Download American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation by Robert Wuthnow PDF

By Robert Wuthnow

The USA was once equipped on tales: stories of thankful immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, Horatio Alger-style adjustments, self-made males, and the Protestant paintings ethic. during this new ebook, well known sociologist Robert Wuthnow examines those so much 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 totally figuring out its beliefs. This magisterial paintings is a mirrored image and meditation at the nationwide cognizance. It info how americans have ordinarily trusted narratives to handle what it capability to be powerful, morally in charge participants and to give an explanation for why a few everyone is extra winning than others--in brief, to assist us make feel of our lives. however it argues that those narratives have performed little to aid us confront new demanding situations. We go legislation to finish racial discrimination, but lack the get to the bottom of to create a extra equitable society. We welcome the belief of pluralism in faith and values, but we're shaken through the problems immigration offers. We champion prosperity for all, yet stay in a rustic the place households are nonetheless homeless. American Mythos aptly records 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 ultra-modern society, it demanding situations readers to turn into extra reflective approximately what it ability to stay as much as the yankee perfect.

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The explanations they provide are thus less cognitive than, say, an ac- 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 25 count of why an earthquake happened or a regime failed (although cognitive understanding is part of these explanations). They are rather narratives and narrative enactments that are meaningful because they tie events and experiences together in an intuitively appealing way. 19 I want to take it in a different direction. What we might call culture as deep meaning is concerned with the tacit knowledge that guides human behavior without our needing to think very much about it.

At one level, the growing emphasis on the group was evident in scholarly perspectives themselves; that is, in the theories and concepts that animated intellectual discussions, whether or not these reflected the realities of social life itself. Psychology had been deeply influenced by World War II. There was interest in mass psychology, the psychology of crowd be- QUANDARIES OF INDIVIDUALISM 43 havior, the kinds of personalities or temperaments that might be conducive to totalitarianism, and the needs for mental health resources that would make people better adjusted to the demands of modern society.

37 At the start of World War II, the nation nevertheless had relatively little of the cultural integration that actually linked individual citizens with the federal government and with other national organizations of the kind that would be present by the early 1950s. 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.

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