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Hanging Together

Hanging Together: Unity and Diversity in American Culture

Edited by Carl J. Guarneri
Copyright Date: June 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
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  • Book Info
    Hanging Together
    Book Description:

    This book presents three decades of writings by one of America’s most distinguished historians. John Higham, renowned for his influential works on immigration, ethnicity, political symbolism, and the writing of history, here traces the changing contours of American culture since its beginnings, focusing on the ways that an extraordinarily mobile society has allowed divergent ethnic, class, and ideological groups to “hang together” as Americans. The book includes classic essays by Higham and more recent writings, some of which have been substantially revised for this publication. Topics range widely from the evolution of American national symbols and the fate of our national character to new perspectives on the New Deal, on other major turning points, and on changes in race relations after major American wars. Yet they are unified by an underlying theme: that a heterogeneous society and an inclusive national culture need each other.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12982-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)
    Carl J. Guarneri

    This book of essays embodies three decades of reflection by one of America’s foremost historians. After completing important works on attitudes toward immigration and on American historiography, Strangers in the Land (1955) and History (1965), John Higham added a third, equally ambitious line of inquiry to his historical explorations. Its object was to trace the changing contours of American culture as a whole. The case studies that Higham undertook are sampled in this collection. Ranging widely in their quest to encompass Americans’ diversity, the essays also offer broad interpretations of the ideas and habits that have bound Americans as one...

  5. PART I Tracing Unities

    • 1 Hanging Together: Divergent Unities in American History [1974]
      (pp. 3-22)
      David Glassberg

      For about a decade American historical writing has been characterized by a repudiation of consensus and an invocation of community. Present-day historians seem substantially agreed that many of their predecessors overemphasized unities in American history and society. Yet perhaps never before have so much interest and effort gone into a search for those times and places in which a high degree of solidarity obtained. On first notice, we have here a curious contradiction. The repudiation of consensus was supposed to permit a rediscovery of profound conflicts in our past. It has done so only to a very limited degree. The...

    • 2 America in Person: The Evolution of National Symbols
      (pp. 23-56)
      William L. Joyce

      For about twenty years, from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, there was relatively little scholarly study of American national consciousness and national identity. Intellectual and cultural historians turned so sharply away from the problem of nationalism that it remained on the agenda of research only in the form of a delusion that still needed debunking. For example, the only recent, full-length historical study of early American nationalism treats it as “the most repressive of all abstractions,” and Laurence Veysey noted with satisfaction in 1979 that social historians were now focusing almost entirely on subnational groups “because the parts...

    • 3 Rediscovering the Pragmatic American [1986]
      (pp. 57-66)
      Sally F. Griffith

      Some years ago, when the Korean Association for American Studies convened a meeting in Seoul, its sponsors asked me to address the theme of their conference. The topic, “Pragmatism as an American Way of Life,” was both familiar and strange. It brought suddenly back to mind debates of yesteryear that no longer engaged my colleagues at home. Why had I and other Americans almost forgotten what my Korean hosts wanted to understand? Their theme seemed to me both appealing and freshly provocative.

      I found it appealing because it would focus attention on an aspect of American life and thought that...

    • 4 Specialization in a Democracy [1979]
      (pp. 67-82)

      Between 1860 and 1920 the modern organization of knowledge came into being. It is true that some foundations for wide collaboration in sustained, self-correcting research were laid before the Civil War—the Smithsonian Institution, for example, under Joseph Henry’s inspired direction, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which provided after 1848 a general clearinghouse for scientific reports. Also, in the first half of the nineteenth century a few professors had won the right to be judged primarily on their original investigations.¹ Yet these were mere beginnings. In 1860 there was no American university fully worthy of the...

  6. PART II Integrating Diversity

    • 5 Integrating America: The Problem of Assimilation at the Turn of the Century [1981]
      (pp. 85-100)
      Robert Lewis

      To speak of assimilation as a problem in nineteenth-century America is, in an important sense, to indulge in anachronism. That is because nineteenth-century Americans seemed for the most part curiously undaunted by, and generally insensitive to, the numerous and sometimes tragic divisions in their society along racial and ethnic lines. Leaving aside some significant exceptions, the boundaries between groups with different origins and distinct cultures caused little concern. Assimilation was either taken for granted or viewed as inconceivable. For European peoples it was thought to be the natural, almost inevitable outcome of life in America. For other races assimilation was...

    • 6 Immigration and American Mythology [1991]
      (pp. 101-110)
      Olivier Zunz

      Migration is one of the great forces in history. People have always been on the move. In the history of nations, migration can play various roles. It sometimes constructs, sometimes sustains, sometimes disrupts or alters, sometimes destroys. My chief interest is in the first and second of these, specifically in the construction of two nations, rather than the discrete experiences of particular peoples in those settings. For the sake of clarity I shall focus on one kind of migration—namely, immigration. And there I can make only tentative allusions to the Australian side. Comparison, nevertheless, frames my subject. Australia and...

