By James E. Block
During this sweeping reinterpretation of yankee political tradition, James Block bargains a brand new point of view at the formation of the fashionable American self and society. Block roots either self and society within the inspiration of business enterprise, instead of liberty, and dispenses with the nationwide delusion of the "sacred explanation for liberty"--with the announcement of Independence as its "American scripture." as an alternative, he recovers the early glossy perception of supplier because the real synthesis rising from America's Protestant and liberal cultural foundations. Block strains service provider doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins via its improvement into the yankee mainstream tradition at the eve of the 20th century. the concept that of enterprise that prevailed within the colonies concurrently published contributors from conventional constraints to take part actively and self-reliantly in social associations, whereas confining them inside of a brand new set of commitments. person initiative was once now firmly bounded via the trendy values and ends of private Protestant religiosity and collective liberal institutional authority. As Block indicates, this advanced relation of self to society lies on the root of the yankee personality. A country of brokers is a brand new examining of what the "first new state" did and didn't in achieving. it's going to allow us to maneuver past long-standing nationwide myths and seize either the yankee success and its legacy for modernity.
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Extra resources for A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society
Its vision was of individuals freed from lifelong submissiveness within authoritarian hierarchies in every domain of societal life in order to be resubordinated to the emerging institutions of liberal society, and placed qua individuals as equal agents capable of undertaking the realization of collective ends. The process of theoretical consolidation and societal integration was the work of the full nineteenth century, and its great propounder was the preeminent liberal theorist, who was himself from an activist evangelical background, John Dewey.
By seeing both ages more clearly, we may be able to grasp the reasons for the Protestant-liberal triumph as well as the fault lines of the agency settlement and the paths not taken. That is, the dislocations of our own time—with changing attitudes toward authority, a breakdown of institutional structures, and the search for new psychological and social forms—suggest a parallel with the collapse of traditional society and the birth of modernity. The agency paradigm then becomes the starting The American Narrative in Crisis 35 point for the struggles of our day and the possible seedbed of contemporary dreams.
If we are unable to dispute Hartz, we may in this way be able to contextualize him. The claim of American liberalism ever since the Revolution to have realized a nearly optimal degree of individual autonomy with political, market, social, and religious freedom contains discrepancies so evident that in our time they undercut its legitimacy. ”119 Perhaps the structural and characterological constraints forged by this ﬁrst agency nation are still necessary. Perhaps in their existing form they are not.
A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society by James E. Block