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Age of Fractureby Daniel T. Rodgers
Synopses & Reviews
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the ideas that most Americans lived by started to fragment. Mid-century concepts of national consensus, managed markets, gender and racial identities, citizen obligation, and historical memory became more fluid. Flexible markets pushed aside Keynesian macroeconomic structures. Racial and gender solidarity divided into multiple identities; community responsibility shrank to smaller circles. In this wide-ranging narrative, Daniel Rodgers shows how the collective purposes and meanings that had framed social debate became unhinged and uncertain.
Age of Fracture offers a powerful reinterpretation of the ways in which the decades surrounding the 1980s changed America. Through a contagion of visions and metaphors, on both the intellectual right and the intellectual left, earlier notions of history and society that stressed solidity, collective institutions, and social circumstances gave way to a more individualized human nature that emphasized choice, agency, performance, and desire. On a broad canvas that includes Michel Foucault, Ronald Reagan, Judith Butler, Charles Murray, Jeffrey Sachs, and many more, Rodgers explains how structures of power came to seem less important than market choice and fluid selves.
Cutting across the social and political arenas of late-twentieth-century life and thought, from economic theory and the culture wars to disputes over poverty, color-blindness, and sisterhood, Rodgers reveals how our categories of social reality have been fractured and destabilized. As we survey the intellectual wreckage of this war of ideas, we better understand the emergence of our present age of uncertainty.
Book News Annotation:
Rodgers (history, Princeton U.) presents a wide-ranging intellectual history of changes in political, economic, and social thought in the United States (although the intellectuals discussed are by no means only Americans) in the final quarter of the 20th century. His treatment offers no grand, unitary narrative of intellectual change, but instead seeks to demonstrate how ideas were contested and bled across disciplinary and social boundaries in ways that fundamentally reshaped the ideological landscape of the country. He presents his argument in chapters that thematically focus on the revival of market ideology in response to the economic crisis of the 1970s, reconceptualizations of the nature of power, debates over race and social memory, conceptualizations of womanhood, multiculturalism and societal identity, and the nature of history. If there is any one overarching theme, it is that this period was a time when concepts of society were fragmented in a shifting stock of categories and within a "swirl of choice." Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
2012 Bancroft Prize, Columbia University
2011 John G. Cawelti Award, Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association
About the Author
Daniel T. Rodgers is Henry Charles Lea Professor of History at Princeton University.
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