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Favourite book genres: biography, music, philosophy, dissent; anything kick-providing, really. I review books, which means that I am—via Kurt Vonnegut—rococo argle-bargle.


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Main currents in modern American history (1984, Pantheon Books) No rating

No academic discipline is more ill-equipped than history to analytically or intellectually explain the origins of the crises which have plagued the United States and the world with increasing intensity over the past half-century. Empiricism without insight has produced fine monographs, of which there have been an increasingly large number dealing with various phases of modern American history, but it cannot by itself create vital linkages which lead to a more comprehensive vision. Historians since World War Two have avoided the main questions and the exceedingly difficult basic problems, partially out of conservatism for some but largely because the murky reflective banalities of conventional liberal thought have encouraged myopia. Moreover, it is also a fact that the United States is a nation so complex and distinctive that existing general theories, most of which were formulated in Europe, tend to be too irrelevant or incomplete to offer much help in filling the conceptual void. The result is that, for all of these and other reasons, American scholarship has largely been immune to the dominant experiences of its age: the violence and deepening crises at home, the capacity for unlimited savagery and ruthlessness of United States foreign policy abroad, and the clear trend of the nation toward greater difficulties without resolutions for any of them. The gap between acceptable intellectual mystifications and social reality and experience grows wider with time, notwithstanding the appearance after 1960 of critical and valuable writings on various quite specific dimensions of the general American malaise.

Main currents in modern American history by  (Page 1)

I've not get read past the preface and it is plainly, truthfully, and beautifully written.

Main currents in modern American history (1984, Pantheon Books) No rating

The United States from its inception has been a nation blind to itself - its past, its present, and its future. Intellectually and culturally underdeveloped, it has left it to a handful of European commentators and rare, alienated mavericks to produce some of the more penetrating assessments of American life and society. No industrialized people confronts reality so ill-prepared in terms of ideas and insights to cope with the problems before it.

In a critical sense, this myopia is the consequence of the pervasive selfsatisfied chauvinism which characterized the United States during its first modern century after the Civil War, and optimism is virtually the national ideology. Until the traumatic experience of Vietnam, which undermined the illusions of an unprecedented number of Americans, vaingloriousness or the absence of a critical vision was virtually unanimous among those who wrote about their own nation. Even occasional critics thought that reforms which were, in the scale of things, essentially minor could redeem the society. Vietnam temporarily and quite superficially broke that consensus, but how long this skeptical mood among some will continue remains to be seen. America yet marches into a future with its eyes turned toward the past, remaining astonishingly indulgent of its own tragedies and foibles, and as menacing to itself and the world as ever. The large majority of its writers and scholars continue to reinforce its optimism, mindlessness, and banality, even if they no longer celebrate the nation as during the great euphoria of the first two decades of the postwar epoch. And they nevertheless persist in avoiding the fundamental questions of the causes of the United States' growing, even inexhaustible, problems at home and the dangers it poses abroad. The consequence of this aversion to fundamentals is that there still exists, even today after the Korean and Vietnam holocausts, an only minor dissenting tradition in American thought-one which leaves unchallenged the far larger and influential mood of national optimism and self-satisfaction, to say nothing of the dissociation between reality and the definition of it. Absent is a critical alternative overview of the American historical process and system.

Main currents in modern American history by  (Page 1)