Read e-book online American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation PDF

By Robert Wuthnow

ISBN-10: 0691138559

ISBN-13: 9780691138558

The USA was once outfitted on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style changes, self-made males, and the Protestant paintings ethic. during this new booklet, popular sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those such a lot American of stories--narratives approximately individualism, immigration, luck, faith, and ethnicity--through the eyes of modern immigrants. In doing so, he demonstrates how the "American mythos" has either legitimized American society and avoided it from absolutely figuring out its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide attention. It info how american citizens have ordinarily trusted narratives to deal with what it skill to be powerful, morally accountable participants and to provide an explanation for why a few individuals are extra winning than others--in brief, to assist us make experience of our lives. however it argues that those narratives have performed little to assist us confront new demanding situations. We cross legislation to finish racial discrimination, but lack the unravel to create a extra equitable society. We welcome the belief of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken via the problems immigration offers. We champion prosperity for all, yet dwell in a rustic the place households are nonetheless homeless. American Mythos aptly files this disconnect among the tales we inform and the truth we are facing. interpreting how cultural narratives would possibly not, and infrequently don't, replicate the truth of cutting-edge society, it demanding situations readers to develop into extra reflective approximately what it potential to dwell as much as the yankee perfect.

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Additional info for American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short

Sample text

Transmission of this kind happens through families and is the reason that strong families are so often mentioned as a critical component of civil society. Civic education through public and private schooling plays an equally vital role in maintaining democracy. Specific knowledge about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the voting process is important. Equally important are the broader socializing functions that education plays, such as exposing children to a common set of values through the study of literature and history.

Moreover, we expect too much or too little because we do not pay sufficient attention to the myths that swirl around in our society about individual freedom and moral responsibility. Thus we vacillate between worrying about a lack of individual freedom and condemning ourselves for not being loyal enough to our communities. What is good 40 CHAPTER 2 about these discussions is that we are least having them—up to a point. Individualism is an example of a topic that has received more attention than some of the narratives we shall consider in later chapters.

In an ironic twist, it thus became possible to assert one’s individuality by choosing to be like everyone else. William H. Whyte Jr. understood that conformity was not so much an abnegation of individual virtue as a new way of defining virtue. It was a “social ethic,” he wrote, meaning that Americans believed it to be their moral responsibility to go along with the crowd. ”8 The social ethic was thus a definition of commitment. It demonstrated how easily transformed understandings of the individual were.

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American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short by Robert Wuthnow


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