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Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class and the Soul of the Nation

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The ideology of the American dream--the faith that an individual can attain success and virtue through strenuous effort--is the very soul of the American nation. According to Jennifer Hochschild, we have failed to face up to what that dream requires of our society, and yet we possess no other central belief that can save the United States from chaos. In this compassionate but frightening book, Hochschild attributes our national distress to the ways in which whites and African Americans have come to view their own and each other's opportunities. By examining the hopes and fears of whites and especially of blacks of various social classes, Hochschild demonstrates that America's only unifying vision may soon vanish in the face of racial conflict and discontent.

Hochschild combines survey data and vivid anecdote to clarify several paradoxes. Since the 1960s white Americans have seen African Americans as having better and better chances to achieve the dream. At the same time middle-class blacks, by now one-third of the African American population, have become increasingly frustrated personally and anxious about the progress of their race. Most poor blacks, however, cling with astonishing strength to the notion that they and their families can succeed--despite their terrible, perhaps worsening, living conditions. Meanwhile, a tiny number of the estranged poor, who have completely given up on the American dream or any other faith, threaten the social fabric of the black community and the very lives of their fellow blacks.

Hochschild probes these patterns and gives them historical depth by comparing the experience of today's African Americans to that of white ethnic immigrants at the turn of the century. She concludes by claiming that America's only alternative to the social disaster of intensified racial conflict lies in the inclusiveness, optimism, discipline, and high-mindedness of the American dream at its best.

Synopsis:

The ideology of the American dream--the faith that an individual can attain success and virtue through strenuous effort--is the very soul of the American nation. According to Jennifer Hochschild, we have failed to face up to what that dream requires of our society, and yet we possess no other central belief that can save the United States from chaos. In this compassionate but frightening book, Hochschild attributes our national distress to the ways in which whites and African Americans have come to view their own and each other's opportunities. By examining the hopes and fears of whites and especially of blacks of various social classes, Hochschild demonstrates that America's only unifying vision may soon vanish in the face of racial conflict and discontent.

Hochschild combines survey data and vivid anecdote to clarify several paradoxes. Since the 1960s white Americans have seen African Americans as having better and better chances to achieve the dream. At the same time middle-class blacks, by now one-third of the African American population, have become increasingly frustrated personally and anxious about the progress of their race. Most poor blacks, however, cling with astonishing strength to the notion that they and their families can succeed--despite their terrible, perhaps worsening, living conditions. Meanwhile, a tiny number of the estranged poor, who have completely given up on the American dream or any other faith, threaten the social fabric of the black community and the very lives of their fellow blacks.

Hochschild probes these patterns and gives them historical depth by comparing the experience of today's African Americans to that of white ethnic immigrants at the turn of the century. She concludes by claiming that America's only alternative to the social disaster of intensified racial conflict lies in the inclusiveness, optimism, discipline, and high-mindedness of the American dream at its best.

Table of Contents

Tables and Figure
Preface to the Paperback Edition
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction3
Ch. 1What Is the American Dream?15
Ch. 2Rich and Poor African Americans39
Ch. 3"What's All the Fuss About?": Blacks' and Whites' Beliefs about the American Dream55
Ch. 4"Succeeding More" and "Under the Spell": Affluent and Poor Blacks' Beliefs about the American Dream72
Ch. 5Beliefs about One's Own Life91
Ch. 6Beliefs about Others122
Ch. 7Competitive Success and Collective Well being141
Ch. 8Remaining under the Spell157
Ch. 9With One Part of Themselves They Actually Believe174
Ch. 10Distorting the Dream184
Ch. 11Breaking the Spell200
Ch. 12The Perversity of Race and the Fluidity of Values214
Ch. 13Comparing Blacks and White Immigrants225
Ch. 14The Future of the American Dream250
Appendix ASurveys Used for Unpublished Tabulations261
Appendix BSupplemental Tables267
Notes271
Works Cited341
Index399

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691029207
Author:
Hochschild, Jennifer L.
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Location:
Princeton
Subject:
Sociology - General
Subject:
Ethnology
Subject:
U.S. Government
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
Sociology, anthropology and archaeology
Subject:
Social conditions
Subject:
Government - U.S. Government
Subject:
Sociology
Subject:
American history
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Politics-United States Politics
Subject:
Politics - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives
Publication Date:
August 1996
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
10 figs. 24 tables
Pages:
440
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 22 oz

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » American Studies » General
History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class and the Soul of the Nation Used Trade Paper
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$34.00 In Stock
Product details 440 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691029207 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The ideology of the American dream--the faith that an individual can attain success and virtue through strenuous effort--is the very soul of the American nation. According to Jennifer Hochschild, we have failed to face up to what that dream requires of our society, and yet we possess no other central belief that can save the United States from chaos. In this compassionate but frightening book, Hochschild attributes our national distress to the ways in which whites and African Americans have come to view their own and each other's opportunities. By examining the hopes and fears of whites and especially of blacks of various social classes, Hochschild demonstrates that America's only unifying vision may soon vanish in the face of racial conflict and discontent.

Hochschild combines survey data and vivid anecdote to clarify several paradoxes. Since the 1960s white Americans have seen African Americans as having better and better chances to achieve the dream. At the same time middle-class blacks, by now one-third of the African American population, have become increasingly frustrated personally and anxious about the progress of their race. Most poor blacks, however, cling with astonishing strength to the notion that they and their families can succeed--despite their terrible, perhaps worsening, living conditions. Meanwhile, a tiny number of the estranged poor, who have completely given up on the American dream or any other faith, threaten the social fabric of the black community and the very lives of their fellow blacks.

Hochschild probes these patterns and gives them historical depth by comparing the experience of today's African Americans to that of white ethnic immigrants at the turn of the century. She concludes by claiming that America's only alternative to the social disaster of intensified racial conflict lies in the inclusiveness, optimism, discipline, and high-mindedness of the American dream at its best.

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