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Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America

Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America

Richard Harvey Brown
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Culture, Capitalism, and Democracy in the New America
    Book Description:

    The United States is in transit from an industrial to a postindustrial society, from a modern to postmodern culture, and from a national to a global economy. In this book Richard Harvey Brown asks how we can distinguish the uniquely American elements of these changes from more global influences. His answer focuses on the ways in which economic imperatives give shape to the shifting experience of being American.Drawing on a wide knowledge of American history and literature, the latest social science, and contemporary social issues, Brown investigates continuity and change in American race relations, politics, religion, conception of selfhood, families, and the arts. He paints a vivid picture of contemporary America, showing how postmodernism is perceived and felt by individuals and focusing attention on the strengths and limitations of American democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12787-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-xiii)
  3. Chapter 1 Differences That Make a Difference: Some Exceptional Features of the United States
    (pp. 1-35)

    The United States is in transit from an industrial to a postindustrial society, from modern to postmodern, from national to global. But which aspects of these shifts are peculiarly American, and which does America share with other advanced capitalist states? What aspects of America simply reflect more global social processes, and which have their origin in the United States? How are general tendencies common to many nations, such as economic rationalization or changes in gender roles, shaped by unique local historical and cultural factors? How can we distinguish Americanization and globalization? Further, what is the connection between the structural shift...

  4. Chapter 2 A Peculiar Democracy: Race, Class, and Corporate Power in the United States
    (pp. 36-66)

    All countries are similar; all countries are unique. Yet the United States appears to be exceptional compared to other capitalist democracies in several respects: the preindustrial modernization of its political culture; ethnic diversity, assimilation, and discrimination; a decentralized system of government; and the pervasiveness of the ideology of the market. In this chapter, we revisit some of these themes from a more political angle, focusing especially on America’s history of racial exclusion, the weakness of its labor movement, the absence of a labor or socialist political party, and the extraordinary power of the American capitalist class (Laslett and Lipsett 1974;...

  5. Chapter 3 Ideology After the Millennium: Problems of Legitimacy in American Society
    (pp. 67-112)

    The very bureaucratic controls, market mechanisms, and mediamade consumption that foster the success of America’s postindustrial economy have undermined moral authority and legitimacy in society. The means of achieving material comfort and a sense of national power have lessened civic participation and moral surety in everyday life (Scharr 1981). Many scholars and critics have noted tensions between the political economy and its ethical legitimation, as well as contradictionswithinthe discourse of legitimation. Indeed, the fragmentation of public life into separate specialized spheres (such as the professional, the educational, or the religious) has its counterpart in a fragmentation of...

  6. Chapter 4 Social Movements, Politics, and Religion in a Postliberal Era
    (pp. 113-141)

    In light of the di ffi culties of reforming the American political economy through conventional means, many observers and activists, of both the right and the left, have put their hopes in grassroots social movements, especially what have been called the “new” social movements (NSMs). Yet as we shall see, these new (or renewed) social movements are as often reactionary as they are progressive, they are readily coopted by the corporate state, and they often turn to a radical subjectivism or emotivism that is more a symptom of the established order than a serious e ff ort to change...

  7. Chapter 5 The Dialectics of American Selfhood: Individualism and Identity in the United States
    (pp. 142-171)

    American conversations about the self have pessimistic and optimistic positions. Pessimists portray rootless and narcissistic contemporary persons against an imagined backdrop of the warm and secure communities of an earlier period. Optimists see these same persons as free from the suffocating constraints of provincial communities, confronting the challenges of modern social and psychological mobility with considerable success. Whereas some decry the current fragmentation of lifeworlds and contexts for self-presentations, others celebrate the new breadth and richness of identity choices. Once more, American self-images are torn between the ideological forces that regret the loss of an Edenic past and those that...

  8. Chapter 6 Transformations of American Space and Time
    (pp. 172-204)

    As bulldozers, cranes, and cellular phones reshape American cityscapes, new configurations of space and time also reshape bodies, ideas, and feelings, but at different rates and often in conflicting directions. As change becomes more rapid in some spheres than in others, some temporalities speed up while others lag. Not only are present spaces and times more different from those of the past, but they also are at once more homogeneous with and more distinct from each other. This makes it harder for Americans to assess the beginnings and the ends of change and to know what kind of space-time they...

  9. Chapter 7 Genders and Generations: New Strains in the American Family
    (pp. 205-263)

    The American family is heralded as a haven in a heartless world and decried as a snake pit of abuse and oppression, a refuge from late capitalism as well as its victim. Today only about half of American children live in a “typical” nuclear family—two married parents, their biological children, and no one else. Other households are single persons; unrelated groups; single parents or grandparents or unmarried couples with children; gay and lesbian couples; persons living together; and other arrangements. Yet the normative ideal of the nuclear family broadly persists despite its increased disconnection with the way most Americans...

  10. Chapter 8 The Postmodern Transformation of Art: From Production of Beauty to Consumption of Signs
    (pp. 264-298)

    Art has moved from craft production of beauty to mass consumption of signs. It is not made for use or delight so much as it is purchased as a sign of status and identity. No longer merely aesthetic, political, or commemorative, art has become an investment in an ever more fragmented selfhood, with profound changes ensuing for art worlds and artists. The artist today is neither the craftsperson of preindustrial times nor the seer or desperado in the romantic counterimage of the industrial era. The new market for art has created a star system in which the successful artist has...

  11. References
    (pp. 299-342)
  12. Index
    (pp. 343-356)