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Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Characterby Claude S. Fischer
"Last year, the British production company that made what has become the popular series America: The Story of Us for the History Channel invited me to review the script, which treats the invention of America across 400 years. I advised against the use of the term 'American national character' on the grounds that it was misleading, since all Americans don't have the same character, and the term elides variations in race, class, region, religion, ethnicity, gender, and politics. In any case, it was academically unfashionable. Now, Claude S. Fischer's Made in America has rehabilitated the expression 'American character,' at least for me." Daniel Walker Howe, The Wilson Quarterly ( read the entire Wilson Quarterly review)
Synopses & Reviews
Our nation began with the simple phrase, "We the People". But who were and are "We"? Who were we in 1776, in 1865, or 1968, and is there any continuity in character between the we of those years and the nearly 300 million people living in the radically different America of today?
With Made in America, Claude S. Fischer draws on decades of historical, psychological, and social research to answer that question by tracking the evolution of American character and culture over three centuries. He explodes myths — such as that contemporary Americans are more mobile and less religious than their ancestors, or that they are more focused on money and consumption — and reveals instead how greater security and wealth have only reinforced the independence, egalitarianism, and commitment to community that characterized our people from the earliest years. Skillfully drawing on personal stories of representative Americans, Fischer shows that affluence and social progress have allowed more people to participate fully in cultural and political life, thus broadening the category of "American" yet at the same time what it means to be an American has retained surprising continuity with much earlier notions of American character.
Firmly in the vein of such classics as The Lonely Crowd and Habits of the Heart, yet challenging many of their conclusions Made in America takes readers beyond the simplicity of headlines and the actions of elites to show us the lives, aspirations, and emotions of ordinary Americans, from the settling of the colonies to the settling of the suburbs.
"The wants, needs, hopes, and aspirations of generations of Americans — 'all sorts and conditions' of them — are given careful and circumspect attention in this arresting portrait of a nation ever, it seems, changing, growing. Here is a book that will tell its readers much about how and why a people once struggling to find and define themselves-the very terrain of their country, and too, its values and ideas-became the members of a United States of America whose many variations and sometime contradictions are brought tellingly alive in pages of clear, illuminating, and well-informed prose." Robert Coles
"Made in America is a book rich in its findings and judicious in its interpretations. Fischer has uncovered a lot of things that even those of us who have long studied the United States didn't know, and he has also expertly shown that many of the things we thought we knew are simply wrong. The book will make any reader wiser and more careful in thinking about this strange country in which we live." Robert Bellah
About the Author
Claude S. Fischer is professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of many books, including Century of Difference: How America Changed in the Last One Hundred Years and America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. The Stories We Tell
5. Public Spaces
List of Abbreviations
What Our Readers Are Saying
History and Social Science » American Studies » General