By Robert Wuthnow
The US was once outfitted on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style ameliorations, 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 knowing its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide cognizance. It information how american citizens have ordinarily trusted narratives to handle what it capability to be robust, morally accountable contributors and to give an explanation for why a few everyone is extra profitable than others--in brief, to aid us make feel of our lives. however it argues that those narratives have performed little to aid us confront new demanding situations. We move legislation to finish racial discrimination, but lack the get to the bottom of to create a extra equitable society. We welcome the assumption of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken by way of the problems immigration provides. 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. studying how cultural narratives won't, and infrequently don't, mirror the truth of modern day society, it demanding situations readers to turn into extra reflective approximately what it capability to reside as much as the yank excellent.
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Additional resources for American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short
The trains ran on time and factories filled their orders. But individual freedom was bargained away. The unique reflections and experiences of the individual were lost, and lost with them were the independent decisions that keep a democracy on track. 44 CHAPTER 2 The sociologist David Riesman captured the spirit of the times better than anyone else did. Riesman depicted the rise of social conformity as a shift from an “inner-directed” to an “other-directed” character type. An inner-directed person was guided by his or her own values.
Day-to-day life could still be lived in local settings, and moral obligations could be defined largely within those settings. 38 It was true for different reasons in urban neighborhoods where poverty, segregation, ethnic loyalties, and language barriers reinforced local ties. The large-scale immigration that had taken place as recently as the 1920s and the economic hardships of the 1930s reduced the likelihood that local ties would be transcended. 39 There was intense loyalty and a great deal of generational continuity among its members, including an internal power structure that reinforced local norms; D E E P C U LT U R E A N D D E M O C R AT I C R E N E WA L 33 Cornerville was, however, disconnected from the world around it.
Tocqueville’s ideal of self-interest rightly understood requires social conditions that maintain individual freedom and individuals who play a responsible role in their communities. When individuals become part of a nameless and faceless mass, democracy suffers. The mass conformity that worried William H. Whyte Jr. and other observers in the 1950s is one example. The Organization Man was a cog in a wheel, rather than an independent thinker capable of forming opinions and making moral judgments on his own.