Synopses & Reviews
From Thomas Jefferson to Lewis Mumford, from Henry David Thoreau to the hippies of the 1960s, advocates of the simple life have formed a diverse tradition in America's cultural history. Here, for the first time, David Shi presents an intriguing and comprehensive study of the many different ways in which Americans have pursued the elusive ideal of plain living and high thinking.
Beginning with the colonial period and the Puritan and Quaker ethic of hard work, temperate living and spiritual devotion, Shi ends with a discussion of Jimmy Carter's and Ronald Reagan's contrasting views of what constitutes the good life. In between we encounter a compelling cast of characters, including Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Scott and Helen Nearing.
In treating the simple life both as a sentimental ideal and as a guide for individual conduct, Shi reveals the intellectual and cultural life of this country and illuminates the persistent desire of select individuals and groups to elevate American life above the material and the mundane.
1st issued as an Oxford University Press pbk., 1986. Bibliography: p. 283-323.