monuments and memorials Morality Moral philosophy Motherhood Multiculturalism Multimedia conglomerates Murals Museums Music Musical instruments Musicals Mutual aid societies Myth and symbol Nationalism Native Americans Naturalism Natural sciences Natural wood New Deal New Left New Right News Newspapers Nickelodeons Novels Opera Optimism Oral tradition Orators Orchestras Organic foods Pacifism Painting Parades Parks Patents Patriotism Patronage Periodicals Personality Philanthropy Philosophy Photography Physical education Plantation society Poetry Political conventions Political correctness Political economy Politics Pool halls Poor relief Pop art Popular arts Popular culture Population Populism Pornography Portraitists Portraits Positive thinking Postmodernism Poststructmalism Post‑surrealism Pottery Poverty Power Pragmatism Preaching Presbyterians Presidential powers Press Printing Professional associations Professionalization Professionals Professionals sports Progress Progressive Era Progressive movement Progressive reformers Prohibition Propaganda Prostitution Protestantism Psychology Public buildings Public education Public health movement Public speaking Public sphere Publishing Puritans Quakers Quality of life Queer studies Quilts Quiz show scandals Rabbis Race Racism Radicalism Radio Radio programs Railroads Rape crisis centers & hotlines Reading Realism Reconstruction Recording industry Reform Reform movement Refugees Regionalism Religion Religious tolerance Reporters Republicanism Republican Party Research Research universities Retail Ritual Rituals Robber barons Roman Catholic Church Roman Catholics Romanticism Rural life Salons Saloons School district libraries Schools Science Science fiction Scientific racism Scientific societies Scots‑Irish Screenwriting Sculpture Second City Second Great Awakening Self Self‑culture Self­Help Graphics and Art Self‑improvement Self‑reliance Seminaries Semiotics Sentimentalism Separate‑but‑equal doctrine Separate spheres Sermons Settlement houses Sex as commodity mass cult. Sexuality Shakers Skyscrapers Slave culture/consciousness Slave folktales Slave laws Slave narratives Slave religious traditions Slavery Slaves Smithsonian Institution Social classes Social criticism Socialism Socialist Party Social reform Social sciences Social Security Act Social status Society Sociology Songs Sound recordings South, the Space program Spectator sports Spirituality Spirituals Sports Star system Statistics Stereotypes Stock market crash Strikes Students Suburbia Success Suffering Suffrage Sunday schools Supreme Court Surrealism Symbols Taverns Taxes Tea Teachers Technology Television Television programs Temperance movement Textbooks Textiles Theaters Theology Think tanks Tourism Town planning Trade Trademarks Trade unions Trail of Tears Transcendentalism Transportation Travel Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire (1911) Truth Underground railroad Unitarianism United Auto Workers United Farm Workers United Mine Workers United Nations United Negro Improvement Association United States Postal Service Urban cultural institutions Urbanization U.S. Capitol Utopianism Vaudeville Vietnam War Violence Visual arts Voluntary organization Voting War Water Web pages Welfare Whig Party Whiteness White supremacy Witchcraft Women Women's liberation Women's movement Women's rights movement Women's suffrage Work Working class Workplace World's fairs World War I World War II Wounded Knee massacre Zoot Suit riots

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