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The American Dream in the 21st Century

The American Dream in the 21st Century

Sandra L. Hanson
John Kenneth White
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The American Dream in the 21st Century
    Book Description:

    The American Dream has long been a dominant theme in U.S. culture, one with enduring significance, but these are difficult times for dreamers. The editors of and contributors toThe American Dream in the 21st Centuryexamine the American Dream historically, socially, and economically and consider its intersection with politics, religion, race, gender, and generation.

    The conclusions presented in this short, readable volume provide both optimism for the faith that most Americans have in the possibility of achieving the American Dream and a realistic assessment of the cracks in the dream. The last presidential election offered hope, but the experts here warn about the need for better programs and policies that could make the dream a reality for a larger number of Americans.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0316-2
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: The Making and Persistence of the American Dream
    (pp. 1-16)
    John Kenneth White and Sandra L. Hanson

    The american dream remains a vibrant concept that Americans comprehend and define in various ways as relevant to their own life experiences. The endurance of this “great epic,” as it was once so famously described (Adams 1941, 405), is remarkable, especially given the depressions, recessions, economic contractions, and battles over civil rights, women’s rights, and gender equality that the United States has witnessed over the years. These economic struggles have been hard and are presently ongoing, starting with the severe economic downturn that began in December 2007 and resulted in government bailouts of the U.S. banking and automotive industries and...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Twilight’s Gleaming: The American Dream and the Ends of Republics
    (pp. 17-26)
    Jim Cullen

    Count on a songwriter to capture the essence of an idea more pithily than a scholar ever could. “Train in the Distance,” from Paul Simon’s overlooked 1983 album,Hearts and Bones, is hardly his best-known work. But it is enormously evocative. “Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance,” his narrator sings. “Everybody thinks it’s true.” The key term in that lyric is “everybody.” It is an important one to keep in mind in any discussion of the American Dream. The notion of a better life lies at the core of the Dream. But its resonance rests on...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Politics of the American Dream, 1980 to 2008
    (pp. 27-40)
    Michael C. Kimmage

    The american dream has physics and metaphysics, a material and a spiritual component. The material component concerns wealth or well-being, with citizenship shading into ownership: One steps closer to the American Dream by buying a house or owning a car. The material component suggests class mobility or simply the pleasure of economic opportunity, a motive for immigration to America as long as there have been immigrants. The spiritual component, the metaphysics of the American Dream, is a blend of optimism and happiness, alluded to in the Declaration of Independence, in which happiness is a thing to be pursued. The American...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Presidency and the Making of the American Dream
    (pp. 41-58)
    John Kenneth White

    January 20, 2009: It was a day of celebration, vindication, and doubt. The celebration came as Democrats rejoiced to see one of their own, Barack Obama, become the nation’s forty-fourth president after eight long years of being shut out of Republican George W. Bush’s White House. It was also a day of vindication, as African Americans could tell their children that they, like Obama, could aspire to the nation’s highest office. And it was a day of doubt, as Americans collectively wondered whether they (and their new president) could overcome the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression or...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Dreaming in Black and White
    (pp. 59-76)
    James W. Loewen

    In 2007, I asked a class of students in an urban sociology class at a fine Catholic university in the East to fantasize about their futures. Where and how would they be living, fifteen years hence? All but two imagined a life in suburbia, with a spouse, children, grass, and a good job.¹ And that dream was of awhitesuburbia.

    To be sure, it was notallwhite. No one objected if, down on their imaginary block, the family of, say, a black health care professional lived.

    Nevertheless, a white vision.

    Sociologists have long known that people’s dreams are...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Whose Dream? Gender and the American Dream
    (pp. 77-104)
    Sandra L. Hanson

    The american dream has been a dominant theme in U.S. culture from the very beginning. It is an old dream. Although how the Dream is defined has shifted, it is still a major element in our national identity, and it is assumed that the Dream is for all Americans. Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the “charm of anticipated success” in his classicDemocracy in America(Cullen 2003). The Dream is an enticing one. Cullen 2003 notes the irony that the Dream began with the Puritans who believed in manifest destiny and the notion that they had no control over their...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Want Meets Necessity in the New American Dream
    (pp. 105-116)
    John Zogby

    Utica, new york, is not known as a trend-setting community. However, having lived there all my life and establishing a polling and research company, I found it a perfect place to see the evolving American Dream.

    Utica, located in Oneida County in the dead center of New York State, grew because of the Erie Canal and prospered as a mill town and later with factories owned by GE, Bendix, and other manufacturers. (Zogby International operates out of a former GE aerospace plant.) The job exodus began in the 1960s, and the population has dropped from one hundred thousand to the...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Religion and the American Dream: A Catholic Reflection in a Generational Context
    (pp. 117-140)
    William V. D’Antonio

    In this chapter, I explore the meaning and experience of the American Dream as it was perceived and lived out during the twentieth century for those Tom Brokaw has called the “Greatest Generation” and as it is currently perceived and experienced by those I call the “Millennial Generation.” The former are people who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. The latter are those who have come of age with the experience of September 11, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and now the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression through which their grandparents lived. Within...

  11. CONCLUSION: The American Dream: Where Are We?
    (pp. 141-148)
    Sandra L. Hanson and John Kenneth White

    The american dream has been a dominant theme in U.S. culture from the very beginning. But these are difficult times for Dreamers. Large numbers of Americans are unemployed, living in poverty, and without health care insurance. Jim Cullen (2003) and others (Ho 2007; Johnson 2006; Moen and Roehling 2005; Shapiro 2004) have suggested that the American Dream and this “glue” that binds us together may be unraveling, as we see a growing wealth gap, ongoing race inequality, an expanding poor immigrant population, and continued sexism in all aspects of American life. Perhaps the twenty-first century is not a time of...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 149-150)
  13. Index
    (pp. 151-160)