    • 7 Pluralistic Integration as an American Model [1975]
      (pp. 111-134)
      Ted Ownby

      A season of struggle and hope, of turmoil and guilt, in American racial and ethnic relations has passed. In its place has come a time of apathy, cynicism, exhaustion, and near despair. The civil rights movement has collapsed, a victim at least in part of its successes. The demands for ethnic power and recognition, which exploded in the wake of the civil rights movement, have used up the hectic energies of posture and intimidation. This is a moment, then, for reflection and reconsideration. It is most especially a moment to reckon with an impasse in our thinking about ethnicity. Until...

    • 8 Three Postwar Reconstructions [1997]
      (pp. 135-146)

      The story of civil rights in the twentieth century has the shape of a great wave climbing a beach. A low swell, moving slowly, gains momentum. At a certain point it surges to a mighty crest that crashes with a roar. A wash of water flows onward, but the force is gone. The wave is receding. This is the pattern of modern racial reform: quiet, gradual improvement in the 1920s and 1930s; accelerating power after World War II; a dangerous, breathtaking climax in the 1960s; an aftermath of persistence and retreat.

      At the crest of the wave in 1965, C....

  7. PART III Turning Points

    • 9 From Boundlessness to Consolidation: The Transformation of American Culture, 1848–1860 [1969]
      (pp. 149-166)
      Richard A. Gerber

      During the course of the 1850s an obscure, self-taught midwesterner, Platt Rogers Spencer, made a phenomenal success as a teacher of penmanship. First in his own business school in Pittsburgh, then as superintendent of penmanship in the new Bryant and Stratton chain of commercial colleges, and finally through a series of textbooks, Spencer fervently promoted what his admirers called “the first philosophical system” of handwriting. Like so much of Victorian culture, it was a compromise, adapted both to the practical needs of business and to the tasteful elegance of social life. The Spencerian style was thought to offer a middle...

    • 10 America’s Utopian Prophets [1984]
      (pp. 167-172)
      Lewis A. Erenberg

      One of the great tasks of intellectual leadership has been the definition of injustice. When a new injustice, or complex of injustices, first emerges fully into view, the intellectuals who grasp and report its meaning can make a critical difference in the history of the next half-century or more. That is why Henry George, Henry Demarest Lloyd, and Edward Bellamy are fascinating and important. Between 1879 and 1894 each of them published an extraordinary book that dramatized and interpreted in a new way the economic injustice of an urban, industrial society. Their books stirred the American conscience like nothing since...

    • 11 The Reorientation of American Culture in the 1890s [1965]
      (pp. 173-198)
      Catherine Collomp

      Not long after World War II, Henry Steele Commager ventured an arresting hypothesis. The 1890s, Commager declared, formed the “watershed of American history.”¹ His argument attracted much notice, falling in as it did with a general pedagogical tendency to conceive of recent American history as beginning about that time. Many, however, remain unconvinced. If a truly fundamental alteration in the course of things occurred around the end of the nineteenth century, on what experience did it center? No single event, such as a major war or a drastic social upheaval, offered an obvious answer. By surveying a varied and miscellaneous...

    • 12 The Long Road to the New Deal
      (pp. 199-218)

      As the years of conservative government in the United States roll on, regardless of the party in power and with no end even faintly in sight, the New Deal of the 1930s seems more and more anomalous. Those of us who grew up in the 1930s used to think that power would shift back to liberal hands when the economy again revealed dramatic shortcomings. The economy obliged in 1973, coinciding moreover with a disgraceful war and a major scandal in the White House. The result was simply the substitution of a conservative Democrat for a conservative Republican, not a major...

  8. PART IV Prospects

    • 13 Multiculturalism and Universalism: A History and Critique [1993]
      (pp. 221-240)
      Kathryn Kish Sklar

      Two distinct demands for greater equality run through the history of the Western world in the twentieth century. One opposes discrimination against people on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, or physical condition. These inescapably given traits are commonly understood as personal, as internal, as part of the very substance of who we are. To use them as devices or reasons for subordinating outgroups affronts our sense of equal justice. Recognition of a moral equivalence of endowment is therefore a fundamental objective in modern society.

      A second egalitarian force pushes against the disadvantages of external condition, the burdens of class. Here...

    • 14 The Future of American History [1994]
      (pp. 241-258)

      No one can predict what kinds of history Americans will be writing in the twenty-first century. It is reasonable to ask, however, what sorts of history Americans are likely to need and what goals might enable the next generation of scholars to address those needs. Should the history of the United States continue to enjoy a high priority? If so, in what form? Must it obstruct the fullest possible development of supranational or world history? How should the national and the supranational levels of history be related? What can be done to connect them?

      Any response to these questions depends,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 259-306)
  10. Index
    (pp. 307-316)