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A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, James Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. Block roots both self and society in the concept of agency, rather than liberty, and dispenses with the national myth of the "sacred cause of liberty"--with the Declaration of Independence as its "American scripture." Instead, he recovers the early modern conception of agency as the true synthesis emerging from America's Protestant and liberal cultural foundations.

Block traces agency doctrine from its pre-Commonwealth English origins through its development into the American mainstream culture on the eve of the twentieth century. The concept of agency that prevailed in the colonies simultaneously released individuals from traditional constraints to participate actively and self-reliantly in social institutions, while confining them within a new set of commitments. Individual initiative was now firmly bounded by the modern values and ends of personal Protestant religiosity and collective liberal institutional authority. As Block shows, this complex relation of self to society lies at the root of the American character.

A Nation of Agents is a new reading of what the "first new nation" did and did not achieve. It will enable us to move beyond long-standing national myths and grasp both the American achievement and its legacy for modernity.

Book News Annotation:

Block (political science, DePaul U.) rejects arguments that American political identity is rooted in conceptions of liberty. He instead avers that the principle American political value was the concept of agency, arising from Protestant religious doctrine and two major theorists of liberalism, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. He explores the rise of agency doctrine in England, its reception in the United States, and its full implementation in American society following the Great Awakening. Belknap Press is an imprint of Harvard U. Press. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, James Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. Block roots both self and society in the concept of agency, rather than liberty, and dispenses with the national myth of the "sacred cause of liberty"--with the Declaration of Independence as its "American scripture."

Synopsis:

In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. "A Nation of Agents" is a new reading of what the "first new nation" did and did not achieve. It can enable readers to move beyond long-standing national myths and grasp both the American achievement and its legacy for modernity.

About the Author

James E. Block is Associate Professor of Political Science at DePaul University.

DePaul University

Table of Contents

Preface

1. The American Narrative in Crisis

Part I. The English Origins of the American Self and Society

2. The Early Puritan Insurgents and the Origins of Agency

3. The Protestant Revolutionaries and the Emerging Society of Agents

4. Thomas Hobbes and the Founding of the Liberal Politics of Agency

5. John Locke and the Mythic Society of Free Agents

Part II. The Ascendancy of Agency and the First New Nation

6. The Great Awakening and the Emergent Culture of Agency

7. The Revolutionary Triumph of Agency

Part III. The Dilemma of Nationhood

8. The Liberal Idyll amidst Republican Realities

9. From the Idyll: Liberation and Reversal in a World without Bounds

Part IV. The Creation of an Agency Civilization

10. National Revival as the Crucible of Agency Character

11. From Sectarian Discord to Civil Religion

12. The Protestant Agent in Liberal Economics

13. John Dewey and the Modern Synthesis

Conclusion: The Recovery of Agency

Notes

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780674008830
Author:
Block, James E.
Publisher:
Belknap Press
Location:
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
United states
Subject:
United States - General
Subject:
Protestantism
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
Liberalism
Subject:
Political culture
Subject:
National characteristics, american
Subject:
Agent
Subject:
History & Theory - General
Subject:
United States Politics and government.
Subject:
US History-General
Subject:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
1083
Publication Date:
October 2002
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 halftone
Pages:
672
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 39 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

A Nation of Agents: The American Path to a Modern Self and Society New Hardcover
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Product details 672 pages Belknap Press - English 9780674008830 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, James Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. Block roots both self and society in the concept of agency, rather than liberty, and dispenses with the national myth of the "sacred cause of liberty"--with the Declaration of Independence as its "American scripture."
"Synopsis" by , In this sweeping reinterpretation of American political culture, Block offers a new perspective on the formation of the modern American self and society. "A Nation of Agents" is a new reading of what the "first new nation" did and did not achieve. It can enable readers to move beyond long-standing national myths and grasp both the American achievement and its legacy for modernity.
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